Of Lies and Better Things on the Way

Monday Morning Musings:

 

Men should be what they seem,

Or those that be not, would they might seem none!

–William Shakespeare, Othello, Act III, Scene iii

“ they are not men o’ their words: they told me I was everything; ’tis a lie…”

–William Shakespeare, King Lear, Act IV, Scene vi

“Here’s wishing you the bluest sky
And hoping something better comes tomorrow
Hoping all the verses rhyme,
And the very best of choruses to
Follow all the doubt and sadness
I know that better things are on their way.”
–from Dar Williams, “Better Things”

 

We walk through a living, mortal city

see buildings transformed

here an insurance building, now condominiums

a Starbucks at its base

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is the history erased

or still held there, a trace of perfume or smoke

left somewhere in a bit of old oak

and here, the cobblestones and bricks remain

some things, perhaps, stay the same

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We travel through space and time

in books, movies, theater, art

from my small town’s fall festival

to Philadelphia streets

then we enter the London theater

of centuries ago—a show,

the stage framed with the red velvet proscenium curtains

uncertain what we will see

amongst the esteemed company

there at Convent Garden

where a substitute actor

steps in to play the part of Othello, the Moor–

a black man? Well, that’s not been done before!

A character declares, “People come to the theater to get away from reality.”

The cast members of this well-known London troupe are divided,

some undecided about how they feel,

but willing to try some new techniques

or at least to somewhat tweak

their stylized manner and gestures

though scandalized at how Othello touches Desdemona

Do they understand the play and his persona?

We see a bit of the handkerchief scene

enough to glean how it might have been

the critics were vicious, in racist prose

derided Ira Aldridge’s performance in the show.

He is an anomaly upon the stage

We see there both passion and his rage

later hear him, as Lear in madness decry the lies

as fury builds and slowly dies,

around him, slavery still exists

(and even now)

though we can hope through sorrow

that better things come tomorrow

and better things are on their way

 

We discuss and dine

and drink some wine

(well, beer for him)

we’re both well pleased by the cheese

that we nibble sitting there as day turns to night

caressed by a breeze

perhaps it’s wandered round the world

unfurled and carried hope and sorrow

and we discuss the present and the lies

ignorance that triumphs over facts or the wise

but still we hope that tomorrow

better things are on their way

 

Younger daughter and I go to a concert

Dar Williams sang of the pagans and Christians

sitting at the table–

and just like them, we’re able to sit with different folk

but at least they were silent, and no one spoke

and I was more fascinated than annoyed

by the man touching the woman and the other woman stroking her hair

both unaware, I suppose, that we couldn’t help but stare

as we enjoyed the songs, the reading, our food and wine

so yes, we also came to dine

(a bit like the Gilmore Girls—

if they were vegetarians with curls)

and Dar sang of the babysitter, now urban planner

and “positive proximity”

(despite city’s life often anonymity)

she spoke of transformations she has seen

spaces empty and dark, now full of life, green

and when she sang “Iowa,” we all sang along

we all sang the chorus to the song

and despite lost hopes in November

our fears and sorrow

we left in hopes for better things tomorrow

that better things are on their way

 

In the blood

in the dreams

in the cities

and in the seams

and it seems

and it seems

that we wade through streams

against the current

things that are and things that weren’t

sometimes floating

ever light

drifting far and out of sight

journeys through space, time, day, and night

to ponder, to wonder

at art’s spell, we fall under

does it hide or amplify

the truth and the lies

and those who are afraid of women

and those who lie, quite unredeemed

or even worse

(notes on a theme)

they are exactly what they seem

but in our sorrow, we can dream of tomorrow

and let hope linger here, now stay

better things are on their way

 

We saw Red Velvet at the Lantern Theater Company.  The play is based on the life of the real actor, Ira Aldridge. We saw Dar Williams at World Cafe Live.

 

 

 

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Cabarets and Conviviality

Monday Morning Musings:

“Life is a cabaret, old chum

Come to the Cabaret!”

–John Kander and Fred Ebb, “Cabaret,” from Cabaret

 

“Which of all my important nothings shall I tell you first?”

–Jane Austen, Letter to her sister Cassandra, June 15, 1808

 

On a summery autumn day,

we left the sunlight

to enter the smoky den–

(the Cabaret, old friend)

Germany in the 1930s

but goose steppers are looming

the winds of war are moving

soon the guns will be booming

but for now, there is consuming

beer and goods,

here in the night,

the women are beautiful

the men are beautiful

they slink and glide

in barely-there wear

the Emcee, in heels and gowns

feather boa and garters,

looming

grooming the audience

flirting and diverting

we’re there, but here

then, but now

I’m surprised–

though why–

startled at my own emotion reaction

because it’s no longer an abstraction,

“Tomorrow Belongs to Me”

and Nazi insignia–

my throat constricts,

the body knows what the mind refuses to accept

(more goose steps)

I hear “some very fine people” gather

drivel and blather

echoes of then and now

the need to fight and disavow

what do politics have to do with us

the characters ask

We’re Germans,

(We’re Americans)

that can’t happen here,

our rights will never disappear

people standing tall and proud

arms held straight in devoted salute

They worship him

(no matter what he says)

small steps with profound consequences

(build a wall and many fences)

the slippery slope

and where’s the rope to pull us back

to ring the warning bell

to tell us now that all is well

So, what would you do

My brave young friend?

Would you pay the price?

What would you do?

What should we do?

What will you do?

 

 

We walk and talk

a wonderful production

the set well-designed,

the orchestra well-tuned and engaging

the voices delightful

the direction, insightful

altogether, quite a show

but—

(rightfully so)

a little too close to current events

(Maybe this time)

we’ll be lucky

maybe this time

he’ll go away

 

We wander some more

through old city streets

encounter wedding parties

one right after the other

brides, grooms, sisters, brothers

“the wedding stalker,” my husband says,

but it makes me happy to see love and joy

(where some want only to destroy)

affirmations of love and life

after the violence, hate, killing, and strife

 

We drink coffee

stroll across the cobblestones

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where men met to create a nation

to establish here a firm foundation

(remember the ladies, Abigail said)

but no, they simply went ahead

We’ve come a long way, baby

but still and all–

life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

flawed men with lofty ideals

feet of clay

and yet they found a way

it’s still the best we have

pledges made then and now

pledges these couples make in wedding vows

to love and cherish

to pursue life and happiness together

to do their best

we must do our best

(to join together)

 

After the play, we join our friends

friends of years

through love and tears

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kindred spirits

saying farewell to one couple’s house

not their first

but one where babies were born and nursed

here a family gathered

here we’ve shared many meals

often, like tonight Chinese food

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viewed one way

something we’ve done before

but there’s always something new and something old

moments to cherish and hold

close here to heart and mind

to bring out and remember

should we ever find the need to,

we say farewell to the house

but not the friendship,

remember that time, we say?

That day?

And then?

Remember when?

“What do you talk about? one friend’s daughter asked.

How do you describe the talk of old friends?

We talk of all our important nothings

and then we talk some more

of children, homes, work, and retirement

of travel, plays, movies, and books

of bats in our houses

and grandchildren in our beds

of catching mice

and stalking cats

of coffee cups and chocolate cake

of food and wine

and all the time

of then

and now

and all things fine

(and some things not so)

until finally it’s time to go.

We part with hugs effusive

despite the hour

and as the moon peeks from her cloudy bower

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we part–

Auf Wiedersehen,

but not goodbye

À bientôt

Enjoy life’s show–

it may be a cabaret

but if so, the set changes every day

and yet love, the light, true friends remain

and all our important nothings

in turns out

are really something

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tangled in History and Art

Monday Morning Musings:

“We always did feel the same
We just saw it from a different point
Of view
Tangled up in blue”

–Bob Dylan, “Tangled Up in Blue”

 

“for a brief, enchanted, almost transcendental point in time, I perceived how history was nothing more than an accident, a fluke, a matter of a few centimeters here or there, a head turned, a sudden gust of wind, a dirty gun barrel, a misfired cartridge, a breath held for a second too long or too little, an order misheard or misunderstood, an itchy trigger finger, a second’s delay, an instant’s hesitation. The idea that anything is ever meant to be seemed nonsensical. . .”

–Philip Kerr, Prussian Blue

 

I wake,

finger-comb my tangled curls

wait for dawn to break,

to overtake,

the midnight blue

and color the world in morning’s hues–

red, pink, gold—

and then the sun and clouds

are “tangled up in blue”

Sunrise, National Park, NJ

I think of my dreams

stories connected–

projected or reflected?

One flows into another,

intersected, another thought appears.

How do we dream before we have language?

In tangled images without names?

(Only later can we reframe.)

 

We see a performance

women on aerials silks and trapeze

moving with ease

in the air and on the ground

they cross and tangle

(sometimes dangle)

life lines that intersect,

disentangle, and connect

(the toddler next to us, calls to her Momma)

which doesn’t detract from the drama,

attests instead to broader connections

and lives that move in several directions

the tangle of work and home,

a woman sings, “I’m fine,”

but from any angle,

our lives and connections are certainly tangled

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We walk

we talk

observe

and swerve

around the other people

on the street

hear bits of conversation

their lives briefly entwined with ours

flies tangled in a web

flowers

to be pollinated in late-night hours

in my dreams

(or so it seems)

 

We drink and eat

watch the men across the street

and make up stories of their lives,

wonder about their families and their wives,

we concoct a total fantasy

with no basis in reality

just men having a smoke,

yet they evoke,

our ridiculous tales

make us laugh and smile

as we linger for a while

the liminal time, before sunset

a time of yet and no regret

stories tangled together, apart

truth, fiction, and sometimes art

 

We see another show,

what is it about?

Theater can explain and deceive

(a nifty magic trick is well-received)

movements, music, and words

fly in tangles, like tiny birds

through our brains

where, I’m not sure what remains

science and speculation

no overwhelming revelation

the beginning, the middle, the end

Big Bang and what comes after

for a family–

there is some laughter–

nothing is predictable, it’s true

we could be tangled up

in blue

or black

when the theater is dark,

but like an ark

it takes us on a journey

Information received

or are we deceived?

Tangles upon tangles in the darkness

no answers here

only questions

But that’s OK, I’m fine.

 

We emerge to sunshine

watch the people

watch the dogs

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At Tria Café, Washington West

and the bikers bike

(we see all types)

we linger, drink, and eat,

poetry of the street

sights and sounds tangled together

(we enjoy the lovely weather)

this moment, this now

I wonder how,

and what,

and if only. . .

We walk to the corner

left or right

which brings us to a sight

we do not know what we will see

or what was then, or what will be

move straight ahead

down that clear path

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what happens then

oh, I see, it’s a dead end

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Do we turn the other way?

Does history change, what if we stay?

Our shadows tangle on the cobblestones,

hands clasped

we head for home

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We saw two of the many, many Philadelphia Fringe Festival shows this weekend

We saw Life Lines by Tangled Movements Arts, which we both really enjoyed. See this group, if you can.

And we saw Hello Blackout by New Paradise Laboratories. See this if you like weird. The program note says to let the show wash over you to give yourself “a right brain vacation.” That’s the fun of Fringe–something different. I didn’t love it, but I’m not sorry I saw it.

We ate at Cuba Libre and Tria Cafe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer with a Fringe

Monday Morning Musings:

“August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.”

―Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

“Don’t you wish you’d go on forever

Don’t you wish you’d go on forever

Don’t you wish you’d go on forever

And you’d never stop?

In that shiny little surrey with the fringe on the top”

–from Oscar Hammerstein, “The Surrey With The Fringe on the Top,” Oklahoma!

 

“The poetry of earth is never dead’

–From John Keats,  “On the Grasshopper and Cricket”

 

When the universe asks,

fill it with music from the stars

sit in joy and laugh

so that flowers bloom in colorful bunches

dropping petals in charming disarray

like garments before a bath

weave clouds of language

into a rainbow of thought and desire

thank the sun

hum with the moon

***

In August, night storms rage

dazzling sleeping eyes awaken

then cloudy skies part

with freshly washed breezes

and summer sings a song

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In the heat and rain

fruit and vegetables grow and thrive

freshly picked,

they sit waiting at farm stands

bursting with flavor,

ripe juices flow in warm sweetness

filling my mouth with the taste of summer

and I hear its song

 

We go to a fringe festival

fringe–an ornamental border,

or something peripheral, extreme, edgy–

I think of the surrey

and of the suede vest my husband wore in high school

(he thought it was so cool)

I think of Fringe, the TV show,

which really was cool

(unlike the vest)

my husband didn’t believe me

but then he watched the entire series on Netflix with me,

and he knew I was right

 

But this festival is none of those things

not suede or surrey or TV

it’s a festival of theater and music

we see three plays in one afternoon,

the first about a boy in school,

there’s a child like that in every class

he can’t sit still

his mind is racing, too.

You’ve known this kid,

or have taught him,

or maybe you were him,

bright, but unable to focus,

excited, eager, but needing to move.

What happens to him?

It’s a one-man show,

the actor fidgets, jumps, somersaults across on the stage

dances with his school desk

We laugh, sympathize, and then we’re stunned.

 

After the play, we eat lunch,

Mexican food

(delicious)

listen to live music

watch the crowds,

the couple with their little dog,

the woman clapping to the tune,

the sun plays hide-and-seek

still, it’s a beautiful day

a bit odd, uneven

yet filled with poetry

and summer’s song

 

 

We see play about Jeffrey Dahmer

another one-man show

I think the actor must be exhausted–

each performance living in the mind of a serial killer–

I hadn’t planned to see this show

(because it’s a play about Jeffrey Dahmer)

but I overhear a man saying how good it was

and he was right,

not exploitive or sensationalistic,

but thought-provoking,

a man who lived on the fringe

battling his demons and desires

 

The third play had an interesting premise

about faith and what it means

famous women from history–

though Eve might be a stretch–

and Mary Tudor?

somehow the threads didn’t all come together

and some did not seem to fit at all,

the whole Islamic subplot,

still it was promising,

a work in progress from a young writer-director

just out of school

still on the fringe, no longer student

but still early in his career

 

We walk around town a bit

as people begin packing up

time is passing,

Sunday evening, the end of the weekend

summer is passing, too

the days a bit shorter

the sun not as high for as long–

the odd uneven time–

still, we wish sometimes it would go on forever

and never stop,

wouldn’t it be nice to sway in that surrey at a slow clip clop?

Passing Time

Passing the Time or Time Passing, Hammonton, NJ

 

At night, we sleep beneath diamond ships

sailing, glittering in an indigo sea

summer drifts, lingering for a while,

we are on the fringe,

autumn is coming

but for now, it’s another storm

another summer song

I hear the birds sing–

The poetry of earth is never dead

 

We went to the New Jersey Fringe Festival in Hammonton, NJ

 

Windows and Views

Monday Morning Musings:

“But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks?

It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.”

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 2

“Then, window, let day in, and let life out.”

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 5

“Unfix’d yet fix’d,
Ever shall be, ever have been and are,
Sweeping the present to the infinite future,
Eidolons, eidolons, eidolons.”

–Walt Whitman, “Eidolons” from Leaves of Grass

“There’s this phenomenon called the overview effect. It’s this cognitive shift that many astronauts go through when they see Earth for the first time from space. They describe it as feeling this overwhelming sense of humanity. In space you see that we’re all in this together. Astronauts leave the Earth as technicians, but they come back as humanitarians.”

Amanda Nguyen, Rape Survivor, Founder of Rise, Astronaut in Training

Open that vast window

time lives in our embrace

kissing ghost and angel breath

from ocean, sky, and naked dirt

giving poetry to life

for eternity

 

Open that vast window

we experience the world

through our senses

trying to find rhyme and reason

the ghosts flit and echo

souls and poetry intermingle

past and future merge

 

Here we sit in a vineyard,

drinking wine named for a poet’s verse,

 

watching performers speak the words of a writer long gone

his words echo through the centuries

opening windows to worlds we wouldn’t know

as Juliet opened hers to Romeo

time floats

unfix’d yet fix’d

 

Here in this space

the sky is an open window,

vast with promise and possibility

Sunset, Auburn Road Vineyards

we hear night birds trilling and calling,

a bird

(or is it a bat?

I learn eidolon is also a genus of bats)

swoops to catch an insect

while below,

players thrust and parry with swords and wit

life and death around us

windows opening and closing

unfix’d, fix’d

eidolons

 

Later, I remember one of our daughters

spoke Juliet’s words,

it was an audition

for a college theater grant,

leaving home

(the overview effect occurs only then)

a window appears

she opened it,

and in a theater,

(eidolon-filled)

finds her sun,

and he burns brightly

for her,

eclipsing everything else

 

We see another play,

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before it begins

we listen to the people near us talk,

they’re all involved in theater,

the woman sitting to my left, we learn,

is in a play in another theater that night

she plays the grandmother—again!

they all laugh

the light dims

our play begins,

one actor on the stage here in Philadelphia,

the other in London

they communicate through SKYPE–

live theater

the wonders of high-speed connections–

we see his house in London

on screens

like windows

but he looks through windows, too

seeing the present, imagining the future

 

The play is set in the near future

the butterflies have died,

but new ones have been created

along with other animals and plants

like chaos theory

or dominos

each extinction creates another

each creation has unknown effects

people rebel and resist

ecological warfare, starvation,

the world owned by a corporation

a better world

through gene manipulation,

what could possible go wrong?

 

After the show,

we walk across the street

from a story of the future

to a building of the past

Christ Church, Philadelphia

on this hot, summer day

we wander

see flowers still growing

(sigh of relief)

the sixth extinction may have started

but it’s not visible here yet,

not to untrained eyes,

birds flit and sing

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we stop for ice cream

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see a wedding, and another, and another

(couples beginning new lives

closing doors, opening new windows)

I find openings everywhere

windows from the past

looking at the present,

I wonder if ghosts wander here

do they experience an overview effect?

seeing Earth, their lives now from a new perspective?

unfix’d, fix’d

eidolons

 

We head home

the sky darkening

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the sun not visible through the clouds,

and the thunder rumbling–

but in the morning

it rises in the east

shining through my window

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(the present)

poetry of the here and now

sweeping to the future

 

There was a dVerse prompt on windows last week that I missed, but I suppose I’ve been thinking about windows. The Oracle gave me the first stanza. She really is all-knowing.

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We visited Auburn Roads Vineyards.  We saw Tiny Dynamite’s production of Perfect Blue at the Christ Church Neighborhood House.

 

 

Dreams

Monday Morning Musings:

“And, as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That, if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
Or, in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush suppos’d a bear.”

–William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, Scene 1

The Past and Future Merge

She soared high

amongst the stars,

weightless,

her mind everywhere,

she heard the universe sing

felt its rhythm in her soul,

it was part of her

and she of it,

had always been,

but unaware,

then,

before,

if there was a before and a then,

now she sang with the stars

and knew, she and they were one.

For a moment, she remembered—

a body unmoving on a bed in a white room,

beeping machines now silent,

a man with grief-streamed eyes–

now she saw,

as if looking in a mirror,

hundreds of her, stretching back and forth in time

they were her, and not her

different paths and different planes

all part of the universe,

she sang the songs of the stars and floated through space, time, dreams

 

Now

we wandered through bleak city streets

more like December than March

(but without the holiday cheer),

wet sidewalks with snow piled at the curb,

tinged grey from city dirt,

 

 

we walked into the theater,

found our seats

looked down on a stage,

bare, except for players with instruments,

sitting there,

we’re transported,

through time, space, dreams,

sixteenth-century English,

but timeless ideas,

love gone wrong and right,

couples bemused and bedazzled,

parted and reunited,

magic and fairies,

Oberon and Puck smoking a hookah,

watched what they’ve set in place,

musicians played

and displayed

impressive voices and skills,

(in double roles),

we laughed in delight

puckish Puck, the comical Bottom,

and the mixed-up lovers.

We got a treat at intermission

(for being subscribers)

then hurried back to see the conclusion,

watched the moon rise and set over the stage,

the fairy spells recast,

the lovers paired and married,

and the play within the play,

we applauded and rose,

happy to have been transported for a few hours–

the magic of theater

 

 

 

We discussed the play over coffee,

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me sniffling a bit with a cold and the cold,

and both of us waiting for spring to return,

I said that in Shakespeare’s time

the play would probably be ruder,

I thought of the playwright’s wit and wisdom,

then and now the words hold true,

“Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

words transported through time and space,

a play about love and dreams and magic

 

 

The next morning, I slept late

(late for me that is),

still befuddled by the time change and the cold

in the night I had a dream,

a musical, like Mel Brooks mixed with a touch of David Lynch

sprinkled with bits of Carole King and Toni Morison,

literary and ludicrous,

I woke briefly,

then had another dream,

my cold had kept me from a regular Saturday class at the gym,

I dreamt the same instructor had a special Thursday class,

consisting

(so it seemed)

of alternating ab work and running,

instead of mats,

we had our winter coats spread in lines,

our spots on the gym floor,

I was there with some of my gym buddies,

die-hards

(a strange and slightly ominous word),

we ran,

panting and perspiring,

but there were others,

who stood about,

I noticed one man,

he wore a sweater vest,

After I woke, I laughed,

my subconscious mind makes bad puns.

 

and I thought about dreams and dreaming

and what a fool I might be

perhaps lacking reason,

but still able to dream,

and laugh,

thinking of mid-summer

in the winter weather,

turning shapes to fancy,

imagining creatures in the night,

giving them names

thinking of love, magical and irrational

yet somehow real,

throughout time and space

and in and out of dreams

 

I thought of how Chuck Berry died the other day,

but his music is traveling through the galaxy,

“Johnny B. Goode,”

the stars add rock and roll to their repertoire,

and the poet’s words have traveled through time,

read and performed in schools, jungles, prisons,

and perhaps in space,

today my words may travel across the globe

and be read in different spaces, various places,

my thoughts of dreams

traveling through space and time

 

The_Sounds_of_Earth_Record_Cover_-_GPN-2000-001978 (1)

By NASA/JPL (The Sounds of Earth Record Cover) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

The first section of this was inspired by Jane Dougherty’s Sunday Strange Microfiction Challenge.    I didn’t have a chance to get the story in for the challenge. 🙂

 

 

 

 

The Here and Now; the Future, the Past

ayers_rock

User: (WT-shared) 耕太郎 at wts wikivoyage [CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Monday Morning Musings:

 

Henry: “If you look across the desert, the earth takes on the appearance of the sea. You think you’re standing upon a rock that rises from solid ground only to discover that you’re standing on an island in the middle of the ocean. And you don’t know if you’re looking back into the past or into the future. Water covered this earth and water will cover it again and the days that man walked here will prove just a moment in time.”

–Andrew Bovell, When the Rain Stops Falling

 

The here and now,

the future

from the past

all intertwined.

Back and forth,

each moment lost

before it registers.

This moment,

here, now

is already gone.

 

The play begins with rain falling on the stage,

a fish falls from the sky

and a man picks it up.

It will be his lunch,

lunch with the son he has not seen in many years.

The man had heard rumors that fish still existed

not totally extinct,

but still,

fish do not normally drop from the sky

Then again,

life is full of unusual moments

and strange coincidences.

 

Patterns are repeated

throughout nature,

fractals, the Fibonacci numbers, golden spirals,

tessellations, waves, and ripples,

ripples through,

ripples of time

carrying patterns

the shape, the color of an eye

You look just like your grandfather,

your mother, your sister—

Behaviors,

fathers leaving sons

And so might words also be repeated,

particular phrases also carry through time?

 

In the play,

they eat fish soup

in different times and places.

I think of the fish soup

I made for my husband, for me.

Mine, unlike the one in the play,

was made without heads,

but with plenty of vegetables.

More of a stew, actually,

but still.

It was a few weeks ago,

do you remember?

It was delicious,

and we ate it for a couple of days,

enjoying each spoonful

till it was gone,

in the past,

a memory.

Yet there is a photograph,

posted on social media sites–

the moment frozen in time

lasting through eternity.

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Fish Stew

 

I have a dream.

In it

my mother is younger

her hair still dark brown,

and she is going to work.

She leaves through a front door,

and my cat,

a cat who is my constant companion now,

in the here and now,

goes out the door, too.

I panic,

but he does not run away.

I scoop him back into the house,

where I play the piano,

haltingly.

I tell my sister,

or is it one of my daughters,

(the generations mix and blur)

it’s the theme song I remember,

but it is a Bach minuet.

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I can’t actually remember when my mother was a young girl.

I wasn’t born.

Does she remember it,

youth, I mean?

I see her in a photograph–

that moment frozen.

That moment then

what was

is here now for me to see.

But as I look, my thoughts move on

to the future,

even as I regard the past.

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My parents. I have no idea where they were or what they were celebrating.

When we watch a play,

or a movie,

when we read a book,

we are there,

while being here.

Is this a paradox of human existence?

The here and now,

the past, present, future

time and place co-existing in our minds?

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And in the play

it is raining,

raining for days,

weeks perhaps,

and sometimes it seems,

it seems as though the rain will never stop falling.

But it does,

and we walk out of the theater

and the clouds are gone.

The sun is shining

splendid, glowing

as it has through the past

and will continue to do

for some time, I hope.

The future,

when I am no longer here.

But now,

here and now,

it is shining brightly

illuminating the darkness,

chasing the shadows away.

 

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Post theater consideration of the menu at Tria.

 

We saw When the Rain Stops Falling by Andrew Bovell

At the Wilma Theatre in Philadelphia. I enjoyed it very much, an intriguing play with characters from periods of time between 1959 and 2039, in London and Australia, sometimes on the stage at the same time. The all share a connection.

There is relationship between the family saga and the Anthropocene. It’s possible that I said to my husband, “I love plays that come with further reading.” And that he laughed and said, “I know you do.” There is an interview with the playwright on the Wilma Theater’s web site.

 

 

Birds, Wine, and Life

Monday Morning Musings:

 “In all the universe nothing remains permanent and unchanged but the spirit.”

Anton Chekhov, The Seagull

“There is only one really serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Deciding whether or not life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question in philosophy. All other questions follow from that.”

–Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

“One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage If no one is thinking of firing it.”

Anton Chekhov, Letter to A. S. Lazarev-Gruzinsky, November 1, 1889.

“Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know.” John Keats, Letter to his sister, Fanny Keats, 28 August 1819

 

On a beautiful day in early fall

we go to see a play,

a play about love and loss.

of life and death and sorrow and hope,

a play that discusses not only whether

life is worth living,

but how,

and can one enjoy life

without actually being happy,

or happy, but not very happy,

a play that breaks the fourth wall

and invites the audience to participate

(Perhaps with a little prompting–

because that seagull does need to make an appearance)

with characters who know they are fictional,

but are nevertheless real.

For all its existential angst

the play is funny

though of course, a gun on the stage must be used,

or must it?

And balloons that appear

will be popped,

it’s a question of when,

I suppose that is like life, too.

(Though being me,

I wonder how many people hear “Chekhov”

and think of the Star Trek character

and how sad is it that Anton Yelchin who played

Chekhov in the movies died in such a freak accident?

It seems more Twilight Zone than Star Trek, doesn’t it?

In a Star Trek world, there would be a way to bring him

back. And so this has me pondering a whole different set of philosophical questions about life and death. But not during the play, you understand,

only after.)

(But really that whole killing a seagull thing. Isn’t that seriously psycho behavior?)

My husband and I have a lot to talk about after this play—

which we enjoyed, by the way, in case you couldn’t tell,

great acting, some funny songs, and a well-designed set.

It is a beautiful day,

and we sit outside drinking coffee,

a little cobble-stoned Philadelphia street.

People walk their dogs.

there is the man with three—

like Papa Bear, Momma Bear, and Baby Bear

They have smiling doggy faces amidst tufts of hair

that attract a gaggle of women.

We look at the buildings around us

and the birds hunting for crumbs,

we walk back to our car

observing the people,

the coffee crowd morphing into the Saturday

night drinking crowd

(two women talk about where to get moonshine

is that a thing now?)

and the police officers on their horses,

watch the people,

one horse, unconcerned, gives herself a bath

 

 

A character in the play asks what is the point of creating

and producing more stories and art

when so much exists already?

The answer, of course, is that we have a need to create.

Since prehistory, humans have created

cave paintings

multi-breasted earth mothers–

to go with the stories we create

to explain our existence.

Music, art, poetry,

to express and honor beauty.

We imitate and create

old and new

invented and inventive

plastic

ever changing

and static.

We are complex creatures,

but also simple

 

We go to a wine festival the next day,

wine also a human creation,

though perhaps its existence came about by accident,

grapes left to ferment,

and we eat cheese

perhaps also an accidental creation–

because we learn by experiment—

Eat it, drink it, and see what happens.

And I think of ancient humans discovering that food

can be cooked, spices added,

the appreciation of complex flavors and aromas

and that food and wine

become even more pleasurable when shared with loved ones.

And so we do just that at this wine festival.

 

I think of the stupid fucking bird,

the seagull

that stole my daughter’s sandwich right from her hand

at the beach this summer.

It is funny now, a story

I can share with you, Reader,

in verse here that I feel the need to create.

My spirit flies high like birds

though sometimes I may be stupid,

well, human.

I may stumble a bit

(well, there was that wine)

But still,

life is worth living,

life is good.

 

Thanks to Elusive Trope for the Camus quote. (And for the philosophical explanations.)

We saw Stupid F**king Bird by Aaron Posner at the Arden Theatre in Philadelphia.

We went to Old City Coffee

And the Heritage Wine Festival in Mullica Hill, NJ.

Magic All Around Us

Monday Morning Musings:

“Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing. Everything is made of out magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us. In this garden—in all the places.”

–Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

 

“A church is place where people go to see something that is very difficult to see. A place where the invisible is—at least for a moment—made visible.

The theater can be that too.”

The Christians: An Essay by Lucas Hnath,” Playwrights Horizon Bulletin

 

It is the season of life,

spring, when flowers bloom

and birds sing and chatter from dawn till dusk,

and then some,

squirrels chase each other up and down

the tree’s umbrageous limbs,

rabbits hop, stop, and sprint across the grass

dotted with yellow flowers,

probably weeds,

but eye of the beholder and all that,

now, today

it’s rainy and gloomy, and

we commemorate the fallen.

Lights out,

All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

Nothing dies that hasn’t first lived

and there are ghosts all around us.

 

At the start of this holiday weekend,

we go to see The Secret Garden,

pathos and harmonies,

glorious score, creative set,

stunningly beautiful voices.

(“Yummy,” said the woman next to me.)

There was a secret garden

once loved, but left to languish,

rediscovered, it is brought back to life

a bit of earth blooms

sorrow, not forgotten,

but eased,

a garden and a family recreated.

In the magic of theater, I’m bewitched, entranced,

enthralled.

I dream of ghosts and enchanted gardens

with songs floating in the air,

Come to my garden.

 

The next day, we see another play

about faith and changing beliefs,

about questioning and communication,

the pastor has a powerful urge to communicate

I wonder if his message resonates more powerfully

with believers?

Still, the play sparks conversation

as we sit outside at a wine café on a beautiful afternoon,

although I have to lead with

(vent about)

the person sitting next to me,

man-spreading into my personal space

(fortunately, I’m small)

fidgeting and reaching for his water

on the floor between his spread legs,

non-stop for the first ten minutes of the play,

before he abruptly gets up and leaves.

Perhaps there is a god.

But still

I dream of ghosts and enchanted gardens

with songs floating in the air,

Come to my garden

 

Before the first play,

(the yummy-voiced musical)

we walk in the garden of

Christ Church

People had crises of faith then, too–

and wars–

life blooms all around

in the garden

on this beautiful summer-like day,

as do reminders of death

life and death

an endless cycle.

But still

I dream of ghosts and enchanted gardens

with songs floating in the air,

Come to my garden.

 

That night

(after the yummy-voiced musical)

we sit outside,

enjoying, the beautiful evening

family, old and young

different generations

shared loved

love that blooms

and blooms again

like the flowers in a garden,

the magic of life, the sorrow of death

circle of life recreated and recast every second

as cells are sloughed off and created,

people and animals born and die.

Every spring, the earth awakens

Magic!

in a garden

on earth

And I dream–

I dream of ghosts and enchanted gardens

with songs floating in the air,

Come to my garden.

 

We saw The Secret Garden at the Arden Theatre

Christ Church, Philadelphia 

We saw The Christians at the Wilma Theater 

Some history of “Taps”  

 

 

 

 

 

Colors

Monday Morning Musings:

“The pianokeys are black and white
but they sound like a million colors in your mind”

–Maria Cristina Mena, The Collected Stories of Maria Cristina Mena
“Pit race against race, religion against religion, prejudice against prejudice. Divide and conquer! We must not let that happen here.”

–Eleanor Roosevelt

“The marriage institution cannot exist among slaves, and one sixth of the population of democratic America is denied it’s privileges by the law of the land. What is to be thought of a nation boasting of its liberty, boasting of it’s humanity, boasting of its Christianity, boasting of its love of justice and purity, and yet having within its own borders three millions of persons denied by law the right of marriage?”

–Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom

 

 The dogwood blossomed white across the city street,

green pots filled with brighter green plants adorned

the tables of an outside café

the earth is throwing off its winter grey,

awakening in shades of

pink, white, yellow, and green.

In the theater row in front of me,

sat a woman with chestnut brown curls

highlighted with a few strands of silver

flowing past her shoulders,

to her right was a woman with tight, black corkscrew curls

patches of nut brown skin visible between them,

to her left, a woman with straight, wheat blond hair

conversed with her auburn-hair friend

on stage were actors with various shades of brown skin

The play?

August Wilson’s Two Trains Running,

recreating life in a luncheonette, Pittsburgh 1969–

but it is an eerie echo of today

“Blacks Lives Matter,”

“Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,”

black men in prison

guns

and women objectified—

well, some things never change, do they?

The set looks like a real luncheonette,

a pot of coffee, a glass diner carafe,

constantly on behind the counter,

a broken, homeless man

who can utter only one phrase,

the characters dream of a better life,

don’t we all?

 

The next day,

in another theater

in the same city,

the day cloudy and grey,

An Octoroon

by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins,

a black playwright

or a playwright?

It’s a head-spinning tour-de-force,

a play within a play

the nineteenth-century play,

The Octoroon by Dion Boucicault

blackface

whiteface

redface

black actors,

white actors–

just actors–

male and female,

and musicians,

there were chickens, too,

real chickens in a pen,

and Br’er Rabbit

(who, if it matters, had a white head and ears).

Colors and race,

we race to catch a bus,

we win a race,

we are members of the human race,

race, a silly word to describe–

What? What does it describe?

An octoroon was one eighth black,

(whatever that means)

unable to marry a white person

(whatever that means)

in Louisiana in 1859.

We get caught up in the 19th century

melodrama–

Will Zoe be sold?

Will George marry Dora?

An actor literally fights himself.

Two playwrights, different centuries

discuss the power of theater,

Boucicault was known for his

“sensation scenes,”

we are meant to feel

to be overwhelmed,

and we are.

But race?

If we go back far enough

we are all descended from the same pair,

some relative of Lucy’s in East Africa,

and some of us have Neanderthal genes, too.

Farther back still,

we are all made from star dust.

So what does that make us?

I am not naïve–OK. Perhaps I am, but

if your laws or religion tell you

to limit the rights of others

who have skin of a different color,

whose eyes are brown, when yours are blue,

whose genitalia differs from your own

who loves a person who has similar genitalia

who worships with his or head covered–

or does not believe in any god at all—

well, then, your laws and your religion

are simply wrong.

No debate.

Colors should describe flowers, the sea

the eyes of your beloved

not exclude and divide human beings.

The playwright says the point of theater is to

overload our senses

to make us feel–

and think–

And so we did

And so we do.

 

We saw Two Trains Running at the Arden Theatre.

We saw An Octoroon at the Wilma Theater.