In a dream, you were asked to follow, to behold the soft things in the air and beneath the earth, the seeds, roots— the ifs of gardens, forests, meadows, the cycles of darkness and light calling the ancient songs of stars echoed by birds, whispered by bees. You listen, hold the secret close, this deep-time ache carried in blood and bones, every speck connected, and you smile.
My poem from the Oracle with special ifs for Derrick. She knew it was foggy this morning, and it seemed the world was full of dreams and secret things. I took this photo today at the park. This is the garden at the entrance to the eighteenth-century Whithall House. It would have been the back of the house then, as the front faced the river.
The Oracle whispers watch for the blue that comes a taste, a tease of cerulean between storms
Rainy Day Walk in Old City Philadelphia:
that arrive with thunder of boots, the hard rain of lies, and lightning bolts of hate.
And I am tired– so tired–of the would-be despots who dupe the gullible, and the culture that declares black and brown bodies are not as beautiful as white, and who proclaim all women must be controlled.
I cannot believe in their petty, jealous gods— narrow-minded, power-hungry deities created in our image, not the other way around. I am still waiting for the Star Trek world, where people fight for goodness, timelines can be rewritten, and Q is a super-being, not a spreader of wacko conspiracy theories.
But— again, the Oracle reminds me to breathe to listen to the pre-dawn birdsong, the excited chatter of crows, the sparkle on the river, the scent of petrichor, of honeysuckle, of bread baking in the oven– to notice the humming moon and the singing stars, and that patch of blue that comes like love—a surprise, a mystery.
We had some blue skies last week, but lots of cloudy days, and we walked around Philadelphia in the rain on Saturday before seeing a play. This afternoon, we may get violent thunderstorms with hail and the possibility of tornados.
We saw School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play by Jocelyn Bioh at the Arden Theatre. It’s a play about—well, mean girls in a boarding school in Ghana in the 1980s. It covers issues of body image and colorism, in a timely, but also funny play. We streamed a very strange movie that we both liked Black Bear with Aubrey Plaza. And we watched the first two episodes of the British series Ridley Road. It’s on Masterpiece now. It’s about a Jewish woman from Manchester who infiltrates a neo-Nazi group in the 1960s. It explores history that is not very well-known, but it is also timely (and scary to me) that people are so easily duped that they believe the anti-Semitic and racist lies and think the fascism will actually improve their lives. It sounds too much like what it is happening right now. Oh yeah, there was another mass shooting. A young white man with a hate manifesto shot people of color in and around a supermarket in Buffalo, NY.
We had a virtual Shabbat with our children and their spouses (and pets) on Friday night.
“If war has an opposite, gardens might sometimes be it” Rebecca Solnit, Orwell’s Roses
“Arise, women!” . . . “Say firmly: ‘We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country, to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.’” –Julia Ward Howe (quoted in Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American, May 7, 2022)
Extreme– four seasons wander through a week, and clocks strike thirteen, people will die
death comes, we say of all things bright and beautiful yes, the daffodils gone—but reborn again in the spring, reawakened
to minority rule we must rise, not as flowers, but trees with ancient wisdom and roots that delve deep to whisper underground in mycelium connections
to grow with desire, yes, like flowers, too, with perseverance,
in freedom and love
the birds sing and soar. Resist the woman calls with a strum on her guitar,
music the gift of moon and stars— we echo, yet–
now, elaborate on how peace reigns in the garden, though they are always full of ghosts— blooms arise from decay, and time veers on hidden paths to circle back–
I see my mom backlit by flowers, sitting there as she did once–and still does in my dreams. She smiles.
We’ve had cool weather, warm weather, dry weather, and rainy weather this week. We went from walking in t-shirts to turning the heat back on and bundling up in fleece. Meanwhile, here in the US, the extremists are taking over. They are not conservatives; they are not the party of Lincoln; they are right-wing reactionaries and fanatics who want to set up an authoritarian state.
Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and I thought of how my mother helped the war effort during WWII, as the US fought (eventually) against the fascists. And then later, the progress that was made for human rights in her lifetime–that the fanatics who now control the Republican party are stripping away. Meanwhile, war continues in Ukraine . . .
Stepping down from the soapbox, I did have a lovely Mother’s Day with our daughter and her husband. She put together this beautiful brunch of nibbles and home-made bagels. Our older child and their wife sent a gift and called to say, “I love you.”
We saw Janis Ian in concert this week, her final North American Tour. It was a wonderful concert, and also a beautiful evening, so we took a walk in Collingswood, NJ before the concert. Here’s a link to “Resist.”
My dream poem begins Between a sonnet and an ode, I can’t remember the rest, it’s vanished in the universe of my mind, a star to black hole or a comet to return with a blazing tail— but me without the telescope to see within
this galaxy of thoughts, my past, the fragments hurled through time, and filtered through the space debris of memory.
I’m left trying to determine what I meant, a borderland of form and matter, formal structure and rhymed connections, an abab skip to u– the meter set by moon rise and the rhythm by dawn choir.
I could sing the praises of a leaf of grass, the beauty of the vulture’s glide,
the river tides, or the scent of spring rain rising
the volta of each season, expressed in a grand reveal, or a subtle exposition
unexpected, yet familiar, everything
may change in a flash light to darkness to light— while we dream, whether we remember . . . or not.
Movies, Books, This and That:
Good morning! A couple of nights ago, I dreamt an entire poem, and “Between a sonnet and an ode” was really the beginning.
April was quite a month of poetry, wasn’t it? Even though we still seem to alternate warm and cold days, the flowers say it’s now May, as do the goslings, and rabbits.
We fortified ourselves with bruschetta and roasted asparagus from a local farm stand to begin watching the final episodes of Ozark (Season 4, part 2). We watched two episodes—it’s intense, but no spoilers!
We had Chinese food and watched a Chinese movie (of course). 😏 Here is one that most likely few of my readers have seen,Gone with the Light. You’re welcome. The plot will sound familiar—there’s a flash of light and some people all over the world vanish. Trust me, that the movie becomes something quite different, a meditation on love. I enjoyed it very much.
I’m reading A Woman of Intelligence by Karin Tanabe. I just couldn’t quite finish it last night, but I’m really enjoying this novel of a woman who feels trapped in her life as a housewife in 1950s NYC after working as a translator at the newly created UN. One day she agrees to become an FBI informant, also becoming involved in Cold War spying—and feeling more alive than she’s felt in a long time.
What is a winter’s tale told in the spring?
A story of ghosts, adrift in the green.
xxxxA story of ghosts—there on the river
xxxxa sparkle, where a naiad swims and shivers.
A naiad swims, sparkling a glow,
silver on the surface, though dark below.
xxxxThe dark below crawls through our dreams
xxxxwith monster claws and demonic screams.
The monsters and demons of nightmares—your ghost--
all banished by the light of day--or almost--
xxxxthe light banishes ghosts, and so, hope grows
xxxxlike a smile, like a daffodil in snow.
A daffodil, a smile in melted snow, hope sings
for the winter’s tale re-told each spring.
This is for today’s NaPoWriMo prompt, a type of poem called a duplex, a form invented by poet Jericho Brown. I think mine still needs work. This is also a response to Ingrid’s dVerse prompt to use one of Shakespeare's play titles she selected. I chose A Winter’s Tale.
“It’s about how invisible things circulate within a couple.” –Tony (Tim Roth) in “Bergman Island”
Here, the colors are over-the-rainbow bright, and there are choices to be made with tea— blueberry jam or orange marmalade?
It’s a dreamworld, but real as any other while I’m there, a few pounds of matter can hold imagined universes–
I walk with ghosts on Fårö the director a presence there even after his death, and invisible things drift between married couples, like jellyfish in the ocean, growing in the midnight sun.
Or–perhaps I am in Ukraine, the family’s cherry orchard soon to be auctioned off, revolutions looming— conflicts appeased by volleyball, or perhaps we are the ball endlessly lobbed over and into, finding a place just out of bounds.
I could be at a Cape Cod cottage swimming in the cold pond water early in the morning, a lifetime lived over in a day–
time, space, places existing always or never,
a morning moon that fades in day,
a bird in flight–to beyond.
The truth and magic of physics words may hang in the air, but a bomb must fall,
and we jump once— and over and over, remembering a moment passed,
a split-second when everything changes, or doesn’t.
Movies, Plays, Books, This and That:
I woke up from a dream this morning where I was in this place with such bright colors, like a Technicolor musical.
On Saturday, I participated in “There’s a Poem in this Place: Poets in the Blogosphere.” It was a wonderful experience, and I was honored to be included amongst such brilliant poets. I will share the video when it becomes available. I realized how important place is in the recent things I’ve watched and read. And how, sitting in a house in New Jersey, or in a theater in Philadelphia, we can be transported somewhere else. (Not an original thought, I know, but still . .) And artists, poets, writers of all types, musicians—all continue to create in war zones or in repressive societies, sometimes bearing witness to what is going on around them, and sometime imagining a better or different world.
I celebrated the poetry month event and the end of Passover with wine and pizza, and we watched the movie Bergman Island.It’s a Merril movie, involving a movie within a movie: “Two American filmmakers retreat to Fårö island for the summer and hope to find inspiration where Bergman shot his most celebrated films. As the days pass by, the lines between fantasy and reality begin to blur, and the couple is torn apart.” I like it more and more as I think about it. It’ one I’d like to watch again, as I was kind of tired.
We saw The Cherry Orchard at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia, a pre-theater walk first, and wine and cheese at Tria afterward. An unusual production with slapstick humor, lines referencing contemporary pop culture, and yes, a volleyball game. A railway flipboard is a character who answers the characters’ questions. I haven’t yet decided if I liked it, but it was certainly interesting. The Russian director, Dmitry Krymov, who came here to direct the play just before the invasion of Ukraine, is now living in exile.
I read The Paper Palace: A Novel by Miranda Cowley Heller that takes place in both one day at a summer beach cottage and also through the course of a woman’s life, exploring love, secrets, and relationships. We’re also watching Picard—Season 2 is much better than Season 1, and there is time travel and Q!
If you’ve read this far: I’ve added a River Ghosts page to my Website with information and links.
“And when our children tell our story. . . They’ll tell the story of tonight. . .
Raise a glass to freedom Something they can never take away” –Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Raise a Glass to Freedom,” Hamilton
This past week of cooking and cleaning of family and friendship of war and words, of stories and rhyme–
the tides of the river the flight of a crow the raising of glasses the flow of time
We celebrated the launch of River Ghosts at William Heritage Winery
as we walk and talk and sing the love we bring to the table
even as we miss absent faces we find traces
amidst syllables we utter through the clutter
of the everyday.
What we say in tears and laughter— flies on heart-wings from here to here-after,
becoming another story—added light– to all the stories of tonight.
I’m sorry if I’m overwhelming with photos in this post. Friday night was the start of Passover. Our older child is here, and we celebrated “our” book River Ghosts being out in the world. (They designed the stunning cover art.) We had some summer-like days this week and some beautiful spring days. We’ve also had thunderstorms, heavy rain—and this morning, I had to turn the heat back on.
On Passover, we are commanded to tell the story of the Exodus as part of the seder. Let’s just say, we are not traditional. My talented children wrote this year’s Passover play—the best one ever—over glasses of wine Friday night and coffee on Saturday morning. Where do they get this last-minute writing under pressure thing?
My siblings could not be with us on Passover, but it was still wonderful to have my children here and my sister-niece and her family. This was our first Passover together since the pandemic. Today is the two-year anniversary of my mom’s death.
I dream of birds, of red-winged blackbirds chirping against a peacock-blue sky, of dusky crows on slate-grey rocks, gazing as the river’s azure ribbon flows— what does it know?
My dreams are the colors of portend and possibility, breadcrumb paths from my subconscious for me to follow and taste. I toss Cheerios to the crow, essential elements that dissolve on the tongue like thoughts, like dreams I hold them fast, I let them go.
I’ve had a couple dreams about crows lately, and other morning I wrote the last couple stanzas of this poem while I was waking and still in bed. After I wrote it, I thought of the Langston Hughes poem, and then I went back and wrote the beginning of the poem.
Overnight we had a frost advisory, but then on Wednesday and Thursday we’re going to have summer-like weather. That will be the end of the daffodils.
Merril’s Movie, TV, Book Club: This week we watched Apollo 10 ½ (Netflix). It was enjoyable–a sweetly, nostalgic fantasy for people who grew up in the 1960s. However, I LOVED The Worst Person in the World. It was Norway’s entry for the Academy Awards, and it is on several best movie of the year for 2021 lists (including Barack Obama’s). So, it’s a definite Merril movie—if you’re looking for popular, action films, this isn’t it. It was worth seeing simply for Renate Reinsve’s peformance. She was wonderful as Julie, a young woman who is trying to find herself. I’ve seen it described as a sort of anti-rom-com, in that there is romance, but. . .
Also—my first poetry collection, River Ghosts, published by Nightingale and Sparrow Press, is out in the world! I don’t have a copy yet, but you can get yours here. Or available soon here.
I am SO pleased and excited to announce that my first book of poetry is being published by Nightingale and Sparrow Press! The book, River Ghosts, will be available on April 12! The stunning cover was created by my older child, Jay Smith. You can see more of their work on Instagram.
River Ghosts was compiled a few months after my mom died in the first wave of COVID-19 in April 2020. We could not be with her when she died. However, this poetry collection is about more than death and grieving. Many of the poems were written before this time, and they are about nature, the river, Philadelphia, love. . .and much more.
I walk by the Delaware River often, as regular readers of my blog know. In the months following my mom’s death, almost every morning, I tossed a stone in the water and thought of her—a sort of mourning ritual that I repeated again this morning.
Gather clouds of every size, shape, and hue— to hold your thoughts and feelings, connect the dots from grey to blue.
Notice how they hold the light, then let it go— now taste the honeyed glow that pours on newborn leaves. You need these things.
Inhale the scent of petrichor, sprouting green in squelching mud. Believe in spring.
Hear the robin trill, pre-dawn cri de coeur, then listen as the mockingbird sings every part–such art!—into your symphonic poem pour some woodpecker drumming. The morning moon humming. Crow wisdom, a spoken role flung from river to tree. Include the call and response. Repeat. You’ll see.
You need to add a bit of rhyme with bowers of flowers– scatter the petals here and there, a few hours spent to sweet-scent words gone sour. Season and flavor. Savor.
For the final couplet, fill readers with awe— show them bird-winged magic and soaring arches in the sky. Let your words fly.
I was inspired by today’s NaPoWriMo prompt to write a poem prompt. I try not to post more than once a day because I know it gets annoying—but sometimes it happens. This is poetry month, and there is a lot going on. I apologize in advance if I clog up your in-box, but I may have some VERY special announcements, too. 😏