Announcement #1: My poetry book, River Ghosts!

Hello, Everyone

I am SO pleased and excited to announce that my first book of poetry is being published by Nightingale and Sparrow Press! The book, River Ghosts, will be available on April 12! The stunning cover was created by my older child, Jay Smith. You can see more of their work on Instagram.

River Ghosts was compiled a few months after my mom died in the first wave of COVID-19 in April 2020. We could not be with her when she died. However, this poetry collection is about more than death and grieving. Many of the poems were written before this time, and they are about nature, the river, Philadelphia, love. . .and much more.

I walk by the Delaware River often, as regular readers of my blog know. In the months following my mom’s death, almost every morning, I tossed a stone in the water and thought of her—a sort of mourning ritual that I repeated again this morning.

Stone toss. Delaware River

Heroes and Lies

Monday Morning Musings:

Early Morning Moon through the trees

Without moving, we travel far
time and space collapse
as we traipse—everywhere—
from chair and couch

and as the virus rages,
we turn the pages,
hungering for new plots and changes,
a denouement, and all comes clear
order restored, till the world veers

again, and we can only go forward
into what remains to be seen.
other plagues brought serfdom down
and gathered nations in a league—

attempts made, bells rung,
but mostly heroes go unsung
and lies coming tripping off a tongue
gaining currency as far-flung they’re spread
bad news and dread

sell more stories, but check the optics
and we’ll see. Perhaps your story holds a key,
turn the lock, and make our ratings soar
till wiped away by war.

But the lies circle round, and some believe
the tales the sad sacks or the haters weave–
they choose to believe–
but we? We grieve
we grieve we grieve

(well, those of us who see it.)

Sunrise over the water. West Deptford, NJ
Wind whipped. Early morning on the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield.

Yet, every dawn is a new beginning
and hope wings to the clouds,
the moon will shine when I am gone,
and waves like a teasing lover
will still kiss the shore,
to dart away,
as far-flung ancient light
dances across the sky, always, and forevermore.

Morning Moon

We still haven’t gone anywhere because of Omicron. Though we bought a few theater series, and there’s a play soon. . .so perhaps, since everyone is required to show proof of vaccination and to remain masked.

And in other news, an authoritarian minority is taking over our government. 2+2=5

We did have a much-needed, lovely family Zoom on Friday night.

Waiting for the family Zoom session.

We streamed, A Hero, Asghar Farhadi’s new film. I’ve liked his previous movies, A Separation and A Salesman, so I was eager to see this one, which is available on Amazon Prime now. Like his other movies, situations are not black and white, and no one is totally good or bad. Rahim is in prison for debt, and while on a two-day leave, he tries to make arrangements with his creditor so he can make a payment and be released, but one lie leads to another, and nothing goes as expected. . . It did give us a lot to talk about, and it also gave us glimpses of Iranian life and culture (and prison system). Another excellent film.

We’re watching the final season of the wonderful show The Expanse, also on Amazon Prime. It’s a very complex show—sort of a grittier, less idealistic version of Star Trek, except it’s about human empires and colonization in space, not aliens. Imagine Rome or the British Empire with rebelling colonies, but in space it’s Earth, Mars, and “the Belters,” as well as various other factions and pirates. It’s not a cartoonish sci-fi show. Characters and situations are not black and white here either. As Capt. Holden says of his world-weary crew, we’ve all done things we regret. (Yet we still root for them and their ship, the Rocinante.)

I’m hosting Quadrille Monday at dVerse, so I’ll be back later today! Cold weather comfort food below. Enjoy!

For When

Egret, the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

I don’t ask the moon for what she cannot give,
enough her silver gleam on fields and streams,
the night-shadowed things
that vanish in dawn’s rose-petal glow.
I know the universe’s music and light
go beyond the who and when,
circling through time’s beginning and its end–
but if I stop to sit–
even when the wind urges me to go—
I’ll watch the clouds
wing across the sky–
egret white and heron grey–
and here, I’ll dream of you.

My poetic collaboration with the Magnetic Poetry Oracle.

Portrait of a Mystery

Monday Morning Musings:

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

My dreams–a language-storm of do,
or not,
I try to recall

and wonder who are you—
and which is me—
all is enigma and mystery,

like a portrait-sitter lost in time
sublime or shaded, half-smile, three-quarter face
a hint of her wishes, or the artist’s embrace

of unconscious desire, inspiration
in symbols of her worth, still in last laugh–
she gazes into the future,

Leonardo da Vinci, Lady with an Ermine

can she imagine
how she’ll be carted through wars, another spoil,
a wall-hung prize, monster-cherished–

the attraction of beauty to the beast—
opposites, and circles
of the sun and moon–

with light comes shadow,
honeyed joy and bitter sorrow
alternate—the universe’s tessellated patterns

Oak Tree Shadows

as time moves on. . .

Now, little bird
silent-sitter, waiting to strike–
living dinosaur, a portrait, too.

We finally have a beautiful day after days of oppressive heat, humid, and storms.

I just finished The Night Portrait, a novel by Laura Morelli. I enjoyed both the writing and the story. It takes place in the fifteenth century as Leonardo da Vinci is painting Cecilia Gallerani, then the young mistress of Ludovico Sforza, and during WWII as the Nazis and confiscated art, and the Monuments Men are trying to find the stolen art.

We watched an Icelandic series on Netflix called Katla. If you like dark brooding Scandi-noir mixed with a bit of the supernatural, you’ll like it. It reminded me a little bit of the German series Dark. It’s about a town, now nearly deserted because an underwater volcano has started erupting, and mysterious things begin happening. . .We were really intrigued by it and finished the series in a few nights.

We also watched the first episode of season 4 of Unforgotten (PBS). I’m excited that it’s back on.

Beclouded

Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, July. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

Does the fiddler recall the shadows or sun?
Dreams of a sweet peach sky, or
the languid light of in-between
almost,
~and if~
you ache for sea and diamond night,
feel it in the chill wind’s tongue licking your cheek,
and the whisper of its ancient song
across a thousand miles and worlds.

My poem from the magnetic poetry Oracle. She obviously knows what is going on everywhere, and most of the words came from her. The photo is from my walk this morning. It is cooler today after the thunderstorms yesterday, and we might get more today.

This is When

Monday Morning Musings:

Almost summer solstice. Reflections on the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield. June 2021. ©️Merril D. Smith

This is when the world takes wing
in the turning of summer from our spring
when everything becomes lush and greenest green
the grass and leaves

sigh in gentle breeze and rustle in the storms
as cotton ball clouds flower to take new forms
and azure sky turns charcoal-hued
until another day spins by

Driftwood. The Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith,2021

another day older, children fly
out the door calling good-bye—
chicks and goslings grow so fast,
you hold the thoughts to make them last.

I saw this eastern box turtle about to crawl under the park gate. Look at her beautiful markings. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

And so, now the days grow slowly darker,
imperceptible at first, no marker
for the shadows cast, till autumn comes
and winter’s darkness cast

but in shadowed darkness the light never disappears—
despite our worries and our fears,
we make another turn round our glowing star–
do we measure it in miles or hours—the journey how far?

Seasons of love, freedom, and glory,
we celebrate each story
in the turning from spring to summer
when the world, despite everything, yet sings

in robin trill and mockingbird song
all night long, and all night long
the dreams drift from sea to shore,
where in the past our children played

and in some world, I think
perhaps still do.

Sunrise on the Delaware River

Saturday was Juneteenth. President Biden signed the law making it a federal holiday on Thursday. Fourteen Republicans voted against it. I found this post from several years ago by Henry Louis Gates on the history and relevance of Juneteenth.

Yesterday was Father’s Day. My husband Zoomed with older child as they worked on a woodworking project together. He’ll get together with younger child later this week. It was also the summer solstice, and it was a hot, but beautiful day. I got my husband this Father’s Day t-shirt to add to his collection of nerdy shirts, and we tasted two of the three red wines we still had left from my wine-tasting box. It looks like you have to click on some of the photos to see them properly.


Our anniversary is later in the week, and that’s the time of year we used to take our children to Ocean City, NJ for a summer vacation.

The Color of Language, the Language of Color

Monday Morning Musings:

“When a name for a color is absent from a language, it is usually blue. When a name for a color is indefinite, it is usually green. Ancient Hebrew, Welsh, Vietnamese, and, until recently, Japanese, lack a word for blue… The Icelandic word for blue and black is the same, one word that fits sea, lava, and raven.

It has been shown that the words for colors enter evolving languages in this order, nearly universally: black, white, and red, then yellow and green (in either order), with green covering blue until blue comes into itself. . .

Within every color lies a story, and stories are the binding agent of culture.”
–Ellen Meloy, quoted on Brainpickings

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

I celebrate color, all the hues
of dawning light to grey or blue,
the color of the sky, the gulls that flew
before the morning moon to sparkle bright–
I celebrate delight

in things we name from time and before—
the universe of letters, we’re each a book—and more–
composed of fiery stars and stellar song. And all along
from there to here and back again, there is light—
I celebrate its flight

from stars, bird-winged it soars, beating hearts
twinkling, illuminating the night, and each day
through shadows, there is a glow, a gate, a portal
through which time circles, not black or white—
I celebrate the spotlight

the lens through which I see. My faulty illusions—
still part of me. And everywhere I go, I see Crow—
who sees much more. So, while we count, label, and navigate,
some things remain unseen. But I dream and write—
I celebrate me, color, language, light.

My older child has been a fellow at the Atiq Maker Kollel for the past fifteen weeks. Yesterday they did a Zoom celebration of their art projects. You can find out more about their project here. In a discussion by one of the other participants, there was a mention of the world being created from letters and language, and even our bodies composed of language. I had read the Brainpickings article earlier in the week, which made me think of color and language, and the naming of things.


Memorial Day seems much more than a week ago, but we went to a Lobster and Chardonnay event at a local winery that afternoon. This past weekend, we tasted some of the wine (only got through the whites) from a blind tasting box—a Mother’s Day gift from our children.


Last night we watched the Kennedy Center Honors, which we both enjoyed. The honorees were Debbie Allen, Joan Baez, Dick van Dyke, Midori, and Garth Brooks. I couldn’t name a Garth Brooks song, but I even enjoyed his segment because he was so moved by the performers. Because of Covid restrictions, the TV program combined clips of filmed indoor and outdoor performances instead of the usual formal theater production. Some of the dance numbers worked very well that way.

I’m linking this to dVerse, Open Link Night.

Remember

Monday Morning Musings:

“Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory—”
Percy Bysshe Shelly

“Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.”
–from Jo Harjo, “Remember”

Today we remember—
the ones who lie buried,
the ones lost at sea,

But do you remember
before memory?
How the world came to be?

From stars,
all the oceans,
and then soon the trees,

Sun through the trees at Red Bank Battlefield. I thought it looked like a little amphitheater. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

You remember this,
yes?
Ancestral memory

of long before when,
and where soft voices go,
to live on, maybe

pretend. We should remember
in every war fought,
each side will plea–

saying God’s on our side,
and we’re in the right,
the land of the free.

But after every battle,
there’s a hole, a wound
left in a town and family–

all those who died.
There may be pride, or anguish
or a question of degree—was it necessary?

So, remember the sun
still there behind the clouds,
and the moon, humming fiercely

listen now.
Listen to Crow, the creator,
who foretells what will be,

preserve what you can,
fight if you must
for beauty and truth, disagree

with the haters
and authoritarian dupes,
help the world to better be–

remember her laugh,
remember childhood giggles and purring cat–
hear all the songs in your memory,

and let the world’s wonder wander through–
remember you are all and all are you.

It’s Memorial Day here in the U.S. It’s also a three-day weekend. When vice-president Kamala Harris mentioned that in a tweet, conservative hypocrites who willingly overlooked every horror the former twice-impeached resident of the White House ever did or uttered acted outraged. Meanwhile, they are doing all they can to suppress democratic rights, such as the freedom to vote. I prefer real democracy to mindless flag waving.

Meanwhile, no thanks to the former administration, people in the U.S. are getting vaccinated, and many places have lifted all or nearly all Covid restrictions. I’m not entirely comfortable with it yet, but I have met with friends. The weather has been all over the place–from summer heat, where turned on the a/c to cold enough to turn the heat back on. It was good weather to bake and cook.

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched The Father. One review I read described the movie as “a Rashomon of dementia.” The movie is from the viewpoint of a man whose mind is going. It is difficult to tell what is real, and the movie is purposefully confusing, brilliant, and harrowing. There is also a wonderful opera soundtrack. Anthony Hopkins deserved his Oscar, and Olivia Coleman was excellent, as was the entire cast. Meanwhile, we’re onto Season 2 of Dexter. We might need to take a break with something a bit lighter. 🤣

Every Story Ever Told

Monday Morning Musings:

There’s a story in the birth of stars,
and in their ending, too,

bangs, flashes, ashes, wind,
the stellar songs carried within–

these are tales we tell of all the seasons,
the birdwing flaps of storm and breeze

the reasons why the sky is blue,
but dawns with rosy laughter,

Gulls flying over the Delaware River around sunrise. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

and tips a glass of wine at dusk
for spirit souls to savor

as owl feathers brush the canvas,
there!

Late afternoon sun over the Delaware River ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

The moon sighs and sings
a lullaby of hope, peace, and observation

be wary, beware
and listen–

to the messages Crow brings;
watch for what secrets the river carries

as it flows.

History knows–
it is repeated in the curves of time,

where the light of stars, shimmer and gleam
in every color,

Morning Awe ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

in endless combinations merged,
every story ever told—and those never heard.

We’re still in a pandemic, and I still have not gone anywhere, but spring is coming! It was still icy at the beginning of last week, but now the snow and ice is gone.The sunshine and beauty of nature has definitely lifted my spirits—and I’m scheduled for my first vaccine. I’m not sure why I received a notice to schedule an appointment, but my husband did not; however, I’m not going to argue.

Merril’s Movie Club: We paid for a movie this week—still less money than going out—and it was so worth it. I like to tell you about movies you’ve never heard of, and probably never will see, but if you get a chance, do see this one, Night of the Kings. It’s set in a prison, La MACA, located in the jungle of the Ivory Coast. The prison is ruled by the prisoners, and the leader, Blackbeard, is dying, and others are ready to take over. To buy himself some time, he declares a new arrival to the prison must tell them a story. As the “Roman” spins his tales, you see some of it unfold—a battle between a queen and king and the story of an outlaw hero—but the inmates also serve as a sort of Greek chorus and act out portions of the story. It’s really magical, allegories and real-life prison. I rented from filmforum.org. (I also made a small donation, and they sent a very nice note.) This is really a Merril movie, and I would definitely watch it again.
We also watched Capitani (Netflix), a mystery series that stands out because it’s from Luxembourg. We had to look up the languages spoken there: French, German, and Luxembourgish. The show has familiar elements—the outsider detective in a small town—but it also has a few twists. It’s very bingeable because each episode is about a half hour. We watched the entire series in a few days, and it looks like there will be a second season.

Also, Purim was last week. I baked lot and lots of Hamantaschen, and I still have filling left, so I’m baking some more today. Stay safe and well, Everyone!

Hamantaschen

All the Blues

Monday Morning Musings:

A gull seems to play in the river waves. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith 2021

Today the gray has strayed, and sunlight deepens–
a color called cold water blue–
unfrosted are the ripples
where gulls and geese sway
and gather on the shifting sand
to sleep and talk and play.

Today there is no fog,
nothing obscured in the grayish gloom,
or hidden in ash-tipped cloud-rooms—
today is clear, the sun is bright

though not with summer heat, or spring’s promise
not even pastel frosted pink—but think
of what today may bring

joy, despair, most anything–
one day, one night, one vote, one
note of kindness can make a change, so

today I’ll take blue
water and sky. And the hour in between
dusk and night, dawn and day,
the color of jays, stones, and glass
robin’s eggs and midnight sky–ask
when the moon sings a silver lullaby
and forms a halo ‘round her face,

what is that place? And can we go?
Perhaps, in dreams. I don’t know,

But today I’ll take the blue of peace
and ripples that go on forever,
one making another, another making one,
lines merging in changing colors, sometimes grey,
but today it’s blue and sun.

I went down a rabbit hole of blue yesterday reading Brainpickings and then following the links .
And then today, the river was blue instead of the gray or tinted-pink it’s been.
I haven’t been anywhere or done anything special in weeks, so I can only muse about this. I am happy that there were no big violent mobs yesterday, though I’m still anxious. I hope all goes well on Wednesday for the inauguration.

I have cooked and baked though.

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched One Night in Miami (Amazon Prime). It’s an excellent movie based on a play by Kemp Powers, who adapted it for the screen, and directed by Regina King, in her movie directorial debut. It concerns a meeting in 1964 between Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown right after Clay won the heavyweight title. The main, crucial moments of the movie take place in Malcolm X’s motel room where the men discuss, argue, explain, and try to make sense of their private-public lives. It feels like a real “room where it happened” historical moment. The movie is fictional, although the meeting did take place. The movie seems particularly timely right now.