Never Fixed, the Ever Changing Light

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Sun above and below, reflections and shadows on the Delaware River

Monday Morning Musings:

“For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have.

The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.”

–James Baldwin, “Nothing is Fixed,” quoted on Brainpickings, where you can also listen to his words set to music.

 

A constant, the sun rises and sets

to the left of my window in summer, to the right in winter

ever shifting, as we rotate and spin, never fixed

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the light changes, shining through clouds and trees

reflected on rivers and sea

and prismed in a sprinkler’s passage, never fixed

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Sprinkler rainbow and puddle reflection

 

the birds fly, the flowers bloom, fall, drop their sees, and grow again

the snapping turtle’s slow crawl, the gracile deer’s leap into the shadows

they pause, then move, live, then die, never fixed

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Maybe a snapping turtle? I saw him on the side of the road by the river during a morning walk.

 

as the moon moves through her phases,

do you hear her fiercely humming?

Reminding us in silvered streams, never fixed,

 

our stories. We choose to sit or fight

against the dying of the light

to witness gleaming through the cracks, never fixed,

 

forever light comes from stars extinguished

we see it, or we don’t.

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My shadow reflecting–light and shadows

 

This has been a difficult week for the world, though it is also been inspiring in some ways.

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A grown daughter’s childhood companion.

In whatever way you can, speak out, donate, and help others. Here is a short list of things to read, support, and follow

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched Just Mercy, which is streaming free (in the U.S) during the month of June. I was afraid it would be a sort of feel good Hollywood movie, but both my husband and I thought it was a good movie with excellent acting. There are additional facts and statistics at the end. We also watched Uncut Gems, which was good in a different way. It’s available on Netflix now.

I’ve written about the musical Ragtime before. It’s one of my favorite musicals, and it seems particularly relevant during this presidency, and right now, the song, “Make Them Hear You” resonates. Here is Ricky the Cat listening to it. (And yes, I may have made him a little bed by my computer.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery

Monday Morning Afternoon Musings:

“Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist.”

–Rene Magritte

“Tell all the truth, but tell it slant—”

Emily Dickinson

Rain Garden, West Deptford Public Library

A portal beneath the water’s surface?

What lies beneath the surface–

the secrets and mysteries we carry within

our hearts and minds,

many layered labyrinths

we follow the breadcrumbs

 

(when we’re able)

 

or, wander aimlessly–

well, it can be a pleasant journey–

but what will happen?

Every story has a mystery—

truth and fiction both.

 

Between the beats of morning’s song

a small red bird is illuminated

against charcoal clouds it journeys on

then it disappears into the green canopy

gone to me,

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but I am just a bit player,

in his story,

and he is the same in mine,

a chance encounter with flyby beauty,

remembered for a time

 

as I ponder the mystery

of beating hearts

and those at rest,

listen for the harmony

that is no longer there—or is it

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all of a part?– life and love–

and the stardust drifting from space

to course through our veins.

The universe is full of secrets

that may devour you–

 

or surround you with magic—

either way, it remains a mystery

we don’t know what will happen

until it does—

and then we move on–

 

or we don’t,

perhaps wondering,

what happens next?

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New masks

 

Today is Memorial Day here in the U.S. This holiday honors the memory of those who died in our various wars. Yesterday, the New York Times posted a frontpage memorial to those who have died in the current pandemic here in the U.S.—nearly 100,000 lost and counting. Among them, my mother, as well as the loved ones of some of you reading this. Here’s the interactive link.

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched four movies this week, and it struck me that idea that every story has a mystery (not a unique or profound thought, I know, but you work with you have, right?).  Frantz and The Half of It were the best of the four.

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Our movie-watching buddy.

Frantz (2016) is such a Merril movie, that I wonder how we missed it. I’ve seen both the leads in other movies since, and they are excellent, especially Paula Beer, who plays a young German woman whose fiancé was killed in battle during WWI. A French veteran appears in her town, where she lives with her fiancé’s parents. She sees him laying flowers on the grave. Eventually, they meet, and he explains he was her fiancé’s friend from when he studied in Paris. The movie is a low-key anti-war film. It’s mostly in black and white, but with some color scenes, and it’s in French and German. It’s on Amazon.

The Half of It (2020) is a new Netflix film. It’s a spin of Cyrano, with an Asian-American female self-described high school nerd in the Cyrano role. So, it’s also a coming of age story with a lesbian subtext. It’s sweet and funny, with some philosophical musings by the main character. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.

Sweetheart (2019) is also on Netflix. It also is a take on a familiar trope—the person shipwrecked and stranded on a deserted island. In this case, the shipwrecked person is a woman, and the island is not exactly deserted—because there’s a monster. Kiersey Clemons is excellent, and the movie was enjoyable, though I wouldn’t say it was great.

Photograph (2019). On Amazon. We watched while we ate my homemade naan and chana masala. I had high hopes for this one because we enjoyed the director’s previous film, The Lunchbox, but this one was only OK. It’s like they had an idea for a movie, but then didn’t know what to do with it. A street photographer in Mumbai is being pressured by his grandmother back in their village to get married. He sends her a photograph he took, and then convinces the woman in the photo to pretend to be his girlfriend.

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Homemade Naan

 

 

 

 

Green and Shadowed

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Monday Morning Musings:

 

“And having, on the other hand,

A flowery, green, bird-singing land.”

–William Henry Davies, “In May”

 

The world grows green and greener

(as many grow mean and meaner),

and baby geese in their downy coats

waddle on the shore, as an older one floats

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down the river, like my dreams

(or so it seems).

Life has changed, and though adorned

in May’s flowery embrace, we’re warned

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of its fragility, shadows with fertility,

reminders that life is fraught, though there may be tranquility–

death comes to all–the lesser and the mighty fall–

and the world turns upside-down, through the wormhole

 

we go into another place,

embrace darkness, or find grace

in doing what is good and right

find the cracks that let in light–

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I looked down a found a bit of magic.

 

and though I see shadows, I walk on

listening for birdsong, watching for dawn.

 

 

I don’t go anywhere anymore, except for walks, where I get a dose of the natural world to counteract the anxiety, fear, and the news of the crazies and the supporters of the horror in the White House. I have to remind of all the good people—my family and friends—and you readers, of course.  I decided to go into the reopened park this morning, but I won’t do that again. There were too many people even at 7:30 AM to make it comfortable for me.  I put on a mask (no one else was wearing one), and then it was difficult to walk quickly and breathe. I left and continued my walk down streets where no one was around, so I could walk without a mask. WP won’t let me upload my masked face photo.

 

No movies this week, we’re binging Star Trek: Discovery.  It’s good to see Star Fleet heroes and people with morals. And I also started watching The Good Fight. I’m reminded how I like all the shows Michelle King and Robert King create: The Good Wife, Brain Dead, Evil—good actors and stories with a touch of quirkiness. Their shows always have wonderful supporting actors, too.

 

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Shadows and reflections.  Thank goodness for this little guy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mickey: NaPoWriMo2020, Day 14

 

Yesterday did not dawn. It oozed grey with an oppressive silence, punctuated by thunder. There was a tornado warning in effect for the afternoon. Then, the storm clouds cleared, and the sun shimmered on the trees as we drove to the animal hospital to say goodbye to our cat Mickey. From the window of the little exam room we could hear birds singing. Maybe Mickey heard them, too, but I know he heard our voices and felt us petting him. He purred before he went to sleep, never to wake.

Today, dawn came. I walked, watching the sun rise and listening to the birds–and the world seemed a little less broken.

 

white cat paw clouds drift

slumbering in the sunshine—

trees drop pink teardrops

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Mickey’s quirkiness matched his one blue eye and one yellow eye and his long legs. He loved chasing his orange ball. He hid from strangers and growled at some people, but he loved to sit with us at night and get neck rubs. We miss him.

 

 

Perhaps

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Monday Morning Musings:

“Perhaps the earth can teach us

as when everything seems dead

and later proves to be alive.

 

Now I’ll count up to twelve

and you keep quiet and I will go.”

Pablo Neruda, Keeping Quiet”

 

On the inside, looking out

as the earth comes alive

white-flowered and robin-trilled,

visible joys

invisible hazards

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Tiny Beautiful Things

torment us–

miasma, they once believed,

poisonous vapor,

now we know a virus drifts and sits—

stay far away, wear a mask,

 

and wash your hands—

“Out damned spot! Out—”

we say

in collective panic, guilt,

and a truthful reminder

 

of scientific fact,

facts, a dear commodity

often ignored, as if invisible,

against the gaudy lies,

pink flamingos standing on one leg.

 

But now the world is upside down,

will we value the invisible

in the after

as we never did in the before?

Stop, take a breath–

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Puddle Reflection–the upside down world

 

remember the dreams.

“My mother told me this story,”

I say in mine.

It is not a true story

of my grandmother,

 

but it is a story of women,

of carrying on,

of working and making do,

my inner me reminds me

of this—but also to dream, to smile.

 

My mother visits with my dead father,

she walks an imaginary pet dog

through hallways she cannot walk,

dreamworld connections

beyond time and space,

 

we reach out

in our virtual Shabbos dinner–

again

connecting

and again

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The morning after–my work is done.

 

holding our friends

and loved ones however we can.

The world outside blooms, trees hold wisdom,

and the river still flows,

carrying ghosts and dreams.

 

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The gnarled, wise face of this mulberry tree.

 

I hope all of you and your loved ones are well. Sending virtual hugs to all of you! And cookies. I baked these Hamantaschen yesterday.

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Merril’s Movie Club: we watched three totally different movies this week. All on Prime.

The Handmaiden, a Korean movie (in Korean and Japanese) inspired by Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith, with the setting changed from Victorian London to Korea in the 1930s. It is sumptuous, beautifully filmed, and erotic (NOT a family film) with sly, fun plot twists.

The Invisible Man. This new version with Elisabeth Moss is a fast-paced thriller (not horror). If I had seen it in the theater, I probably would have jumped in my seat more than I did. It is also about domestic abuse, which if you want to get all metaphorical, is often an invisible crime. It costs $20 to rent, but I had that much left on an Amazon gift card—plus we’re not going out to the movies.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco.This was one I had thought about seeing when it was playing in Philadelphia. I would definitely watch this one again, and of the three, my husband and I liked this one the most, and we thought if we had gone out to see it, we would have had a long post-movie discussion over wine for this one. Watching the trailer for this one just now, I wanted to see it again. It is inspired by the main character Jimmie’s real life story.  Perhaps it is a true-to-life fiction about dreams and lies. Nearly the entire cast (including the street corner Greek Chorus) has San Francisco connections. There are weird random bits within this movie that somehow just fit in–I suppose like when you walk through a city and see strange sights and people.

We also watched the Netflix series, Unorthodox, which is inspired by Deborah Feldman’s 2012 memoir. This is an excellent four-episode series—we watched two episodes each night—in Yiddish, German, and English about a Hasidic woman from Brooklyn who leaves her life and goes to Berlin. Israeli actress, Shira Haas is outstanding as the main character, Esty. Haas had to learn Yiddish for the role.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Book Published: Sexual Harassment

I received copies of my book, Sexual Harassment: A Reference Handbook yesterday.  As you can imagine, I was overwhelmed with current news while writing this, but it is a reference book. (That means I do not give my opinion of certain people, but
I can include their words and behavior.) The book includes a brief history of sexual harassment and analysis, as well as a glossary, timeline, and resources. There is also one chapter of wonderful essays by women who have experienced sexual harassment. A couple of names you may have seen here on WordPress. If you read this book and feel inclined to give it a positive review, I would appreciate it. Of course, that holds true for any of my books! I know that the reference books are expensive, but when this current situation is over, please do consider recommending this book to your local public or school library. It would also be suitable for various resource centers.

 

The cats had to check out my new book, though of course, the box was much more interesting to them.  

Some people have already seen this news on Instagram or Twitter, but some people only follow me here, so I apologize for the cross-posting.

Single Threads Together

Sunset over the Delaware River, Feb.2020

Sun and clouds reflected on the surface of the Delaware River, Feb. 24, 2020

Monday Morning Musings:

“It may be the only mark we make. Sic parvis magna … From small things, greatness.”

–Tracy Chevalier, A Single Thread: A Novel

 

 

Spring enters in a gavotte

to finish with a sun-kissed flower finale,

but winter interrupts the dance

grabbing the dancers with icy fingers

and thrusting them apart

 

this dance is the thread of life,

the world wakes again

the birds are beginning to sing–

just before dawn I hear them

rehearsing for early summer’s concert

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Later, they perch like fruit on trees

gathering in numbers

to sing farewell to the sun

and the day, old friends perhaps

who can finish each other’s sentences

 

threading them with references

that bind them together

a single thread, and another

woven into the fabric of the season

unraveled, threaded, woven again.

 

 

My sister-friends and I drink tea

we drop story-stitches, pick them up again,

single threads joined together

made stronger by overlapping

knotting them in love

 

nourishing them with food and drink–

the sandwiches are delicious

and so are the sweets.

We talk of #MeToo, politics,

of scary and stupid people

 

who sew all the wrong threads

into a horrid designs–

and then we sigh,

change the subject,

pour more tea

 

into the lovely cups. We drink.

The room is full of women,

and I wonder why

is this a woman’s place

or thing?

 

This sorting of masculine and feminine,

of black and white threads

of Christian, Muslim, Jew,

and places we’re afraid to go (my friend says),

these are knots that need unraveling. We sigh. Again.

 

The wind blows cold,

My husband and I stay inside

I make soup

bake bread

we watch movies and TV.

I watch my cat,

he is sick,

I wish I could heal him

with bread and soup–

he watches birds and the sun.

 

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My cat is better, but the world is sick

I wish I could heal it with bread and soup

and tea–

we could talk, women, men, children

weaving our stories together,

 

each of us a single thread

stitched into a blanket of time.

Does one stitch make a difference, or not–

I watch the sun rise and set,

tomorrow, I may see a flower bloom

 

small things that make a mark,

the tree that grow from a single seed

the egg that hatches into an eagle

the things that change the world,

single threads, woven together.

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Crocuses blooming, and daffodils coming up.

 

 

My friends and I had tea at Mademoiselle Macaron in Mullica Hill, NJ. I’m actually more of a coffee drinker, but going out to tea is something special.  I’m about halfway through Tracy Chevalier’s A Single Thread. It’s a historical novel that discusses the “surplus women” in between the two World Wars, and focuses on one who joins the embroiderers who embroider the kneelers at Winchester Cathedral. Any readers who go to my local library, I’ll return it for you soon.  🙂

Merril’s Movie Club: We missed it in the theater, but Honey Boy is now streaming. It is Shia LaBeouf’s autobiographical story (he plays his father)–sad, funny, and moving. I thought it was excellent. My cat was a bit alarmed by Bob Dylan’s harmonica music at the end.

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Heroes, Truth, and Lies

Monday Morning Musings:

“If we both describe the same thing at the same time, will one of our descriptions be more true than the other?”

–Rajiv Joseph, Describe the Night

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The sun rises each day

truth, whether we see it or not

light bending through air

a neon orange ball, perhaps

a tangerine on fire—

 

does the description change the fact–

a rose by any other name, and all that?

The sun, a fiery ball in our sky,

the horizon, the end of all we can see

of a world that goes on and on

 

through space and time.

Now a whisper of spring hovers–

a bit of honeyed-light

through dragon-flamed clouds,

but is winter waning

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or waiting, gathering strength to roar

with gaping mouth and jagged teeth

sending its icy breath to freeze the world,

my world, turning it white,

the sun then but a hazy memory?

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Hazy January sun through trees off of Lincoln Ave, Philadelphia.

Cycles, warm and cold,

sunshine and rain

birth to death,

to birth again

winter fades, spring comes.

 

The woman in the play foresees war,

her fortunes always predict war,

war is a constant, is it not?

War and peace and war and peace

cycling round like sun and moon.

 

My mother is almost a century old,

How many wars have there been–and death.

(Some days she longs for her own death.)

She has good days and bad days,

cycles, laughter and tears

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My mom watching the “wing bowl” at her assisted living facility.

 

Her laugh can light up a room.

I will miss that when she’s gone.

her fading away, I won’t miss that.

Once she was a child, a teen,

a vivid, energetic woman–

 

still, her laugh can light up a room

the way the sun lights up the sky.

Do you see it?

How would you describe it?

A sunrise? A laugh?

 

The days have been dreary

a slow steel sky, heavy with portent,

or dreams–waiting for spring—

there, a hawk cries from above,

there on the ground a hint of what may come

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Magic all around us lies, lies all around us.

The man in the play extols the black Magic Marker,

it erases the past, a new truth can be told–

it is a crime to be alive when the state says you are dead,

perhaps eat this leech soup, and remember, the women say.

 

Fantasy, myth, truth, lies

this is the world,

and I think we need heroes,

real heroes like Harriet Tubman,

or perhaps the children will lead us now.

 

But now,

I listen to the moon’s hum, the stars’ songs

reflect on the river’s reflections

I bake and cook

trying to stay cozy in a tilting world

And if it tilts,

how will we describe the sun rising

and setting

cycles that are constant but changeable

even if we don’t notice the change till it’s too late.

 

Is it too late?

we watch movies and plays

and drink wine

because life goes on

until it doesn’t

 

but still

but still

light bends and what of time?

Perhaps we may see ourselves

rising again with the sun.

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Garden of Delight by David Guinn, Mural Arts of Philadelphia

 

Merril’s Movie (and Theater) Club: We missed the movie Harriet when it was in the theaters, but it’s streaming now. The word hero is overused, but Harriet Tubman truly was one. The movie is sort of a standard bio-pic, good, but not great–but Cynthia Erivo is wonderful in the role. She seems to channel the spirit of Harriet Tubman. Also, for us, it was fun seeing local Philadelphia/New Jersey places and historical figures, such as William Still. We will be seeing a play about Harriet Tubman later this month.

We saw the play Describe the Night at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia. Both of us totally enjoyed this play that combines myth and reality, historical figures in imaginary situations, and imaginary people in historical situations. One strand is about “Putin’s” rise, but the play goes back and forth in time. It gave us a lot to talk about afterwards. A real “Merril” play. And my husband was still able to see most of the Super Bowl when we got home. 🙂

And lest you think I only watch serious things–we binge-watched the second season of Sex Education on Netflix. 

Sometimes we do not control what we watch.

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Who controls the remote?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Little Things

Monday Morning Musings:

My mother washes her hands

I flashback to a memory–

my grandfather, her father

rubbing his hands over and over

to dry them

 

We’d been out walking in the woods–

was this the day we were startled by riders on horseback?

(A magical sight.)

My sister and I were little

my grandfather was wise,

 

in the way that grandparents are

to young grandchildren

who see beyond the surface

to the hearts beneath

beating with love.

 

And there’s an understanding

that time exists in the now–

the autumn of one life,

the spring of another

co-existing in this moment

 

I tell my mother about this memory

and we talk of this and that

I go through her old cards

reading portions to her

as I clean out a drawer

 

a past, relics, consigned to a trash bag.

Who was this person?

Where was this photo taken?

My mother can’t see and can’t remember—

all the little things that make up a life.

 

All the little things that make up a city, a world–

the reindeer on a roof display

the stone carvings on a building

the snowflake on a lamppost

the candle burning in a window

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We celebrate the first night of Hanukkah,

fry the latkes,

light the candles

toast “L’Chaim!”

I dance to “Ocho Kandelikas.”

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My husband and I watch the candles burn.

We talk of this and that–

old memories and to-do lists,

the little things that make up a life,

the everyday ordinary and the magical exceptional.

 

 

Every year, Santa comes through town on a fire engine. I have no idea how this started, but his helpers give candy canes to the children (and adults) who come out to see him.

There are a bunch of movies I want to see, but I haven’t had a chance, and I don’t know if I will have any time in the next week. It’s a crazy time of year, isn’t it? I had an anxiety dream the other night, which I haven’t had in a long time. But–we finished watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and we’re on to the finally season of The Expanse. And there are latkes and candles and cuddly cats. . .so life may be stressful, but not awful.

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Thank you to all of you who take the time to read my writing. I truly appreciate you. I feel like I’m Mr. Rogers saying “It’s you I like,” but it’s true. Happy Holidays to all of you!

Here’s Pink Martini performing “Ocho Kanelikas.” Feel free to dance along!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here and There and Here

Willow at Dock Creek, October 2019

Monday Morning Musings:

“All I know

Is you are there

You are there

And I am here.

–Irene Sankoff and David Heine, “I am Here,” from Come From Away

 

“Suddenly there’s nothing in between me and the sky”

Irene Sankoff and David Heine, “Me and the Sky,” from Come From Away

 

“Think of it as a ghost play; the actor’s older bodies are haunting these thirteen-year-old characters.”

Clare Barron on her play, Dance Nation

 

“Are you here?” my mother asks

as I, involved in some ordinary task

stand just beyond her sight.

 

The boundaries between mist and light

time and dreams, seems porous, slight

and she drifts, and we drift again and again

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Reflections in a rain puddle, Philadelphia

sunshine, then rain

“Here,” says the woman in the book

“Here,” I say, “Look.”

 

The twilight and dawn

the days that falter, end with a song

look at them fly

nothing between them and the sky

and we drink wine, talk of movies and why

they did this or that—it’s a metaphor

I say, and we laugh, remember more

to discuss, remember the time when it was just us

or when we were thirteen–

 

remember how life seemed?

All emotions, and the dreams?

Emotions now more settled, but more stress—

I digress.

Time right now to sit in gardens bright

to catch autumn’s glowing light

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rain and sunshine, tears, delight

I was there once, now I’m here in sight–

of what? I’m not certain, but you are here

together we’re here,

and there’s magic in theater–and deer

and nature, magic in each day’s dawning

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watching the sun rise, yawning

as it sets, and the cats that sleep, never fawning

honest with their desire

for food and love, we’re the suppliers

but we get it back, their love doesn’t expire

no ghosts in their bodies, at least that I see

 

they can just be–

and sometimes so can we—

here together,

 

I am here,

you are here,

nothing between us and sky–

in my dreams, we fly.

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We actually saw two shows this week: Come From Away and Dance Nation. Come from Away is heartwarming without being cloying. It’s about people doing good. It’s about the town in Newfoundland that takes in flights following the terrorist attacks on 9/11. It’s poignant, but also very funny at times. The staging is wonderful, and we saw it in the beautiful Academy of Music in Philadelphia. Dance Nation is about a competitive dance team of middle school kids, but it’s also a memory play, as we see glimpses of the girls (and one boy’s) older selves. All the actors are adults. It’s laugh out loud funny at times, but it also makes you want to cheer. There’s a wonderful speech on female empowerment.

And for Merril’s Movie Club members—we finally got to the movies and saw Parasite. Yes, of course it has subtitles. It’s Korean. It’s about class and metaphors, and it’s excellent, but you know, it’s a Merril movie. 😉 Here’s the trailer.