Flowers and Bombs, NaPoWriMo

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Monday Morning Musings:

“Forever—is composed of Nows—”

–Emily Dickinson,  Full Poem here. 

“N. A. Sumanapala, a shopkeeper near St. Anthony’s Shrine who said he had run inside to help, said: “It was a river of blood. Ash was falling like snow.” New York Times, April 21, 2019.

A week of explosions

flowers, storms, shots, and lies

bombs belie the façade

of Easter calm and Passover why

(is this night different from all other nights?)

 

Rivers of blood

with no miracle to part

falling of ash

unresurrected, fighting stops, starts–

A plague upon both your houses

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Of indecision and more lies

as the First Citizen cries

in confusion,

“No collusion!”

 

His followers cheer

not caring, or unclear

that he would destroy

all that they hold dear,

so they support and worship

their false idol. Rejoice

in the new normal, hate

the latest whipping boy.

 

I cook, wrapping myself

in almonds, dates, and honey.

The house is sunny,

scented with cinnamon

like the cat, who slumbers sun-sided

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Passover Almond Cake

The pink moon rises

we drink the first glass of wine, recline.

We are free, but refugees detained

chained, their children abused–

and we all lose–

Let all who are hungry come

 

We watch movies of

women hiding secrets

sometimes in plain sight

in poetry and stories,

sometimes driving in the night

to obligations, demands

and longing

for uncharted territories.

 

Certain women

holding together

waiting, still in a man’s world.

often unrecognized–

we place

an orange on the Seder plate,

to recognize, no longer erased.

 

We talk,

walk through city streets,

footsteps, heartbeats,

statues and stories,

petrichor replaced

with the scent of blooms

filling the air with their perfume, a trace

lingers in my mind.

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A week of explosions

flowers, storms, shots, and lies—

all the endless ifs and whys–

and yet, my heart thrills

at the sight of the spring tide

with waves of flowers,

creating bowers

while the robin’s trills—

and we remember

forever is composed of nows.

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Red Bank Battlefield Park, April 2019

 

Day 22, NaPoWriMo  challenges us “to write a poem that engages with another art form.” My Monday musings always engage with the world around me through photos, and often movies or shows we’ve seen–so to an extent–I’ve met the challenge.

We watched the movie Certain Women on Netflix. We watched Becoming Astrid (about Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, the author of Pippi Longstocking and other books) on Amazon Prime, once I figured out how to turn on the subtitles. We saw the new movie, Wild Nights with Emily about Emily Dickinson in the theater. I liked all three movies.

 

 

 

 

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–

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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

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through another door

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to drink more coffee.

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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,

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life, opening and closing–

sometimes we carry our hearts right through a doorway,

and keep on going.

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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.

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There was also this.

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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.

 

 

 

Winter Changes

Monday Morning Musings:

“No Notice gave She, but a Change—

No Message, but a Sigh—

For Whom, the Time did not suffice

That She should specify.”

–Emily Dickinson, from “No Notice gave She, but a Change”

 

“The things that never can come back are several—“

–Emily Dickinson*

 

“But now they only block the sun

They rain and snow on everyone. . .”

–Joni Mitchell, “Both Sides Now”

 

We see movies about women who experience life changes

change that ranges

through ages, horrors, and time

one mother with a daughter murdered and raped

shaping the rest of her life

(ignoring her son)

she puts up billboards and rages,

feels guilt and regret in stages

for what was said and done, she can’t forget

and yet,

there are people who care

and I like that we’re made aware

that most people are not simply bad or good,

but a mixture, often misunderstood,

complex and confused

the movie is anger-charged, yet funny, too

showing how people might change–

or perhaps we see them differently—

that could be,

they might exchange their views

(or sometimes not)

though they may sigh

and may not specify,

what it is they desire or want

though the things that never can come back are several.

 

The other movie is about a daughter who is coming of age

she and her mother who love each other

but argue persistently and consistently

as the daughter experiences first love and heartbreak

(Remember that age when so much seems at stake?)

in family life and strategies

we see life’s comedies and tragedies

as the young woman tries to break free

while realizing there is so much she didn’t see

or comprehend–

the value of a friend–

and a home that she will see anew, perhaps long for

someday, again.

 

(Bonus here, the high school theater scenes

where so much goes on in-between–

from auditions to production

and a director’s hilarious instruction.)

 

Changes come, with a feeling of sadness imbued

such as when the old garage was torn down,

and replaced now with the new

carried by truck through town

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Through the window, I see the shed delivered.

set up quickly by the men,

and here it stands

still to be painted

for now, we’ll just get acquainted

as the weather alters to winter cold

the clouds move in to block the sun

and snow falls then on everyone

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and gone for now is land and sky

as winter-white flutters and flies

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Watching the snow

I catch a flake upon my hand

and wake to a winter wonderland

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But now I prep for a colonoscopy

(SO many places I’d rather be

than here doing this)

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though right now, I’m so literally not full of shit

unlike our leaders, who sleep, leap, and wallow in it

every day, trapping us deeper in the mud and crap

our nerves so frayed and ready to snap

changes from when people felt hope and optimism

now the monsters who before were hidden

roam openly, and they will not be forgiven

by history or time–

if we survive–

still as long as the dawn still rises

and cracks get filled with light

and there is poetry, movies, books to bring delight,

we won’t give up the fight

or take flight

or be numbed to evil that lurks

but find what works

to make the darkness go.

As Christmas lights shine brightly on the snow

and we light candles and decorate

hope the season of peace and love will penetrate

overtake the hate and fear

that seems to have swallowed the year

if only the scents of cinnamon and nutmeg–winter spices–

could bring forth niceness.

For now, winter snow blankets my world in white

and I, warm inside, can savor the sight–

noticing how it absorbs and reflects the light,

I stare,

wonder if it changes the air,

if hope can rise above despair.

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We saw Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, trailer here.

And Lady Bird, trailer here.

Both were excellent movies, though I think my husband and I preferred Lady Bird. Frances McDormand (the part was written for her), Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf were all wonderful, as were the rest of both casts. Fun fact: Lucas Hedges, the young man in last year’s Manchester By the Sea, is in both movies.

 

*Emily Dickinson wrote this poem on the back of a recipe for coconut cake. This short article is about her and baking, and I plan to try some of her recipes soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the Ashes: A Month with Yeats, Day Nine

 This is for Jane Dougherty’s November Month with Yeats, Day Nine. The quotation is: 

“Troy passed away in one high funeral gleam,

And Usna’s children died.”

—W.B. Yeats

I was also inspired, or perhaps haunted, by this article that I saw last night about a girl’s pendant found at Sobihor.

 

Once she played and laughed upon a hill,

once there were families, hope, delight

before darkness came and all was still

in a nightmare world of constant night

monster-filled with hate and fear

and all that once was cherished and held dear

lost forever, or perhaps entombed

within the ruins, amidst the gloom.

 

Years passed in revolutions round the sun,

and grass sprouted in ashes cooled of fired hate

buried there, searchers found that she was one

in rubble raked beyond the gate

found there, a victim of the slaughter,

someone’s child, once a daughter,

found her broach, inscribed, a sign, a trace

that she existed once, now not entirely erased.

 

But does this finding some closure bring

to those who are left or suffering?

The ashes of the dead once rained like sordid snow

fertilizing now the ground where flowers grow

light’s restored, but mutable

and darkness still falls, indisputable,

hope the feather that softly flies

from wings of knowledge and wistful sighs.

 

 

 

 

 

Books and Dreams

“There is no Frigate like a Book

To take us Lands away”

–Emily Dickinson

 

Books and Dreams. Merril D. Smith, © 2017

On this October day, when the sun still holds sway

over winter’s dark dominion,

and light and shadow play

over golden leaves and feathered pinion

the pages of my book glow, too,

(or at least that’s my opinion)

as if the magic’s drifting through.

I’ll travel off into space

or to an unknown archipelago,

I’ll fly, gallop, or pace–

in prose today to Moscow–

there I’ll linger, dream, and smile

and perhaps stay there for awhile

on this October day

with a book, carried away.

 

I had posted the photo with the Dickinson quote on Instagram, but here’s the poem to go with it. This is for dVerse, Open Link Night.

 

 

 

 

 

Hope: Quadrille

Is it hopeless to feel hope

in the light of dawn,

or when the moon hums

her gentle song?

In the ash-filled skies

do hopeful spirits fly,

or earth-bound are they buried

in sorrow unvariegated?

Tomorrow will hope soar–

that thing with feathers, evermore?

 

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This quadrille is for dVerse. The prompt was any form of the word, “hope.”

 

Work and Play

Monday Morning Musings

“Not knowing when the dawn will come

I open every door.”

–Emily Dickinson

In life a secret blossoms

beneath cloud and air

between dusk and dawn–

follow it

about wild river song

here,

but almost there

 

I read facts and statistics

documenting the evils humans do to one another,

then I read about the kindness of strangers

fighting hate and bigotry

helping others with words and gestures–

I spend days reading and writing

of hate and of human resilience

of the darkness that falls

and the light that comes

 

I spend days writing and reading

editing,

documenting evil–

and then I take a break

I write a poem

drink some wine

(bottled poetry)

 

 

and then some more

 

 

hug my husband, daughter, and cats

eat Pakistani food outside on a beautiful June night

 

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I listen to the mockingbird

(sing )

I think about good and evil

and life’s secrets

blossoming like spring flowers

here

I wait for dawn to come

opening every door

till I am almost there

 

The Oracle gave me the opening.

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Almost 30% of women have faced violence from an intimate partner. World Health Organization,

“Every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted.” RAINN

We drank wine at Heritage Vineyards “Vino and Vibes” and at Sharrott Winery’s Wine and Music Festival. We got take-out from Meera Khana restaurant, and the food was delicious, as always.

 

 

 

 

Dazzled

Monday Morning Musings:

Tell all the truth but tell it slant — (1263)

“Tell all the truth but tell it slant —

Success in Circuit lies

Too bright for our infirm Delight

The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased

With explanation kind

The Truth must dazzle gradually

Or every man be blind —“

–Emily Dickinson

 

 

A brilliant she is born

here, there, in the past, now

she lived, flowered—perhaps

a rose with thorns—

or a pale bud that only blooms unseen,

but the fever, the desire to create

to know

to explore

is not enough,

confined by men,

labeled

(only a woman)

put in a box

(too weak)

on a shelf

(an ornament)

in a cage

(shackled and punished)

Don’t think too hard, they say to her

your insides will be twisted,

you’ll go mad,

but she rises, resists

her voice rings out

and we wake

 

***

We see a new movie about Emily Dickinson

I learn afterward that

before she confined herself to life to Amherst,

to her home, garden, and poetry

she traveled a bit,

to Boston,

and to Philadelphia

walked the streets we’ve walked

I imagine her ghost lingering still

though the streets are paved and surrounded by new buildings,

 

she published only a few poems during her life

though she wrote thousands

she admired the Brontës,

women who had their work published

(though first under pseudonyms )

they loved their homes and families,

neither Emily married

(wives did not have time to write)

 

What was her truth

and what is truth

and does it slant,

or do we slant it?

Are facts facts

or alternate facts,

difficult, didactic, diffused

gradually, dazzlingly, deliciously

revealed?

 

We see a performance of Gypsy

I remember watching the movie on TV

with a bit of a crush on Natalie Wood–

the way girls admire older teenage girls–

we’re entertained

we let them entertain us

and make us smile.

the orchestra sweeps us along with Mama Rose,

the ultimate stage mother,

annoying, unyielding, and yet we feel sorry for her

as she seeks the American dream for her children

during the Great Depression

and watch, listen to the music and words of Laurents, Styne, and Sondheim,

the great American musical

 

 

I think the real Gypsy Rose Lee must have dazzled

but not all at once–

or rather showing only some, not all–

hinting–

so that men would not be blinded,

but rather left with wanting more

as she entertained them and made them smile.

 

After the performance

on this Memorial Day weekend

the sky suddenly clears

slowly,

dazzling gradually

delaying the delectable,

revealing the late spring night of beauty

 

and we sit, eat, drink

 

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and watch the people walk by

listen to their conversations

wonder about their plans

the young woman leaning on the car taking a selfie

the man with his children waiting for their table,

the trio at the table next to us, discussing diets,

a couple strolls by, the woman says,

“But he’s no longer addicted.”
my husband and I agree that’s good,

even if it seems unlikely.

 

I think about Memorial Day

the day to honor and remember the military fallen,

the long weekend celebrated with parades, barbecue grills,

and trips “down the shore”

Isn’t it strange?

though perhaps not,

to celebrate life, instead of death

and isn’t that what they fought for–

so that we could sit and eat with our families in peace

so that all can receive educations, and not just those who can afford private schools

so all will be able to sort fact from fiction

so that all men and women, all genders, all races, and religions

can live in freedom

isn’t that why they fought

so that I can write these words

and you can read them?

my truth,

slanted like the sunglow as evening falls

blinding, dazzling

truth

revealed gradually

coming full circle

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Today is Memorial Day here in the US. I am mindful and thankful for all the men and women who served and sacrificed their lives, even if I have not supported the wars and conflicts in which they fought.

We saw A Quiet Passion and Gypsy. We ate at Cuba Libre.

I dreamt poetry last night, but sadly I will not have much time to write it this week. As some of you know, I am reading, writing, and editing articles on rape, and my manuscript deadline is. . .um, gulp. . .this week. So. . .I may not be so active in Blogland for the next week or so. Then again, I do need to take a break occasionally. 😉

 

 

 

 

The Robin Sings Before the Light

The robin sings before the light

he chirps and cheeps

and it is right

and fit

and fine–

he shares his song,

I make it mine

 

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I woke up to hear the birds singing about 4:30 this morning, even in the rain, and this poem came to me. We’ve just seen the new movie A Quiet Passion about Emily Dickinson, so perhaps I was channeling her pre-dawn writing. 🙂

The Between Time

Monday Morning Musings:

“A Light exists in spring

Not present on the year

At any other period

When March is scarcely here.”

—Emily Dickinson, “A Light exists in spring,”Full Text Here

 

In the between-time, dinosaurs dreamt,

their breathe swirled in the misty air

floating to mingle with ours

their feathers bright

with gaping jaws and thunder cries

amidst the fern-like leaves,

always summer

 

we dreamt their dreams

and they dreamt ours

warm blood flowing through our veins

(uniting heart and mind)

we sat on their backs as they flew

large wings outspread

feeling their power and grace

and they listened to our stories

of love

of kings and queens

raptors enraptured,

always summer in our dreams

 

But now

in this between-time of winter-spring

the flowers bloomed, they danced and sang

(we heard their songs)

then felt their pain

(tears fell from the sky)

as winter touched them with cold fingers

covering them in an icy blanket

yet the days grow lighter

brighter

and yet still whiter

 

 

In this between-time world,

this in-between season,

forces of good and evil fight

but most of us, dinosaurs and humans,

remain in-between,

compliant, complacent,

lost in dreams,

thinking of summer

 

This weekend, we ate Hamantaschen

(a lot of Hamantaschen),

 

we drank wine,

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I read about Queen Esther,

who may or may not have existed,

(an in-between world)

she married King Ahasuerus

who ordered his first wife, Queen Vashti,

to stand naked before his male guests at a banquet,

displaying what he owned

(what he could touch with his small hands)

she refused,

and he banished her–

magnanimously did not executed her–

but made a new law—

men would have complete authority over their wives.

Esther, plucked from his harem,

became his new wife,

a new trophy.

This king ruled a vast empire,

but he was petty,

thin skinned

(orange tinted)

easily influenced,

as for Esther,

fourteen years old

did she have a choice?

She was Jewish,

a secret descendent of exiles,

in palace full of secrets and intrigue,

she and her uncle Mordecai foiled a plan to kill the king,

winning his trust,

but the eunuchs involved were killed,

collateral damage,

And Esther skillfully manipulated the king,

outwitted his prime minister Haman

(the evil man behind the throne

disseminator of alternative facts)

and prevented the mass slaughter of the Jews

(though they still had to fight)

She is honored now,

Haman is reviled,

but still I wonder,

she remained with the king,

bore him a son,

a woman caught between men,

and I wonder about her

what did she give up

what did she give in to

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Credit Line: Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, “Esther before Ahasuerus, (1738-1740)
Purchased with funds contributed by the Women’s Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in honor of their 100th anniversary, 1982

 

I wonder about being complicit,

collaborating with the enemy,

we watched a TV show about Earth after aliens have taken over

letting humans do the work of enforcing their decrees

those who work for the aliens get good homes and other perks

resisters are sent to work camps or to “the factory,”

from which they never return,

a spin on WWII and Nazi-occupied countries,

or any country under a dictator,

complicity

collaboration

(What would you do to save your family?)

though the air feels warm

sometimes, it’s always winter

 

But I know spring is coming

sense it from the light,

different from other times of the year,

brighter, losing the gloom of winter,

a signal,

a beacon of hope

I drink more wine,

eat some sweets,

ignore false honeyed words

take a break

deep breaths

relax

because

we value love

and art

and beauty

and joy

we tell stories

of dinosaurs and ghosts

of ancient worlds

and kings and queens

and believe in people

we hope, but resist

and do not become complacent

even as the days grow longer

and we are lulled by spring’s sweet siren song

and dream our dreams,

ours and the dinosaurs,

in the in-between time

 

My conceit about dreams mingling with that of dinosaurs was inspired by Kerfe and Jane’s discussion on this post. 

The recipe for Shakshuka Hamantaschen can be found here on What Jew Wanna Eat.  I used part whole wheat flour for the pita. The recipe for the Cannoli Hamantaschen can be found here.

We’re expecting a big snowstorm tomorrow. Sigh.