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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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?

 

Hellbrunn_Schloss_-_Festsaal_Fresken_Decke_3b

 

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

 

Embed from Getty Images

 

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

1982-89-1-pma

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connections

Monday Morning Musings:

as_janus_rostrum_okretu_ciach

 

“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

–L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.”

–T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

“Not knowing when the dawn will come
I open every door.”

–Emily Dickinson

“Some people build fences to keep people out, and other people build fences to keep people in.”

August Wilson, Fences

Snap!

Thumb and finger strike,

connection made.

Snap!

Synapses fire,

memories triggered.

Snap!

Fingers, feet

feel the beat

New York streets

When you’re a Jet

You’re a Jet all the way

My sister and I listen to the album,

vinyl disk spins,

we watch the movie,

only later do I learn it is

Romeo and Juliet, updated,

and that famous play,

with its star-crossed lovers,

is based on older stories,

tales as old as time,

that connect us with the past.

 

So many movies, so little time before the old year ends,

we see Fences,

(powerful performances),

the sins of the father visited on the son

generation after generation,

connections through pain and history.

I dislike Troy more and more as the movie goes on,

while recognizing the source of his suffering,

and feeling sorry for him

and Rose and the children.

 

I ask my husband afterward

if he thinks he would have been a different father

if we had had sons instead of daughters.

He says yes, he thinks so,

that he would have been harder and stricter

like his father

who was a good man, but stern,

I was scared of him when I first knew him,

and amazed the first time I saw him laughing with his brother.

My father-in-law was so different with his grandchildren,

softer, gentler, singing Sesame Street songs.

I think of how he connected differently with his children

and his grandchildren,

the special bond he and my young nephew had.

 

On New Year’s Eve,

I think of people all over the world,

celebrating the new year.

I see photographs of fireworks,

Sydney and Hong Kong,

long before nightfall here.

We celebrate more quietly with a group of friends,

Chinese food dinner,

a tradition going back decades,

before and after children,

the where and how changing over time,

food and friendship

amidst the Christmas decorations and lights,

we discuss our families,

see photos of grandchildren,

and worry about what the election will bring.

Our friends talk of selling their houses and moving,

not because of the election,

but because we’re getting older

(but better, of course

with years of wisdom now)

we’re still us, though greyer and heavier

about our middles,

and we still connect

in the way of old friends,

with jokes, hugs, and glances that can reveal more than words.

 

One friend gives each of us—her sister-friends—

a bracelet,

matching bracelets,

I think of how bracelets

have been worn since ancient times,

good luck charms,

amulets for long life and happiness,

tokens of friendship.

charms linked to one another

connecting them

as we are connected through our bonds of friendship,

as words connect thoughts in a sentence,

expressing ideas and actions,

taking us into the new year and new worlds

describing our past, describing our future,

connecting them in clauses,

independent and dependent

as we are,

free to make choices,

to keep people out or keep them in,

but also, dependent on those around us

not to destroy our lives, our souls, our planet.

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New Year’s Eve, 2016. We are linked, heading into 2017.

 

We can build fences,

or walls,

but are we protecting or defending?

It’s a myth that the Great Wall of China can be seen from space,

but the lights of cities do glow like beacons,

lights connecting us in the dark,

connected like the water flowing from river to the sea,

the message in a bottle circling the globe,

Help! Find me. I’m lost.

The connection is made.

But, snap!

Who sent the message?

Is it too late to help?

 

The holidays are over, the clock strikes, we turn the page.

It’s a new dawn, with new words,

but still linked to the past like a bracelet.

Open the door,

peek over the fence,

Snap!

feel the beat,

move your feet,

dream of tales as old as time

and of now.

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I wish everyone a happy and peaceful new year. We may be in for quite a bit of turbulence on this journey through 2017. So buckle up! Have that wine and chocolate handy.  I appreciate all of you who read my posts, and I love the friendships and connections I’ve made here. Welcome to my new readers, too! I hope you’ll stick around to see what the new year brings here on Yesterday and Today.

 

 

 

 

 

For World Peace Day: A New Trend

knaus_ludwig_-_peace

Ludwig Knaus, “Peace,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 “I many times thought Peace had come

When Peace was far away—“

–Emily Dickinson (Full Text here with original.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

—Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

With seeming wit, some may cackle

and let Rome burn,

But (with wits intact), I wonder

(Can we be honest here?)

How many notes must be taken

to perfect the art of war?

What tests must be performed?

Would it not be better to note,

to test how

not to kill

not to hate

not to hurt the innocent

not to believe the lies?

It’s a simple question.

What do you think?

A new test. Peace.

Let’s try it, shall we?

An era of love,

instead of hate,

If nothing else,

it would be something new.

Be a trendsetter.

 

I used  Secret Keeper’s Writing Challenge to create this poem for World Peace Day, September 21, 2016.

The prompt words were:  Wit/hurt/note/honest/test

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crowns and Independence

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We got crowned! (Our youngest child was married.)

 

Monday Morning Musings:

 

 “Love is the crowning grace of humanity, the holiest right of the soul, the golden link which binds us to duty and truth, the redeeming principle that chiefly reconciles the heart to life, and is prophetic of eternal good.”

–Petrarch

“We need to help people to discover the true meaning of love. Love is generally confused with dependence. Those of us who have grown in true love know that we can love only in proportion to our capacity for independence.”

–Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember

 

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

–Nelson Mandela

 

It has been a mostly beautiful weekend to celebrate the birth of our nation,

colonies declaring independence from the crown

I think of how crown rhymes with clown,

and it amuses me–

I think of all the clowns who’ve worn crowns

and how often the jester or fool has been the wise man.

 

Last year on this day, the Fourth of July,

Independence Day,

My husband and I wore paper crowns,

parents of the bride

a nod to custom,

and an affectionate tribute to a family tradition

of the birthday crowns we construct.

Our daughter carried a fan she designed

with a quotation from Jane Eyre,

“Reader I married him.”*

 

She and our now son-in-law vowed to love and cherish

each other, to join together

forming “a more perfect union”

like colonies becoming states, and then a union,

it is a process that goes beyond the simple declaration of intent

of independence and dependence

a balancing act,

not dependence,

rather, respecting one another,

and enhancing the best in each.

Perhaps our nation could benefit

from a bit of marriage counseling.

 

We had planned to see a baseball game with them,

baseball, the great American pastime,

what could be more perfect?

But because it was raining with violent storms in the forecast

we went to dinner with them instead–

food, that like our nation, was a mixture of all types,

vegan entries, steak for my husband, salads,

Buffalo sauce and Sriracha

many flavors and textures

sharing space on the table.

 

The weather had improved by the next day,

glorious weather for celebrating,

though we stayed at home

listening to fireworks in the distance.

We watched a movie, Belgian, but in French

(Remember how France joined us in fighting

their English enemy though France was still

a monarchy with a King who wore a crown?)

Two Days, One Night,

Marion Cotillard, a wife and mother,

works in a solar-panel factory,

with the help of her husband and support from friends,

she spends the weekend asking her co-workers to vote for her to keep her job,

even though if they do so, they will lose their bonuses.

We make all sorts of negotiations in life,

When is it right give up something that will benefit ourselves

in order to help someone else?

It is a decision each must decide.

Dependence and independence.

 

The sun rises, a crown of pink and orange

beaming golden rays into the azure sky,

spokes like those of Lady Liberty’s crown

promising liberty, standing on a broken chain,

given to the United States by the people of France,

inscribed with the date, July 4, 1776,

a symbol,

not a reality for all

but something to strive for

Liberté, égalité, fraternité,

Emily Dickinson said,

“Hope is the thing with feathers,”

but hope is also the sun rising and setting

each day

and hope is the joining of two in marriage

and love is our shining crown.

Embed from Getty Images

 

*This essay by Claire Fallon discusses the line “Reader, I married him,”