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
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,
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,
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,
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’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.