Stardust and Blood

Monday Morning Musings:

 “How close people could be to us when they had gone as far away as possible, to the edges of the map. How unforgettable.”

–Paula McLain, Circling the Sun

“I have perceiv’d that to be with those I like is enough,

To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,”

-Walt Whitman, “I Sing the Body Electric”

 

In the quiet morning breeze

I gaze at the sky, the pink-tinged frieze

of clouds, a line then brushed

by sun and wind, its blush

faded to white, in the diffusing sunlight.

I breathe in the ancient longing

belonging to us all—for affection,

to find connections

(despite an election)

After all, we’re all made of stardust,

and we’ve emerged from the sea,

to inhale the air made by our trees–

all related, far enough back, we share the same genes.

I don’t know what it means,

But we’re all people, not infestations,

no matter our color, religion, or nation.

 

My cousin comes to visit–

his father was the brother of my mother,

we share this blood-bond

but I don’t think we’ve ever talked

so much, so one-on-one

of this and that

(we pause to watch and pet the cat).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I display some family genealogy

and we try to parse a chronology

of those from our past,

discuss and compare

the connections we share,

different views of relatives we know

(bring out more photos to show),

My grandfather as a young man. The photo is undated, but taken in Philadelphia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stories of growing up

an old joke about the Penn Fruit store,

which is no more–

residing now only in our youthful before,

part of the memory,

a moss of summer dreams

that stick, it seems

even in the frost,

when autumn leaves fall,

still they call.

 

We visit the battlefield park,

watch the geese swim in formation

the same way they fly in the sky

(all the whys)

and wonder at their destination,

Red Bank Battlefield
National Park, NJ

National Park, NJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

watch the planes, look at the Philadelphia skyline—

this day is more than fine—

we walk and talk

amidst the ghosts of a battle past

after the guns fired and the cannons blast,

the Hessian soldiers here that died.

But they are quiet, and if they tried

to communicate, perhaps it was too late,

we didn’t hear them today

as we walked the pathway

in and out of yesterday.

 

We go on to our daughter’s,

whose soul glows bright,

sit with family by firelight,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

laugh and talk

and pet their dog,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

content to be in the moment here

multi-generations, with faces dear,

and if you were perhaps to overhear

amidst the jokes and banter,

you might find fear

of the future,

but it would be mostly love, you’d hear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Unfinished

“I took a nap and wept for no reason”

~ Jim Harrison from Songs of Unreason

 

My sisters and I

sat at my father’s deathbed

he, though unconscious, raged–

we held a vigil through the night,

waiting for the dawn,

and light

to see him released,

the raging ceased.

I napped then

for days it seemed

dreaming

I heard his voice,

crying when

I realized

it wasn’t real,

but love

disguised.

 

This poem is for Day 13 of Jilly’s 28 Days of Unreason, using Jim Harrison’s poetry for inspiration. I guess this is an early Father’s Day poem.

 

 

Connections, Past and Future: NaPoWriMo, Day 9

Monday Morning Musings

“I guess I can say that I just wasn’t connecting to everything, because I wasn’t given enough information to know that we all are connected somehow. To every living breathing thing.”

–Denis Dodson, a Maryland prisoner, in Anna Deavere Smith’s, Notes from the Field

“On Passover, among other traditions, we pass down “the spirit of roast beef” and how to make light and fluffy kneidlach instead of “sinkers.”

—from our family Haggadah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter turns to spring,

the week is fraught

and we are caught–

the minor annoyances and major fears

(of fate held back, now it seems, for years

coming due,

in arrears)

the morning call about my mom—

not as frightening as one late at night,

but still the toll

the stress of them all. . .

 

And so, we are comforted by rituals

though celebrated past the date

still cherished, even if they’re late

connecting with our ancestors,

connecting with our past

remembering absent faces

remembering all that’s passed

 

Passover, a celebration of freedom

but so many are still not free

we watch a filmed performance

about people caught in circumstances—

a need to redesign

the school to prison pipeline,

though many are disinclined

(after all, there are profits to be had

in the incarceration of those considered bad)

But how to address the major issues–

there will always be officious officials.

There are big problems, addressed in this drama

food desserts, racism, epigenetic trauma?

Freedom Fighters, John Lewis

the brightest, the truest—

and still problems go on—

a young girl thrown across a room,

and I wonder if we’re doomed?

 

We celebrate freedom

we were slaves, now we are free

but for so many that will never be.

My family picks and chooses our traditions,

most of us without true religion,

accepting each other and the love that we need

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and so, we sit at the Passover table to read

my daughter’s Passover play

(this year’s edition)

each reading our part,

with laughter, we start–

some allusions maybe going over some heads–

the Pharaoh likened to current leader who believes his lies,

(despite the facts before his eyes)

and Moses to Hamilton who’s not going to throw away his shot–

perhaps high art, it’s not,

but we laugh as we sing and say

Dayenu

and name the plagues,

then almost through

pour more wine

and let us dine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the after-dinner glow

I am comforted by our rituals

and all we hold dear,

connections to the past

my niece says do you know—

grandmothers literally hold a part of their granddaughters in their bodies

in the already present eggs of their girl babies in utero?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and so, it goes–

this love of family

past, present, future—

an arch

through which we pass

somehow connecting,

in the parade of time

moving forward and back,

and we here are fortunate not to lack

nourishment of love, food, the mind.

I see the students march,

hear my daughter talk of how she teaches,

begin to hope that some glimmers of light reaches

far away,

floating through both words and deeds

following the leads

of young and old

truth and justice, never old

hoping this trend to hate recedes

hoping the light grows

hoping truth and beauty proceed

Seeking a patch of light

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s an article from The Atlantic on Anna Deavere Smith’s one-woman play, Notes from the Field, in which she plays many different roles. A filmed production is currently on HBO. I did some research on prisons for my forthcoming books on rape and sexual violence. Some people may not be aware that the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

Day Nine’s Prompt for NaPoWriMo is “to write a poem in which something big and something small come together.” I feel like that is always what happens in my Monday Morning Musings.

It was a busy weekend, so I’m behind on reading, but I will try to catch up later today!

 

 

 

 

 

Humpty: Egg Quadrille

Made of fabric but alive,

he thrived with the care

of a girl and a bear.

She held him tight–

against her face each night.

He comforted her, and spoke to us–

thus, she’s grown,

but he lives in our hearts and her home.

This is for dVerse, where Kim has asked us to write a quadrille using the prompt egg.

 

 

 

Nothing is Fixed

Monday Morning Musings:

“For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.”

–James Baldwin, Nothing Personal

 

“they remember that autumn worked

until the barrels were filled with wine

and let the obscure man learn,

in the ceremony of his business,

to remember the earth and his duties,

to propagate the canticle of the fruit.”

–from Pablo Neruda, “Ode to Wine” (Full poem here. )

 

The moon shines brightly–

full-faced, gleaming,

whispering. . . spring is coming–

she beams, she’s humming

a tune for us to drink by.

Spinach-Mashed Potato and Cheese Hamantaschen

Hamantaschen!

 

For time passes, the seasons fly,

with wine, on this holiday of topsy-turvy fun

the uncertainty of life, a king could kill his wife

another could save her people

the sometimes-thin line between good and evil,

the need to look for joy when we can

(age-old questions of when things began)

generations come and go,

a brilliant moon becomes clouded with snow

nothing is fixed or forever,

the light comes and goes,

and time flows

 

Between glowing moon and the nor’easter

we visit my mom, bring food and wine, hear stories from her

of grandparents and cousins, people from the past,

and though none of us lasts

we live on through records and tales

some though are lost, absent, adrift

but still we try to make sense, sifting

through the flotsam of time and dreams

(sometimes nothing is as it seems)

and my mother laughs as we sit and talk

not able to see much of what’s about her

but seeing in her mind, the things that were

as the light comes and goes

and time flows

(like the wine)

nothing is fixed or forever

 

The beaming moon is shaded by clouds

covering the stars like shrouds–

on this day, the sun stays away

as frosted gusts wail and blow

and back to winter we’re forced to go

the birds retreat, sheltering in bending trees,

and the world around us sighs in deep freeze

the house creaks and branches fall

(my husband will later haul them all)

then the clouds will part, the sun will rise

and spring winds blow over melted snow

good and bad are always mixed

because nothing is forever or fixed

 

We hear about wine-making–

the canticle of the fruit

the cultivation of vine, and at the root

the importance of the grapes,

how the workers traipse

tasting and picking,

Mother Nature can’t be rushed,

work to be done before grapes are crushed

though time is ticking, through the sorting and picking

we hear the story over time, sipping and tasting wine

about the couple who moves from city to farm

(he speaks well, with warmth and charm)

Scott, Co-owner of Auburn Road Vineyards

 

praising the winemaker, his wife,

who is instrumental in the success of this life,

science and intuition, mixed with a bit of luck,

requiring the cleaning from vats of the muck

we also learn, the importance of the bottling truck.

and so, we taste, and drink, and savor

enjoying wine and pizza (a new flavor!)

Ravello Wood-Fired Pizza, operates within the winery

 

knowing that nothing is fixed to remain forever the same

the moon glows and sets, the sun rises and flames

in the morning we see clouds like waves on the sea

I hear the robin sing, waiting to see what is—

and what will be.

 

We did a “wine tour” at Auburn Road Vineyards in Salem County, NJ. Reservations are required.

Also–I absolutely loved The Shape of Water, which one best picture last night at the Academy Awards, and last week I wrote about A Fantastic Woman, which won Best Foreign Film. I also liked that one very much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Rising

Monday Morning Musings:

“You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”

From Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise”

Full poem here.

I.

I rise before the sun,

a woman’s work is never done,

or so the saying goes–

but often yet denied a place

debased, erased

from education, business, science, and the arts

kept apart, or not allowed to start

never mind, we’ve given birth to the human race

created beauty and gone to space,

although harassed and worse,

some want progress gained to be reversed

(believing in mythical pasts and Eve’s curse)

but we move onward, oppose coercion

and being brutalized and minimized–

we advertise and mobilize–

trying not to polarize–

OK, perhaps a bit we moralize

but feeling like we’re pressurized

we rise

again, we rise

 

I march (again)

with a friend

she was my daughters’ teacher

(way back when)

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and we talk and cheer

reaching for something dear—

hope, instead of fear—

this is not a fight only for straight, white women,

rights are for all regardless of skin tone or orientation in

who they love

(is love is love is love is love)

yet why do some believe that to have what they desire

means others’ dreams should then expire?

They’d build a bonfire of the vanities

produce dark cavities,

gaping holes in knowledge—truth and beauty gone—insanities—

while the Doomsday Clock shows we more than ever jeopardize

life as we know it

(afraid to admit this)

we reach for the prize

rising still

again, we rise. . .

 

and from the crowd celebrating Womanhood

I wander north–as I said I would

to celebrate two women and art on a smaller scale

because loves trumps hate, and it prevails

 

II.

 

I learned my mom wanted a career in fashion design,

or so she says now, perhaps then she was resigned,

as she went to secretarial school, learning typing and shorthand.

but then war came, with its demands

she willingly bucked the rivets and worked in shifts

then married, raised children—but art uplifts

and it was there for her, when she had time

perhaps no longer in her prime

days, to months, to years, the lows and highs

her parents, my father, her brother died

though weakened,

yet still she’d rise

 

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Her cousin, like a sister, began a Yiddish club

a language almost gone, but rising up

through songs they sing and memories

of parents or grandparents’ spoken tongue

(curses uttered, lullabies sung)

I ask about the story I heard

that my grandmother had a lovely voice

and that she was often the choice

at family gatherings

asked to sing with Abraham Hankins, the artist cousin, famous

(shameless, we name him thus)

she says he studied music first, but his voice was almost done

(because of mustard gas during WWI)

she says–

he learned to paint in the hospital—“art therapy isn’t new”

but an online biography reports the opposite is true

born in Gomel, then sent to Philadelphia to live with his cousins

(I know he lived with my mom’s family, but there were dozens)

talented, he studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts,

then enlisted and wounded

the experts concluded

singing would expand his lungs, damaged from the war’s ravages

it turned out that he excelled in this field, too,

studied in Paris, this is true,

but though music called in tenor voice,

ultimately, he made a choice–

following when his heart said, “art.”

My cousin tells me about his studio

with many windows, but little else

and of the patron who, well-pleased

sent him frozen vegetables–beans, corn, and peas—

along with a freezer to store them in

vegetables at least to eat

not a starving artist, painting in the street

I am impressed by the work, cousins and mother’s

as well as those of many others

I love color, but I can’t draw—

no talent there at all–

maybe it skipped on to my daughter,

as her poster art I’ve carried twice to help me energize

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Rising through the shadows

as we gather to rise

when again, we rise

 

While the art show reception is going on,

my husband puts together with care

for my mother, a new armchair,

kindly doing his share

for the woman who gave his wife life

so she can more easily rise–

it’s more difficult for her now

but she finds a way somehow

to paint and laugh and still to rise

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as women have done throughout the ages

with baby steps, on platforms, and in stages

to rise

again

to rise

 

 

 

 

 

Passing (Strange) Along the Stage

Monday Morning Musings:

 

“All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts,”

–William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act Two, Scene 7

 My story being done, she gave me for my pains a world of sighs.
She swore, in faith ‘twas strange, ‘twas passing strange.”
–William Shakespeare,  Othello, Act One, Scene 3

 

“Because your mother’s love might seem insane
It’s ’cause she really knows everything
Too bad it takes so long to see what you’ve been missing…

(Love like that can’t be measured anyway)
Too bad it takes so long to see what you’ve been missing”

Stew and Heidi Rodewald, “Love Like That,” Passing Strange

 

The weekend is a many-act play

we’re immersed, we stay

(of course),

actors reacting to sudden cues

a little bruised, confused

wondering how to choose–

pratfalls on the shrinking stage,

soliloquy from the acting sage,

we spout our lines and ramble on

waiting for the denouement

 

We pass in and out

both clueless and without a doubt

stage to stage

filled with joy and filled with rage,

youth to adult

then on to elderly and frail

without fail–

we pass along

we pass in song

we pass through sunshine and shadows–

what will stay and what will follow?

It’s all a mystery,

but before too long

we’ve passed (strange) along, and then we’re gone.

 

In the midst of these farcical days

we pause to see an actual play

through city streets with rainbow flags

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swaying, zig zagging past cars and bikes, we go

wondering, but do not know

when last we three sat this way

(Love like that can’t be measured anyway)

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The play is of a young man coming of age,

there on the stage,

the narrator is the older him,

while he, the youth

tries to find life’s truth

fleeing LA,

passing through European cities

leaving before it all become too real

afraid perhaps of what he’ll feel

passing strange

passing as black,

is there any going back?

We all hide behind our chosen masks

going about our daily tasks

art can save us, or can obscure even more

(we hear this in the clever score)

It’s a wonderful play, we say,

and at the end we clap and sway

thankful to have this balm for our crazy days.

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We walk and talk and drink some wine

 

 

discuss the play, and feeling fine

we talk about my mother,

whose own mother, I find, used to sing

but stopped, when embarrassed,

and it’s strange, in passing

to suddenly hear such things, the past trespassing

in the here and now, and at this age–

yes, the world’s a stage

“Too bad it takes so long to see what you’ve been missing”

 

And so, we leave the warmth for frozen streets

the city marching to a different, syncopated beat

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and we,

well, we’re passing strange

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through our own domains

sometimes the hero, sometimes a supporting role

we see it all

sometimes fall

and fail to reach the unknown goal

(strange)

but journey on

with hope for more laughs than tears

and love to help us with the fears.

we make a wish upon a star

wonder who and where and what we are

then pause. . .

in early morning’s brightening light

the moon gently hums before she fades from sight.

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We saw the revival of the award-winning musical play, Passing Strange, book and lyrics by Stew, Music by Stew and Heidi Rodewald at the Wilma Theater, and we went to Tria Cafe, Washington West, afterward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom: Haibun

This is for Frank Tassone’s Haikai Challenge. Tomorrow is a federal holiday that celebrates the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. Frank has asked us to reflect and write about freedom. Here is MLK’s “I Have a Dream speech.

My grown daughter is visiting. She dances into the kitchen in the morning, and I join in with a song. I’m happy that this is a safe place for her, and that here she feels the freedom to be silly. We both do.

Too many people think freedom means waving a flag and repeating slogans. But greatness does not come from denying others the right to love, to learn, to live without fear of a knock at the door. Freedom generously shares a dream, but requires effort and vigilance. Freedom looks forward in hope, not backwards to repression.

 

dreams hibernating

wait for spring’s awakening

hearts dance in sunshine

 

 

 

 

Traveling Under the Moon

Monday Morning Musings:

“Certain thoughts, it seemed had minds of their own; they wandered away from their thinkers and lived wild unchained lives.”

–Victor Lodato, Edgar & Lucy

“Laughter is sunshine; it chases winter from the human face.”

–Victor Hugo

 

the year travels, a winding road

marked with gates,

some for love, some for sorrow, some for hate

the road curves, wanders, and splits,

it doesn’t quit,

but rambles round from season to season–

now winter winds blow

over the quiet that is the snow,

and in the chill, we sit and wait–

await our fate–

the moon shines above, and quietly she hums

as the year travels through love and hate, and what is yet to come

 

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Watching the snow fall

 

I wonder if truth lies buried under layers of ice—

there’s no true wisdom or advice

so, in the cold, we watch movies about love*,

perhaps impossible, or perhaps only kind of

a Cold War fairy tale–

Is she a princess?

Is he a god?

Without speaking, they talk

and dance, and together walk

or do they swim

in this magical world they live within?

And afterward we walk and talk

caught in the magic, forgetting

(it’s cold)

watch the pale sun setting,

sparkling the snow and making the buildings glow,

then at night. . .

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Philadelphia, Old City, 3rd and Chestnut

the moon shines above, and quietly she hums

as the year travels through love and hate, and what is yet to come

 

my thoughts wander on their own

only sometimes making themselves known,

I dream and look lovingly at words

hear them sing like birds

flying high in the sky

and wonder why the bad news won’t stop

wishing and wanting the swamp creatures to go,

to be flushed away, to be buried in the snow,

but still it’s so–

there’s love and laughter, chasing away the blues

and yesterday’s, today’s, tomorrow’s news

while at night. . .

 

the moon shines above, and quietly she hums

as the year travels through love and hate, and what is yet to come

 

We visit my mother and sit,

visit when the day is brightly lit–or grey–

either way, we stay,

repeating comments and stories,

(perhaps they really are allegories)

like the silent princess and the god,

that vanish or rise like sun and moon

too soon to tell

(too soon the doctors say)

one day, she’s fine at noon

then lost, she sings another tune

but still–

the sun rises and sets

and we wait

yet watch the road wandering, never straight

 

and the moon shines above, and quietly she hums

as the year travels through love and hate, and what is yet to come

 

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*We actually saw The Shape of Water a couple of weeks ago. I loved it so much, I told my husband that I would have stayed and watched the whole movie again. You can see the trailer here.