All the Seconds, Connecting

Philadelphia from Patco train, February 2020

This moment–sparkling.

Monday Morning Musings:

“Nourish beginnings, let us nourish beginnings. . .

This moment, this seed, this wave of the sea, this look, this instant of love.”

-from “Elegy in Joy [excerpt]”

Muriel Rukeyser – 1913-1980

 

In the slow sailing of time

and the dazzle-dance of stars

in all the afters

and the befores

we find connections

 

heroes still live

chasing one another for eternity

unable to escape

though larger than life

and immortal

 

(as long as we see them)

even if they vanish

in the rosy blush of morning

like the dew

like the second that has just passed

 

never to return.

But this instant,

and the next,

a beginning each time

like this seed

a burst of lavender and yellow

comes again, crocus then daffodil

through the years,

four seasons,

one birthday to another

 

we celebrate you

we celebrate us

a special dinner,

cake and presents,

you smile

 

say you’ve been thinking Vera, Chuck, and Dave

but I’ve brought you a bottle of wine

and you’re still my Valentine

I still need you and feed you–

let us nourish beginnings,

 

the moments that pass too soon–

my mother tells me my father wrote songs

she says she knows they’re his

though they say anonymous

because they’re about her,

 

the moments they had

when he saw her

and she could still see

and the doctor can fix her eyelid

but not her sight

 

or her green eyes

dimmed by time

almost a century

our oak tree even older,

and ghosts dance beneath its boughs

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where we had a swing,

a yellow baby swing,

somewhere in time

maybe it exists still

gently swaying

 

a rippling memory

like old window glass

of what was–

and I could connect them

the present and the past,

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Wavy window glass of the Merchant Exchange Building, Old City Philadelphia, 2020 Merril D. Smith

 

and then that moment

would pass, too

elusive like a ghost.

Does my mother really see him

my father?

 

In the movie

the women are bound by the past,

broken by war

wanting to nourish new beginnings

will they heal

 

connect to something more than ghosts?

They are filled with emptiness.

And she is frozen.

What happens to the ghosts

when past moves to future?

 

We watch a show of future times

space ships and androids,

but still there is war.

Treachery seems to fill the skies

everywhere, so we look for heroes

in the stars

and watch their dazzle-dance

and mark the passage of time

with cake

as we nourish love, drink–

and so, the seconds pass

from birth to death

all the in-betweens

seeds to flowers, kittens to cats,

stars explode and are reborn, connected.

***

Random bonus cats.

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Cats and reflections! Philadelphia.

 

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Sometimes we like each other. 

 

Merril’s Movie Club: We sawJoJo Rabbit on Prime. I think my husband liked it more than I did. Not that I disliked it, but. . .I’m not sure if it worked. It’s hard to laugh about Nazis. Parts of it I did, and the little boy in it is wonderful. We saw Beanpole in the theater. Another one that is difficult to say, “I liked it” because of the subject matter, but excellent acting–the two leads especially are astonishing–but also the whole cast. It is definitely a bleak movie set in post-WWII Leningrad, but I can’t stop thinking about it.

We started watching Picard, even though I really don’t want to pay for another streaming service, but Patrick Steward as Jean-Luc again and daughters are watching it. . . and yes, that is an Enterprise pizza cutter with our homemade pizza.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More on Heroes and Hearts

Swirls Over Spruce

Spruce Street, Old City

Monday Morning Musings:

“She preferred imaginary heroes to real ones, because when tired of them, the former could be shut up in the tin kitchen till called for, and the latter were less manageable.”

–Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

“i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)”

–e.e.cummings “[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]”

 

 

Ancient voices carried on a breeze

float beneath the moon

in leaf-rustle, they speak

in each footfall, they keep time

and secrets

 

that whirl in dusty motes

gathering in silvery specks,

specters of the past

the echo of their heartbeats

caught in a laugh, a scent, a cry.

 

***

Harriet was a true hero,

but she was a woman, too,

who loved and laughed and cried

and if the playwright has her move through time

is that so odd

 

because we still hear her voice,

don’t we?

She walked down this street or that one, perhaps

here the enslaved reached freedom,

here refugees still hide

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Second Street, Old City Philadelphia (From the Arden Theater) Merril D. Smith 2020

their hearts full

or broken.

I learn my friend’s heart literally broke

the day before Valentine’s Day–

but it is patched, stents installed

 

to let his blood flow.

Another friend has an artificial heart,

but like the Tin Man

she doesn’t need a heart

to love or be loved.

 

I read that the Giant Heart in the Franklin Institute

has been refurbished–

it now has the soundtrack of a real heart

with beats that echo

through time and space

 

like Harriet in the play,

like the memory of my grandfather

popping up from the giant heart’s artificial valves

to show me and my little sister

that it was a safe space

 

a place I carry

a memory of a heart

carried in my heart

his heart and that heart

in my heart, they echo

 

as do the voices of women

leading “lives of quiet desperation”

that the assistant sees in the movie

and what can she do

till enough people speak and the system changes

 

as whistles are blown

and heroes speak the truth

even as rich and petty men besmirch them

retaliating with the power of wealth and position–

tin men without the shadow of a heart.

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But still,

I bake chocolate hearts

for all the hearts I carry inside

and we celebrate love

and heroes–

 

because both

transcend time and space.

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We saw My General Tubman, a new play by Lorene Cary at the Arden Theatre.

We went to the Wine and Chocolate event at William Heritage Winery.

Merril’s Movie Club: we saw The Assistant, a bleak but excellent movie with an outstanding performance by Julia Garner.

We also finished Counterpart. We really enjoyed the two seasons. It’s on Prime, and apparently Starz cancelled it because they didn’t feel it appealed to female viewers (!).  You know how women don’t enjoy well-developed plots and complex storylines (rolling eyes).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magic Lives in Our Hearts

Monday Morning Musings:

“That was how evil spoke. It made its own corrupt sense; it swore that the good were evil, and that evil had come to save mankind. It brought up ancient fears and scattered them on the street like pearls. To fight what was wicked, magic and faith were needed. This is what one must turn to when there was no other option.”

–Alice Hoffman, The World That We Knew

“Grey Rock centers on the idea that human curiosity is stronger that gravity. I believe that art, which has no boundaries, can influence dialogue.”

Playwright and Director of Grey Rock, Amir Nizar Zuabi

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I am here

in the space between–

sunrise to my front

and moonset to my back,

in between past and future

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I sit

holding the moment

in my thoughts,

where it remains

though the earth continues

 

its revolutions round the sun,

turning on its axis.

We gaze at the moon

with longing,

a part of us

 

that rock

I see rising silver

then gold–

not grey

like the sodden clouds

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Taken from the Commodore Barry Bridge

 

blown away by the wind.

Windswept our dreams fly

free–

we all have the right to dream

the Palestinian man in the play

 

dreams of building a rocket,

sending it to the moon.

He loves his daughter,

he loved his wife,

and love is magic

 

the people in the novel find,

though evil is real,

it is all around them–

the Angel of Death is kept busy

but love has its own power.

 

And so,

we talk as we walk

through city streets

reflecting the past

as we think about our future.

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Pennsylvania Hospital in a window reflection.

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Spring by David Guinn Philadelphia Mural Arts 13th and Pine

 

There is beauty,

there is magic,

all around us–

are we blind or too afraid

to see it,

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Finding signs of spring

hear it call

in the trill of birdsong

the tumbling crash of waves

the humming of the moon

and the music of the stars

 

floating down to us.

Listen–

it shimmers

and echoes in our hearts,

beating

 

free–

a dream flying

into orbit,

a thing of magic and beauty—

and here around us.

 

I fear we’re in scary times, but we can’t lose hope or the ability to dream.

It’s the start of birthday month here with more to come.

 

We saw the play Grey Rock by Amir Nizar Zuabi and a Palestinian cast performing in English. It was commissioned and produced by the Remote Theater Project. It was also part of Philadelphia Theater Week. We both really enjoyed the play, which was funny, tender, and moving.

I read Alice Hoffman’s The World That We Knew. It is magical realism mixed with Jewish folklore and history. It is set during the Holocaust, and it involves the bond of mothers and daughters. There is a female golem and birds. A heron also figures prominently in the story. As you might suspect, I absolutely loved it.

No movies this week, but we watched Season 1 of Counterpart on Prime. J.K. Simmons is wonderful, and he gets to play two characters, in this spy thriller that involves parallel worlds.

 

Heroes, Truth, and Lies

Monday Morning Musings:

“If we both describe the same thing at the same time, will one of our descriptions be more true than the other?”

–Rajiv Joseph, Describe the Night

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The sun rises each day

truth, whether we see it or not

light bending through air

a neon orange ball, perhaps

a tangerine on fire—

 

does the description change the fact–

a rose by any other name, and all that?

The sun, a fiery ball in our sky,

the horizon, the end of all we can see

of a world that goes on and on

 

through space and time.

Now a whisper of spring hovers–

a bit of honeyed-light

through dragon-flamed clouds,

but is winter waning

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or waiting, gathering strength to roar

with gaping mouth and jagged teeth

sending its icy breath to freeze the world,

my world, turning it white,

the sun then but a hazy memory?

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Hazy January sun through trees off of Lincoln Ave, Philadelphia.

Cycles, warm and cold,

sunshine and rain

birth to death,

to birth again

winter fades, spring comes.

 

The woman in the play foresees war,

her fortunes always predict war,

war is a constant, is it not?

War and peace and war and peace

cycling round like sun and moon.

 

My mother is almost a century old,

How many wars have there been–and death.

(Some days she longs for her own death.)

She has good days and bad days,

cycles, laughter and tears

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My mom watching the “wing bowl” at her assisted living facility.

 

Her laugh can light up a room.

I will miss that when she’s gone.

her fading away, I won’t miss that.

Once she was a child, a teen,

a vivid, energetic woman–

 

still, her laugh can light up a room

the way the sun lights up the sky.

Do you see it?

How would you describe it?

A sunrise? A laugh?

 

The days have been dreary

a slow steel sky, heavy with portent,

or dreams–waiting for spring—

there, a hawk cries from above,

there on the ground a hint of what may come

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Magic all around us lies, lies all around us.

The man in the play extols the black Magic Marker,

it erases the past, a new truth can be told–

it is a crime to be alive when the state says you are dead,

perhaps eat this leech soup, and remember, the women say.

 

Fantasy, myth, truth, lies

this is the world,

and I think we need heroes,

real heroes like Harriet Tubman,

or perhaps the children will lead us now.

 

But now,

I listen to the moon’s hum, the stars’ songs

reflect on the river’s reflections

I bake and cook

trying to stay cozy in a tilting world

And if it tilts,

how will we describe the sun rising

and setting

cycles that are constant but changeable

even if we don’t notice the change till it’s too late.

 

Is it too late?

we watch movies and plays

and drink wine

because life goes on

until it doesn’t

 

but still

but still

light bends and what of time?

Perhaps we may see ourselves

rising again with the sun.

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Garden of Delight by David Guinn, Mural Arts of Philadelphia

 

Merril’s Movie (and Theater) Club: We missed the movie Harriet when it was in the theaters, but it’s streaming now. The word hero is overused, but Harriet Tubman truly was one. The movie is sort of a standard bio-pic, good, but not great–but Cynthia Erivo is wonderful in the role. She seems to channel the spirit of Harriet Tubman. Also, for us, it was fun seeing local Philadelphia/New Jersey places and historical figures, such as William Still. We will be seeing a play about Harriet Tubman later this month.

We saw the play Describe the Night at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia. Both of us totally enjoyed this play that combines myth and reality, historical figures in imaginary situations, and imaginary people in historical situations. One strand is about “Putin’s” rise, but the play goes back and forth in time. It gave us a lot to talk about afterwards. A real “Merril” play. And my husband was still able to see most of the Super Bowl when we got home. 🙂

And lest you think I only watch serious things–we binge-watched the second season of Sex Education on Netflix. 

Sometimes we do not control what we watch.

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Who controls the remote?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering

Monday Morning Musings:

“He supposed it was always that way with the dead; they slid away before we knew enough to ask them the right questions. All we could do was remember them, as much as we could remember of them, whether it was accurate or not. Walk the same streets that they’d walked; take our turn.”

Emma Donoghue, Akin

Sunrise on Delaware River

Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, January.

 

January mornings are slow to wake–

the sun lifts his sleepy head

so slowly from his bed

extending his rays over river and sea

while gulls gather on the shore

 

and I watch sun and gulls

while walking into the day,

the clouds lifting, rolling tides

that flow into tomorrow

carrying echoes of yesterday

***

 

I remember yesterday and look to tomorrow

(the present never is, can never be)

no predictions, we don’t know what comes,

only what was and what might be

as the world circles

 

some remember yesterdays of horror

survivors, tattooed numbers on their arms,

scarred bodies and souls–

they ask us to never forget–

the tides ebb and flow, days turn to night

 

carrying secrets

within families

within neighborhoods and nations

the pretense– we didn’t know what was happening,

the fear and shame of discovery.

 

But I have been privileged—

my ghosts mostly benign,

though I hear the ghosts of six million call,

“Remember,”

and I wonder how we can ever forget

 

a world of hate

that hasn’t vanished

where people were—are–

trafficked, enslaved, murdered

simply because they exist.

 

Is there another timeline

where we are not destroying our planet,

where we don’t say a leader is crass,

but I like what he’s doing–

where facts still matter, where the secrets are exposed?

 

I watch the river

carrying ghosts and memories

out to sea, out of sight

and the birds hover and land

and fly away again

like thoughts

that flitter through my mind,

the trivial and mundane,

the weighty and bizarre,

mixing like water and dust

 

raining through my brain.

What will evaporate?

What will stay to form a river

that streams

words onto a page?

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Reflections on Delaware River at sunrise. Red Bank Battlefield. 2020

 

My daughter and I watch the movie

(laughing and wiping tears from our eyes)

and I think of all the movies we’ve watched

sometimes over and over again–

it seems so long ago now

 

this past

where she played Little Women with her Barbies

giving Amy, the youngest, like her,

superpowers—and a car—

that she teaches Jo to drive

 

and in the past

both daughters saw the real Amy’s drawings

still on the walls over a hundred years and many wars later

this past, what I remember, my daughters

existing with the past of the old house—both moving on

 

as we do.

We drink wine

talk of books, travel, life

time slows for awhile,

we laugh enjoying ourselves and each other–

 

the crescent moon smiles

her secret smile

as we drive home

into our future

remembering the past.

 

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My musings are a bit late today because my editor had a few final queries about my book, and naturally I had to answer them right away. Last week, Adobe Acrobat ate the page proofs I had worked on, and I had to re-do everything.

Merril’s Movie Club: My younger daughter and I finally saw the latest movie version of Little Women. We both loved it, though we wished older daughter was there, too. The casting is perfect, and we both liked the way the story went back and forth in time.  We visited Orchard House when our girls were little.

My husband and I finished the Icelandic drama series, Trapped, which we enjoyed very much. There were many secrets and memories in this series, which also touches on political and social issues.

I finished reading Emma Donoghue’s novel, Akin over the weekend. It’s about a man about to turn eighty who suddenly finds himself caring for his grandnephew and taking him to Nice—where he uncovers family secrets from WWII.

We visited Almathea Cellars.

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day—the 75th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.