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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shadows Cast

Monday Morning Musings:

“Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.”

–Fortune Cookie Wisdom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moon music whispers

a lust for life—and light

in the darkness.

Ask—does the sky ache above

seeing death below?

There, like the shadow

that lies black beneath the rose.

***

The power of her voice in song–

now only her shadow sings–

caught on video and audio, sing along–

to “A Natural Woman,” it brings—

memories of a president’s tears,

as now a nation fears

the future filled with tweeting jeers.

 

He and they try to destroy the press

but those of us who cherish thought

protest. We need the freedom to express

ourselves without duress.

Though the shadow ones know—some are bought—

some are complacent, some complicit–

elicit the illicit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We sit outside, it’s still summer hot

though autumn hovers in the shadows

and we begin to think ahead, no, perhaps not—

there’s still time to sip wine, dip our toes

into pools or walk a sandy beach

and reach. . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

for love. Seek time with friends

fight the shadows, that lurk around us

and yes, we can’t know how it ends

hate is around, and it’s been ever thus.

It’s a fine line we walk

but we must talk

 

about the hate we see, it’s been freed

no longer do they lurk in the dark

the white-robed shadows proclaim their creed

of white supremacy–they bark

and parade in the open to dog whistles from above

and we must spark the light, the dove–

 

she flies somewhere high, beyond this rainy sky

where we walk through puddles on cobblestones

the air scented with summer flowers, and all the whys

float through the air, and do we care about the bones

that lie beneath us

the souls that flit above us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

in the shadowed world, we cannot see

we shine a light, where is the door,

where is the key?

In the before,

we look for the after

and the in-between

is still to be seen.

 

There is no moral, this is no fable

but disaster can come suddenly, coffee spilled

across the table.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A recap of my week. Aretha Franklin died, the nation’s press fought back against 45’s attacks, we drank wine, and we saw the movie BlackkKlansman. Trailer here.

Baskets

Monday Morning Musings:

“Poetry isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that.”
–Mary Oliver, Georgia Review (Winter 1981), 733.

“There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.”

“I have a right to be angry, but not to spread it.”

–Hannah Gadsby’s, “Nanette”

 

Ask why an ancient wind

rose beneath a hot sun–

they never will

see souls rustle in soft shade.

So,

murmur harmony

to nature’s song

and feel life bloom

 

 

 

 

 

 

***

We listen to the woman, a masterful storyteller,

skilled at creating tension—and

relieving it with a punchline,

but in this set,

she lets the tension linger–

at least for a while

noting both her anger

and its reasons—

reasons that should anger us all.

I think of that,

as neo-Nazis gather in our nation’s capital.

Neo-Nazi? Why should there be new ones

after the defeat of the old ones?

I ponder the other labels–

shouldn’t we all be anti-fascist

and united against hate?

It should be the default mode, shouldn’t it?

 

The novel I’m reading is set in

the early 1930s in Berlin,

the female protagonist had a gay brother

who was murdered.

While they were growing up, she tried

to teach him what she called

“A Code of Masculinity,”

so, he could pass,

but he didn’t.

Hannah Gadsby

in the 1990s in Australia

was assaulted for not being

feminine enough,

she couldn’t pass either. But growing up,

in a culture where she was reviled, left its

legacy on her. She talks about the shame

she felt for being a lesbian, for being different.

 

I think about trying to explain

these weird and artificial binaries

to a visitor from another world,

But how could I,

when they make no sense to me?

You must be this color,

you must love this person,

you must be this religion. Why?

 

And where do I go with this? I seem to have

gone off on a tangent–because

I wanted to tell you about baskets.

Picture the basket itself,

woven together from strands of straw, reeds, or

even wire,

each one different.

And my life, also woven of many different strands.

I weave my basket, and sometimes I take it apart

and start over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, let me tell you how

we celebrated the anniversary of my father’s birth—

He would have been ninety-nine. He’s been dead for twenty years,

and I still miss him.

We toasted him with wine–

and ate ice cream afterward,

because he loved ice cream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We eat Pakistani food with our younger daughter and her husband,

enjoying samosas and other delights

as their dog and cat circle the table,

where there were no scraps tossed,

but love drips,

like melting ice cream,

because it can be messy,

but there is plenty to go around.

 

I could tell you about being with

dear friends over the weekend,

how we eat pizza,

and discuss that new normal, how

it is difficult not to discuss politics

but at the same time,

conversations are fraught

with hesitation—or anger.

How can one be friends with someone

who supports a racist?

 

The saying goes, “Don’t put all your eggs

in one basket.”

We should welcome those who think

differently or look different.

And isn’t part of the joy of having

a full basket

come in examining its contents?

 

There is so much we do not see.

We toss everything

in the basket of life, and pull out what we need

or what we want. But maybe sometimes

we need to look at the basket itself.

 

There is no punchline here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We watched “Nanette” on Netflix. Trailer here.

I’m reading the novel A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cloud Houses of Dreams

Monday Morning Musings:

“I would build a cloudy House
For my thoughts to live in;
When for earth too fancy-loose
And too low for Heaven!”

–Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “The House of Clouds”

“I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now

From up and down, and still somehow

It’s cloud illusions I recall

I really don’t know clouds at all.”

–Joni Mitchell, “Both Sides Now”

 

 

Striking in their billowing shapes, watch them drift, the clouds.

Somehow relaxing, to see them shift, the clouds.

***

 

On a beautiful afternoon in July,

we walk, a blue bed is the sky

for puffy clouds to lay upon

transient, seen, and then they’re gone—

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

like the inhabitants who once held sway

on these cobblestone streets, walked each day–

in daily life and times of strife they lived in these houses

with children, relatives, with their spouses,

Elfreth Alley, Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

do their spirits yet walk here under moonlit clouds

shy, hesitant, or fierce and proud?

I must ask my friends who once lived herein

if they ever encountered such ghostly denizens.

 

We watch a movie about a baker of cookies and cakes

who travels under a cloud, with a life that’s fake

but ghosts and memories bring new love–

sort of—

(The pasty looks delicious, but the story hard to convey

without giving too much away.)

 

We eat pizza and drink wine while the weather is fine—

against more green, blue, and white, we sip and dine

taking advantage of this unusual meteorological blip

before the storm clouds roll in and the forecast flips—

Auburn Road Winery,
Salem County, NJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

which it does, the skies turn grey

the white clouds drift away

and I build cloud houses from my thoughts

turn them away from should and oughts

Raining on the Ben Franklin Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

but I dream of houses with stairs to nowhere

or perhaps from here to there,

if only I can find the right paths (or footwear)—

a dream with goals and friends and cats,

and if there’s unfinished business—

well, I can live with that.

His work is done. Sweet Dreams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m sorry about the spacing here. I can’t quite figure out how to fix it.

People still live in the homes of Elfreth’s Alley. You can read about it here.

We saw the Israeli movie The Cakemaker. Trailer here.

We went to Auburn Road Vineyards.

 

 

Stardust and Blood

Monday Morning Musings:

 “How close people could be to us when they had gone as far away as possible, to the edges of the map. How unforgettable.”

–Paula McLain, Circling the Sun

“I have perceiv’d that to be with those I like is enough,

To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,”

-Walt Whitman, “I Sing the Body Electric”

 

In the quiet morning breeze

I gaze at the sky, the pink-tinged frieze

of clouds, a line then brushed

by sun and wind, its blush

faded to white, in the diffusing sunlight.

I breathe in the ancient longing

belonging to us all—for affection,

to find connections

(despite an election)

After all, we’re all made of stardust,

and we’ve emerged from the sea,

to inhale the air made by our trees–

all related, far enough back, we share the same genes.

I don’t know what it means,

But we’re all people, not infestations,

no matter our color, religion, or nation.

 

My cousin comes to visit–

his father was the brother of my mother,

we share this blood-bond

but I don’t think we’ve ever talked

so much, so one-on-one

of this and that

(we pause to watch and pet the cat).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I display some family genealogy

and we try to parse a chronology

of those from our past,

discuss and compare

the connections we share,

different views of relatives we know

(bring out more photos to show),

My grandfather as a young man. The photo is undated, but taken in Philadelphia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stories of growing up

an old joke about the Penn Fruit store,

which is no more–

residing now only in our youthful before,

part of the memory,

a moss of summer dreams

that stick, it seems

even in the frost,

when autumn leaves fall,

still they call.

 

We visit the battlefield park,

watch the geese swim in formation

the same way they fly in the sky

(all the whys)

and wonder at their destination,

Red Bank Battlefield
National Park, NJ

National Park, NJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

watch the planes, look at the Philadelphia skyline—

this day is more than fine—

we walk and talk

amidst the ghosts of a battle past

after the guns fired and the cannons blast,

the Hessian soldiers here that died.

But they are quiet, and if they tried

to communicate, perhaps it was too late,

we didn’t hear them today

as we walked the pathway

in and out of yesterday.

 

We go on to our daughter’s,

whose soul glows bright,

sit with family by firelight,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

laugh and talk

and pet their dog,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

content to be in the moment here

multi-generations, with faces dear,

and if you were perhaps to overhear

amidst the jokes and banter,

you might find fear

of the future,

but it would be mostly love, you’d hear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Break in the Rain

Monday Morning Musings:

It seems to rain from moon to sun

rain over and over, never done

and then a break, till it thunders

again and again.

I feel lethargic and dull

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and it’s hard to mull

over this or that—

the people who insist the world is flat,

or guns don’t kill, people do,

except there are more dead kids shot through,

and it seems we will never cease

with hate and violence, the human disease.

 

But in the midst of death we see the love—

yes, pomp and circumstance, uniforms and gloves,

the fascinators, and the meters-long train

(and the sun-filled day with no hint of rain).

It’s storybook fantasy, mixed with Stand By Me,

gospel choir amid the history and pageantry,

but these two appear so much in love,

and if it helps, gets us thinking of

better things, well, I can take a break

in the coverage of hate, it’s not a mistake

to celebrate love, or a wedding day—

a bit of color amidst the world’s gloomy grey.

 

Still–spring insists on being seen

and here, the world is turning green,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

though I don winter clothes because it’s turned cold

and we go through rain, to visit

friends of old.

We eat Chinese food, laugh, talk over the meal

how we can’t understand the hypocrisy of those who feel

the man in the White House is okay

when they were upset at bare arms and a tan suit,

birthers and ape images, just try to dispute

there’s no racism there,

some very fine people on both sides–but I’d beware.

 

The next day, the clouds break and the temperatures soar,

everyone wants to get out of doors,

I see a hawk atop a weathervane,

Hawk atop a weathervane at Carpenter’s Hall, Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

perhaps she’s trying to ascertain

the state of this territory, her domain,

which no doubt is full of tasty things

grown and born in rain and light of spring.

We walk city streets, where life beats

A flirty car

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

in harmony and patterns, under the blue sky

and birds sing and fly,

and there is so much green and flowers in bloom

filling the air with their perfume,

May in Old City Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and it is a relief from gloom and rain,

though I know people are in pain

and children are dead, and women are raped

and the world is shaped

by guns, disease, and violence

and we must break the silence—

but for today, just let me feel the sun and say

nothing but “see the hawk there”

and smell the roses over there.

We see a movie about motherhood and coping

with a newborn and others and life,

sometimes mom’s need an extra wife

or helping hands and people to truly see

beyond the façade, the hyperbole

of motherhood’s joys to the cries and sleepless nights

the clutter and exhaustion—along with the delights.

We drink coffee, walk and talk some more

then it’s home to feed the cats, take care of chores.

At Customs Coffee House, Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the night, my mind wanders and roams

far from home

(Macbeth has murdered sleep)

But in my dreams, I hear the chirps and cheeps,

As the mockingbird sings through the night

and we are fine, it’s all right,

 

the dawn comes with bird choir and radiant light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We saw the movie Tully, which we both thought was excellent, but I don’t want to give anything away. I’ve seen it described as a comedy. At least not in the modern sense.

I’m reading Jo Nesbrø’s take on Macbeth, set in a Glasgow-like city in the 1970s.

Sorry about the weird formatting and gaps. WP gremlins are still hanging about.

 

 

 

 

 

Once We Were Wild

Once your ancestors roamed desert lands

stalking and hunting.

Once my ancestors also roamed

hunting and foraging for food,

till we learned to plant, and sowed

our seeds into fields and generations into towns

where your ancestors chose to live with mine.

Now, we are wild only in our dreams–

you are content to purr and sleep on my lap,

and I am content to let you be there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This for dVerse, where Jilly asked us to write about being wild.

Here is Home: Haibun, NaPoWriMo, Day 12

Here, are two, then three, then four, then two again. Here, atop a settling foundation and slightly slanting floors, are family dinners, friends, love, and tears. Here, the venerable oak tree stands tall, shading and shadowing, though the swing set that stood beside it is long gone–and here, decades-old daffodil bulbs still bloom. Generations of mockingbirds have sung through summer nights perched on the new greenery of aged trees. Here is home, where amidst clutter and dreams, cats gaze from windows–then look within.

 

blooms and snowflakes fall

drift through Earth’s revolutions–

ghosts sing to living

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s NaPoWriMo  prompt was to write a haibun “that takes in the natural landscape of the place you live.”

 

 

 

Barely Spring–Haibun

The weather seems more unpredictable than usual–open windows one day and heat on the next. I wake listening to rain. It is dark and dreary. Then I hear the birds begin to greet the day. Each morning, the sun rises a bit earlier and sets a bit later. I know we could still have a blizzard, but hope is in the air, rising with the crocuses. Spring is coming.

February sun

hides light under grey covers—

yet mockingbird sings

 

Watching for birds in the rain.

 

This is for Frank’s latest Haikai Challenge.

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–

IMG_8064

FullSizeRender 327

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

IMG_8067

through another door

IMG_8070

to drink more coffee.

IMG_8068

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,

IMG_0289

life, opening and closing–

sometimes we carry our hearts right through a doorway,

and keep on going.

17448_107805979232674_1474053_n

 

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.

IMG_8073

 

 

There was also this.

IMG_8074

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.