We Celebrate: Haibun

Foggy New Year

New Year’s Eve Day is foggy and warm. My husband and I eat Chinese food for dinner, our decades-old tradition. We drink champagne while we talk to our children and their spouses on Zoom. Our son-in-law’s parents join us, and it’s good to see them, too, after so long. We light the Shabbos candles and speak of what we’re grateful for—that we’re together, healthy, and that our pets are with us, too. This is what we celebrate—life going on, light in the darkness. Later, we say goodbye to 2021. Though 2022 seems scarcely better, who know what the future brings? The sun and moon still rise and set.
And there is champagne.

fog-obscured
river a mystery—
beckoning

For dVerse. Earlier today, I couldn’t get WP to work, and now there’s no problem. Oh, there are definitely WP gremlins!

Christmas, 2021: Still Plagued

Monday Morning Musings:

Christmas, 2021

Winter Solstice

We celebrate in the long dark days—
in the after–recalling what was—
and almost remembering

how we embraced
without care.

But in the lingering kiss of night,
the air whispers secrets,

and dreams float from fiddle strings
taking form–nutcrackers, marzipan castles–
shapeshifters of hope and fear in cold winter days

Nutcracker from the Pennsylvania Ballet

I baked a few cookies.

as the moon hums,
the house fills with the scent of vanilla, cinnamon,
mulled wine, and chocolate,
laughter echoes from beyond to within
and hereafter,

if you wonder–
we’ve always been in-between

shadow and light, spinning as


the colors of time bend
like giant wings, hovering, circling,
and moving on,

reflecting what is, what was, and what might be.

Puddle Reflection, December ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

I never posted my Christmas poem from the Magnetic Poetry Oracle. So, I’ve embellished it a bit here. I hope all of you had a joyous holiday season. It’s so very complicated trying to figure out how to get together right now, even when everyone is vaccinated and some of us are boosted. We saw some of my family on Christmas Eve—testing first, staying masked much of the time. Again, doing the same thing, we saw my husband’s family yesterday, but somehow did not take any photos.


My husband and I had our now traditional cheese fondue and mulled wine for our Christmas dinner. For our Christmas brunch, I made us a Dutch baby, and we watched a show I had recorded from PBS of Alan Cumming with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra telling the full tale of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The story tells the origins of the Nutcracker and explains what happens to the girl and the nutcracker afterward. You can read more here.

I looked up from writing this morning to find my dining room glowing pink.

And so, November Begins

Monday Morning Musings:

Vulture flying by the morning moon.

Ineffable the moon and light,
the rainbow sky, the morning delight,
the shadows where the deer skitter,
and ghostly shapes drift and flitter,
the world around me an emitter

for hope and fear, desire and cheer
emotions swirl in collected glow, and we’re
receivers—if only we know

A sunrise rainbow before the rain.

when and how to feel the dead around us,
in the susurrus , and the prickling air—are they there?
We celebrate their lives
by remembering a laugh, a phrase, the favorite food on holidays—

Two skeletons hanging out in the neighborhood

her hands and eyes, his hair and songs,
things we hold inside, that belong
a part of us, carried in traditions and blood,
generations on

might never know, but somehow recognize—
like those grey or green eyes
or ability to paint, or sing, or write–
to gaze up as stars ignite

Geese Flying from the Morning Moon

and feel the colors twirl and spin. To see without and within
the cycle of all beginnings and all ends—to think of ifs
and remember when.

A fiery morning sky.

This has been a strange week. Nothing terrible, just things that didn’t work out as expected, and some mornings in the twilight I felt like this really was a time when the veil between worlds was thinning . . . In between storms and wind, the sky has been so beautiful, and the morning light has a special quality.

We got our Covid boosters on Saturday night. We voted that day, too. Who says we don’t know how to have fun on a weekend? My arm was a little sore, and so was my husband’s, but no other reactions. I had long phone calls yesterday (Halloween) with my sister, sister-in-law, and older child. It was great to catch up! As I walked around the house while on the phone, I got over 25,000 steps in yesterday!


Merril’s Movies, Shows, and Books:
We watched a cool show on Netflix called Tabula Rasa. It’s Belgian. It’s a mystery with some supernatural overtones. It’s about a woman with amnesia, and a missing man. It’s best not to know too much–we were very surprised by the twists and things we didn’t see coming. We’re watching a Japanese show called Midnight Diner, also on Netflix. We watch an episode every once in a while, because I feel like I want to savor them. They’re only half hour episodes about a restaurant in Japan that is open midnight to 7 AM, and the people who come there. My husband was saying he doesn’t know why he loves the show so much. It’s a simple idea, but somehow, it’s just very gentle and satisfying. (Don’t watch it while you’re hungry.) We watched two horror movies over the weekend: The Omen (1976) and The Hole in the Ground (2019). We saw The Omen way back when in a theater with friends, and it was terrifying. Now watching it on TV, it seems a bit dated, not to mention the questions I have now about a husband who would just decide to substitute a baby and not tell his wife? Wifey is too fragile to know the truth. UGH! But it still has some very scary scenes. The Hole in the Ground is an Irish-Finnish production about a woman whose son seems to have been replaced by something else. It had some great and scary moments, and overall was very well done.

I read The Rose Code by Kate Quinn. It’s a novel about three very different women who meet and bond during the time they all work at Bletchey Park during WWII. It seems to be very well-researched. I really had a hard time putting this one down. I highly recommend it, if you like historical novels.

Death Comes and Waits

Image Credit: https://libwww.freelibrary.org/digital/item/66272

Now, death comes–
an owl’s wing-woosh, sighs
in moonlight,
shadow shapes.
But weary-boned, he pauses–
eyes wide-open shut

forever
gone–or in-between
time shifting,
ghosts drifting–
past meets future, unmasked
Death enters the room.

This is a shadorma for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday. I selected the artwork.
I saw the above print on the Philadelphia Free Library’s Print Department’s Instagram feed. It captured my attention, and though created during the Great Depression of the 1930s, it seems so timely, as well as seasonal. I asked Colleen if it would be okay to use it instead of a photo for her ekphrastic prompt.

Cranberries and Blue

Clouds and Blue Sky, First Day of Autumn at Red Bank Battlefield

And now, the sky is clearest blue,
gone summer’s haze, the color true
where eagles, herons, geese fly through

into tomorrow. Now the air
is crisp—soon crisper—and see there
the leaves are turning gold? Prepare
as now’s the time for harvests, too.

Grapes for wine, apples for the pies
and sauce, tossed in a pot—time flies—
between sun and moon, lows and highs.
Taste the tart and bittersweet, chew,

swallow, wallowed grief–holidays
she’ll never see. Cranberries stay
on my mind, and Thanksgiving Day
with the blue-squirrel mold—it’s hard to

say, the family tradition—
how she held it, the condition
of it unsure—no prediction
what cranberries will do. And you

cry, but it’s not the fruit. Life goes
on. Leaves turn, and the river flows
with secrets and ghosts undisclosed—
cranberries sauced, but you are blue.

Our precious squirrel mold for Thanksgiving cranberry sauce

This is Zéjel for Grace’s Meet the Bar prompt on dVerse, and also for Mish’s fruit prompt on Tuesday. I was thinking about Thanksgiving and our family’s cranberry squirrel the other day. We haven’t all been together since before my mom died.

To Every Season

Monday Morning Musings:

“For nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, it is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress.”
–Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby

Heron at dawn. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield.

I remember that spring, the winter of despair,
the flow of river into spring again

and again, the earth blooms,
and birds come and go, soaring into clouds

that move across the sky–
the constancy of sun and moon, the ephemerality of life,

insistent green sprigs emerging from driftwood,
bleached and beached.

Driftwood with new growth.

Each day the same and different,
each sunrise a threshold to the unknown.

Driftwood, Sunrise on the Delaware River

In dreams, my mother asks for chocolate–
she says there’s more for them that wants.

This is how it is—
this is who we who are, full of ifs and when

there is both laughter and the aches
of time and memory–

we are here. Now
I watch the bees,

and I remember too late,
to tell them my secrets and wishes–

but perhaps they already know,
telling their own dreams in buzz waltz,

remembering a day of endless sweet nectar,
and brilliant colors that we cannot see,

yet can imagine, reflected
in a sunrise yet to come.

Sunrise with Cloud Reflections. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield. August 2021

This week has been a strange and strangely beautiful week of clouds, rain, and sunshine. I suppose that’s how August is. We’re supposed to get a return of the high heat and humidity. Yesterday, some family members got together at my sister’s house for the first time since the pandemic. It wasn’t everyone, and even though it was right before my mom’s birthday, it wasn’t really a memorial, though we did have a Sunday brunch fish tray, with fruit, and my Mandelbrot and brownies for dessert. For those who don’t know, we used to have lox and other smoked fish with cream cheese and bagels–plus a whole lot more–fairly often when I was growing up. Every so often, my grandfather, my father’s father, would bring the delicatessen food, which also included herring, rye bread, and coffee cake, to my mom’s (even though my parents were divorced). My mom would supply the juice, coffee, boiled red potatoes, and sometimes I’d bake something. Then, it became a special family brunch occasion because it has become very expensive, plus more difficult to get together. Mindful of the Delta strain–even though we’re all vaccinated–we stayed masked indoors, except for when eating—and we tried to stay far apart then. Fortunately, the weather cleared up enough for us to go outside for dessert. My parents were there in spirit and ash.

When we got home, we took a brief walk, and pulling into the driveway were surprised by this.

Literal deer in the headlights.

The Bittern: Ekphrastic Poetry Challenge, Day 1

She used to play with friends,
wander with giggle-shouts through houses and yards,
shared classroom papers, projects, and lunches
together they were

no longer. Her small body—
so heart-heavy, slumped. She had loved her grandmother.

Now, she watched as from marsh to garden, a bittern flew.
stared at her with Grandmom’s eyes, and straight-beaked
pointed. Here is the path—she seemed to say–
remember me, remember this.

Alone once more, the girl stood, a tiny bit lighter.

I am participating in an ekphrastic poetry challenge this month hosted by Paul Brookes of Wombwell Rainbow. There are three artists and several poets. For each day we can choose to respond to one, two, or all three of the works. On Paul’s page you can see all of the artwork, and all of the poetry for that day. My thanks to Paul for the challenge, and to all of the artists for their work. This is also my NaPoWriMo poem for today. I’m also linking it to Open Link Night at dVerse, where Lillian is hosting.

Another Year

Spring comes again, another year,
the ghosts stand here,
but still the flowers bloom and rise.

The world is ever broken
and lies are widespread and spoken–
but there is light in the skies,

Sun peeping through the clouds. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

where geese honk and crows call,
they find their mates, and above all,
the songs of robin and mockingbird fly

ever as March winds wail and gust—
ashes to ashes, dust to dust—
the moon hums, so wise

is she, she sees beyond
what has been spawned,
duplicity and disease, the whys

of our existence. Yet hope
comes on those wings, that trope
clichéd, but all the same it cries

the truth—light in flight—
longer days, golden bright
flowers–each day a surprise

in bloom. And now, we vaccinate,
for some, it’s come too late,
and there’s no way to minimize

the loss and despair. Another year,
the ghosts stand here,
but still the flowers bloom and rise.

The wind is gusting this morning! Last year, Passover was at the beginning of April. We did a Zoom Passover with our daughters, and then near the end of Passover on a Monday, our Mickey cat died. The following Saturday, my mom died of Covid. This year, no one really was up for doing a Zoom Passover. I cooked some of the usual foods though, and my husband and I did our own Seder on the second night, as I was recovering from getting my second vaccine on the first night. Our daughters made the matzah covers when they were very little, and I cherish them. There is definitely hope in the air with spring and vaccines. And we are looking forward to getting together with other vaccinated family members soon.

No movies this week, but we’re on the second season of Shtisel (Netflix), and I really am so caught up with this family! I also listened to a radio play—a play we had seen in production at the Arden Theater that was reworked as a radio play, 74 Seconds to Judgement. It was very well done, and I enjoyed hearing it. I also read Klara and the Sun I highly recommend it. The book has been reviewed all over the place.

Too much holiday excitement.

The Whys of After and Before

Why have I never seen the turn of spring to summer,
overnight the moonlight sings sweetly into possible

the cycles—storms to sun,
a daffodil, then a rose.

And if time winds through the shadows, why do I not see
that beneath the ancient after, all the befores–

a language barely spoken, questions asked and lost

like faded blooms. But still, the promise, like a smile, recalled,
in the robin’s song at dawn.

The daffodils are starting to bloom.

It took some work to get a message from the Magnetic Poetry Oracle today. I’m taking it easy after my second Covid vaccine yesterday, but the moon was humming early this morning and a robin was singing. Tonight is the start of Passover.

Spring Cycle

Monday Morning Musings:

Sunrise–almost Spring

On the first day of spring,
I take my shadow for a walk
she doesn’t talk—but the crows do
remembered views, the death and blight–

a year has passed
upside-down and inside-out,
and birdsong comes again, devours the dark
as dawn glows bright from each spring night

Spring Reflection

after winds of winter go,
and summer storms not yet here, she knows,
to go softly on tippy-toes, then stop, perch
till too soon off like a bird in flight

she soars—another year–
but while she’s here—oh!
She flicks colors with her feathered wings
yellow, pink, purple, white—the sight

of all these tiny, bright beautiful things brings
more song and whispered longings—
all things yearn, and we turn, yearn,
learn spring returns, despite

would-be tyrants and corona drops
spread from the unmasked walking brain-dead, threads
of lives unraveled and songs unsung—yet, listen, see–
birds, bees, tender buds in bloom—and the light!

Sunrise, Delaware River, West Deptford, NJ ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

It’s been quite a year, hasn’t it? Now spring is back. The crows are once again very busy, the songbirds have started singing before dawn, and the light lasts longer each day. Even the cold mornings now don’t stay cold. There are still ignorant people spreading lies, and new strains of the virus also spreading, but hopefully, more people will be vaccinated before too long. I get my second vaccine later this week.
We started watching Shtisel (Netflix). It’s a family drama about a religious Jewish family in Jerusalem. We’re enjoying it. We’re still on Season 1. The third season is dropping this week.

I made chana masala and garlic naan on Friday night.