Hope Carried Forward

Monday Morning Musings:

“We can never go back to before.”

–Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, “Back to Before,” Ragtime

“Go out and tell our story

Let it echo far and wide

Make them hear you

Make them hear you”

–Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, “Make Them Hear You,” Ragtime

 

“It’s important to emphasize that hope is only a beginning; it’s not a substitute for action, only a basis for it. “

“The past is set in daylight, and it can become a torch we can carry into the night that is the future.”

—Rebecca Solnit , from Hope in the Dark, quoted in Brainpickings

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I wake from dreams

where before and after merge

the past that never was,

the future that will never be,

where old friends visit a house

that is mine

only in a dream–

and I smile when I wake

because dream-world cats

knock objects from tables, too.

Somehow that makes

everything seem right.

***

 

There are hopes so small

scarcely thoughts at all

 

wishes, feather light

almost out of sight

 

they drift

away so swift–

 

a desire for fair days,

and then we gaze,

 

see beauty in the mist,

buildings lightly kissed

 

by grey, yet they shimmer

even as they’re dimmer

a paradox, perhaps

like seeing in the gaps

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what could be.

And then behind a tree

 

a deer, or two, three,

more you see

than what is here—

hope for what could be.

 

And quiet sanctuaries

where history tarries

Garden at Christ Church, Philadelphia    Merril D. Smith, October 2019

Christ Church Garden, Philadelphia Credit: Merril D. Smith, October 2019

telling the story of before

in church steeples, and old doors

 

steps decorated for fall

historic houses call

but we can never go back to before

even if we try to restore

 

a status quo–

you know

 

there is no time machine

only dreams

where past and future blend,

but it doesn’t have to be the end—

 

we tell our stories

of past glories

 

and of little things

our hopes with wings

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for our children, to bring

the awakening of spring

 

and they will hear you

and we hear, too

 

through mist and dreams

hope beams

 

a light,

a torch in the endless night.

 

Bonus Photo: “my willow.” I think people often dream under it.

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“My” willow, October 2019 At Dock Creek, Old City Philadelphia

We saw Ragtime at the Arden Theatre. It was performed in the round with a minimal set (with the clever use of two pianos and benches), but I loved the intimate aspect, where even though I knew the story, the three groups seemed clearer, as was their desire for their children to have better lives. I think there are many people today who want to go back to an idealized past. Well, that is evident in the campaign slogan used by the current U.S. president. But though I tear up at the musical, it leaves me with a sense of hope.

And, if you’re keeping track, my manuscript for my book on sexual harassment is nearly completed. I’ll be sending in the first five chapters in just a bit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Once

Monday Morning Musings:

“Falling slowly, sing your melody

I’ll sing it loud”

From “Falling Slowly,” Once,

Music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová

Once. . . I woke in darkness. Then the sun rose golden through rose-tinged clouds. The air was cool but clear. The world shifted and tilted. Dreams rose from the misted woods.

morning moon whispered

softly, praise touched red-gold leaves

geese honked overhead

Morning Moon

If you look carefully, there’s the morning moon.

chevron rises up

earth cycles, river to land,

the tide ebbs and flows

Geese at Red Bank Battlefield Park, NJ

We take a train into the city. We walk over sun-bright cobblestones, passing tourists who stroll and chat in a variety of languages. We wait on corners as wide city buses try to turn onto narrow streets. We enter a theater. Seats surround a center stage area covered with Oriental rugs. Musicians are playing Irish songs of the past and present. I bop in my seat to “Brown Eyed Girl” and tap my feet to a jig. Last call for the bar. The lights go down, and magic begins.

man meets a woman

music flows, drifts from their souls,

they’re falling slowly

 

together in tune

Dublin days strummed in rhythm–

piano echoes

 

musicians rebound

music from aisles and walkways

crowd smiles and applauds

We walk and talk. Watch the lowering sun shine through cloud-dappled sky. Red bricks glow. In Washington Square, a young girl whispers her secrets to a tree. Does it answer?

music of nature

city sounds form the chorus

we dine al fresco

Again. . .

We dine al fresco

wine and pizza in sunshine

a dog rests in joy

Nightfall comes too soon,

moon rises to hum goodnight—

cats slumber and dream

 

Sleeping Cat

Once. . .September was full of rain. The world was full of anger and sorrow and lies. But once, September ended in a perfect weekend of sunny days and cooler nights–falling slowly into October.

 

We saw the  musical Once at the Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia. It was a performance full of warmth and spirit, wonderfully staged. Here they are rehearsing “Falling Slowly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Between the Storms

Monday Morning Musings:

“But to find out the truth about how dreams die, one should never take the word of the dreamer.”

–Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

“Each night, without fail, she prayed for blue eyes. Fervently, for a year she had prayed. Although somewhat discouraged, she was not without hope. To have something as wonderful as that would take a long, long time.”

–Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

 

Between the storms of rain and snow

as chilly winds still come and go,

cleaning the air of winter’s skies

in days yet cold, but with lengthening tries

the sun extends its warming rays–

even though it doesn’t stay.

 

During this week, as awakening spring

flitters and flutters, young people bring

hope with their rising, taking charge

urging others–politicians, the public at large–

to fight to make the world better and safer,

not just hopes and prayers, or words on paper,

but action, something that will stay,

through winter cold and summer days.

 

Between the storms of rain and snow,

more are fired, they come and go,

falling like dominos, one after another

a White House in chaos, one like no other,

the swamp grows larger, it hasn’t gone away

monsters of winter–hopes for spring to slay.

 

During this week, of awakening spring

as blooms arrive, and songbirds sing,

we walk a bit through city streets

where gardens stir amidst urban beats.

We see a play of dreams, though planted,

are wishes that cannot, can never, be granted

even as regret sighs to end the play,

still innocence is lost, but madness stays.

Arden Theatre
Pre-performance subscriber refreshments

Between the storms of rain and snow,

as icy fingers tap shoulders, then go—

(winter ghosts that haunt and taunt)

what matters if skin is black or white

brown eyes, or green, as well as blue delight–

how does orange hair and white skin filled with hate

bring peace or joy–or make anything great?

 

 

As we ponder the play, and color and race,

all around us are Irish, no matter their hair or face,

St. Patrick’s Day revelers in Old City, Philadelphia

standing in streets, wandering through this space,

we walk around them for coffee and quiet

(hoping there is no drunken riot)

though an ambulance struggles by

and we see a young man on the sidewalk, he cries

in pain with cuts on his brow

and we think perhaps we’ll go home now. . .

 

Looking studious over post-theater coffee

to dream of spring, to dream of space

and time without a hate of race

or children who are killed or raped,

of people who by hate are no longer shaped–

we call to sun and warmth, come here, this way,

then hope that dreams will come to stay. . .

 

at dawn I hear the robin’s warbling song

and know that spring will come before too long.

 

 

We’re expecting another nor’easter tomorrow with rain and snow.

We saw The Bluest Eye, based on Toni Morrison’s novel, at the Arden Theatre.  

On Wednesday, students throughout the U.S. walked out of their classroom for seventeen minutes—a memorial to the victims of the most recent school shooting and a protest against the current do-nothing gun policies. I got so angry this week seeing Facebook posts by ignorant people who likened the protesting students to sheep—as if seeing classmates killed or facing threats of violence isn’t enough to make them have their own opinions!  Some of you know that I’ve been working on two reference books on rape and rape culture. They will be out in May and August. Yesterday, I heard an investigative report on the radio about children who are bullied and raped in school–even in elementary school and on military bases.

 

 

 

 

 

Dollhouses and Doors

Monday Morning Musings:

“We do on stage things that supposed to happen off. Which is a kind of integrity, if you look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.”

–Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

 “The Heart

has many Doors.”

–Emily Dickinson

Full poem here.

“our home has been nothing but a playroom. I have been your doll-wife, just as at home I was father’s doll-child; and her the children have been my dolls.”

–Henrik Ibsen, A Doll’s House

 

 

The heart I’m told has four chambers,

but every chamber must have a door

and so,

blood flows,

love comes, it goes,

the doors of the heart beat open, then close. . .

 

We go to the theater,

drink coffee before closed doors–

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they soon open,

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A Doll’s House, Arden Theatre, Philadelphia

taking us to a nineteenth-century

that seems contemporary–

how shocking the play must have been then,

it’s hints of sexuality, as well as the dissolution of a marriage.

We are caught up in others’ lives,

the doorbell rings,

people enter and exit,

the audience gasps at Torvald’s remarks,

feels Nora’s awakening

pauses, then exhales

with “the door slam heard round the world.”

We applaud, then exit, too,

down the stairs

and out into the cold.

Winter folds its icy heart around the city.

 

We walk and talk

past the ghosts of Christ Church

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through another door

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to drink more coffee.

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I think of doll houses and dolls. . .

 

Our daughters used to play with dolls and doll houses,

tip-tapping the small figures round tiny chairs and tables

and in and out of rooms

without real doors to open or shut–

but who’s to say it wasn’t real,

a man-doll named John,

a piece of a wooden chair named Pumpernickel,

(we never knew why)

the mini American Girl dolls

they were all real,

weren’t they? At least for a time?

A door opened, unfastened hearts and minds,

as I remember . . .

 

a doll has no heart,

except for that which is given by love,

or perhaps they create their own hearts

and perhaps they make ours grow

as they enter our lives and exit,

leaving the door ajar for others find their way in.

 

We open doors,

we close doors

sometimes we perch upon them

never noticing how precarious it can be,

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life, opening and closing–

sometimes we carry our hearts right through a doorway,

and keep on going.

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I’m told that people can die from broken hearts,

like Debbie Reynolds after Carrie Fisher died,

the heart no longer beats,

the four chambers, silent.

The doors of the heart open and close—

until they open and close no more—

Exits and entrances.

Another dollhouse.

Another doll.

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There was also this.

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For those outside of the U.S., yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday. My local team, the Philadelphia Eagles won. It was a big deal, and even family members and friends who are not particular sports fans were excited. I made my husband goodies to eat, and sat with him for about half an hour, but I then went upstairs to watch other shows and read.

 

 

 

Secrets and Shadows: Musings and Shadorma

Monday Morning Musings:

“Secrets, silent, stony sit in the dark palaces of both our hearts: secrets weary of their tyranny: tyrants willing to be dethroned.”

James Joyce, Ulysses

“It’s a triumph of art and friendship over time. And it’s also very important, I think, to hang on to the things that mean something to you. And they transcend time.”

–Judy Collins, “Love, Friendship and Music: Stephen Stills and Judy Collins Collaborate on New Album,” All Things Considered with Michele Martin, November 11, 2017

“There is regret, almost remorse,
For Time long past.
‘Tis like a child’s belovèd corse
A father watches, till at last
Beauty is like remembrance, cast
From Time long past.”

–Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Time Long Past”

 

Secret lives

buried deep in walls

or within

chambered hearts,

echoing the beats, flowing,

waiting for release

 

The garage

old, unstable, and so

down it comes

over the years

it’s housed tools and junk,

a chipmunk or two, amidst the rakes

perhaps a snake.

We were told the wall at the back

was bumped out a bit to fit

a Model T–

But honestly, I don’t know,

and it’s all so long ago.

The roof was shingled many times

and covered with leaves, pollen, and snow

beside it children have played,

and a wandering doe has grazed.

The yard is littered

adorned with its pieces–

fragments of a secret life

forlorn in autumn’s fading light,

a building built to last,

but now

shadows cast, from time long past.

 

The weather now has turned much colder

as the year journeys to its end,

no more harkening back, it seems to say

though time winds round again

through falling leaves and winter snow

to springtime bud and summer flowers,

and in the buildings here on city streets

there’s blending of the old and new

where cobblestones meet asphalt streets

and on concrete pavements,

shadows cast, from time long past

We see a musical about phone sex and love

set in the 1990s,

just before

(it opens a door)

the Internet really became a thing

and here a young man and woman

don golden chastity rings,

and vow to remain chaste till wed.

But now with their upcoming marriage,

they realize they do not really know each other.

They learn in song

(Well, it’s a musical, so we go along.)

we all have secrets lives and secret selves–

shadows cast, from time long past

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It’s a funny, enjoyable show

a quirky romantic comedy

if not profound

it covers some familiar ground,

but still we talk of how it’s set

in a changing time.

a time now past

when our children were young.

And as day becomes night,

in autumn’s fading light

We see a bride and groom

and should we assume

they have lives kept private and

shadows cast, from time long past?

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In the car, we listen to NPR

hear an interview with Judy Collins and Stephen Stills,

old lovers, now still friends,

hanging on to important things

and illustrated with their songs

throughout time

things that last,

shadows cast, from time long past.

 

I think of my mom and dad

meeting in time long before technology

of cell phones and Internet

and they connected,

once they were young and in love

then they weren’t either

keeping secrets from each other

yet still, I think the love was always there

and she to him said a final goodbye

the night before he died

shadows cast over time, long past

 

We take my mom to a winery–

“Cross a wine tasting off your bucket list,”

I say.

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Here we can sit at a table

order our selections

of white and red

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served with cheese and bread

and the atmosphere is convivial,

the conversation, mostly trivial,

but as we move to pizza and more wine,

we’re feeling pretty fine,

we talk of Thanksgiving

and of ancestry

I tell her about my poetry,

she tells me things she remembers–

sitting in her grandfather’s lap

though she doesn’t remember much about him,

and after that he died,

from an injury to his skull,

difficult times from them all

immigrants from another land

speaking a language I don’t understand,

I learned there was a baby brother born

after her mother and her aunts

he died young, seldom spoken of.

In the conversation here

ghosts of ancestors now appear–

shadow cast, of time long past

 

Then to home

the weekend ended,

secrets shared

journeys taken,

sunshine and shadows, blended,

cast in a circle

 

through time and

space our souls wander

sharing love

fearing death

casting shadows of time past

long ago and now

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We saw TouchTones at the Arden Theatre. We went to Auburn Road Vineyard.

I’ve begun and ended my musing with Shadorma for my somewhat sporadic participation in Eliot of Along the Interstice’s November Shadorma Challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cabarets and Conviviality

Monday Morning Musings:

“Life is a cabaret, old chum

Come to the Cabaret!”

–John Kander and Fred Ebb, “Cabaret,” from Cabaret

 

“Which of all my important nothings shall I tell you first?”

–Jane Austen, Letter to her sister Cassandra, June 15, 1808

 

On a summery autumn day,

we left the sunlight

to enter the smoky den–

(the Cabaret, old friend)

Germany in the 1930s

but goose steppers are looming

the winds of war are moving

soon the guns will be booming

but for now, there is consuming

beer and goods,

here in the night,

the women are beautiful

the men are beautiful

they slink and glide

in barely-there wear

the Emcee, in heels and gowns

feather boa and garters,

looming

grooming the audience

flirting and diverting

we’re there, but here

then, but now

I’m surprised–

though why–

startled at my own emotion reaction

because it’s no longer an abstraction,

“Tomorrow Belongs to Me”

and Nazi insignia–

my throat constricts,

the body knows what the mind refuses to accept

(more goose steps)

I hear “some very fine people” gather

drivel and blather

echoes of then and now

the need to fight and disavow

what do politics have to do with us

the characters ask

We’re Germans,

(We’re Americans)

that can’t happen here,

our rights will never disappear

people standing tall and proud

arms held straight in devoted salute

They worship him

(no matter what he says)

small steps with profound consequences

(build a wall and many fences)

the slippery slope

and where’s the rope to pull us back

to ring the warning bell

to tell us now that all is well

So, what would you do

My brave young friend?

Would you pay the price?

What would you do?

What should we do?

What will you do?

 

 

We walk and talk

a wonderful production

the set well-designed,

the orchestra well-tuned and engaging

the voices delightful

the direction, insightful

altogether, quite a show

but—

(rightfully so)

a little too close to current events

(Maybe this time)

we’ll be lucky

maybe this time

he’ll go away

 

We wander some more

through old city streets

encounter wedding parties

one right after the other

brides, grooms, sisters, brothers

“the wedding stalker,” my husband says,

but it makes me happy to see love and joy

(where some want only to destroy)

affirmations of love and life

after the violence, hate, killing, and strife

 

We drink coffee

stroll across the cobblestones

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where men met to create a nation

to establish here a firm foundation

(remember the ladies, Abigail said)

but no, they simply went ahead

We’ve come a long way, baby

but still and all–

life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

flawed men with lofty ideals

feet of clay

and yet they found a way

it’s still the best we have

pledges made then and now

pledges these couples make in wedding vows

to love and cherish

to pursue life and happiness together

to do their best

we must do our best

(to join together)

 

After the play, we join our friends

friends of years

through love and tears

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kindred spirits

saying farewell to one couple’s house

not their first

but one where babies were born and nursed

here a family gathered

here we’ve shared many meals

often, like tonight Chinese food

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viewed one way

something we’ve done before

but there’s always something new and something old

moments to cherish and hold

close here to heart and mind

to bring out and remember

should we ever find the need to,

we say farewell to the house

but not the friendship,

remember that time, we say?

That day?

And then?

Remember when?

“What do you talk about? one friend’s daughter asked.

How do you describe the talk of old friends?

We talk of all our important nothings

and then we talk some more

of children, homes, work, and retirement

of travel, plays, movies, and books

of bats in our houses

and grandchildren in our beds

of catching mice

and stalking cats

of coffee cups and chocolate cake

of food and wine

and all the time

of then

and now

and all things fine

(and some things not so)

until finally it’s time to go.

We part with hugs effusive

despite the hour

and as the moon peeks from her cloudy bower

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we part–

Auf Wiedersehen,

but not goodbye

À bientôt

Enjoy life’s show–

it may be a cabaret

but if so, the set changes every day

and yet love, the light, true friends remain

and all our important nothings

in turns out

are really something

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dazzled

Monday Morning Musings:

Tell all the truth but tell it slant — (1263)

“Tell all the truth but tell it slant —

Success in Circuit lies

Too bright for our infirm Delight

The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased

With explanation kind

The Truth must dazzle gradually

Or every man be blind —“

–Emily Dickinson

 

 

A brilliant she is born

here, there, in the past, now

she lived, flowered—perhaps

a rose with thorns—

or a pale bud that only blooms unseen,

but the fever, the desire to create

to know

to explore

is not enough,

confined by men,

labeled

(only a woman)

put in a box

(too weak)

on a shelf

(an ornament)

in a cage

(shackled and punished)

Don’t think too hard, they say to her

your insides will be twisted,

you’ll go mad,

but she rises, resists

her voice rings out

and we wake

 

***

We see a new movie about Emily Dickinson

I learn afterward that

before she confined herself to life to Amherst,

to her home, garden, and poetry

she traveled a bit,

to Boston,

and to Philadelphia

walked the streets we’ve walked

I imagine her ghost lingering still

though the streets are paved and surrounded by new buildings,

 

she published only a few poems during her life

though she wrote thousands

she admired the Brontës,

women who had their work published

(though first under pseudonyms )

they loved their homes and families,

neither Emily married

(wives did not have time to write)

 

What was her truth

and what is truth

and does it slant,

or do we slant it?

Are facts facts

or alternate facts,

difficult, didactic, diffused

gradually, dazzlingly, deliciously

revealed?

 

We see a performance of Gypsy

I remember watching the movie on TV

with a bit of a crush on Natalie Wood–

the way girls admire older teenage girls–

we’re entertained

we let them entertain us

and make us smile.

the orchestra sweeps us along with Mama Rose,

the ultimate stage mother,

annoying, unyielding, and yet we feel sorry for her

as she seeks the American dream for her children

during the Great Depression

and watch, listen to the music and words of Laurents, Styne, and Sondheim,

the great American musical

 

 

I think the real Gypsy Rose Lee must have dazzled

but not all at once–

or rather showing only some, not all–

hinting–

so that men would not be blinded,

but rather left with wanting more

as she entertained them and made them smile.

 

After the performance

on this Memorial Day weekend

the sky suddenly clears

slowly,

dazzling gradually

delaying the delectable,

revealing the late spring night of beauty

 

and we sit, eat, drink

 

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and watch the people walk by

listen to their conversations

wonder about their plans

the young woman leaning on the car taking a selfie

the man with his children waiting for their table,

the trio at the table next to us, discussing diets,

a couple strolls by, the woman says,

“But he’s no longer addicted.”
my husband and I agree that’s good,

even if it seems unlikely.

 

I think about Memorial Day

the day to honor and remember the military fallen,

the long weekend celebrated with parades, barbecue grills,

and trips “down the shore”

Isn’t it strange?

though perhaps not,

to celebrate life, instead of death

and isn’t that what they fought for–

so that we could sit and eat with our families in peace

so that all can receive educations, and not just those who can afford private schools

so all will be able to sort fact from fiction

so that all men and women, all genders, all races, and religions

can live in freedom

isn’t that why they fought

so that I can write these words

and you can read them?

my truth,

slanted like the sunglow as evening falls

blinding, dazzling

truth

revealed gradually

coming full circle

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Today is Memorial Day here in the US. I am mindful and thankful for all the men and women who served and sacrificed their lives, even if I have not supported the wars and conflicts in which they fought.

We saw A Quiet Passion and Gypsy. We ate at Cuba Libre.

I dreamt poetry last night, but sadly I will not have much time to write it this week. As some of you know, I am reading, writing, and editing articles on rape, and my manuscript deadline is. . .um, gulp. . .this week. So. . .I may not be so active in Blogland for the next week or so. Then again, I do need to take a break occasionally. 😉

 

 

 

 

Dreams

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.
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That, if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
Or, in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush suppos’d a bear.”

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

The Past and Future Merge

She soared high

amongst the stars,

weightless,

her mind everywhere,

she heard the universe sing

felt its rhythm in her soul,

it was part of her

and she of it,

had always been,

but unaware,

then,

before,

if there was a before and a then,

now she sang with the stars

and knew, she and they were one.

For a moment, she remembered—

a body unmoving on a bed in a white room,

beeping machines now silent,

a man with grief-streamed eyes–

now she saw,

as if looking in a mirror,

hundreds of her, stretching back and forth in time

they were her, and not her

different paths and different planes

all part of the universe,

she sang the songs of the stars and floated through space, time, dreams

 

Now

we wandered through bleak city streets

more like December than March

(but without the holiday cheer),

wet sidewalks with snow piled at the curb,

tinged grey from city dirt,

 

 

we walked into the theater,

found our seats

looked down on a stage,

bare, except for players with instruments,

sitting there,

we’re transported,

through time, space, dreams,

sixteenth-century English,

but timeless ideas,

love gone wrong and right,

couples bemused and bedazzled,

parted and reunited,

magic and fairies,

Oberon and Puck smoking a hookah,

watched what they’ve set in place,

musicians played

and displayed

impressive voices and skills,

(in double roles),

we laughed in delight

puckish Puck, the comical Bottom,

and the mixed-up lovers.

We got a treat at intermission

(for being subscribers)

then hurried back to see the conclusion,

watched the moon rise and set over the stage,

the fairy spells recast,

the lovers paired and married,

and the play within the play,

we applauded and rose,

happy to have been transported for a few hours–

the magic of theater

 

 

 

We discussed the play over coffee,

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me sniffling a bit with a cold and the cold,

and both of us waiting for spring to return,

I said that in Shakespeare’s time

the play would probably be ruder,

I thought of the playwright’s wit and wisdom,

then and now the words hold true,

“Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

words transported through time and space,

a play about love and dreams and magic

 

 

The next morning, I slept late

(late for me that is),

still befuddled by the time change and the cold

in the night I had a dream,

a musical, like Mel Brooks mixed with a touch of David Lynch

sprinkled with bits of Carole King and Toni Morison,

literary and ludicrous,

I woke briefly,

then had another dream,

my cold had kept me from a regular Saturday class at the gym,

I dreamt the same instructor had a special Thursday class,

consisting

(so it seemed)

of alternating ab work and running,

instead of mats,

we had our winter coats spread in lines,

our spots on the gym floor,

I was there with some of my gym buddies,

die-hards

(a strange and slightly ominous word),

we ran,

panting and perspiring,

but there were others,

who stood about,

I noticed one man,

he wore a sweater vest,

After I woke, I laughed,

my subconscious mind makes bad puns.

 

and I thought about dreams and dreaming

and what a fool I might be

perhaps lacking reason,

but still able to dream,

and laugh,

thinking of mid-summer

in the winter weather,

turning shapes to fancy,

imagining creatures in the night,

giving them names

thinking of love, magical and irrational

yet somehow real,

throughout time and space

and in and out of dreams

 

I thought of how Chuck Berry died the other day,

but his music is traveling through the galaxy,

“Johnny B. Goode,”

the stars add rock and roll to their repertoire,

and the poet’s words have traveled through time,

read and performed in schools, jungles, prisons,

and perhaps in space,

today my words may travel across the globe

and be read in different spaces, various places,

my thoughts of dreams

traveling through space and time

 

The_Sounds_of_Earth_Record_Cover_-_GPN-2000-001978 (1)

By NASA/JPL (The Sounds of Earth Record Cover) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

The first section of this was inspired by Jane Dougherty’s Sunday Strange Microfiction Challenge.    I didn’t have a chance to get the story in for the challenge. 🙂

 

 

 

 

The Past, the Future, Ghosts, and Drag in the City of Brotherly Love

Monday Morning Musings:

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”

–L.P. Hartley

“This play is so American. . .[it] shows us that transformation can only happen when we break apart our fears, our suspicions and our judgments. Because the America I know is not the one that is portrayed by only a few, isn’t the one that discriminates against its citizens for their differences. NO. The America I know and cherish and honor is one that all these characters are creating.”

— Emmanuelle Delpech, From her Director’s Notes, The Legend of Georgia McBride, Arden Theatre, Philadelphia

 

When was the last time the four of us had spent a day together at a museum?

We all wondered, but couldn’t remember,

somewhere amidst childhood’s ghosts

left behind with dolls and story books,

ghosts of Halloweens past

when little girls dressed in costumes

that they slept in,

a princess and a clown

(not a creepy one at all).

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And so we went,

a family outing,

our girls married women now,

but still crazy sisters, having fun,

interpreting the works of art

 

 

And since the big new exhibit is on Mexican revolutionary art

and it’s close to Halloween

there are Day of the Dead displays

 

We eat Wawa hoagies*

(My daughter misses them in Boston.)

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I score Super Momma points

by making hot fudge sauce,

totally spur of the moment

(in record time)

so we can have it with our coffee ice cream

as we watch Grey’s Anatomy

It’s another ghost from the past.

 

It is Halloween weekend,

my husband and I go to the theater

(which, I guess fits, when you think about it)

In the play,

a man discovers his inner femininity—

becoming a drag queen,

with the help of a real drag queen.

After a slow start,

the play picks up

struts its stuff,

so to speak,

along with the actors,

a feel good show

about finding your passion

and not giving up,

accepting those who are different from you.

A good lesson, don’t you think?

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After the show, we drink coffee

sitting on a bench outside of Christ Church in Philadelphia.

 

a beautiful October day,

we watch the people in the present

learning about the people of the past,

as they walk in and about the beautiful eighteenth-century church

where George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and others attended services.

We walk the streets, some still cobbled,

where founding fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers

once walked,

where free and bound lived and worked.

 

None of them was perfect,

neither are we.

But the past is a foreign country.

people then did not know all we know now

(perhaps we have lost some of their knowledge, too)

Progress and human rights come slowly

as babies crawl tentatively before they walk and then run eagerly

to explore the world.

So are there stages

of nations

that rise and fall.

And of discoveries that humans uncover and embrace with hesitation

or delight.

Thirteen colonies came together,

representatives walked the streets we now walk,

worked together to fight for independence,

and later, to form a more perfect union,

evolving over centuries

with greatness from the start,

along with evils,

slavery, racism, sexism, xenophobia.

We should not move backwards

to the foreign country of the past,

not regress, but rather progress,

build upon the great to make greater.

 

We travel to another part of Philadelphia,

Fairmount Park,

one of the largest urban parks in the world.

We are there for a Lupus Run/Walk

my younger daughter and her husband run,

my husband and I walk,

some people drag their heels,

some are in drag,

well, costumes.

There is a team of Star Wars characters,

others in purple tutus,

a sea of purple t-shirts.

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We begin at Memorial Hall

(now the Please Touch Children’s Museum)

with its figure of Columbia at the top,

it was an art museum,

constructed for the Centennial Exhibition in 1876,

a huge exhibition with many buildings

and many visitors.

A Women’s Pavilion gave women a chance to display and demonstrate

the new opportunities available to them in professions and business

there were displays of dress reforms, too.

But women were segregated in their own pavilion,

and still denied the vote.

And so we run/walk through

beautiful Fairmount Park

passing statues of Civil War generals

and the Japanese Tea house

I imagine women in suffragist white,

ghosts flitting among the statues

I think they would echo

“When they go low, we go high,”

standing calm amidst storms of hate.

Women have always had to fend off and fight

the gropers and grabbers,

and some of them loved other women

though not out in the open.

I amuse myself by imaging Susan B. Anthony

reading grievances while drag queens in the audience cheer.

(This did not happen.)

 

But the past is a foreign country

we can’t impose our views on it.

Our own pasts, well, perhaps they change

with, in, our memories

which are imperfect.

merging and shifting,

taking on new tones and meanings.

On this Halloween

my memories of Halloween past

merge with the present.

I think about the future,

We are at the crossroads,

there are ghosts all around.

We must push back the hate and fear.

We dream.

A wise man once had a dream

of freedom for all

freedom for those of every color, of any religion.

He was killed by hate.

But still we dream.

I think about the future

with dread

with longing

with hope

with dreams.

 

*Hoagie is the Philadelphia name for a sandwich served on a long, tapered roll. Wawa is a convenience store chain that is much beloved in parts of Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

We saw The Legend of Georgia McBride by Matthew Lopez at the Arden Theatre.

Christ Church, Philadelphia

The Please Touch Museum/Memorial Hall

On suffragists on Independence Day 1876, see this.

Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream speech.