Queen of the Universe

 In the morning,

a song slips,

slides suddenly into my head

“Shall We Dance,”

a mini-movie in my mind,

Anna and the King twirl

I see her gown swirl

just that,

just for a second

the way dreams  do,

encompassing entire lives

in a flash, flame, and then disappear,

and I wonder

what just happened?

I go about my day,

but later,

in my car,

I turn on the radio,

hear a clear soprano voice sing “Shall We Dance,”

it’s an actress touring in The King and I,

coincidence, synchronicity, cosmic joke?

I wonder

just for a second

(time expands and contracts

paths diverge)

just for a second,

I wonder—

how do these things happen?

Perhaps I really am,

Queen of the Universe,

I could bring world peace,

people would sing and dance,

we’d all have

a clear understanding,

this kind of thing can happen,

can’t it?

(another path perhaps,

another road)

a truck passes me,

I keep on driving

 

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Details of two dancers from the Tomb of the Triclinium in the Necropolis of Monterozzi
Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Dance, Don’t Fight

The radio interview was on Here and Now .

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ephemeral Beauty in the Book of My Memory

Monday Morning Musings:

In the book of my memory—the part of it before which not much is legible—there is the heading Incipit vita nova [here begins a new life].

–Dante Alihieri, Vita Nuova

“There are lovely things in the world, lovely that don’t endure, and the lovelier for that.”

–Chris Guthrie in Sunset Song

“People like films because stories are a structure, and when things turn bad it’s still part of a plan. There’s a point to it.”

–Tom Buckley in Their Finest

 

Dawn opens the book

write or draw upon the page

ephemeral life

transitory beauty, grasped,

chronicled by poet’s hand

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Every morning, I wake and turn another page,

what will be written there that day?

Not a book, a story, a movie, a play,

our lives

we plan, we think there is a structure, a plot

reasons for our rhyme

we study the past

but put our trust in hope and beauty

 

My husband and I eat Chinese food

sitting in our living room we watch a movie,

about a woman who lived a hundred years ago in Scotland,

using technology that did not exist in that era,

and that will become outdated all too soon,

it’s a rural life of hardship and beauty,

of fighting and song,

an abusive father, a depressed mother, a brother who leaves,

she puts away her books,

but there is the land to sustain her

she falls in love and marries

but the land is still there,

glowing through the director’s vision,

though the work is hard,

her husband goes to war

(the war that was to end all wars)

it changes him

it changes the nation

and all the nations that lose so many of their young men

the poets write, the tyrants sing

dulce et decomum est pro patri mori

the old lie,

that vicious lie,

life is ephemeral,

but love,

that is true and lasting

 

In the morning, I wake and turn another page,

we see another movie

this one about the next big war

about keeping the spirits up and boosting morale,

the movie is funny and charming and sad,

I enjoy it very much,

my husband does, too,

though he says, “It’s a Merril movie.”

And I guess it is,

though I’m not sure what that means,

the movie is mainly about a woman

who gets a job writing “slops,”

the women’s dialog for war movies,

this one is about unlikely women heroes at Dunkirk

the war ministry wants it to have everything though—

even an American and a dog–

and we see the writing (the clicking of typewriters)

and the construction of the movie

location and studio

while the world around them shatters,

and we know that the world will get worse,

and women will take “men’s work,”

then be forced back into their boxes,

but there is romance and Bill Nighy

and really what else do you need in a movie?

 

After the movie,

the spring day turned fine,

we walk around the old city,

where traces of the past remain,

though much has vanished,

structures, people,

and before that

giant creatures who once walked the earth

 

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American Philosophical Society

 

we drink coffee,

enjoy the view,

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laugh at the booming voice of a tour guide

helpfully informing a group that

“Carpenter’s Hall was built for carpenters.”

(though the term carpenters is misleading)

 

Nearby stood the house of a bodice-maker

now house and man, long gone—along with the fashion

all fleeting moments in time

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Carpenter’s Hall, Philadelphia

 

In a garden, we see tulips

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but many of the early spring flowers are already gone,

the petals of the flowering trees float to the ground

joining piles of catkins

(leaving pollen to blow everywhere)

the fleeting life of a butterfly,

helping to create beauty in the world,

ephemeral beauty

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the beauty of spring, fading into summer

lovely things that don’t endure

and are they lovelier for that,

and is that the point?

What will I remember,

what will be retained in the book of my memory?

These moments of beauty, I hope.

We go home

feed our cats and ourselves,

the mundane tasks of life

that have their own beauty and joy,

we sleep,

and in the morning

I wake and turn another page,

hoping for beauty, though it may not endure,

wondering if there’s a plan

wondering and hoping

holding love close

 

We watched the movie, Sunset Song, on Netflix. Here’s a review. I haven’t read the book, which I know is a classic in Scotland. We saw Their Finest in a theater. Here’s a trailer.

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time’s Glow: NaPoWriMo

 

We sojourn on between the moons

climbing full and white and bright and clear

but still the dark I feel is near

though here there is more luminous light

where comes the song of ancient sprites

wandering through shade, illuminating sight,

nearby, a diamond girl shimmers and glows,

ensorcelling face, radiant clothes,

her tongue sings music of forest and glen

urging spring and summer, again, again,

and time is endless here and always

with shadows splashed by sun-shining blazes

and roses bloom with sweet perfume

like golden apples of the sun, yet unconsumed

and gleaming, Earth seesaws now between beginning and done,

we’re dreaming, spindrift from slipstream, time’s run

 

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Odilon Redon, Beatrice,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Day 29, WaPoWriMo. The penultimate day.  The prompt was to take a word or phrase from a favorite poem, free associate, and then write a poem. I took some words and phrases from the Magnetic Poetry Oracle and went from there.

I’ve borrowed an image idea–using one that is similar to the one Jane Dougherty used in her dreamy vision–because I thought this golden Beatrice fit the poem. So thanks, Jane. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stars and Spring: NaPoWriMo

Spring meander,

goose and gander

sit on their nest

take turns then rest,

lilac scents the air

children play, feet bare

without a care,

each laughing cry

floats to the sky

twinkling bright

in the night,

the goosey pair

now aware

honk and stare,

look with delight

at sparkling light

dancing, giggling in the night

 

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Canada Geese by the Delaware River, Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ

 

This is Day 28, NaPoWriMo. We’re asked to write a poem in Skeltonic verse. The form is named for English poet John Skelton (c. 1463 – 21 June 1529). It is also called Tumbling verse.

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.”

 

 

Explorer: NaPoWriMo

Explorer,

what wonders will you see?

As you strike out boldly through the clouds,

spectrometers reading the signs

checking for radio and plasma waves

no dragons in your starry ocean, wine dark,

unmanned, but still the sirens call

(listen)

you sail,

not searching for gold,

not racing for the Northwest Passage,

but pursuing knowledge

taking science, applying it

sharing what you’ve learned—

visions—

(we see them, too)

mileposts and revelations

like life,

weathered,

changed,

scored by the elements,

(floating)

yet I wonder if you’ve heard the music,

of the stars and rings?

Do they chime, do they sing

in contrapuntal melodies,

weaving time and space?

Ancient wisdom there, eternal tides and waves,

(listen)

before you vanish

out of range

(the siren calls)

out of contact

alone,

the explorer

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“This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 7 degrees below the ring plane. The image was taken in green light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Jan. 18, 2017.” Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

 

Today is Day 26 of NaPoWriMo.   I misread the prompt, which was to write a poem about some sort of explorer from the future looking at something here on Earth.  I guess mine is the opposite–inspired by today’s Google Doodle.  I’ve also used Secret Keeper’s Weekly Writing Prompt words: Strike/Score/Race/Take/ Read

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.”

 

 

The Beauty Is: NaPoWriMo

 

Monday Morning Musings:

“Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night –William Shakespeare, Romeo, Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, Scene 5

“And the beauty is, when you realize, when you realize, Someone could be looking for a someone like you.” –Adam Guettel, “The Beauty Is” from the musical, The Light in the Piazza  Song here.

“At such moments I don’t think about all the misery, but about the beauty that still remains. This is where Mother and I differ greatly. Her advice in the face of melancholy is “Think about all the suffering in the world and be thankful you’re not part of it.” My advice is: “Go outside, to the country, enjoy the sun and all nature has to offer. Go outside and try to recapture the happiness within yourself; think of all the beauty in yourself and in everything around you and be happy. –Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl, March 7, 1944

It’s a rainy Earth day,

the grey skies swaddle pink and white blossoms

Spring, verdant, full of life, thirsty, greedily drinks like a baby,

unselfconscious and we the admiring parents watch her,

she is beautiful, even when she’s a dirty mess.

 

A mother-daughter outing to see Beauty and the Beast,

the theater has reserved seats that we recline in ready for the magic to begin

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My daughter is comfortable in the theater.

 

— the Disney version of the story,

though we’re both impressed by Gaston, more nuanced than his cartoon version,

possibly charming at first in an oafish way

until the true darkness of his soul is revealed,

the mob scenes remind me a bit too much of history and recent events,

mobs inflamed by ignorant narcissists,

it’s happened throughout the ages

it happens now,

but how can I not enjoy a story where the heroine loves books,

a movie that is a shout out to literacy,

and where lovers bond over reading,

Belle reads poetry to the Beast,

he knows a quotation from her favorite play, Romeo and Juliet,

there’s singing and dancing, people and objects,

I had forgotten Audra McDonald was in this movie–

until she sang,

and I didn’t know Dan Stevens had such a fine voice,

(remember that time he was in a little series called Downton Abbey?)

we get a backstory for the Beast (which we both like)

Belle’s backstory is inserted more awkwardly,

Still it is an enjoyable couple of hours of mother and daughter time

And there is more beauty in the day

the beauty is. ..

a bowl of lemons

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not exactly life giving them to us

as going to the store and buying six bags of them

and rather than lemonade, we mix them with vodka to make limoncello

aren’t grownup daughters fun!

(And beautiful?)

So, we grate lemon peel,

the kitchen becomes gloriously lemon-scented,

a Chopin polonaise plays softly in the background,

(her husband’s study music),

we talk, of her girlfriends, of work, of this and that,

my husband has been doing yard work

(it’s not raining that hard, he says),

he sits at the table with us,

their dog chews on his toy,

their cat ventures out to see if it’s dinner time

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Not pleased by the citrus scent

 

When we’re finished, we eat takeout Pakistani food,

my husband and my son-in-law learn

the kind and talkative restaurant owner was educated at Oxford

(perhaps he is a book lover, too?)

And what do I do the next day with leftover lemons?

Make lemon cake, of course!

 

 

It’s beautiful and delicious.

And though there are beasts all around, the beauty is. . .

spending time with people you love,

enjoying good food and wine,

beauty simple and sudden,

striking you, when you look up from your morning coffee

to see the sun dawning over the neighbor’s white dogwood tree

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The photo does not capture how beautiful it was

 

the profound beauty of birth, mixed with blood and pain,

the simple beauty of a smile,

the beauty that is there within the beast,

the beauty is

it surrounds us

the beauty is. . .

in yourself and in everything around you

 

Today is Day 24, NaPoWriMo. We’re asked to write a poem of ekphasis, a poem inspired by a work of art. We’re challenged to base a poem on marginalia of medieval manuscripts. I suppose you could very loosely say I’ve done this, as they are beautiful and filled with beasts. (Such as this one )

Huffington Post summarizes some previous versions of Beauty and the Beast here.

Today is Yom HaShoah ( This year, it’s Sunset, April 23- Sunset April 24), Holocaust Remembrance Day. I wonder what Anne Frank would be writing about now, and if she would still see beauty in the world.

Radium Girls: NaPoWriMo

Luminous

shining girls

painting watch dials

tongue-touched brush, delicate, deliberate,

deadly

 

ghosts,

radium apparitions

with bleeding gums,

ulcerated bodies impart knowledge,

afterlife

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Radium Girls work in a factory of the United States Radium Corporation, c.1922, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Day 23, NaPoWriMo. Today’s prompt was to write an elevenie poem.  My double elevenie was inspired by this article .