Hearts and Moons

Monday Morning Musings:

Morning Moon, Snow Moon

We wrap our hearts in fleecy blankets,
Valentine red, while the cold Snow Moon
sings her song, in silver notes falling,
falling, falling—

we don’t feel the movement
only the argent pull—magnetic attraction,
the flow of tides and blood
creating life, rising, and falling, falling

in revolutions around the sun,
in tilted rotations, come
the ebb and flow of existence
from star explosion, falling, falling, falling

and gravity caught and kept,
swept aside, buried to thrive,
the fruits of our earth consumed and reborn,
as falling, falling, falling

species die, yet birds survive.
Now the crows are calling
from trees deep-rooted,
but falling, falling, falling

leaves and seeds fly
as squirrels scamper and scold,
waving their tails, yet never
falling, falling, falling

only climbing higher to see
the deep ancient course
of water as it finds its way
the sea, rising, and falling, falling,

now rain and snow on
withered gardens that grow sun-bright–
and bee breath threaded gold
with pollen, falling, falling, falling

on flowers as they dance–
but even our simple eyes
can see the ghosts around us
falling, falling, falling

all around–
their memories
held in mind and heart, released
to join the stars, rising, falling, rising.

Sunrise

February was birthday month for us—children earlier in the month, and my husband and his mother’s this past week. We splurged and did a virtual Valentine wine and cheese tasting with wine and cheese we picked up at Tria in Philadelphia. It was so much fun—all French wine and cheese, except for one Vermont cheese. We saved the crémant to have with Indian food on my husband’s birthday.

This week we finished watching Inventing Anna (Netflix)—which I mentioned last week, and which definitely held our interest—and watched the first two episodes of the new season of Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime).

We wait to see if there will be war abroad and if our democracy will be toppled by right-wing authoritarians. But still, the moon shines, the days are getting longer, birds are beginning to sing, and spring is coming.

Crocus

Beginnings, Endings, and All There is, In-Between

Monday Morning Musings:

“Maybe the dead know, their eyes widening at last,
Seeing the high beams of a million galaxies flick on
At twilight.”
–from Tracy K. Smith, “My God, It’s Full of Stars

December Morning Moon
Early Morning, Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

Before the beginning, there was another,
and perhaps another before that, bangs and waves,
an infinite, endless sea of possibilities—
of if, not when,
light sparks life.

Yet here I am, and here you are,
each the sun of our own universe, surrounded by planets,
stardust in our blood, blinking pulsars for an infinitesimal moment
of time. Beacons, ships in the night, we gaze
at the ghost streams of long-dead stars,

an recreate the twinkling gleams in candles
and sparkling lights adorn trees as winter appears.

Birthday Wine at Blue Cork Winery

We celebrate the anniversary of my birth
leave footprints in the sand, as our ancestors once did,
as they emerged from watery depths–as we do,
each birth the same and different, each life unique,
distinct, and less than a speck.

Ocean City, NJ

It’s all in the perspective. The horizon beckons, but is never reached.
I watch the gulls hover and soar, catching wind and light.

Gull in flight, Ocean City, NJ

As we celebrate, holding fast to dying light, catching fire in
glass and cup, echoing the chirps of stars and gull laughter,
our friends sit a vigil,
and we look to the past, knowing we can’t return—
and if I could put on my younger self’s skin, like a selkie
dons her castoff seal pelt, I don’t think it would fit,
not in this world, and it’s the only one I know,

with shadows looming from the light, imperfectly perfect, gigantic, a pinprick—we dream–a lifetime passes in a second.

December Dune

My birthday was last week. We went to Ocean City, NJ, to take a walk on the beach, which was mostly deserted except for some people walking their dogs. We saw lots of egg casings and horseshoe crab remains on the beach. I had a free glass of wine for my birthday at Blue Cork Winery, and then we had Indian food and champagne (actually a crémant). To continue my birthday celebration a couple days later, we went to the art museum, and then walked to the Christmas Village in Philadelphia. I started laughing when my husband took a photo of me eating a cannoli, and then I couldn’t stop laughing, which made me think of my mom, and made me cry while I was laughing. A dear friend’s mother died on my birthday. We paid our respects on Saturday, and then took a drive to see the house where I lived when I was in high school.

Merril’s Movie Club: We streamed Belfast this week. In this beautifully filmed in black and white, Kenneth Branagh takes a nostalgic look at Belfast, a sort of love letter to a place and time that no longer exists. It’s bittersweet without being too sappy, though set during a time of violence, strife, and intolerance (and I think that’s understood). I liked it very much, and it was a perfect holiday/birthday movie.

Last night, Santa drove through town.

We Sing Their Songs in Flight

Monday Morning Musings:

Egret

Open a window to another universe–
there is always an after
and before

the bang and birth of stars,
the flutter-shift of vibrating strings
across dimensions, the light on stellar wings—

he sings, she laughs
the fever-dreams of future-past-
perfect brings

remembrance, she, and we see-saw
imperfectly and fractured–all
colored by mood and life-swings

in revolutions, the Earth spins,
love, laughter, tears, and fears—it begins
and ends

the stars sing, and we catch their light,
swallow to hold it within, and in our dreams,
or in some after, we sing their songs in flight.

Ospreys Flying over the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

Today my father would be 102. We’re going to have Chinese food and ice cream for dinner tonight–both of which he loved. My mom’s birthday is later this month, and she would have turned 99. My parents divorced (twice), but in my mom’s final years she believed my dad lived in the same building, and in her final months, she talked about him a lot, always with smiles and giggles. I think she was in love again. Of course, they were my stars.

The first set of photos were taken long before I was born. My brother is about twelve years my senior.

My mom’s first cousin, who was like her sister, turned 95 yesterday. There was a small party for her. My sister, husband, and I stayed masked in the house, but took our masks off outside. We got her a blanket that had a word cloud of English and Yiddish words we chose.

We ate homemade pizza and streamed a play this week: The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington by James Ijames performed as part of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, which looks like a beautiful place to see a play. In the play, Martha Washington is dying, and the enslaved people around her are waiting, as they will be freed when she dies. In her fever dreams she imagines them in various guises, as lawyers, Founding Fathers and Mothers, and King George and Queen Charlotte. The play is funny, sad, witty, and unique. Here’s the NY Times review.

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

349DF47F-69CC-46B4-B780-D70CF91E5A64

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,

Merchant Exchange Building, Philadelphia

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Wish

Monday Morning Musings:

“None of us can change the things we’ve done. But we can all change what we do next.”

— Col. Frederick Lucius Johnson (Chad L. Coleman), The Expanse, Season 1: Critical Mass

 

A celebration not for leaders alive or dead

(and certainly not for one who hasn’t led)

a birthday lunch on Presidents’ Day

where it was light inside, though outside grey,

a changeable week of sun, rain, clouds, and snow

February going fast and slow

confusing my mind and making me too tired

to do what’s required—but in bursts, I am inspired

to work, to create, to navigate

through life—though nothing is straight

as we contemplate past, future, and our fate,

we watch sci-fi and hope there’s more

 

that people heed, not ignore, the ocean,

with its glorious waves and motion.

Here and now, the constant wars, the hate–

I wonder if it’s all too late–

 

but still, we live and love–and cook,

even as we ponder roads we took,

and where they’ve led us, where we are

still above, there, the moon, the morning star

 

So, I bake–homage to heritage, his and mine,

birthday treats–food and life intertwine

memories from childhood, I think his cookies bring,

but mine have chocolate, cinnamon, scents that sing

to me in sensory bliss of crunch, scent, taste

that also trace a path from past—and thicker waist—

but celebrations make us feel good, or so they should,

a time to laugh, love, and remember the good.

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Here’s our family in the car again

remembering journeys of long ago, the rain

tapping on windows and misting about us

as we bring up song snippets to discuss–

 

“Remember that one?” someone queries.

and we’re off discussing songs, or TV series

the things they watched when they were young,

the things they said, the words that were sung

 

by all of us in house and car

as we traveled to places both near and far

the games we played, before tablets or phone–

a different world, and a different tone.

IMG_1574

Over the Cool Bridge (in the rain), to grandmother’s house we go.

 

And now we gather on a February day

when we can be together, if only a short stay

to catch up with one another, share some time

over pizza and cake—this time, no wine.

 

We watch a movie about forgery

a desperate woman, unhappy, too, we see

the movie is also about creation

and discrimination

 

the AIDS crisis and writers’ lives–

as it takes money and time to visit archives—

something I’ve done first hand,

and the rush of finding something grand.

 

But it’s fine, and we’re okay,

here and now on this windy day,

as moon sets and sun rises,

I’m ready for the day’s surprises

 

wondering what fortune brings–

and hoping that without strings

good things come to us all

without deceit, without a wall

 

or barriers to conquer or climb–

a gift of peace within our time.

And so, a birthday wish for those I love,

the song of the moon, the shimmer of stars above.

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Our older daughter is visiting us, so we got together for an extended family February birthday celebration–something we haven’t done in a few years. My husband and I are caught up in the sci-fi series The Expanse. It’s on Amazon Prime now. We had seen the first two seasons before, but it’s complicated, so we’re re-watching them. It’s an excellent series. Catching up on movies–we watched Can you Ever Forgive Me? last night. Wonderful performance by Melissa McCarthy and the rest of the cast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreams and Wishes

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More than cake—

remember magic

lives long. Let

it always

surround you, a breathing cloud,

a dance in kisses

 

and so, this—ask if,

but explore the secret stars

in a universe

time ghost-laughs a fevered breeze

and a heart blushes, flowers

 

Screen Shot 2019-02-09 at 8.09.51 AM

 

The Oracle knows everything, so she knows it is birthday month at my house. Both daughters and my husband (and mother-in-law) have birthdays in February. When the girls were little, we often had a combined Valentine’s-birthday party. So here is birthday love and wishes in a shadorma tanka combo for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday challenge.  But there will also be a lot of cake and celebrations this month.

For My Younger Daughter on Her Birthday

Twenty-eight years—

a lifetime—

or just a blink—

 

time passes that way

without regard for what

we think

 

of all the moments,

the tears, the joy,

together, we link

 

them, forming

the totality

I would not rethink

 

through whys

or ifs, to undo

 

that which is

so wondrous–you.

 

A quick birthday poem–posting on dVerse, where Grace is hosting Open Link Night.

 

 

 

 

 

Time and Timeless

Monday Morning Musings:

“There is a certain part of all of us that lives outside of time. Perhaps we become aware of our age only at exceptional moments and most of the time we are ageless.”

–Milan Kundera

Art and music travel through our genes, stopping at some destinations longer than at others, like the train our older daughter takes from Washington, D.C. after visiting archives at the Smithsonian. She takes hundreds of photos of sketch books, correspondence, diaries, and newspaper clippings of our artist ancestor, Abraham Hankins. She shows me newspaper articles—how his mapmaking skills saved his life in France during WWI because he was left behind to draw maps when the rest of his unit was sent into battle and killed. He also trained as a singer, until gassed during the war, and apparently, he wrote some poetry, too. But my daughter becomes even more fascinated by his French wife Estelle, called Esther by my family. After Abe’s death, Estelle makes it her mission to get her late husband’s work into major museums. There is still much to learn, and most of the people who lived then are gone. It is my mom’s ninety-sixth birthday.

 

skipping stones hit pond

concentric circles ripple

spring turns to summer

Abraham P. Hankins,
Pocket Full of Dreams,
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Bequest of Mrs. Abraham Peter Hankins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We celebrate my mom’s birthday in sunshine with shades

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

munch on snacks, laughter cascades

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

as we discuss pets and art and politics

with eyes rolling—intermixed–

as my niece describes her “other family,” with their alternate truth—

if only we could blame it on the folly of youth—

but salacious tales about the Clinton’s gleaned from right-wing memes,

treasure troves of garbage carried by the false fact streams

they insist it’s true,

what does one do?

We move on to sandwiches and cake

blow out the candles, make

each moment count, and we laugh, dance, and sing—

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

it’s in our genes, so let’s bring

it on in celebration of familial love

rock the ghosts from rafters above

and around, perhaps they watch from some place–

that shadow there, across your face.

 

The weekend is full with movies, puppies, and wine

we dance, laugh, eat, drink—feeling fine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My mom tells us that Abe asked her mother to sing with him at a family gathering. She says her mother had a beautiful voice, but that my uncle, my mom’s baby brother, cried when their mother sang, so she stopped singing. I had forgotten, she says, but now I remember some of those songs she taught me. Songs of the shtetl that crossed the ocean. We, the grandchildren never learned the songs. I like to think though that no song is ever lost. Each note rises. Birds carry some, and others float high into the sky filling the clouds. I think that is why I hear music in the rain, and why rainbows sing, and the moon hums. We are filled with star music, and it returns again and again to us. Music flits like spindrift from the waves of time.

 

Stars sail ink-black seas,

cat against me softly snores,

dreams dance to moon song

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ghosts and Questions

Monday Morning Musings:

“Some questions remain long after their owners have died. Lingering like ghosts. Looking for the answers they never found in life.”

–Michael Frayn, Copenhagen

 Bohr: “A curious sort of diary memory is.”

Heisenberg: “You open the pages, and all the neat headings and tidy jottings dissolve around you.”

Bohr: “You step through the pages into the months and days themselves.”

Margrethe: “The past becomes the present inside your head.”

—Michael Frayn, Copenhagen

 

We go to bed with snow on the ground and wake to spring. We step through the door, and into the day.

 

Winter’s ghostly forms

banished by the golden light—

one bloom has opened

We walk down city streets. Here, as we approach Chinatown, sound travels faster than sight, if not light.

We hear the drums and firecrackers, long before we see the lion. We step into the crowd. The lion dance, a centuries-old tradition. The noise of the firecrackers, the constant beating of the drum, and the lion itself will scare away evil spirits. Perhaps the ancestors smile.

 

Lion’s head and tail

sweeps away year’s bad fortune

brings longevity

 

We stop for coffee, and walk and talk, passing nineteenth-century buildings that co-exist with their newer neighbors. I feel the ghosts around us.

 

We step into the theater. We step into time and space. We are in Copenhagen. No, we are sharing the memories of these three: German physicist Werner Heisenberg, his Danish mentor Niels Bohr, and Bohr’s wife, Margrethe with whom he shares everything. We are in some sort of limbo.

 

They are ghosts, perhaps–

well, no longer living–

in this place,

this space

where they try to remember

what was said

and by whom,

recreating a meeting

when Heisenberg, who worked in Nazi Germany

visited Bohrs in occupied Denmark.

Late September, Copenhagen, 1941.

 

We learn about quantum mechanics,

Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle,

Bohr’s Complimentary,

nuclear fission,

calculations made and not made,

the Jewish scientists who flee the Nazis,

taking their knowledge to England and the U.S.

(those who are not murdered.

The characters move around the stage,

like electrons,

but who is the nucleus?

That depends on who is telling the story.

Are we each the center of our universe?

But then why can’t we see what others see?

Going through several “drafts” trying to remember

realizing that every moment becomes the past,

looking for answers

to questions that they never asked when they were alive.

 

It is a play about science.

It is a play about morality.

It is a play that asks what is truth?

It is a play that I wish the abomination in the White House

could actually understand.

 

Like Bohrs and Heisenberg, we step outside,

walk and talk,

try to make some sense of the play,

if not the world around us–

 

We drink wine and beer—

celebrate my husband’s birthday—

We discuss the play

We laugh.

We’ve been together a long time.

Sometimes our memories are different.

“I’m afraid you’re wrong, dear.”

“The seasons, they go round and round”

But are we captives of time,

or did we create it?

 

Winter turns to spring,

time travels with light and sound

Do ghosts know the answers?

 

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Maybe they reframe their stories.

living them over,

trying to find the right questions to ask,

but as for us,

we live now–

seeing the beauty in a single bloom,

even as it becomes the past,

and our diaries pages jumble and fade,

it lives on in our memories—somewhere—

perhaps twisting and turning like a Lion Dance–

in time and space.

 

I played around with this, and I suppose it is a sort of Merril Musings Extended Haibun. 🙂  We saw the Lantern Theater Company’s production of Copenhagen. I highly recommend it, but since it was the last performance, you won’t be able to see it.

 

 

 

 

February Birthday Roses: Haibun

A memory. His birthday falls over the long Presidents Day weekend. We wander through greenhouses where orchids and roses bloom, scenting the air with summer perfume. We stroll about the gardens without jackets, enjoying the taste of spring. The next day it snows.

 

February moon

hovers with uncertainty–

mist turns to snowflakes

 

This year, the morning sun gleams on the bare and budding branches. Birds flock, seeking sustenance, as the skies grow cloudy, and in the evening white flakes drift down to cover the emerging green sprouts. We wrap ourselves in blankets, eat birthday cake, and laugh.

 

Hands together grasp

wine and roses, youth and age

following the heart

 

At Longwood Gardens, February 2011.

Sunny Day; snow at night. February 17-18, 2018.

 

I’ve combined challenges for this Haibun: Frank’s hazy moon challenge from last week, his current rose/Presidents’ Day challenge, and Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday challenge.   The words we’re supposed to use synonyms for are character and affection. I don’t know if it’s correct to use both a haiku and senryu in one piece, but I did.