Measuring

Monday Morning Musings:

Early Morning, Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

Measure by measure—

in hope and despair
from winter bare to sun-charged air

we smile through tears
with spirits brightened, but still the fears

of what comes next?
Another crisis, another text

of sorrow or disaster.
Can we master

moving from the passing of this year?
Too many lost, but we’re still here–

and so, we live as we’re able,
finally meet across a table

to eat and laugh, while those who’ve passed
remain within our memories, clasped

in synapsed snapshots, held fast,
until all is faded, at last,

everything balanced, a measure
of sadness, a finding of treasure

in the remembrance of what she said,
those words, like a thread

linking us, a connection
a form of resurrection

in “do you remember?” Phrases bright—
like the promise, with shadows, there’s light.

Ripples. One Year. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

April is a strange month all over, it seems—one day cold, one day warm, full of storms, and also flowers. A bunch of tulips that we didn’t plant have popped up in our garden.

Yesterday was the first anniversary of my mother’s death. Now that we’ve all been vaccinated, we went to our younger daughter and son-in-law’s house—and for the first time in over a year, hugged and ate inside. She made us a tapas feast, and I baked a chocolate cake in my mom’s memory.

My husband and I both got haircuts for the first time in over a year, too. Woo hoo! We celebrated with a date night at home and streamed the excellent production of the Lantern Theater’s production of Measure for Measure. It was a filmed production from a few years ago. The play is very timely. We watched the movie, Promising Young Woman, (rental from Amazon), which my husband and I both enjoyed and thought was very good—great acting, direction, and soundtrack. Both play and movie will inspire discussion.

We Named the Sky: NaPoWriMo, Day 12

Monday Morning Afternoon Musings:

“The dead don’t go anywhere. They’re all here. Each man is a cemetery. An actual cemetery, in which lie all our grandmothers and grandfathers, the father and mother, the wife, the child. Everyone is here all the time.”
-Isaac Bashevis Singer (quoted in Shtisel), Season3)

Sunrise Cloud Reflections over the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith

In ancient times, we named the sky—
saw Apollo in his flaming chariot fly
as his sister Diana of the woods and moon
bounded with deer and hound, and soon
the stars were storied, and tunes gloried
creation, emotion, and the cessation of
wind and tides, the slide

of seasons from one to next,
as the gods are first jolly, then are vexed.
But Persephone comes and goes–
snow falls, then flower flows,
and we cry and sigh as people die–
but the seeds remain, though not the same,
each generation evolves, and solves

Spring, Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

new problems, and old ones we revive.
But if we could fly in hyperdrive
to other worlds, or visit holodecks
to greet and meet dear loved ones in an annex
to another world, an alternate timeline,
future, past, present combined—we’d drink wine
with family and heroes, toast the divine

in fantasy. And yet—we recall,
in memories of sight, scent, sound—however small–
within us all the time, sharing space
with those who came before—the interface
of body and mind. Stardust to genes, renamed things
in seasons reborn on hopeful wings
Cycles, seasons, the stories again–real or imaginings?

Clouds and cool weather
Beautiful blue skies, April Morning. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

I’ve combined my Monday Morning Musings with the NaPoWriMo Day 12 prompt: “This prompt challenges you to write a poem using at least one word/concept/idea from each of two specialty dictionaries: Lempriere’s Classical Dictionary and the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction.”


Merril’s Movie/TV Club: We finished Season 3 (most likely the final season) of Shtisel (Netflix). I highly recommend it. My husband and I both got so caught up in this show.
We had Chinese food over the weekend, and so watch two Chinese movies.
Us and Them (Netflix)—a romance of a young man and woman meeting on a train and trying to become successful in Beijing. I liked it, but I’m not sure if I loved it. I think I would have enjoyed it more in the theater. We had some phone calls and other distractions.
Better Days (Amazon Prime rental)—is Hong Kong’s entry for the Academy Awards. It’s about school bullying, and also the high stakes competition/pressure of getting into a good college in China. My husband and I both enjoyed this one more—despite the subject matter of school bullying. There is also a romance. The actress Dongyu Zhou is the female lead in both movies. Watch the end credits for both movies.

Wine and Stories

Monday Morning Afternoon Musings:

Passover a few years ago. Lots of wine–and sparkling wine?

With stories,
we entertain, ascertain, explain the past,
another glass of wine drained, slow or fast–

is it enough? We remember
to forget

how seasons turn, grey to green,
but loved ones gone, remain unseen

like ghosts
white blossoms drift
leaving trails . . .we follow.

It’s poetry month, and I’m having a hard time getting anything else done between all the poetry writing and reading. So, I’m making my usual Monday Morning Musings very short and combining it with the dVerse quadrille prompt, where Linda asks us to write about wine.

Passover ended yesterday. I celebrated with pasta, garlic bread, and wine. During a traditional Passover Seder (Seder means order), we tell the story of the Exodus and during the course of the night drink four glasses of wine. My family, when we’re together, does a very untraditional Seder, and we drink maybe one, two. . . maybe more. I’m looking forward to seeing them someday soon.

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched Quo Vadis, Aida? It’s Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Oscar entry, and it’s a harrowing and heartbreaking, but also an excellent and nuanced movie. It chronicles the failure of the UN peacekeeping forces and the mass genocide by Serbian army in Srebrenica, as seen through the eyes of UN interpreter. The director said she had been waiting for someone to tell this difficult story, but she finally did so herself, and she does so without relying on showing tons of blood and gore. It’s available to rent on Amazon. We also watched Mank (Netflix). We both enjoyed it. It tells a fictional story of 1930s-1940s Hollywood, and the making of Citizen Kane, centered on Herman J. Mankiewicz, the writer, played by Gary Oldman. I thought Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies was particularly good.

Another Year

Spring comes again, another year,
the ghosts stand here,
but still the flowers bloom and rise.

The world is ever broken
and lies are widespread and spoken–
but there is light in the skies,

Sun peeping through the clouds. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

where geese honk and crows call,
they find their mates, and above all,
the songs of robin and mockingbird fly

ever as March winds wail and gust—
ashes to ashes, dust to dust—
the moon hums, so wise

is she, she sees beyond
what has been spawned,
duplicity and disease, the whys

of our existence. Yet hope
comes on those wings, that trope
clichéd, but all the same it cries

the truth—light in flight—
longer days, golden bright
flowers–each day a surprise

in bloom. And now, we vaccinate,
for some, it’s come too late,
and there’s no way to minimize

the loss and despair. Another year,
the ghosts stand here,
but still the flowers bloom and rise.

The wind is gusting this morning! Last year, Passover was at the beginning of April. We did a Zoom Passover with our daughters, and then near the end of Passover on a Monday, our Mickey cat died. The following Saturday, my mom died of Covid. This year, no one really was up for doing a Zoom Passover. I cooked some of the usual foods though, and my husband and I did our own Seder on the second night, as I was recovering from getting my second vaccine on the first night. Our daughters made the matzah covers when they were very little, and I cherish them. There is definitely hope in the air with spring and vaccines. And we are looking forward to getting together with other vaccinated family members soon.

No movies this week, but we’re on the second season of Shtisel (Netflix), and I really am so caught up with this family! I also listened to a radio play—a play we had seen in production at the Arden Theater that was reworked as a radio play, 74 Seconds to Judgement. It was very well done, and I enjoyed hearing it. I also read Klara and the Sun I highly recommend it. The book has been reviewed all over the place.

Too much holiday excitement.

Spring Cycle

Monday Morning Musings:

Sunrise–almost Spring

On the first day of spring,
I take my shadow for a walk
she doesn’t talk—but the crows do
remembered views, the death and blight–

a year has passed
upside-down and inside-out,
and birdsong comes again, devours the dark
as dawn glows bright from each spring night

Spring Reflection

after winds of winter go,
and summer storms not yet here, she knows,
to go softly on tippy-toes, then stop, perch
till too soon off like a bird in flight

she soars—another year–
but while she’s here—oh!
She flicks colors with her feathered wings
yellow, pink, purple, white—the sight

of all these tiny, bright beautiful things brings
more song and whispered longings—
all things yearn, and we turn, yearn,
learn spring returns, despite

would-be tyrants and corona drops
spread from the unmasked walking brain-dead, threads
of lives unraveled and songs unsung—yet, listen, see–
birds, bees, tender buds in bloom—and the light!

Sunrise, Delaware River, West Deptford, NJ ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

It’s been quite a year, hasn’t it? Now spring is back. The crows are once again very busy, the songbirds have started singing before dawn, and the light lasts longer each day. Even the cold mornings now don’t stay cold. There are still ignorant people spreading lies, and new strains of the virus also spreading, but hopefully, more people will be vaccinated before too long. I get my second vaccine later this week.
We started watching Shtisel (Netflix). It’s a family drama about a religious Jewish family in Jerusalem. We’re enjoying it. We’re still on Season 1. The third season is dropping this week.

I made chana masala and garlic naan on Friday night.

The Art of Spring

Pussy Willows at Grounds for Sculpture ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

Monday Morning Musings:

We walk under an azure sky, a dream
of golden glow and light-sprayed air
where color blooms,

Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, NJ ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

drifts in the air, swinging, winging
on elegant peacock wings, it slides to the ground
and bobbing, red hen-headed says

look at me,
and we do and see

we are sun-drinking, blinking in the spring light
uncorked, afloat, soaking in warmth and wine, awakened

to the possibilities of time, and aware of the artlessness
of nature’s art. Nothing can compare—

and there is no way to counterfeit a spring day. But words
can remind me to recall the mockingbird’s song, the dazzling shimmer
of sunlight on blue water, and the way we laughed,

Shimmers and swirls. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

and how I drank deeply love and laughter, the color of garnets, glowing
in the setting sun.

William Heritage Winery

Today it is cold and windy, but last week, we had some perfect, beautiful spring days. Spring is definitely capricious. It’s still the pandemic, but we actually got out to some new venues, while remaining safe and socially distant. We sat outside at William Heritage Vineyards, where the chickens were walking about and looking for handouts. We visited Grounds for Sculpture on the most beautiful day.

Merril’s Movie/Theater/TV Club: We watched the Lantern Theater’s production of The Craftsman. This is an excellent play by Bruce Graham and a well-done production. (We saw it in the theater, too.) You can still buy tickets to stream it. It’s based on the true story of Han van Meegeren, who was prosecuted in the Netherlands for selling art to Nazis, particularly Vermeers. It turns out the van Meegeren painted the works himself. The play has a lot to say about art, art criticism, the law, and collaboration with enemies. We also finished the Belgian mystery The Break (Netflix), which we both enjoyed.

Uncertain, Capricious: Shots in the Dark

Monday Morning Musings:

There is still sorrow and dread
assuaged with sweets, and song, and bread
baked fresh; poetry written, and novels read,
Netflix binged, and movies seen,

yet, the days are longer and lighter,
shoots are rising, nature’s colors brighter,
and the crocus petals closed tight and tighter
open in the noonday sun, beside the growing green

geese nibble, pair, and rest
for goslings soon to come, at Spring’s bequest
color blooms–though winter’s winds still test—
March is capricious, betwixt and between

Spring-time. Geese at the Whithall House, Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

unsure of what’s to come, but what is not
in doubt is getting a vaccine, we get the shot.
With a jab, some peace of mind, who would have thought
the joy in scheduling? We’ve been

in a holding pattern for so long, the world in pain,
but now in spring with rising sun and gentle rain,
science promoted, the orange stain
demoted, the Oval Office sanitized, the government wiped clean–

Another Tree Spirit. ©️Merril D. Smith 2021

dreams can rise again. Not yet, but soon,
we may hug and sit together in a room,
immune, though not immortal, we bloom
like spring blossoms, and fighting demons seen

or not. Each step, uncertain,
a shot in the dark, but we draw back the curtain
and let in the light.

Well, it’s still the pandemic, and we still haven’t gone anywhere—except to get vaccines. My husband and I both got our first vaccines on Friday. We were at separate places and received different vaccines. Because the weather is supposed to be springlike later this week, we may venture out to do some outdoor, socially distanced activities. It’s still cold this morning, but the sun is shining.

Merril’s Movie/TV/Book Club: We watched The Vigil (Amazon). It’s set in Brooklyn, and concerns a man who has left the Hassidic world but agrees to be a shomer, a person who watches over a dead body for a night. There he confronts real and psychological demons. It’s a horror movie, but not the mad slasher bloody kind. It’s in Yiddish and English. I thought it was very well done, and one to think about. We watched the first season and started the second season of The Break (Netflix, in French), a mystery series set in Belgium. It starts out like the typical show of this sort—a detective with a troubled past comes to a small town and investigates a murder. However, this one really does develop into something else. I don’t want to spoil it, but he is also must confront some inner demons. I really enjoyed season 1, and I’m eager to see how season 2 will play out. I don’t mention all the things I read, but I just finished Before the Ruins, a debut novel by Victoria Gosling. It’s also sort of a mystery with inner demons; a multi-layered book with a bit of a gothic-tinge. The story is slowly revealed, and it shifts back and forth in time. The writing is beautiful. It took me a little while to get into it, but once I was, I was.

Moon Song Blooms

Morning Moon with Gulls, Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

Moon song drifts,
over pink-glowed sea.
Gulls gather
to hear the
tune and circle-dance, catching
currents, sing along

with dawn moon’s
farewell. Remember
me tonight-

her refrain
floats, feather-white, and fleeting,
falls to warming earth

is planted
as sparkling star-gulls
flock to light,
and geese pair,
delight to share longer days,
and moon-song blooms white.

For dVerse Open Link Night where Linda is hosting. This is a shadorma sequence that I’m also linking to Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday challenge. I said about the top photo that the gulls in the picture look liked stars, and Colleen called them “star-gulls.” Originally, I was going to share a diatelle I wrote about the Hindenburg, which Linda mentioned on the dVerse prompt. However, I can’t ignore it was a Nazi propaganda ship, and the poem got very dark, and I feel more like celebrating spring today. Our crocuses are starting to bloom!

Every Story Ever Told

Monday Morning Musings:

There’s a story in the birth of stars,
and in their ending, too,

bangs, flashes, ashes, wind,
the stellar songs carried within–

these are tales we tell of all the seasons,
the birdwing flaps of storm and breeze

the reasons why the sky is blue,
but dawns with rosy laughter,

Gulls flying over the Delaware River around sunrise. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

and tips a glass of wine at dusk
for spirit souls to savor

as owl feathers brush the canvas,
there!

Late afternoon sun over the Delaware River ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

The moon sighs and sings
a lullaby of hope, peace, and observation

be wary, beware
and listen–

to the messages Crow brings;
watch for what secrets the river carries

as it flows.

History knows–
it is repeated in the curves of time,

where the light of stars, shimmer and gleam
in every color,

Morning Awe ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

in endless combinations merged,
every story ever told—and those never heard.

We’re still in a pandemic, and I still have not gone anywhere, but spring is coming! It was still icy at the beginning of last week, but now the snow and ice is gone.The sunshine and beauty of nature has definitely lifted my spirits—and I’m scheduled for my first vaccine. I’m not sure why I received a notice to schedule an appointment, but my husband did not; however, I’m not going to argue.

Merril’s Movie Club: We paid for a movie this week—still less money than going out—and it was so worth it. I like to tell you about movies you’ve never heard of, and probably never will see, but if you get a chance, do see this one, Night of the Kings. It’s set in a prison, La MACA, located in the jungle of the Ivory Coast. The prison is ruled by the prisoners, and the leader, Blackbeard, is dying, and others are ready to take over. To buy himself some time, he declares a new arrival to the prison must tell them a story. As the “Roman” spins his tales, you see some of it unfold—a battle between a queen and king and the story of an outlaw hero—but the inmates also serve as a sort of Greek chorus and act out portions of the story. It’s really magical, allegories and real-life prison. I rented from filmforum.org. (I also made a small donation, and they sent a very nice note.) This is really a Merril movie, and I would definitely watch it again.
We also watched Capitani (Netflix), a mystery series that stands out because it’s from Luxembourg. We had to look up the languages spoken there: French, German, and Luxembourgish. The show has familiar elements—the outsider detective in a small town—but it also has a few twists. It’s very bingeable because each episode is about a half hour. We watched the entire series in a few days, and it looks like there will be a second season.

Also, Purim was last week. I baked lot and lots of Hamantaschen, and I still have filling left, so I’m baking some more today. Stay safe and well, Everyone!

Hamantaschen

Caring, Sharing, Flowing, Going

Monday Morning Musings:

A Cold Morning ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

Beneath grey sky, the river rushes
with icy determination,

Choppy water at sunrise on the Delaware River, at Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

listen, it calls

and the gulls squawk at intruding clans,
then soar in silvered colony at eagle’s wide-winged span

circling, I watch

for signs of color, signs of spring
secrets buried beneath the snow,

waiting, for light

no candles, just cake,
dinner, and wine, hearts entwined

Birthday Cake for my husband

we paint love
and drink poetry

the days still mostly grey–but getting brighter.

Delaware River at sunrise ©️Merril D. Smith 2021

Merril’s Movie/TV Club:
It’s still a pandemic, and we still haven’t gone anywhere. Since we can’t go anywhere right now, we had a Valentines/Birthday paint date for my husband’s birthday. I ordered it from the Clay Studio in Philadelphia. The package contained acrylic paints and brushes, clay candy dishes, Mod podge, chocolate from Shane’s Confectionary, and a scented candle. We supplied the adult beverages. He put his birthday crown on for our Friday night virtual Shabbas.


It was snowing and sleeting on his birthday, but we got Indian food over the weekend and watched the Netflix movie, I Care a Lot. The movie stars Rosamund Pike, who is excellent as the cool and totally amoral professional guardian. The other actors are equally excellent. The movie is chilling and somewhat terrifying in that it depicts how easily elderly or incapacitated people can have their lives and assets controlled by unscrupulous people. I wasn’t sure if I would like the movie, but as despicable as Pike’s character is, it’s hard to look away.
We also watched a Spanish mystery series on Netflix, The Mess you Leave Behind. It’s a stand-alone series with eight episodes. Raquel takes a teaching post in a small town in Galicia where her husband grew up, and everyone knows everyone, and everyone is called by their first name. She soon begins investigating the circumstances of her predecessor’s death. The series skillfully interweaves the two timelines. We liked the series, even though we laughed at how the teachers in this school only seem to teach one class each.

A typical day