Fools and Oceans

Do we remember poetry and desire, come eternity?

embrace old rhythms of green and lingering life,

a brilliant blush,

a fired heart—

listen to this blue salt ocean, Fool,

the angel said,

magic lies here, there, all about and after

it dances and laughs, surrounding you like perfume–

go breathe peace and heal

 

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Caspar David Friedrich, “Northern Sea in the Moonlight,” 1823-1824 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I’m in the midst of crazy writing and editing. The Oracle knew just what to say. I added some punctuation. I hope she doesn’t mind.

The Robin Sings Before the Light

The robin sings before the light

he chirps and cheeps

and it is right

and fit

and fine–

he shares his song,

I make it mine

 

 

I woke up to hear the birds singing about 4:30 this morning, even in the rain, and this poem came to me. We’ve just seen the new movie A Quiet Passion about Emily Dickinson, so perhaps I was channeling her pre-dawn writing. 🙂

Encyclopedia of Rape and Sexual Violence: Contributors STILL NEEDED IMMEDIATELY

I am posting once again about this because I still need some topics covered–and quickly. This is an academic reference book to be published by ABC-CLIO.  I am NOT looking for personal accounts. I need people who can write long-form entries on Gang Rape, Ethnic Rape, and possibly some others. The entries will be approximately 11, 000 words each. They must be completed by June 5, but preferably by May 31.  Please do not contact me if you cannot deliver a well-written entry by then. TOPICS ARE ALREADY SET. Grad students welcome!

Here is the Call for Contributors. If you have access to an academic message board or list serv, please post this for me. Thank you!

To be published by ABC-CLIO, this 2-volume encyclopedia will feature long-form articles of approximately 11,000 words or 40-45 double-spaced manuscript pages. The encyclopedia will focus on rape in various contexts throughout the world, covering such topics as marriage or intimate partner rape, drug-facilitated rape, and rape in war. I am seeking scholars who have expertise in and understanding of contemporary issues surrounding rape and sexual violence–and who can write clearly and objectively on the subject–and who can write quickly.  To see the list of still available topics, please send a brief CV/bio to Merril D. Smith at merrildsmith@gmail.com  right away.  Put Encyclopedia of Rape and Sexual Violence in the subject heading. Entries due ideally by May 31, 2017 but JUNE 5 AT THE VERY LATEST.

Freed Minds and Imprisoned Bodies

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.”

–William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 5, Scene 1

“The system here is rigid, strict, and hopeless solitary confinement. I believe it, in its effects, to be cruel and wrong. I hold this slow, and daily, tampering with the mysteries of the brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body.”

–Charles Dickens, 1842

A prison taint was on everything there. The imprisoned air, the imprisoned light, the imprisoned damps, the imprisoned men, were all deteriorated by confinement. As the captive men were faded and haggard, so the iron was rusty, the stone was slimy, the wood was rotten, the air was faint, the light was dim. Like a well, like a vault, like a tomb, the prison had no knowledge of the brightness outside, and would have kept its polluted atmosphere intact in one of the spice islands of the Indian ocean.

–Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit

 

In the deep soft blue of night,

a full bright moon murmurs

which path would you stroll

always night

or beautiful dawn?

Would you breath the sweet air of ancient breezes?

 

I ponder mysteries of life and time,

the paths we choose, the where and when

the roads that make us who we are

the journeys that lead to discoveries,

do the words I write,

the forms of things unknown,

take flight across the world,

in a poetry chaos theory

to effect change?

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One of my writer workout shirts.

 

I’m at a book fair,

I don’t sell many books,

my profits come from knowledge gained

or reaffirmed,

books have power,

the reason why slaves are not taught to read,

they release the minds of those bound by ignorance

they free those imprisoned by walls of stone

or by barricades of bigotry,

they build bridges of enlightenment,

people are drawn to them

in excitement, wonder, and surprise

I watch the boy’s eyes

open wide at the thought of reading magical adventures

then disappointment,

“My mom doesn’t have any money.”

“Today is your lucky day, says the author,

“I have something special,

a free book for you–

see, the cover is slightly damaged.”

 

He signs the book for the boy

who takes it,

holds it reverently,

a treasure.

I hope he remembers this moment.

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West Deptford Township Book Festival. Yes, I did bake cookies, too.

 

My husband and I visit the art museum

not for any particular exhibition,

“Sunday at the museum,” someone says,

people there from all over the world

(even though the “Rocky Steps”  are closed)

I hear many languages: French, Chinese, Russian.

We walk through the Impressionists,

see the real and surreal,

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View from the Duchamp Gallery, Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

look at art and people,

adults and children,

viewed and viewers.

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Reading at the Museum—Mary Cassatt, Family Group Reading (c. 1901) Philadelphia Museum of Art

We walk from the museum

 

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across the Parkway to Fairmount

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and on to Eastern State Penitentiary,

 

 

the world’s first penitentiary,

conceived with a purpose–

to induce penitence in its prisoners,

the original building completed in 1836,

though the process began earlier

with efforts to relieve the conditions of the Walnut Street Jail,

in 1787, Dr. Benjamin Rush founded a group to reform prisons,

The Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons,

an organization that still exists,

the new penitentiary is thought to be humane,

a wonder of technology and innovation,

a central hub with spokes,

cells with plumbing and heat

designed by architect John Haviland,

but prisoners were cut off from human contact

and sometimes went insane.

Charles Dickens wrote of the torture of solitary confinement

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and later the prison became too crowded for the concept to continue,

a second tier of cells was built

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and prisoners shared cells.

We listen to actor Steve Buscemi

tell us about it in the audio tour,

we’ve been here before,

but it is good to be reminded,

and there are new exhibits we haven’t seen

there are other visitors and tour groups,

but when it is quiet, without other visitors around,

I feel the ghosts around me

there amidst the rubble

 

Prisoners

in dark fevered air

decayed concrete and old secrets,

a dirt home

listen to who was

they live not

but almost open,

in time

 

It is a reminder

of good intentions gone wrong,

yet there are traces of beauty and goodness,

even here,

the tales of good and humane guards

the art created by inmates,

the synagogue

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The original synagogue door. (For my blogger friend, Robin.)

 

but still there are ghosts,

the imprisoned,

some died here,

and I have no answers for those who are imprisoned still

but I hope they have books and art

and that their minds can roam, even if their bodies cannot

do they wonder about the paths of their lives?

Which path would you stroll

always night

or beautiful dawn?

Would you breath the sweet air of ancient breezes?

 

Tonight I dream of wide-eyed boys

of beauty and art

amidst decayed walls

a cat purrs softly in my ear,

I am home, but my mind roams free.

 

The kind author was Ben Anderson, who shared a table with me at the West Deptford Township Book Festival at Riverwinds Community Center. His books are chronicles of Irish fantasy, targeted for middle grade readers, but suitable for “eight to eighty-eight” he says. You can read about them here .

We joke about the Magnetic Poetry Oracle, but she gave me this poem (incorporated above) the morning of the day we went to visit Eastern State Penitentiary. She also came me part of the opening.

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You can find out more about Eastern State Penitentiary here.   Here is an article on programs for prison literacy.   And a list of additional resources here.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is always worth visiting, even with construction going on.

 

 

 

Magic Moons and Tides: NaPoWriMo

 

More magic moons that bring the tide

where mermaids swim and sirens sing,

but we sail on, for hope hasn’t died

 

in dreams, the sea is magnified

the tumbling waves with foam do fling

more magic moons that bring the tide

 

Death may come on horse bestride

to demonstrate that he is king

but we sail on, for hope hasn’t died

 

our love comes in waves, comes sparkling-eyed

as love-crazed, reverie, both unspring

more magic moons that bring the tide

 

so come, my darling, we must have tried

to play in our dreams, as we daily wring

more magic moons that bring the tide

but we sail on, for hope hasn’t died

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Ilya Repin, “ What Freedom,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A villanelle for Day 30, the last day of NaPoWriMo. I think this may be the first villanelle I’ve written.

Kerfe Roig (check out her latest  here  ) mentioned “more magic moons” in a comment to me, which gave me a prompt for this poem. Then the image above popped into my head. Jane Dougherty used it once for a microfiction prompt. So thank you both!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagination: NaPoWriMo

 

From my chair, I watch the sun rise rosy-pink,

in stillness, I blink, think,

drink coffee black,

listen to birds twitter-clack,

cats nap,

I map

adventures from this place

oceans, stars, outer space,

I wonder, how far thoughts travel, go,

then smile—I know

 

Today is Day 25 of NaPoWriMo. The prompt was to write about a space that is meaningful to you. I usually sit at the kitchen table and write, and I am very much a morning person.  This is a quadrille for dVerse, the prompt was some form of the word “still.”

 

 

Joy Smiles: NaPoWriMo

 

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Window to a secret universe,

perfume of coffee & caramel

brilliant colors, velvet words, day & night,

heart & desire remembered,

it is here time

it is eternity

breathing magic,

joy smiles

 

This is Day 15 of NaPoWriMo. We’re halfway through, so the prompt was to write about something in the middle. This is more of in-between than middle, but I love the ideas that the Magnetic Poetry Oracle gave me today, and I won’t have time to write another one today.

Enchantment: NaPoWriMo

Fairy-queen,

silver moonlight drizzled in her hair,

glowing, gleaming in the night,

she dances unaware

of eyes transfixed by the sight,

a body stilled, by glance ensnared,

she twirls and whirls, entrancing sprite,

unable to move, he stays right there

bound, bewitched, until daylight

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Henry Fuseli [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

This is Day 12 of NaPoWriMo. The prompt was to use alliteration and assonance. I wrote a quadrille for dVerse that fits both prompts. 🙂  The prompt word was “drizzle.”

 

 

 

Shadow Portraits: NaPoWriMo

Monday Morning Musings:

“We kiss in a shadow

We hide from the moon

Our meetings are few

And over too soon”

From “We Kiss in a Shadow,” Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers, The King and I

“When you are old and grey and full of sleep,

And nodding by the fire, take down this book,

And slowly read, and dream of the soft look

Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep; “

–From William Butler Yeats, “When You are Old”

 

When our older daughter was young

she was afraid of shadows

perhaps she sensed that they were alive,

captured, like Peter Pan’s

when our porch windows were shut.

“Shadows hurting you,” she would say,

only “you” meant “me,”

her pronouns confused,

and so, we played in another room

where the shadows were benign.

those porch shadows are long gone

the girl is a woman,

her small, curly-haired shadow gone,

except in my heart,

now older, I take out these memories

like a book,

to read before the fire.

 

We go to a dance performance,

a fusion of dance and shadow puppet theater,

a full-length production

of athleticism, grace, and imagination,

we’re caught in traffic on the way there,

an entire block closed,

a large crane in its center, reaching to the sky,

casting a shadow over the street

where police officers chatted,

(ignoring the frustrated drivers).

We manage to get to the theater,

pick up our tickets,

get to our seats

(close enough to see the dancers’ muscles),

about a minute before the show starts–

it’s worth it.

The story opens with a girl getting ready for bed

her parents kiss her goodnight,

she goes to sleep on her bed made of dancers,

she begins to dream,

the walls spin,

and she becomes trapped in a land of shadows

where she goes on a voyage of discovery

turned into a dog-girl

experiences the joy of a dog riding in a truck,

the horror of being forced to perform in a circus,

controlled by a whip,

the ecstasy of first love,

the girl becoming a woman,

the shadow world is a magical, fantasy world,

the dancers’ bodies tumble, roll, fly

the hour and a half goes by quickly,

the dancers perform an epilogue,

a shadow tribute to New York City,

bodies creating the Statue of Liberty, the library lion, 42nd Street,

and other iconic spots,

and then to Philadelphia,

the Liberty Bell, the “Rocky Steps,” Pat’s and Geno’s Steaks,

at the final bow, the dog-girl dance leaps into the air,

seemingly still full of energy,

the shadows of the show behind her now–

until the next performance

 

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We leave smiling

into a day of sunlight and shadows

in a city where history has cast a long shadow,

shadows through history,

now and always,

shadow worlds

where people are forced to work,

living secret lives,

held in bondage

or living hidden,

an underground economy,

people who can only kiss

in shadows,

though love is love is love

there are shadowlands all around us

obscured by smiles and sunshine

 

 

We walk and talk,

see students celebrating Holi,

their faces and shirts bright with colors,

no shadows on their smiling faces,

on this spring day

the flowers smile and dance in the radiant light,

we drink coffee

discuss the show

later, we go out to dinner,

drink some wine and talk some more,

when we leave

the moon is shining brightly

though not quite full,

I look at her,

wonder what secrets she has seen

from her shadows deep,

hidden lovers and girlish fancies,

we head home,

I dream of shadows and the moon.

 

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This musing is for NaPoWriMo, Day 10. The prompt was portrait.

We saw Pilobolous at the Annenberg Center in Philadelphia.

You can see a brief clip of this show performed at another location here.