Not After, but In-Between

Monday Morning Musings:

Not after, but in-between–
the seasons fold gold into green,
the sun emerges, or stays unseen
between, behind, beyond, but true.

Can we linger here awhile?
Jackets on and off, a smile
at pumpkins and the deer—miles
to go, and much to fear

from demagogues and misinformation—
the destruction of our world and nation.
Yet, we don our masks and leave the station—
a celebration, we’re still here.

We plant flowers and bulbs—is it a trope
to say we’re planting hope?
That we’ll not slide from the slippery slope
because this is not after, but in-between—

still, even after winters of despair,
spring comes, with petrichor in the air
and robins’ song, searching and aware
of being between—here and there.

And we on our pale blue dot
look for light, our shot, our spot, our ifs–or not.

A Cloudy Sunrise

I feel like we really are in this in-between place. The pandemic is not over, and fanatics are still going strong. I’m beginning to feel like we’re in the late 1850s in the US or the 1930s in Germany—but with better technology.

Still–we went to the theater for the first time since the pandemic began. We saw Minor Character: Six Translations of Uncle Vanya at the Same Time, which was truly as the Wilma Theater blurb says: “a joyful and music-filled comedic kaleidoscope. A band of actors come together to perform a warm-hearted yet bittersweet look at love, longing, and the limitations of language.” The Wilma Theater required proof of vaccination, IDs, and masks. We had assigned seats with empty seats left around us, and the theater kept at half capacity. They also updated their HVAC system. So, we felt safe—at least as much as we can in these times. We also took Patco for the first time since the pandemic. It was OK, though some people did not wear masks despite the notices and announcements. Also this weekend, we pretended to be Derrick and Jackie Knight and visited a nursery to buy some plants.

Indefinite

Peder Severin Krøyer [Public domain] “Summer Evening at Skagen beach, the artist and his wife”

Ask am I like the moon
you love with wind-urged language
springing from my tongue?
Together, I say we sail
through star-sprayed indigo —

and if
there, time sleeps,
still, we will hear the fiddler
play across seas and dreams, music
carried on blue breezes into a garden–
and home

My poem from the Magnetic Poetry Oracle. The painting seemed to fit, and she’s fond of it.

Criss-Crossings in Deep Time

Odilon Redon, L’arbre

1.
Cross the forest threshold
covered in squirrel-scattered leaves.
Acorns, chestnuts, cones, and seeds
buried amidst ancient, tangled roots,
resurrected.

2.
Three cats—curled, colored knots
white, tortoiseshell, and grey-striped.
Descendants of tigers, purrs with sharp claws,
gone–save the shadow
pressed against my warmth.

3.

Driftwood, weathered and bleached white,
a venerable creature beached
waiting for the tide.
What stories could it tell of its journeys–
of time and beyond?

4.

Red flowers rise to a rosy sky
Hello, they cry, and wave.
From wooded umbra,
white striped tail rises, too, leaving his scent—
not a perfumed calling card, but a warning.

5.

The clouds grumble,
their secrets burst out and light the sky
Your arm across me in the night, I reach to catch
a glittering fragment before it vanishes—I laugh
and hear an echo from the in-between.

A cadralor for dVerse. I hope I’ve done this correctly. To me, the form seems like a dream, in which you understand it as it goes along, and when you wake you feel something’s been resolved, though you can’t explain how or why. You can read about the form here, but briefly from the journal Gleam:

“the cadralor consists of five short, unrelated, highly-visual stanzas. The fifth stanza acts as the crucible, illuminating the gleaming thread that runs through all the stanzas and bringing them together into a love poem. By “love poem,” we mean that the fifth stanzaic image answers the question: “For what do you yearn?” Please see sample poems and editor statements on the cadralor to get a feel for this new form.”

The Rocky Shore

Winslow Homer, On a Lee Shore

A stone’s toss
from sea to beach,
where stoic women wait,

beseeching gods of stone-face
for their men’s grace.

Storm-tossed waves, deep-sea graves–

a stone’s toss
to stone-cut hearth, the fire dead.

Uncut threads
tie spirit-treads to stony-shore–
stone-cold hearts still yearn for more.

A quadrille for dVerse, where De asks us to use the word stone. I decided to go with the season.

These Days

Monday Morning Musings:

“Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.”
–Walt Whitman. “Song of Myself,” Leaves of Grass

Early Morning, Light through the Clouds. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield.©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

These are liminal days,
when twilight lingers
as death drifts, in a falling russet leaf,
and bee-buzzed blooms, purple and gold,
wave farewell to cloud-nestled moon
then reach for waking sun–
who timidly, then finds her voice
to sing away the grey.

These days of soft cat-paw-tread
transform, eagle-sharp talons tear away
the foggy gray, leaving crystal blue—

Sunrise over the Delaware River. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

and there, white flowers grow, clinging to life
on dead wood–

Early morning Reflections. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

and we? Here, in this in-between–
embracing ghosts and color–
looking toward the stars,
remembering they are part of us,
and we of them, all–

Geese at Sunrise ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

see where the light shines through,
then know, this is where the song begins and ends–
re-formed, reprised, again and again.

October is such a transitional time of year here. One day grey, the next so bright. One day cool, then next summer-sticky. The leaves are turning, but we still have flowers. There are still too people getting sick and dying of COVID, and people who still refuse to get vaccinations or wear masks. I know WAY too many people who have pets who have died recently or are dying. My husband’s uncle died on Friday. It was not COVID, and he’s been sick for a long time and also suffering from dementia, so in the case, though still very sad, there’s a sense of relief that he and his family are no longer suffering.

Today began with a before dawn rejection e-mail. I hope that’s not the way the week’s going to go. It put me in a bad mood, but my morning walk raised my spirits, as it usually does.
This week we watched Midnight Mass (Netflix). It’s horror, but not the super-gory type. There’s more talk than action, which doesn’t bother me, and it actually ends on a very Merril-like note. I liked it. We also watched a Danish mystery called The Chestnut Man (Netflix), another “Scandi-noir” show. We both liked it and got caught up in it. I guess kids making chestnut men is a thing in Denmark? It made me look up American chestnut trees. There are streets named Chestnut in almost every town around here, but it seems the millions of American chestnut trees were killed by a blight. One interesting fact I learned is that the blight does not kill the roots, so they still exist below ground, and there are chestnut trees that continue to sprout up and then die.

It was a good week for cooking comfort food.

A Reminder

Ask if the moon sleeps as the sky turns rosy,
and with languid tongue, licks black to blue–
does she recall the after-ache of crashing birth,
and dream the songs of a thousand stars?

Now, watch the cool cat breath rise with arched back
over the river, curling into the morning air—

is this what you seek? Recall the beauty of this day—
clothed in peach, pink, and blue–
the chirp of sparrows, the rush of heron’s wing.

When I opened our back door this morning, there was the moon right in front of me. Then when I walked to the river, it was just so beautiful with the sun rising over the water. The world is full of terrible things and horrible people, but there is also such beauty in it. The Oracle knows and reminds me.

Traces Left Behind

Traces of wine on clay shards,
residue of the past, a history
of migration, cultivation–civilizations
that rise and fall. Transition and transformation–
chemical processes and time, the call

of ancient frescoes, where long ago dreams still live
enshrined, the stories of people and place–
the grapes, the gods, the snakes, and banquet plates,
a bird perched just so,
and for a moment—there—it sings.

I heard it.

Through the grapevine trellis,
in an enoteca now, the sun’s heavy golden face peeks
then goes, as it did that day in Pompeii
before the darkness fell in clouds of ash, rock,
and a river of lava flowed,
burying wine and dreams.

And yet—the artist’s vision lasted–
a woman gazes down at me, the scent of garum
in the air, birdsong in the background—and I
taste centuries in a glass.

I’m sharing this for dVerse’s Open Link Night, where Lisa is hosting. I missed Lillian’s “birthday prompt” on Tuesday. She asked us to
“go to the website https://mybirthdayhits.com and plug in your birthday. There’s a spot in the upper right-hand corner of the site for you to enter your birthdate. Have fun scrolling down the years, seeing what the #1 tune was on each of your birthdays. Pick at least one of the song titles that hit the charts at #1 on your birthday – one that resonates with you – and use it in its exact wording within your poem.”

“I Heard it Through the Grapevine” was one of the top songs on my birthdate. I’m not sure that the line really works in the poem, but that’s what revision is for. I actually do love the direction the title sent me in—which actually fits what Lisa had to say about hidden things and art, and also fits a larger project I’ve been working on. There are more frescoes here.

Where There’s a Will

Monday Morning Musings:

Sunrise

Will you walk with me
through clouded pink–
the light diffused, brushing wings
to make them glow—this sight, the morning rites
of nature bound by the seasons,
the revolutions round the sun, the wax and waning of the moon.

Heron in the dawn clouds
Coy Morning Moon

Where there’s a will, is there a way
to hold these moments close and tight
to heart and brain? Mindfulness or determination
to see and feel and listen—
do you hear
the sound of secret things?

I wonder—do even vultures dream?
They mate for life, finding the perfect husband or wife.
Do they hope for the future—croon
to their young? This I leave you,
this is yours—the sky, the trees–
the scent of death you smell on the breeze. Circle and fly.

Where there’s a will, is there a way
to make the sweetness stay—
away the aches and nightmare shadows! Come tomorrow.
Will you? Won’t you? Seek joy with friends and family,
share food and wine, linger in a moment–
the season of the in-between

Cloud reflections on the Delaware
Sun giving birth

the twilight dawning, the morning of a new day,
a mockingbird is singing, the leaves are falling.
And there’s the moon, she’s calling,
bewitching you, it’s true. But she’s asks, will you,
is there a way? Will you both love
and do what’s right? Will you walk with me? Look! That light.

Morning Mist over the Delaware River

We had brunch with friends over the weekend and signed their wills as witnesses. We enjoyed wine and pizza again at Blue Cork Winery in Williamstown, NJ, where our daughter, who has left teaching, at least for the time being, is now the Wine Development Manager.


If you like epic historical novels, The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray tells the story of three women in three different time periods. Two are real women, the third is a fictional character—but all with the will to fight for what was right. I knew nothing of Adrienne Lafayette or the Chateau, so I found that very interesting—and also to learn that the Chateau continued to be a place of rights and freedom even during WWII, when it served as hiding place to protect Jewish children.

Death Comes and Waits

Image Credit: https://libwww.freelibrary.org/digital/item/66272

Now, death comes–
an owl’s wing-woosh, sighs
in moonlight,
shadow shapes.
But weary-boned, he pauses–
eyes wide-open shut

forever
gone–or in-between
time shifting,
ghosts drifting–
past meets future, unmasked
Death enters the room.

This is a shadorma for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday. I selected the artwork.
I saw the above print on the Philadelphia Free Library’s Print Department’s Instagram feed. It captured my attention, and though created during the Great Depression of the 1930s, it seems so timely, as well as seasonal. I asked Colleen if it would be okay to use it instead of a photo for her ekphrastic prompt.