Circling: Different and the Same

Monday Morning Musings:

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

Songs of ancient glowing flow
from stars to river,
the moon hums sweet and slow–

Ospreys Circling the Morning Moon

the language of clouds and light
and shadow-shapes, the drape
of flowered branches, the white-winged flight

Egret. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

of egret, and the honking geese–
all these feathered things—the sight
of nature, calm, at peace.

We dream as the moon sings
wake to talk in bright sunbeams
of family, books, and everything

mostly trivial, perhaps profound–
in hindsight are we any wiser,
than those underground?

We venerate them, heroes and saints—
but none are perfect
and whitewashed history paints

such a lovely story.
Forget the horror, remember
only glory

But reflections from the past—see?
The world circles. We’ve been here before—
Look at the glass, remember that tree.

Reflections in the Windows of the Merchants’ Exchange, Philadelphia
“My” willow at Dock Street, Philadelphia

So much different and yet the same–
our lives, the city—still,
we’re glad we came.

This was a strange week—stormy weather and tornado watch on Thursday. Then the weather was beautiful. For anyone who is keeping track, I finished the history chapter I was writing (Sex in Eighteenth-century Philadelphia) and sent it off to the editors on Saturday. That afternoon, my husband and I walked around Old City Philadelphia for the first time since the pandemic. I bought some spices at the new Penzey’s store, and we went to Tria for wine and cheese, which became dinner. I kept saying walking around the city was strange–different and the same.


Merril’s Movie Club: We watched three movies this week. Cousins (Netflix) a story of three Maori women who are cousins. It’s a story of family being separated and found again. We both liked it, and of course, New Zealand is beautiful. There are similarities to the treatment of indigenous people in the US and Canada. We also watched A Call to Spy, based on the true story of women who were spies in WWII. We both liked this one, too. It’s a story that most people do not know about. My favorite movie of the three was The Fare (2018, free with Amazon Prime), a pretty much unknown low-budget indie film. It looks and has the feel of an old Twilight Zone episode. Harris, the cab driver picks up Penny. There’s an instant connection (these two actors definitely have chemistry), and then she disappears. We discover they’re repeating this loop over and over. But this is not Groundhog Day. To say more would spoil it, but it’s a unique take, and we both really liked it. Derrick will be pleased to know we ordered a ton of Indian food last night, and we’ll be eating leftovers tonight.

Connections

Trees in the graveyard at Old Pine Street Church, Philadelphia

Is it beauty–this ache you feel
in a spray of silvered light?
After the dark, the cold, the storm,
the night of bitter winds and blooded moans—
how still the world becomes—
moon on sea and vines, sublime the after-well.
And if she chants, listen,
as a tree rooted holds the connection—
clasping tendrils networked below while branching arms reach high,
so you, heart-entwined and grounded, gaze up
to her beauty–
and listen for the song of those who came before,
sending your dreams to those who come after.

I visited the Magnetic Poetry Oracle yesterday morning, as usual, but I didn’t have a chance to post the poem yesterday. No doubt, the Oracle knew I needed this photo, taken yesterday afternoon to go with it. I’m behind on reading and commenting, but I will catch up today and tomorrow. 😀

Looking Back at the Sweetness of Fate

Lemon Cake

“You cannot eat your cake and have it too.”

“Many hands make light work.”
“Too many cooks spoil the broth.”
–Common Proverbs

In those years of privation,
seeking salvation in sparks of hope and glory—
quiet desperation, ceaseless threats, a story
overtold but left bereft, unlearned
through epochs here or anywhere–
in bombs’ red glare and burning air–
I dreamt of cake,

and of Mother and aunts—too many hands
at mixing stands,
beating butter and eggs, then sifted flour,
timing minutes turned to hours—
and there I sat,
a bud within the warmth of light-filled bower.

Now, when cake comes at any time–
with coffee, or perhaps some wine,
without the help of the long-lost many,
the cake’s too sweet—I’m spoiled by plenty.

This poem is not autobiographical. It’s for my dVerse prompt today. Come join us as we write poems influenced by proverbs.

In Feathered Light

Monday Morning Musings:

The moon hums and the sun sings,
and feathered things with outstretched wings
soar into the light

dazzling white, the egrets’ flight,
the eagles’ glide, a majestic sight
above my head

and down below, the scent of dead
attract the vulture’s blooded head—
but even they fly

with graceful beauty in the sky
circling round—hello, goodbye—
life comes and goes

This cormorant spent several days in this spot.
Oh, Hello!

the questions everybody knows,
and none can answer, I suppose
there’s beauty in that, too–

science can tell us why the sky is blue,
yet perceiving it, is that new?
Do we name things so that we see–

or does sight come, and we feel free–
And still, we disagree
about the color of the sea,

fields of grain, and climbing vines
lost to asphalt, modern signs
of progress made,

decisions that now cascade,
a waterfall, decisions weighed
spinning in retrograde, still we shine

in setting sun, sipping wine,
fruits of field and vine,
talking as time slow-walks–

a paradox—the universe’s sleight–
time, truth, the beauty of the feathered light.

Morning— Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

We went to Blue Cork Winery in Williamstown, NJ this past week, where our daughter gave a talk—a brief history of sangria–and then guided us through making our own using a white and red base they supplied, along with fruit and juices. It was a fun event, and of course we bought a bottle of wine to take home, too.
I’m still finishing that chapter, so I apologize for my slow response time here. Also, I’m hosting dVerse Poetics tomorrow.

Songs of Earth and Moon

Far away, storms eat winds and send them swirling–
but here, now, the sky is gowned in midnight blue
and a peach moon shines over sleeping gardens.
The fiddler plays a soft lullaby
recalling dreams of aching beauty–
and if I don’t understand them all,
I recognize the song of whisperings seas,
and the beat of heron wings, the language of seasons,
of hope and despair, and I smile at the dawning light.

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

The Magnetic Poetry Oracle gave me a poem today that I think goes with Ingrid Wilson’s publication, The Anthropocene Hymnal. It’s available now. Read her post here for information. All money earned from it goes to the World Wildlife Fund.
I have one poem in the volume, and the beautiful cover is by Kerfe Roig.

The July full moon is called the Buck Moon, but I think it should be a peach moon. I was hoping to see it early this morning, but it was already too low in the sky. I did see Jupiter though–and
I saw this heron today and wondered if it was “my” heron from last summer.

Glancing Back

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, The Muse History, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Coy Clio,
with half-smile and backward glance,
her stance unsecured–
she balances time and chance.
Reflected in the glass,
her image wavers, not quite straight,
always moving, she knocks down Fate.
She leaves her scent in dusty tombs,
and book-filled rooms, and there within
a musty cell, a faded ledger in a bin.
There are cries from eras long forgotten,
she sighs through silk and ships of cotton,
whispers through graveyards and dockets, ill-gotten
gains and weathered remains of centuries, unexplained.
Ask her for enlightenment, not for glory,
still she replies there are many untold stories–
look at the monuments, partly erased, salted
and wind-kissed, the lines spaced
unevenly in past’s embrace.
And here, a doll, a letter, a locket
that falls from a red-splattered pocket—
love and connections, a mystery,
blood-drenched fields, the history.

This is in response to Ingrid’s dVerse prompt this week to write a poem invoking a muse. Some of you know I have a history book chapter that I need to finish writing (like now), so perhaps a poem about Clio, the muse of history will help. I’m posting this for today’s dVerse Live Open Link Night.

Portrait of a Mystery

Monday Morning Musings:

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

My dreams–a language-storm of do,
or not,
I try to recall

and wonder who are you—
and which is me—
all is enigma and mystery,

like a portrait-sitter lost in time
sublime or shaded, half-smile, three-quarter face
a hint of her wishes, or the artist’s embrace

of unconscious desire, inspiration
in symbols of her worth, still in last laugh–
she gazes into the future,

Leonardo da Vinci, Lady with an Ermine

can she imagine
how she’ll be carted through wars, another spoil,
a wall-hung prize, monster-cherished–

the attraction of beauty to the beast—
opposites, and circles
of the sun and moon–

with light comes shadow,
honeyed joy and bitter sorrow
alternate—the universe’s tessellated patterns

Oak Tree Shadows

as time moves on. . .

Now, little bird
silent-sitter, waiting to strike–
living dinosaur, a portrait, too.

We finally have a beautiful day after days of oppressive heat, humid, and storms.

I just finished The Night Portrait, a novel by Laura Morelli. I enjoyed both the writing and the story. It takes place in the fifteenth century as Leonardo da Vinci is painting Cecilia Gallerani, then the young mistress of Ludovico Sforza, and during WWII as the Nazis and confiscated art, and the Monuments Men are trying to find the stolen art.

We watched an Icelandic series on Netflix called Katla. If you like dark brooding Scandi-noir mixed with a bit of the supernatural, you’ll like it. It reminded me a little bit of the German series Dark. It’s about a town, now nearly deserted because an underwater volcano has started erupting, and mysterious things begin happening. . .We were really intrigued by it and finished the series in a few nights.

We also watched the first episode of season 4 of Unforgotten (PBS). I’m excited that it’s back on.

Moon Secrets

The sea whispers ,not of a thousand deaths
but dreams it aches to recall,
time and star-shine–

covered by a cloud-blanket, it murmurs
again and again,
as fleets of diamond ships
sail across and into tomorrow.

And if I sleep,
perhaps I feel a petal-spray
of moon-breathed secrets
before dawn comes, berry-bright,
to banish them–

yet seeded within, they might yet bloom.

I was disconcerted by the change in the Magnetic Poetry Oracle’s site. There are different categories now for the tiles, and the format has also changed. Nevertheless, she came through (of course). I’ve been having vivid lucid dreams recently. It seems like they are trying to tell me important things that I can’t quite recall when I wake, but I think the ideas are there, just below the surface.

Juke Joint Quadrille

Mural on the wall of the Victory Grill, a longtime “juke joint” on 11th Street in East Austin, a neighborhood of Austin, Texas. The Lyda Hill Texas Collection of Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.


Juke-joint jive—
blues rite in purpled night
as bodies sway, in freedom
from the toil of day—

listen to the guitar play
the riff, a midnight train’s goodbye
sigh away the years of strife–
hard-fought life, forgotten

as moon shines
from a mason jar.

We are celebrating dVerse’s Tenth Anniversary. Our special guest host, Brian Miller, has asked us to write a quadrille using the word juke, a word I’m sure I’ve never used in a poem before. I found this mural on Wikimedia Commons. You’re welcome, Resa. 😏

All the Dreams Fly Like Birds

Monday Morning Musings:

“Sueñito, it means ‘little dream.’”
–In the Heights

Three Crows on an Uprooted tree, Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

Three crows sit on an uprooted tree,
gods, fate, or destiny?
Day to night, birth to death, changes come—
love and regrets,

of words unspoken, of dreams unachieved,

but in the balance of all things–

“Like a Bird on a Wire.” (Leonard Cohen)

seeds are planted, and eggs hatched,
in fertile soil, with care and light,
life blooms, the cycle resumes,

seasons spun in revolutions
of the earth, and thoughts that spark like stars,
the universe of the mind, our Milky Way inside

in glittering array. Sometimes enlightenment
comes our way,

dream-born, though dreams evolve
with the dancing of your heart and the echoes
of the stars,

the fire in your eyes
and reflections from the sky,
the whys and when return again
revolving into something new—

the evolution of dreams come true.

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

We are dust from the stars,
and rise from the sea,
we wing and dive–fate or fait accompli?
Ever-soaring dreams blowing
through earth, sky, and blue-water flowing.

It is definitely summer in southern NJ! Heat, humidity, storms—and then an occasional beautiful day. We went out once this week for a trivia night at a winery. We were not allowed to have our phones out during the rounds, so I only got this one photo.

Trivia Night at Sharrott Winery

Merril’s Movie Club—We watched two movies this week, and I would watch both of them again. One you’ve probably heard of, and one you probably have not heard about. Our friends invited us to a movie night at their house, so we could watch In the Heights. (We don’t have HBO, and they do. It’s also playing in theaters.) You may or may not know that I love musicals, and this one combines Lin Manual Miranda’s songs with old-fashioned movie musical choreography and vision. Dreams (and immigrants and DREAMers) is a recurring theme in the movie. All the actors are wonderful. My friend, Pat (the one in charge of rainbows) had a bounty of farm-fresh summer vegetables and made a grilled a vegetable lasagna. I made brownies because. . .well, chocolate.

My husband and I also saw Undine, the most recent movie by German director Christian Petzold. (Rental through Amazon.) It stars the two leads from his previous movie, Transit, which my husband and I both really enjoyed. We also both liked this one, though maybe not quite as much. The movie is a sort of modern re-telling of the ancient myth of the water nymph, Undine. My husband, who had never heard of the legend of Undine, saw the movie as a metaphor of Berlin. So, it’s clearly not a movie for people who like straight-forward stories. It’s dreamy and has a beautiful score (mainly the adagio from Bach’s Concerto in D Minor, BWV 974), but also “Stayin Alive), and we had a great discussion about it afterwards.

We had some wine and cheese to nibble on while we watched the movie.

Movie Watching Companion