Transfixed, Transformed

In the play—that scene—

falling rain, a soft drumming on the stage,

two women in white nightgowns, dance and kiss

glorious, not indecent—

 

later, in the Lodz ghetto,

they perform again–

the drumming of jackboots looms–

 

the play’s not indecent, their reality is.

 

 

Paula Vogel’s play, Indecent, is a play about a play Sholem Asch’s 1903 drama God of Vengeance, which was performed in Yiddish in Europe, then in Yiddish theaters in the U.S. When it was translated into English and performed on Broadway it triggered an obscenity trial in 1923. The play was performed in the Lodz ghetto with a diminishing cast and audience. This sounds very depressing, but I love this play, and there is humor and joy in it, too. And that rain dance scene. (If you’re a PBS member and have Passport you may be able to see the play on Great Performances online.)

This is a quadrille for Mish’s dVerse prompt using the word, “drum,” and it also addresses Anmol’s Pride Month prompt  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Rains and Summer Storms

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Birds sing from leafy trees

and verdant banks beside the streams–

from gentle rain in spring a droplet gleams

 

on iris and rose, and petrichor rises in the air

washed clean, carried on a crisp, fresh breeze

(with pollen that makes us cough and wheeze)

 

but beautiful the shades of green

in days that lengthen, until the sun’s heat

bakes ground and street.

 

Summery steam rises in air that’s sticky and thick,

and the sky darkens, the clouds turn black,

as the stormy wind enters, blows pages from their stack,

 

I close the window when the rain comes—plothering, not pitter-pat,

there’s thunder and lightning, and gusts that sway the trees about–

then the power goes out—

 

the temperature falls and rises again, the rain clouds part,

and through them, the sun casts a glow

across the sky–look, a double rainbow.

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Rainbow at Pitman Golf Club, Pitman, NJ June 2020

 

For Sarah’s rain prompt on dVerse. Earlier this morning, my husband saw this rainbow at the golf course where he’s working. Later, we got a severe thunderstorm, and our power went out, but it’s been restored. So, I reversed the order for the poem.

 

 

 

 

Lux Mentis: Prosery

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We sail the night sea in our silvered ark. We’re refugees with lives programmed by machines that tell us when it’s day or night. On the observation deck, I can see the distant light of faraway stars, beckoning but elusive, like dream fragments remembered as you wake. Somewhere out there is our destiny–yet I’m haunted by the memory of sunshine streaming through the trees and the sound of birdsong on a summer day. Sometimes I hear the crash of waves in the constant humming of machinery, and I can almost taste the salt of ocean breezes.

Last night I dreamt I was the moon. I looked down and cried for Earth, gone forever.

 

At dVerse, we’re trying something new: a flash fiction piece of 144 words or less based on a line taken from a poem. We’re calling it prosery. Sarah has offered us this wonderful line, “Last night I dreamt I was the moon” from Alice Oswald’s “Full Moon.”

 

 

 

I Smell the Salt in Seaside Breeze, NaPoWriMo

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I smell the salt in seaside breeze

watch it toss the sun-sweetened flowers

and taste the nectar with droning bees

 

feel how it caresses my face and knees

with kisses, the promises of lazy hours

with books beneath shade of dancing trees.

 

On porches, we recline, so at ease–

a temporary haven, even if not ours–

imagining the taste of nectar, the droning bees

 

An evening walk, some ice cream, please!

wishing if and only we had the powers–

to stop a moment, to smell the salty, seaside breeze.

 

If we could a moment freeze,

would we box it up, using super-powers

to hold fast summer’s nectar-taste and droning bees?

 

For long ago summer vacations, the time of these–

ocean, sun, daughters’ laughter, and showers–

relaxing in the salt-scent of a seaside breeze,

of dreams, tasting the nectar with droning bees.

 

For Day 25 of NaPoWriMo the challenge is “to write a poem that

  • Is specific to a season
  • Uses imagery that relates to all five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell)
  • Includes a rhetorical question, (like Keats’ “where are the songs of spring?”)”

The dVerse poetry form this past month has been the villanelle, so here’s one more before it closes. Sarah’s template on the prompt page is most helpful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ballad of Orpheus and Eurydice, NaPoWriMo

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Odilon Redon, “Orpheus,”

 

“It has been said that the myth is a public dream, dreams are private myths.”

–Mary Zimmermann, Metamorphoses

 

Busking, I play my guitar

mostly by day,

sometimes under the stars

(their music lovelier than ours).

My songs are stunning, striking riffs,

god-blessed, my parents’ gift

to shift a mood–

when I sing my songs

the birds and trees dance along,

while men and women weep

and want to sweep

away the night,

keeping love alight.

 

And so, on this I survived

till my own love came to me.

In my joy, my music soared

as if on Pegasus-winged chords–

and I dreamt all manner of lovely things.

We married, and then one day

she journeyed far by urban subway,

vanishing deep underground

where she would not be found.

 

I wandered for days and night

in corridors

far below the banks and stores,

strumming the strings while I walked

until a fellow said, “Come, we’ll talk.”

He said a bloke as talented as me

shouldn’t be without his love, his muse–

but, well, let’s see what she’ll choose.

 

On the appointed day,

I stood beneath the street

(where she had agreed to meet).

She told me that with me

she had been in love,

but she was tired—sick of

living on song and air,

really it wasn’t fair,

it was no life–

she was dying as my wife.

So, she went down the stairs–

found work with City Transportation–

for her, a cause for celebration.

 

“Now, I’ve made my declaration. Go,” she said.

“Don’t look back, pretend I’m dead.”

 

You, of course, know the tale

I looked, I failed my darling wife

who’s disappeared behind a veil

of mystery and confusing trails.

I still hope that she’ll return.

Till then, I yearn,

I ride the subway cars,

looking for her, undeterred,

I find her face among the stars,

go out to sing about our story,

(now the most popular

in my repertory).

Then people sigh and cry

while I strum and sing,

and wonder why.

 

The prompt for Day 24 of NaPoWriMo is write a poem inspired by a reference book. The Encyclopaedia Britannica says Orpheus had “superhuman musical skills.” He was said to be the son of the Muse Calliope (poetry) and Apollo, who also had musical skills, and who gave him his first lyre. His “singing and playing were so beautiful that animals and even trees and rocks moved about him in dance.”

On dVerse, Anmol has asked us to reimagine a myth. I really wanted to use this painting that I saw on Jane Dougherty’s post the other day.

 

 

 

 

Rise

Theresienstadt Tree

Sapling from the Theresienstadt Tree, Philadelphia Holocaust Memorial Plaza

“There are times when dreams sustain us more than facts. To read a book and surrender to a story is to keep our very humanity alive.”

—Helen Fagin, from a letter recounting the clandestine school she set up in the Warsaw Ghetto. The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began April 19, 1943, on the eve of Passover.

 

From the ghetto,

we rose strengthened by dreams,

 

bolstered and braced by

possibilities,

 

we escaped

through stories of hope

 

and love

 

determined

to rise.

 

We fought

for survival

 

We fought

for our humanity.

 

We fought

to keep magic alive–

 

but remembering always

the ghosts.

This is a quadrille for my dVerse prompt, using the word rise.  The Theresienstadt Tree seemed a good symbol, especially on Earth Day.

Things the River Carries: NaPoWriMo

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I think of things the river has carried—

 

Lenape canoes and wooden ships with sails,

spices, barrels, and bails,

the stuff of merchant cargoes.

 

Immigrants and slaves

carried across ocean waves

seeking a safe harbor.

 

Geese and gulls

swimming around the hulls

and among the debris

 

left from centuries–

 

tree branches and stumps

animals that jump

to swim—away

 

never staying,

straying

varying

 

things the river has, is, will be

carrying—

 

dreams of a better life,

perhaps a husband or a wife,

or freedom, almost

 

touching, joining the ghosts

watching from the coast

history and things, strings

 

of visions with wings—

decisions and stings

flowing with the tide

 

hopes, feathers, trees,

flowing from river to sea,

passing like time,

and then away from me

 

For the NaPoWriMo prompt, Day Nine “list of things,” and for guest host, Linda, at dVerse  who asks us to write about prompt water.

 

 

 

 

 

For My Younger Daughter on Her Birthday

Twenty-eight years—

a lifetime—

or just a blink—

 

time passes that way

without regard for what

we think

 

of all the moments,

the tears, the joy,

together, we link

 

them, forming

the totality

I would not rethink

 

through whys

or ifs, to undo

 

that which is

so wondrous–you.

 

A quick birthday poem–posting on dVerse, where Grace is hosting Open Link Night.

 

 

 

 

 

Sheltered in Branches

Oak tree ringed

now with red-gold leaves

all around,

still they fall,

but the tree recalls the spring

when buds bloom anew—

 

and laughter

rises once again

as children

climb and play–

and ghosts perch there with the birds

sheltered through seasons

 

Charter_Oak_FEChurch

Frederic Edwin Church, “The Charter Oak at Hartford,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I feel like trees are trying to tell me something lately: the Theresienstadt Tree, the Tree of Life synagogue, and the big, old oak tree in my yard.

I’m posting this for Open Link night at dVerse, even though it’s Open Link morning for me.  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birthday Wishes: Haibun

I think of my dad today and how he admired Tony Hillerman’s novels, mysteries involving the Navajo Tribal Police. Once he wrote Mr. Hillerman a letter and received a gracious reply. It’s been twenty years now since my father died. He’d be ninety-nine today—perhaps he’d have new favorite books and authors. He was a man filled with passion—for food, women, art, history–and for his children and grandchildren. He thought we were the best and brightest, no question. Though he expected all to wait upon him–courtiers of the court of Lee–yet—he was generous with love, presents, and hundreds of restaurant meals. He was always proud of me and assigned my first book to his history classes. (Sorry). I wish my dad was still here to read my words. I love you, Dad. I miss you.

 

yellow-green stems grow

vivid blooms in summer’s heat—

then red-gold leaves fall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is for open link night at dVerse, where Lillian is hosting. I’ve given a nod to National Book Lovers Day in my Haibun.