Echoes from the Before Time: Haibun

 

I wait in the garden watching the bees flit among the roses. Their somnolent buzzing is soothing, the music of the universe echoed. Once this sun-glimmered garden, this gold-gilded life, seemed alluring. But now I realize it’s an artificial oasis. Outside the Perimeter, life is harsh and chaotic. Children and dogs scuffle over scraps. I think back over the past few years and to what brought me here. I thought it a refuge. I was attracted to his power, mistaking it for strength of character. But there is no strength, only cunning; he will do their bidding, do whatever he needs to do to survive. I am the plucked flower tossed as tribute. He has given me to Them, a bribe for his safety. I hear them now, hear their fists pounding on the door. The bees have stopped buzzing; the sun hides behind a cloud, but I hear a robin sing.

 

Before time and wars

the sun sang and the moon hummed

songs still echoing

 

in buzz, chirp, and ocean waves

hear music of the cosmos

 

By Sir Edward Burne-Jones (died 1898) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

This is a Haibun for Colleen’s Weekly Poetry Challenge. The prompt words were power and allure.

 

 

 

Ghost in a City of Ruins: NaPoWriMo

I go through the motions of living, looking for food. We’ve been at war for—I don’t know how long. I don’t remember how The War started. I don’t remember why. I go through the motions, pretend I’m still alive, but I’m hollow and crumbling like the buildings around me. Once I was young and pretty; I loved and was loved. But it does no good to remember. There is only The War now. The bombing starts again, and I run for shelter. The instinct to live is strong. The barrage goes on all night. Boom, thud, crash. Boom, thud, crash, scream. As the sun peeks over the horizon, shyly as if wondering if it should stay, I crawl from my shelter. The bright glow illuminates the destruction of my world. I am a ghost in a city of ruins.

 

In the peace of dawn

rivulets flow, salty tears,

a sea of sorrow

coursing through ruins, blood-red

flowers float amidst rubble

 

I wake. A woman is treating my wounds. She takes my hand and leads me to others. There is food. There is water. I hear a sound, wonder what it is. A child’s giggle. Slowly—I’ve almost forgotten how—slowly, I smile.

 

Hope watered with tears

a seed nurtured with kindness

a hardened heart smiles

 

This is Day 27, NaPoWriMo.   This haibun is for Colleen Chesebro’s Weekly Poetry Challenge. The prompt words were “peace” and “tear.”

I didn’t want this poem to be of any particular time and place, but yesterday, I heard a story on NPR about a woman who is one of the “White Helmets” in Syria.  I also thought of Fred Roger’s oft-repeated line “to look for the helpers.”

 

 

Following the Rules: NaPoWriMo

 

Every year we’re given the cards to fill out. There are boxes to check, the numbers 1, 2, or 3. In case of disaster, we will either stay at school, be taken to some central location, or our parents will come for us. My mother doesn’t take it seriously. She randomly checks one box or another. But I am a child, and I want my mom. I’m scared my family will be separated. In my sleep, I overhear news about brinkmanship and missiles in Cuba, the Iron Curtain and freedom. In my sleep, I hear my parents argue, hear the word divorce. Dreamworlds and destruction. But I am awake. I am a good child. I calmly kneel with the other children on the linoleum, dusty with playground dirt and tossed-away dreams. Our heads rest against the lockers in the hallway of this Dallas elementary school. No one ever voices the thought: if the bombs are dropped, there will be no escape. We do as we’re told, trusting the adults around us and following the rules. I am a good child. I slowly and carefully tug my dress down so my underwear does not show.

 

Mushroom clouds unfurl

in the desert, blooms of death,

poisonous beauty

warn us, still we play again,

still we keep score, game, set, match

 

 

This is Day 20 of NaPoWriMo. I covered several prompts here. Though it’s not really about games or sports, my haibun does include a sports reference. (Gasps from all who know me.)

This haibun is also for dVerse, Haibun Monday (a few days late) where the prompt was to write about a fear we’ve experienced. And I’ve managed to include all of Secret Keeper’s words in this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge: Score/Sleep/Free/Calm/Escape

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ferocious Angels Sing: NaPoWriMo

Persephone returns, laughs, and the world blooms anew,

yellow-green, pink, and white,

Corn Mother awakens, belly swollen with the seeds of life,

birds sing sweetly as the season turns

till the sky grows dark, crashes, and burns,

the world in flames and children are hungry

 

The song of ferocious angels lingers in the air

 

Unchanging, conflicts and battles

besiege the enemy, starve them in ghettos

enslave them, kill them all

(they are not us,

we are not them)

ancient tactics, mad men and fools with their bully cries,

rape the women, grab the prize

the rivers red with blood

 

The song of ferocious angels lingers in the air

 

And will it change, and do we care?

you can’t eat gold, or oil,

we can’t live on air

(they are us,

we are them,)

brothers and sisters, children of Earth

 

The song of ferocious angels lingers in the air

 

 

 

This is for NaPoWriMo: Day 11, a bop poem.

The form is described on the site this way:

“Like a Shakespearean sonnet, it introduces, discusses, and then solves (or fails to solve) a problem. Like a song, it relies on refrains and repetition. In the basic Bop poem, a six-line stanza introduces the problem, and is followed by a one-line refrain. The next, eight-line stanza discusses and develops the problem, and is again followed by the one-line refrain. Then, another six-line stanza resolves or concludes the problem, and is again followed by the refrain. Here’s an example of a Bop poem written by Weaver, and here’s another by the poet Ravi Shankar.”

Kerfe had me thinking of “ferocious angels,”   Unfortunately, the rest of the poem is ripped from history and headlines, unless you live in Sean Spicer’s fantasy world.

 

 

 

 

Flowers and Cries: NaPoWriMo

I can’t ask where have all the flowers gone,

they’re here for now,

waiting patiently through April showers,

lifting their faces to the sun

like baby chicks in the nest

trusting their parents to feed them,

trusting there is food,

we open the windows to spring breezes,

to birdsong

but the wind sighs

carries the cries,

the children who have died

 

We watch the rain fall,

(blood in the puddles)

the angel of death does not pass over,

but stops, rests awhile,

heedless of petty differences,

all are mortal,

we open our windows

no birdsong,

only twittering and tweets,

as the rooster puffs his chest,

 

it is spring,

but winter darkness falls,

the air carries a foul odor,

gas and genocide,

and the wind sighs

carries the cries

the children who have died

 

My friend says it’s a good day to cook

and so, I make some soup

bake some bread,

chop and stir and knead,

there is food for us,

outside, there are flowers still,

but then I sigh

I hear the cries,

the children who have died

 

 

 

NaPoWriMo, Day 7.  I’m off prompt today.

 

 

 

 

The Balloon: Microfiction

le_ballon-pierre_puvis_de_chavannes-img_8274

Pierre Puvis de Chavannes [CeCILL (http://www.cecill.info/licences/Licence_CeCILL_V2-en.html) or CC BY-SA 2.0 fr (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/fr/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

She had raged against the war, raged against the loss, and raged against fate. Her husband and her three sons had been killed; her grandchildren would never be born. Her city was destroyed, and there was no one left to rebuild it. Bodies lay in the streets, dead of starvation, disease, and hopelessness. Now the fire of her rage had died to embers. Over it, her sorrow had once simmered and stewed, but now, it too was gone. She was hollow, like a shell abandoned on the beach. She wondered if her body carried echoes of her life before–when she had dreams.

As she walked toward the ancient walls of her city, she noticed a balloon rising in the distant sky. A sign of hope or help? Too late, she thought. She wondered if she imagined it, as she watched the balloon ascend higher and higher, mocking her. She knew she would never rise; the only way for her was down. She hoped her flight would be graceful, like the balloon’s, a final bit of beauty amidst the tragedy of her life. She stood at the top of the city’s wall, spread her arms, and dived into the wind.

 

After

She floated, carried by wind currents, by angels’ breath. She floated like a leaf upon the water. She heard a sound, like echoing voices, and a door between worlds opened. There was her city spread beneath her, filled with joyous people, busy with the tasks of everyday life. In a blink, she stood now in the market square. Her eldest son saw her and greeted her with a smile. She noticed a balloon high above her. She dared to dream. Here and always.

 

This story was for Jane Dougherty’s Sunday strange microfiction challenge. The prompt was the painting above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Light a Candle

“It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen everywhere.”

–Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved

 

Light a candle

six million, if you can,

resplendent glow,

for those who say they didn’t know,

for those who didn’t, do not see

what once was, what could be,

who overlooked the ash-filled air,

who still ignore the pleading cries

and do not hear the ghostly sighs

that float over the walls of hate,

now, don’t hesitate–

light a candle

for those who suffered

and had no buffer

from the fear,

no one to wipe away a tear,

who died because you didn’t see.

 

holocaust_memorial_center_memorial_wall_of_victims_005-1

By Takkk (Own work), via Wikipedia, Holocaust Memorial Center, Memorial Wall of Victims – Budapest, Hungary

For International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 27 January 2017. The anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops. The few survivors are now elderly. It is important that we do not forget.

 

 

 

 

The Prisoner and Full Moon Songs: Magnetic Poetry

screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-7-49-16-am

 

She dreams about a thousand sweet summers

and a gorgeous garden,

pictured love

yet life is sweat and pounding

trudging feet

ugly men chants

crush her

Mother, I soar to pink misty sky

and death my friend

 

This is for Elusive Trope’s Magnetic Poetry Saturday Challenge.  I read a report that one of the schoolgirls captured by the Boko Haram was recently found and rescued, along with her 10-month-old baby fathered by one of the men who held her prisoner. I think that inspired this poem, but then I heard this stunningly beautiful Handel aria sung by Joyce Didonato in this video.  It gives some hope amidst the despair.

But still, there was so much bleakness, so I went to the Oracle for another try.

screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-8-26-32-am

 

Full moon song

spirits breathe sweet berry harmony

color breezes

there in dark verdant forest

they wander, watch

through night

as the river murmurs

we thrive and bloom

 

 

 

A Wish: Microfiction

 

lovers_1928

By Felix Nussbaum, “Lovers,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 “Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin

Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in

Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove

Dance me to the end of love.”

–Leonard Cohen, “Dance Me to the End of Love”

 

Felix and Miriam hurried to reach the new hiding place along the coast. Felix had lost count of the number of places in which they’d hidden. Was it four? Five? In each, he had painted or sketched with whatever materials he could find. The urge to create was powerful.

Although most waterways were heavily fortified, Felix had been told the patrols in this rocky area were infrequent. Still, he wished the night was not so clear.

“I could swim to freedom from here, even with the rocks and waves,” said Miriam. She was a champion swimmer before war and restrictions intervened.

“You could, my little fish,” he replied, as he looked around. Something about the deserted quay did not feel right to Felix. He had always trusted his instincts.

“You hide here,” he told her. “I have a bad feeling about this place.  If it’s OK. I’ll let you know. If it’s a trap, you must run for freedom.”

“But I can’t leave you,” Miriam replied.

“You must. For the sake of our child.” He put his hand on her belly.

She nodded. “First though, we must make a wish on that bright star.”

They held hands and closed their eyes. Then Felix clutched her, kissed her, and left.

He entered the deserted building. In the seconds before the Germans kicked in the door, he heard a faint splash in the distance. He had a good feeling that his wish had come true, and Miriam had escaped. He smiled as they beat him, knowing in his soul, that at least one of his creations would survive.

 

This is in response to Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge.

The prompt was the painting above by Felix Nussbaum. His family were German Jews who had been proud Germans. His father was a WWI veteran. Felix and his wife, Felka, also an artist, hid in several locations before they were discovered and sent to concentration camps. Felix Nussbaum’s entire family was murdered at Auschwitz. The Leonard Cohen song played in my mind with this painting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

guernica_at_the_whitechapel_-_geograph-org-uk_-_1593698-1

ceridwen [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

“Guernica at the Whitechapel It is no idle whim to include an image of this tapestry reproduction of Picasso’s great anti-war painting but because it is so significant for the political and cultural stance of the Whitechapel Gallery, the only British venue to exhibit the painting in 1939. The original work is now too fragile to leave Madrid; this tapestry was loaned to the gallery, for its re-opening, by its owner Margaretta Rockefeller. Normally it hangs in the United Nations in New York where in 2003 it was controversially veiled prior to a speech by Colin Powell on the eve of the Iraq war.”

Monday Morning Musings:

 “The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been hidden by the answers.”

–James Baldwin

 

After the tragedy,

in the calmness after the storm,

then we hear about the heroes.

On that sunny September day,

fifteen years ago,

as a gentle breeze blew,

and the world’s course shifted,

there were soldiers and fire fighters,

there were flight attendants and passengers,

there were ordinary people

who were decent and kind

who helped others before themselves,

and who became heroes.

 

From the hell of the Warsaw ghetto,

Irena Sendler saved hundreds of children,

burying their real names in jars,

and though she was captured,

interrogated, tortured,

she did not give up the information,

then, forced to hide herself,

like the children and their names,

she waited, till

after the wind blew

and the course shifted,

so she could dig up the jars

and return the children to their families–

if any relatives remained.

 

Decades later,

school children in Kansas

(a place known for violent winds)

began researching her life

inspired by the classroom motto

“He who changes one person, changes the world entire.”

They researched, developing a performance piece,

that captured the attention of the people in their area–

and then a larger area.

They discovered that Irena Sendler was then still alive,

and wrote to her, sharing the correspondence with universities

and other groups,

raising funds, and finally meeting her and some children she had rescued,

One called them, “rescuer’s, rescuers of Irena’s story.”

They were children, now adults,

who wrote about a woman, who worked bravely to change the world,

and in their work about her,

they, too, hoped to change the world,

one person at a time.

 

I think about the censoring of artists,

the silencing of poets and painters,

of novelists, musicians, and dancers

who proclaim truth and dare to create

silenced by dictators,

the strong men admired by someone here

who can spout his hate-filled rhetoric

only because our Constitution

allows for freedom of speech and expression.

Yet he would like to censor the press.

Is this the definition of irony?

 

I remember sitting, mesmerized before “Guernica”

decades ago in New York

I can still feel the power of that Picasso work

and remember those moments

though the other details of that college trip remain hazy.

The painting itself was in exile,

returning only after the death of the dictator, Franco,

but by then Picasso was also gone.

 

On a beautiful September evening

we sit in the city of Philadelphia,

we drink wine as a gentle breeze blows,

we see a performance piece,

a sort of homage to James Baldwin,

“Notes of a Native Song,”

created by Stew and Heidi Rodewald,

a memorable evening of music and social commentary

that is a reaction or celebration of Baldwin

rather than an adaptation of his work.

On this September night

as a gentle wind blows

I think about artists

and about heroes

I think about the winds of war

and the changing course of political winds

I think about artists

I think about heroes

And I think

sometimes they are one and the same.

 

“I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually. I think all theories are suspect, that the finest principles may have to be modified, or may even be pulverized by the demands of life, and that one must find, therefore, one’s own moral center and move through the world hoping that this center will guide one aright. I consider that I have many responsibilities, but none greater than this: to last, as Hemingway says, and get my work done.

I want to be an honest man and a good writer.”

–James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son

 

Information:

James Baldwin

Guernica

“Life in a Jar: The Irene Sendler Project

Wilma Theater 

Tria Cafe