Sojourner

SojournerTruth_1850_OliveGilbert

Portrait of Sojourner Truth. From: Olive Gilbert. Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern slave, Emancipated from Bodily Servitude by the State of New York, in 1828. Boston: Printed for the author, 1850. Artist unknown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

She

labored

one of many

enslaved humans.

“Ain’t I a woman?”

she asked later, challenging

stagnant thoughts about gender

as well as race, believing she

deserved the same rights as any man.

Infused with holy spirit, awakened,

she sojourned, orating and proclaiming.

She had been beaten and abused, but

she escaped, then helped others flee.

Change soars like a bird in flight,

falls like an autumn leaf.

Yet once a woman

stood tall, speaking

of justice,

telling

truth.

 

Today’s Google Doodle, by Philadelphia-based artist Loveis Wise, honors Sojourner Truth (1797-1883).

This is a double etheree for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday, using synonyms for work and slow.

 

Harbinger

 

The rose once technicolor bright

now sepia-toned, left, an oversight

to blend into the background.

 

And she, nearly devoid of color

doesn’t see it, everything now duller,

except when in her dreams.

 

Her frail body, a slight bump beneath

the blankets, but her mind unleashed

flits between sleep and waking–

 

she sees a vision of their summer home

the cottage colored sand and sea foam

and brightened by its rose garden,

 

and always scented by the sea.

But here and now, she

hears the ocean, waves lapping,

 

slapping the rhythm of the tide,

calling her—to slide

into her memories–

 

or no, a harbinger it seems

of what is next, not dreams.

Her sun is setting,

 

and now the room glows

a well-loved voice she knew and knows

says, “Come, Love. I’ve been waiting.

 

Sarah at dVerse has been pondering the word “harbinger,” and asks us to do the same in a poem. Lately my poems want to be stories, and my stories want to be poems. Perhaps this is a harbinger of something yet unknown (to me).  🙂

 

 

 

By the Riverside–Quadrille for dVerse

I walk by the riverside—

only the steps are steep–

few creatures stir,

do they hide–

perhaps they’re fast asleep.

I wonder what it’d be like

to soar, slither, or leap,

but my shadow and I walk

side by side–

good company, we keep.

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Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ

 

Enough dark and dismal today–keeping it light for quadrille day at dVerse. Mish has asked us to use the word “steep” in some form in our 44-word poems. I wrote most of this in my head while I was walking.

 

Walls, Again and Again

Monday Morning Musings:

From a window I watch the birds flocked together to find food, to feed, fueling before the chilly winter rain begins again, following each other ground to sky and back again. I watch a couple of black birds—starlings perhaps–pecking at an old light fixture hanging below the eaves of my house. We think they don’t think or love or dream. Perhaps they think the same of us?

Species to species,

is there communication?

Walls between us all

 

I watch my cat dreaming and wonder what he sees. I wake from my own dream. It fades to mist. I remember only my sister. Her hair is styled in coils on each side of head—a 1940s hairstyle. She slowly morphs into my grandmother, my mother’s mother–

dream walls dissolving

past, present, future merging

an uncertain message

 

On a chilly day, we see a production of Romeo and Juliet. The cast wears modern street clothes, Mercutio raps. There is a band and a “Greek chorus” of local college students. There are curtains of shimmering golden strands; the actors part and walk through them. They also wheel these golden strand curtains into place to form walls on the otherwise mostly bare stage. There is another wall at the end of the play, where the singer and band sing about love being “a waste” if it is only “a wall to keep the truth away.” Some of the beauty of Shakespeare’s play has been lost, yet we enjoy this imaginative production. We talk as we walk through city streets. Then within walls, where it is warm and dry, we sip some wine, and eat some cheese.

enemies fated,

or find love notwithstanding—

what is in a name?

 

We walk past garden gates and walls to see another play. Ripped from too many headlines—the far too common killings of black people by white law enforcement officers—the play is set in the jury room where the jury is deadlocked. They decide to try to react the circumstances of the case giving all those involved a backstory, which leads to the final, surprising, and powerful conclusion. The play is not perfect and some it is a bit contrived, but it seems designed to help tear down some walls. Every performance has a talk back session. Some people say they like how the characters are made human. No one here is evil, even if we do not agree with their opinions. There are walls of human misunderstanding and conflict in both plays.

conversations help

break down walls of distrust

challenge our notions

And yet—we finish watching the third season of The Man in the High Castle. I am chilled by the vision of smiling youths tearing down monuments and burning the New York Public Library. This is a fictional world, but lately there are too many similarities to the real world. The petulant baby foments hate. We should all be behind a slogan to Make America Better, not to the one he champions that looks back to world where racism, sexism, and homophobia flourished. I see too many posts railing against “illegals,” the ignorance astounds me. And on Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorating when Auschwitz was liberated, too many do not believe it happened, while there are some who would like it to happen again. I watch Rent, and I think of the Parkland students singing “Seasons of Love” at the Tony Awards last year.

“It’s time now to sing out,

though the story never ends”

still walls of hate here

Every family has its secrets, its walls. Every family has its tragedies and comedies, a play in several acts. We live out our stories within the walls of homes, schools, workplaces, or in confinement somewhere. My mom rarely ventures outside the walls of her building now because she can’t go out by herself. We drive her to our daughter’s house for brunch. We talk, eat, and watch the dogs play. We laugh. We love. Sometimes that is enough.

Walls can shelter us

from bad weather, and from life

but love helps us grow

The moon hums a lullaby for birds, cats, and me. Walls dissolve, and we share a dream.

 

I guess this is more prose and verse rather than a series of haibun. And also, sorry, WP won’t let me delete the video below.

 

 

 

 

 

Haunted

caspar_david_friedrich_-_blick_aus_dem_fenster_des_künstlers

Caspar David Friedrich

 

A ghost from eternity

haunted me

 

like a laugh

in rhythm with time.

 

And it dazzled,

embraced the night in perfume

 

and celebrated caramel-colored days in dance–

almost always–

 

we could

and did

 

more or less like need,

to heal.

 

Then it said go,

the window is open—

 

but listen for poetry,

it surrounds you.

 

My weekly message from the Magnetic Poetry Oracle.

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A Dream, A Kiss: The Stranger’s Tale

I met a man who told me tales of wand’ring

long on lonesome trails of silvered hazel wood,

where by a stream he dreamed, and his pond’ring

 

the ships he sailed, and battles fought as he could.

Then how his dream seemed more real than all of this—

of his darling’s kiss, how missed, and what he should

 

have done. Now old, I think of his dreamed kiss,

his plans altered and rued. I instead stayed,

cast wishes on waters true, finding bliss

 

with you, I thank that man, his lesson taught,

grateful my hopes granted in love long sought.

 

Another sonnet for dVerse, this time in Terza Rima, with thoughts, too, of enjambment, per Jilly’s post. I’m still reading the sonnets, and I’m so impressed with the philosophical questioning. I seem only to be able to write these narrative type sonnets. This started out as a poem based on a Yeats challenge, Jane Dougherty did a while ago. If you want to read that version, it’s here. So indirectly, this is inspired by Yeats. Feel free to comment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Spy

dò_-_susana_y_los_viejos_20180922

“Luis Fernández García, “Susanna and the Elders,” [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

 

She shed her old life the day the soldiers came,

sloughed like a snakeskin. Perhaps

traces remain to be found someday

in a dusty archive, a notation in a book,

but she has grown, now

metamorphosed,

each day she wears a new persona—

school girl, maid, shy lover—

they think she’s eager to accept

their upright soldiers, ramparts breached

they thrust to claim her,

but she’s eager only for information–

spilled words that she can pass along, not their seeds

she does not want planted.

So, she listens, and they disregard her—

seeing only body, not mind.

She shed her old life when the soldiers came—

she lives in shadows,

hoping for a new life, a new skin

that need not be shredded and shed.

 

 

This is for Lillian’s “shed” prompt on dVerse,

 

Cold, Wars, and the Music of a Dream

Monday Morning Musings:

For a brief time, the world is shot in black and white. Silent, like an old movie, till the wind sighs.

Quiet morning snow

soft sugar sprinkles glisten—

finch flits from bare branch

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I sit at the computer. In my head, a fantasy world. On the screen, test items, following a prescribed style. Test takers will read these sentences and answer questions, never knowing that the people and places they read and promptly forget about lived a full life somewhere in my imagination.

black lines on white screen,

silhouettes in the snow,

whispered world awakes

 

The world is grey again—and again. The world seems broken and full of ignorance. I finish a project, find comfort in baking. I used to bake these cookies for my children. Sometimes I bake them for my mother. Today, I bake them for me.  Mommy cookies.

Scent of cinnamon

stirring up memories, dreams—

tastes of yesterday

Mandelbrot   Merril D. Smith, 2019

Mandelbrot

 

We walk cold city streets. Above, I hear a hawk cries, echoing. Ghosts stroll beside us, as we walk across cobblestones. Free and enslaved. Immigrants and native born. Shades of white, brown, and gold. In life, some had wealth, education, and fine homes; others died illiterate and in poverty. The promissory note has yet to be paid.

Spirits sighing

wondering when and why they died

dreams left unfulfilled

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We go to a movie that opens with a scene of a cold, Polish winter with a car traveling on snow-covered rural roads. There is a search for folk music, or something that fits the bill. They become choral tunes, resurrecting a past that never was, as one government replaces another with slogans and rules. There is still prejudice and inequality in the workers’ state. Cold War politics. Realpolitik versus ideology. A couple that can’t live together, but who can’t live apart. We see time pass and locations change—rural Poland to Warsaw, Berlin, Yugoslavia, and Paris. We see velvety black and white images, shadows and light–the woman’s blond hair haloed as she sings, cool jazz. Polish becomes French and Polish again. The soundtrack of the film is a soundtrack of their lives. The unofficial theme song, in all of its permutations, a story of lovers who cannot be together.

Caged bird sings in hope

waits for a door opening

to fly, free at last

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I stock up on spices and examine all the angles. We laugh at whimsical signs. Over coffee, we discuss the movie. My husband says he would like to have seen the costumes in color. “They were in color in my head,” I say. He replies, “of course they were.”

Imagination

seeing color in the grey—

blue eyes and red lips

 

On the radio, I hear the writer/director/producer of a new documentary, Who Will Write Our History. She discusses the film about the clandestine archive kept by residents of the Warsaw Ghetto. They know that they will probably all die, and the Nazis, who think they are the master race want to rewrite history. Even in the ghetto, they were filming propaganda. The Jews bury their records in batches, so that their true history will be known. “A time capsule of a murdered civilization,” the director calls it.

buried underground

bulb emerges in the light

truth flowers and grows

 

The world is grey and broken. Still, I laugh as our cats play and chase each other around the house, then plop–toddler-like–and fall asleep. Our path sometimes looks straight, but then circles around. It is cold, but spring will come again. The moon rises, and tomorrow, dawn will come, again. In my dreams, I hear the music of the stars.

Blood-red, frosted moon

hums tunes of what might be . . .if

dreams rise, set, and rise

 

 

Sweet Dreams  Merril D. Smith, 2019

Sweet Dreams

 

 

We saw the movie Cold War—beautifully photographed with wonderful compelling performances. Trailer here.  The main song has been playing in my head on a loop—well, perhaps I’ve listened to it a few times, too. Dale–highly recommend this one.  🙂 Music is definitely important in this film. I may have to get this soundtrack. We also enjoyed the previous film Ida, by writer/director Pawel Pawlikowski, which won the 2017 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.

Last night was the super blood wolf moon eclipse. The eclipse occurred after I was in bed, but the moon was certainly bright last night and early this morning.

Today is Martin Luther King, J. Day here in the U.S. I’m linking this to Frank’s Haikai Challenge on equality. Here’s a link to MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The current resident of the White House is not participating in any MLK activities today. Of course, it would be a bad joke if he did.

 

The Books

Cécile_Anker_1886

 

Why

she asks

is the sky

blue and grass green?

What does it matter,

he replies, do your chores.

Eyes downcast, she complies–but

determined to find answers—there

in those books she’s forbidden to touch–

 

only boys can learn to read, and then

only those with the right skin tones

or money or connections.

Still books call—enticing!

Secretly she learns–

quietly she

plots–and then

she runs

free.

For all who have marched, protested, and struggled for freedom–a double nonet for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday

And so, You Ask Why?

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Peder Severin Krøyer [Public domain] “Summer Evening at Skagen beach, the artist and his wife”

Through time,

there with us,

 

purple shadows—

and above,

 

the moon,

diamond cool,

 

urging, what?

 

We want beauty and music

(so, we say)

 

Summer sea-sprayed lives

and the smell of storms

 

that blow away—

as life must—

 

but still—

you ask why?

 

screen shot 2019-01-19 at 7.35.55 am

I haven’t had much time to read or write poetry this week, but I didn’t want to miss my weekly consult with the Oracle. Her message seems appropriate for MLK weekend and the Women’s Marches today–and the Super Blood Moon lunar eclipse.