Monday Morning Musings:
“Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past. . .
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory,
down the passage we did not take,
towards the door we never opened,
into the rose garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.”
T.S. Eliot, from “Burnt Echo”, No. 1 of “Four Quartets”
“So much of history is mystery. We don’t know what is lost forever, what will surface again. All objects exist in a moment of time. And that fragment of time is preserved or lost or found in mysterious ways. Mystery is a wonderful part of life.”
–Amy Tan, The Bonesetter’s Daughter
hidden within a mislabeled envelope, appears
what is known and what may be,
does it show what we think it shows?
Will we ever know more of lives that soared and crashed?
a door opened into the past,
within it the people still live
a passage, a channel
leading this way or that
perhaps many such secret passages exist
burrow along well-traveled pathways
winding passages that bend and shape the straight roads of time
time past, time present, time future
We go to a play,
three men enter a room, one at a time,
Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens, Count Leo Tolstoy
(Barefooted and dressed as a peasant, he says
don’t call me Count, throughout the play.)
The room is furnished with a drawered table and three chairs,
in the drawer, the men will discover notebooks and pens.
(Jefferson is amazed at a pen with ink–amazed he did not think of it himself.)
Though they lived in different times,
each man has just died and entered this room,
At this discovery, Jefferson remarks,
“Evidently time bends.”
Bulletin board in the lobby of the Lantern Theater.
The door lock after each enters the room,
they cannot exit until—what?
Each man is a writer,
and it turns out each wrote his own version of the gospels,
each man was a visionary of sorts
who wrote about reforming society,
each failed within his own life to uphold the standards he envisioned
and in this amusing and entertaining play,
the men write and argue,
debate their ideas,
and write some more,
facing the mirror—us–
we, the audience, the fourth wall
hear their words,
hear them confess their deeds and weaknesses.
And what if they did meet,
and what if they did debate and discuss,
and what if we could hear them,
On a beautiful summer day,
after the play
we walk the streets that bear traces of Jefferson everywhere
a medical school and university named for him.
Centuries ago, he walked these streets
sat in a room, penned (with quill) his elegant words*
of sacred rights, of equality and independence,
even while he continued to enslave others,
words that led to a revolution,
words that still resonate today,
I imagine him,
his long-legged stroll across the cobble-stoned streets,
conversing with his unlikely friend John Adams,
perhaps opening a door into a rose garden
the scent lingers in the air
the words echo
Charles Dickens visited Philadelphia, too.
in March 1842, he stayed at the United States Hotel
on Chestnut Street near Fourth,
the part of the city
now called Old City
where Jefferson and other delegates declared our independence
I imagine their ghosts meeting on these city streets
that Dickens found much too regular
longing for a crooked street–
perhaps seeking a place where time bent
and echoes lingered in the air
Dickens met with Edgar Allen Poe,
they discussed poetry.
Dickens had a pet raven, Grip,
his stuffed body rests in a glass case
at the Free Library of Philadelphia
Dickens wrote about Grip in his book
which was serialized in the Philadelphia Inquirer,
and Poe reviewed the book for a Philadelphia publication in 1842,
mentioning the raven,
and Poe later writes a poem about a raven
whose word “nevermore” echoes in the air
and through time
And on this beautiful summer day
we sit outside at a café,
I wonder to my husband
how it would have been—
what if a woman had been in that room?
He says, was there one who wrote gospels?
I don’t know,
though I think there must have been
perhaps, lost to history,
or yet to be found,
perhaps to be revealed
in a mislabeled envelope,
or amidst remnants unearthed from a secret passage
in the locus of past, present, and future.
We sit at the table
(a window becomes a mirror
old buildings blend with new)
watch the people,
listening to words echo
lingering in the breeze
We saw The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens & County Leo Tolstoy: Discord by Scott Carter at the Lantern Theater Company in Philadelphia.
We went to Tria Café Washington West
A photo said to be of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan was in the news this week.
*Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration of Independence