Thoughts on Flying

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Birds on a wire

like thoughts coming together,

 

resting before flight–

 

the pause,

rhythm in a sentence

 

in the secret language of birds,

forming patterns in circles and lines,

 

gliding on wind currents,

soaring into the clouds–

 

and I watch, wondering

 

what it’s like to rise so high

without fear of falling?

 

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Crows in flight at Red Bank Battlefield, July 2020

 

For dVerse,where Laura has asked us to write about flight. I’ve reworked some old poems. . . a work in progress perhaps.

 

 

 

Backstories

Monday Morning Musings:

“Music, when soft voices die,

Vibrates in the memory—”

Percy Bysshe Shelley

“Yesterday, today and tomorrow are not consecutive, they are connected in a never-ending circle. Everything is connected.”— The Stranger, Dark (Netflix series)

 

I listen to the silent sounds,

a voice inside my head

remembered phrases—and the laugh—

forever gone

that echoes without reverberation

 

save within.

Yet without,

the birds call and sing the melodies

I cannot sing

with human voice, nor fly

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to treetops, or into clouds.

Where do they go?

What do they think

of the shadow’s encroachment?

Is it an annoyance

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to be interrupted

or more? Are we intruders remembered,

discussed?  I watch the crows gather and caw,

“One for sorrow, two for mirth,”

they follow me, it seems

exhorting

with strident calls—

beware or remember?

What am I to do?

And so, I listen, watch, write

 

of  yesterday—and tomorrow.

We walk through corridors,

where the past sits behind locked doors.

Clothing, furniture, paintings—so many paintings!

Scenes frozen in time

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upon a canvas,

the artist looked, remembering,

translating memories into color and form

each brushstroke, a touch from the past,

the whole, a memorial

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Work in Progress. An artist working on a mural. We got lost, and I took this photo through the windshield while my husband was trying to figure out where to go.

 

to what was—

this life now reduced to her things.

We travel over bridges, rising

over a river of ghosts

traveling–

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Low tide, the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, July 2020. ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

 

through time and tides, 

we go about our lives,

carrying on our daily routines

cooking, cleaning, working, loving

when we can

we erase some backstories,

cherish others–

some will never be known.

Like birds, they’ve flown into the clouds,

drifted away, gone

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never to be seen again,

but we may find a trace, a feather

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Feather–could it be a turkey feather?

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This turkey was walking back and forth around the front of this car–pecking at it.

of what was

like pentimento, the traces of a laugh

left in the paintings’ vivid hues.

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One of my mom’s paintings, title and date unknown.

 

My siblings and I have been paying for a storage unit for my mom’s things. Because she died in April—of Covid 19-related complications during the worst of the pandemic in this area, we could not be with her or pack up her belongings. For some reason, movers were allowed in, and all of her things were packed up and put in the storage unit my sister rented. So, masked and keeping physical distance, we’ve emptied the storage space, an emotional experience. We have not yet held a real memorial for her.

 

Merril’s Movie Club: No movies this week. We finished Dark, a three-season German series on Netflix, which my husband and I both really liked, even though we were totally confused. If you keep with it, the very last episode does explain and tie things up. We started watching The Twelve, a new Belgian series on Netflix, which explores the backstories of the jurors and the people involved in a murder case—actually two different murder cases because a woman is accused of killing her best friend many years before and her child more recently. We’re about halfway through it, and we both like it, and it has a wondering who committed the crime(s).

Also, I read The Women of the Copper Country, a historical novel by Mary Doria Russell. Her books are all well-researched, but she is also an excellent writer with a great ear for dialog and character development. I’ve enjoyed all of her books. This one focused on the copper mines in upper Michigan and the strike in 1913, led largely by the women there. I knew nothing about these mines or the strike, and yet it also seems very relevant. I’m able to get books from the library now in a contactless system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soar, Crash, Burn, Rise

Monday Morning Musings:

Once my sister and I were chicks,

we sucked honeysuckle from vines,

and danced with bees on hot summer days.

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Wild honeysuckle

Then I became many birds. . .

 

a robin, who sings in morning

a mother goose, swimming with her mate

telling stories to her children

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and teaching them to swim and fly.

 

I became a heron,

standing at the water’s edge

as the frogs jump and ripples

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Frog ripples in the upside down world.

flow in expanding circles

 

like raptors in the sky,

on a quest,

for sustenance–

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we all fly this path,

 

ignoring the owl’s night warning–

danger is coming, danger is here!

We burn

 

and hope like the phoenix, we’ll rise again.

 

So, I become the golden peacock, a light-seeker,

even as my many eyes cry for the lost,

I fly to worlds only imagined. . .

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imagine them now–

 

and listen

for my star songs

I give them to you–

 

reach high,

 

hold them near your heart,

feel them flutter

with life.

 

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Reaching

Like most people I’m heartsore and weary. Since November 2016, the majority of Americans have been in shock, but the situation in our country, and in the world, continues to deteriorate. I know I’m fortunate to have a home, a loving husband, daughters, sisters, and friends, and food to eat. I have places where I can walk without fear. But, I’m worn from taking care of my mom, worn from her dying, worn my cat dying, of so many people dying. . .while the lies and the lack of leadership here have led to more deaths. I don’t know how to express all this. There are others who can say it better, but I write in poetry. So this was today, my musing. (Some of the photos come from this week, and some are older photos.)

 

On an entirely different note because we all need escapes, Merril’s Movie Club:  The Vast of Night, a new movie on Amazon is a lot of fun. We ordered takeout Saturday night and had a movie night. It’s sort of a retro sci-fi movie that pays homage to The Twilight Zone and old sci-fi movies. One review I read said something about how you’ve seen the story lots of times before, but it’s the way it’s told. We both enjoyed it a lot.

We also watched the show Undone on Amazon, and even though I’m not normally a fan of animated shows, this is such a Merril show. I learned that this type of animation is called rotoscoping. The show is funny, profound, weird, moving, and deals with moving through time and space, mental illness, deaf culture, indigenous cultures, family. . .each episode is less than half an hour.

 

 

 

 

 

Mockingbird, NaPoWriMo 2020, Day 30

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Every year–

I wait for spring

to hear again

the mockingbird sing–

the effort he exerts—

that brings to me such pleasure.

 

Now hear the sound of robins, cardinals, jays,

all of their phrases within his song

so long, and repeated with such power,

calling from above the flowers

as he perches in a tree.

 

See—he struts,

with wings outstretched

he flaunts his stuff—

 

but it’s his voice that floats

above the pink-petaled rain,

he’s sustained

by hope–or desperation–

the sound

goes ‘round and round

through the midnight hours

 

singing with so much might

he summons dawn’s light—

 

and still he sings

into the after.

 

So. . .many of you know I’ve had a rough couple of weeks, and I stopped participating in this year’s NaPoWriMo and other prompts. But, here’s one on-prompt for the last day of NaPoWriMo to write a poem about something that returns. I felt like doing a bit of rhyme.

I’m also linking it to Open Link Night at dVerse, where Kim is hosting and notes “we are listening.”

 

 

 

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The Sound, the Sight, the Magic, the Light

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Monday Morning Musings:

“Can you fly

I heard you can! Can you fly

Like an eagle doin’ your hunting from the sky”

–Joni Mitchell, “That Song about the Midway” Listen Here.

 

“No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted

out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.”

–Billy Collins, “Forgetfulness” 

 

In these days of gloom

dimmed dreary days

of November blues

while in the news, the hints of doom

constant, unrelenting–

 

but then comes the sound

and sight

hundreds of birds, in flight

this murmuration, a delight,

their orienting

 

so breathtaking

shaking me, awaking

all the wonder,

this magic, a gift

drifting from the sky

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flying low and high,

they call in their ancient tongue

(we the earthbound

can’t understand)

and then they go–

but birds seem everywhere,

even in the show we watch–

where the crows are what?

Harbingers of fortune or fate?

Or perhaps they come too late

 

for our planet,

pale dot of blue,

so, I delight

in nature’s gifts

and sights

 

the morning sun,

the moon of silver-white

smiling in benediction

even when we forget

it’s there.

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I cook and bake,

as the days in constant gloaming

take their toll, I want to snuggle

not go roaming

through rain-filled streets

 

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Puddle Reflections on a Rainy November Day , Philadelphia Parkway

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Crossing the Ben Franklin Bridge into Philadelphia, from Patco Train

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Rainy Day Reflections, Philadelphia

yet, we do what we must

and so, I write poems with my mother

who only thinks of summer coming

her thoughts drifting through time—

like birds in murmuration flight–

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Writing poems with my mother

and her eyesight

diminished, like the day’s light

her memories uncertain

confused, a twilight zone

of fact and fiction

 

but still we make her laugh

and try to remember what was—

hold mental photographs

of before, then walk through the door

to our other life,

 

husband and wife

we drink some wine

and I remember what I can

hold everything that’s fine

within my mind

 

and see the magic of moon and birds

and the old oak tree

glowing in the autumn gloom

remember how

it holds hundreds of memories

 

listen–

hear it murmur, murmur, murmur

as the acorns fall

in the rustling leaves of brown

covering cold ground

 

where secrets lie

waiting, waiting

for the warming sky–

and I dream

(I heard you can)

we fly.

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Lovely Bright, The Sight

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Monday Morning Musings:

“How clear, how lovely bright,

How beautiful to sight

Those beams of morning play. . .

 

Ensanquining the skies

How heavily it dies. . .

How hopeless under ground

Falls the remorseful day.”

–from A.E. Houseman, “How Clear, How Lovely Bright”

 

 

The line, the flow

the glow

of life, scattering

 

leaves, the gathering of nuts and seeds

(the sky bleeds)

reflecting the spattering

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of wounds, the broken glass

before the gas

and rustlings

 

of war and wind

the leaves are thinned,

but hear them crunch and crackle

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as squirrels scamper and play

in the fading light of autumn day

and the birds fly—geese and grackle—

and hawks and vultures soar

before the train comes, roars

down the tracks

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taking me somewhere—

up and down, stairs

we go, into the wind,

 

the boat sails

and what tales

might it have, of rivers or sea?

Delaware River from Patco train heading to Philadelphia

Delaware River from Patco train heading to Philadelphia

And is there a lighthouse, with ghostly

glowing and horn blowing, or mostly

sunny skies?

 

Time must sail, too

and we a sometime crew

walk through history

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18th Century garden on site of Benjamin Rush’s House, Philadelphia

how can it be otherwise,

the lows and highs

of our own lives, the mystery

 

of others–we see a groom and bride

and I hope they lovingly glide

into a life of love and joy

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A wedding party taking photos at “my willow” at Dock Creek, Old City, Philadelphia

(Pause, we drink coffee and wine

stop for a time—

but time is coy)

and autumn comes cold and dark

but there is beauty, even if it’s stark—

see the moon rise over fields stripped of grain

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Moonrise over a South Jersey field, November.

glowing, humming—this autumn sky

and the clouds and time

the time before the rain, snow, the train

 

of time. The movie train that circles

through the frozen world, almost eternal

but the cost

 

a cautionary tale

of where we might sail

and is our world already lost?

 

Crow calls

the remorseful day falls

setting underground

 

in fiery ball, unheeding

the world goes on, speeding

and we spellbound.

 

But I don’t celebrate bleeding—

or ferocious gods, the leaders leading

into destruction–

 

let poetry fly

through vast haunted eternity, die

the war-fever. Find a new function

 

for our minds and hearts

in words of love, kindness, and arts

that soar with feathered wings–

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how clear, how lovely bright

the sight

of what could be, of hope that sings

 

as the walls tumble down.

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This was a week of elections, cat dental surgery, the anniversary of Kristallnaught (November 9, 1938), and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. In the U.S. today is Veteran’s Day. It was formerly Armistice Day, but of course, war has not ended. I respect all who have served and honor all those who have given their lives in serving their country. While someone like Hitler had to be stopped, it would be better if people did not let such people gain power.

 

For Merril’s Movie Club: We watched Snowpiercer, a 2014 movie we had never seen, but since we recently saw Parasite, and it is an earlier movie by the same director, Bong Joon-ho, we decided to watch it. It’s on Netflix. This one’s in English, and it’s much more of an action movie than I would normally see. Like Parasite, the movie covers the issues of class and climate,and there was definitely much to think about. Overall, we both liked it. There is also fighting and bloody scenes though, so be forewarned. We saw Lighthouse in the theater. It’s also in English. I know, strange, right?  (Don’t worry, we’re still watching Black Spot, so reading subtitles there.).  Great acting, beautiful black and white cinematography. Very strange, surrealistic movie of two lighthouse keepers on an isolated island. Some of the dialogue is taken from Melville and lighthouse keepers’ diaries. It’s somewhat similar in style to his previous movie, The Witch.

 

 

 

Mockingbird Sings

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Mockingbird sings,

brings sunshine

in his song,

all his longing

brightly calling

 

swinging my heart along,

 

and through his trills,

he fills the night

with vibrant light–

stilling the storm–

to wing it

softly out of sight.

 

This is for dVerse Open Link Night, where Mish is hosting. For the last two days, we’ve had severe thunderstorm alerts and tornado warnings. Fortunately, we did not get anything too awful here, but it makes me anxious. Last night, after the storms had cleared-out, I opened the bedroom window a bit and heard a mockingbird singing. It made me happy–then I heard it again today. There are things on my mind, and we’re under a severe thunderstorm warning again, but right now, the birds are singing.

 

Ghost Hearts

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Monday Morning Musings:

“My heart is a shadow,

a light and a guide.

Closed or open…

I get to decide.”

From Corinna Luyker, My Heart

“The people you love become ghosts inside of you, and like this you keep them alive.”

–Robert Montgomery   See a photo of his text installation here. 

 

Yet who whispers

in the summer-sweet night,

where the smell of storms lurk?

There beneath the diamond sky

shadows dance

to the music of life

and death

pants just beyond the light

in the wind-spray of time.

***

I walk by the river park

baby geese and vultures

side-by-side, stark

 

reminders of life and death

cycles like after harsh

winter, spring’s soft breath

caresses mind and soul

and somehow—

we want it all,

 

all the magic of water and air

the delight of light—

time to spare

 

to savor the young

remember the laughter

and all the songs sung

 

and the ones unsung

if we could go back—

trip words from tongue,

 

forgiveness, remembrance

lost gestures and moments

rearranged in order, some semblance

 

of what could be

if or when

or what will it be, see

 

how life circles, the mom me

and she the one needing help

and she doesn’t see

 

well at all,

her vision diminished

unsteady, the mighty fall.

 

Once my daughter said to me

“remember when I hiccupped

inside your belly and you laughed?” See—

 

how do you explain these things?

Circles of life and death

and all it brings.

 

We try to stop time for a bit

eat pizza, drink wine

time to talk—and just sit

 

(doing nothing)

We watch a movie of ghosts and art,

a vulnerable woman

she opens her soul, her heart

 

is shadow-filled, she grieves

sees ghosts,

though she’s not sure she believes

 

but to create

one has to be open–

the muse, a mysterious state

 

of being,

perhaps there are spirits

or some other way of seeing

 

(of being)

 

There is a place in my heart

where my father lives

and all my ancestors, too, a part

 

of my what? My essence, my soul,

the me-ness of me

the all-ness of all?

 

My mother grows old,

but somewhere in time

she is young, in a fold,

 

a pleat, a wrinkled web

where time-space

flows and ebbs,

 

and perhaps ghosts call,

walk in shadowed paths

through my heart, they rise and fall–

 

hear them sigh

as up to the stars

they carry you, me—we fly.

Morning Moon Does Her High Wire Act

Morning Moon Does Her High Wire Aerial Routine

 

We watched the movie, Personal Shopper on Netflix. Kristen Stewart is a personal shopper/medium grieving her dead twin brother–there are ghosts and references to the artist Hilma af Klint. I liked it. Watch it with someone because you will want to discuss it. I may have to watch it again. . .

And here is a bonus, if you haven’t heard this version of Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird” translated and sung in Mik Maq. I thought of this last night when I was thinking of birds and ghosts (and not quite dead languages).

 

 

 

 

In Flight

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Vulture in flight. Red Bank Battlefield, May 24, 2019.

 

Sometimes we dream of birds, in flight, in flight,

they soar far past the sun, in flight, in flight.

 

Follow hawk or geese—the height, the height–

there see towering clouds, in flight, in flight.

 

What if they were we, soaring out of sight, the sight–

your wing brushes my breast, in flight in flight.

 

We fly past stars and moon, the light, the light!

Our spirits dance at night, in flight, in flight.

 

We’re drunk on moonbeams, a rite, a rite

of dream-world gods, in flight, in flight.

 

Do you question this? Not quite, not quite?

Night visions with stars, in flight, in flight?

 

But I, writer of dreams, I write, I write

and dream of birds, in flight, in flight.

 

I took a poetry break from my writing on sexual harassment (because really, I need a break). This is a ghazal for dVerse.  It’s a bit different from others I’ve written. For my “signature couplet” I’ve used writer. My birth last name is Schreiber, which means scribe or writer. I took my first line “sometimes we dream of birds” from Sarah Connor’s Eventide story/novel/epic. Thanks, Sarah!

 

 

 

 

 

Look Around: Seen and Unseen

Monday Morning Musings:

KERNER: “The particle world is the dream world of the intelligence officer. An electron can be here or there at same moment. You can choose; it can go from here to there without going in between; it can pass through two doors at the same time, or from one door to another by a path which is there for all to see until someone looks, and then the act of looking has made it take a different path. Its movements cannot be anticipated because it has no reasons. It defeats surveillance because when you what it’s doing you can’t be certain where it is, and when you know where it is you can’t be certain what it’s doing. .”

–Tom Stoppard, Hapgood

 

“I cannot tell how Eternity seems. It sweeps around me like a sea. . .”

–Emily Dickinson, from a letter to her cousins, 1882

 

“the future and the maps

Hide something I was waiting for.”

–from Edward Thomas, “When First I Came Here”

 

The seen and the unseen

sleight of hand,

the extemporaneous, the planned

blink, you miss it,

not in shadow, in sun or fluorescent light

missing what is in plain sight,

nature, spies, bumps in the night

 

Look in front of you—there it is.

Raptors in the Park

Rainy Day Sight at Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ

 

How far is eternity,

how wide and how deep?

Does it stretch through

cloudy skies

glance and stretch its size

through shadowed ground

and then around

to reach the stars,

(falling, calling)

a metaphysical quasar,

whose ways and days are

hinted at, but unknown.

 

I walk, and there are wonders,

two deer, twins perhaps

(you could almost miss them as you pass,

but there they are, in the grass)

their future mapped

or unknown,

become full-grown,

or decline

or killed by a hunter’s gun—

but now they recline,

unphased, in the waning sun.

Resting in the Park
Red Bank Battlefield
National Park, NJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We see a play

of Cold War spies,

particle physics underlie

the everyday,

in lines it overlays,

a metaphor of surveillance

and life

assailants and strife—

the personal, the political

watch—it’s critical,

because we don’t always see–

there may be a twin,

or there may not be.

We can’t anticipate

what will come,

life is random—

the way a moth flits,

it darts and hits

this way and that

and you can’t be certain

what it’s doing

is it pursuing

or pursued?

This is how it should be viewed

(the scientist explains)

electrons are like that moth–

then so are our ideas

within our brains

unchained,

they fly,

and we can’t plan

where they’ll go

with the flow–

but, they might stop, sink, fly

no reason, no what, no why—

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and on this equinox

we go falling

headlong into the next season

yes, there is reason, it’s time,

but it seems without rhythm or rhyme

one minute it’s warm, the next it’s cool

there seems to be no rule.

So, we move on, walk and talk

about the play we’ve seen

(Look up and around)

 

Victory Apartment Building, Philadelphia

Quince Street, Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and

drink with cheer

our wine and beer

 

At Tria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and later the rain

comes again,

but we sleep soundly

to dream—un-profoundly–

while a cat softly snores,

and beyond our locked doors

and behind the clouded sky

the moon hums

to her own rhythm, and why

is unknown–just listen–

eternity in her lullaby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apparently, the Oracle has also seen Hapgood by Tom Stoppard. Of course, she knows everything.

We saw the Lantern Theater production.

 

To dark air

she could ask

dazzle the night.

Though she is fooled in the open

like this—

her heart

always listening,

only here you are–

and over there—

not magic,

but life