Passover and Poetry

Passover and Poetry

Early Morning Reflections on the River

Monday Morning Musings:

“And when our children tell our story. . .
They’ll tell the story of tonight. . .

Raise a glass to freedom
Something they can never take away”
–Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Raise a Glass to Freedom,” Hamilton

This past week of cooking and cleaning
of family and friendship
of war and words,
of stories and rhyme–

the tides of the river
the flight of a crow
the raising of glasses
the flow of time

We celebrated the launch of River Ghosts at William Heritage Winery

as we walk and talk and sing
the love we bring
to the table

even as we miss absent faces
we find traces

amidst syllables we utter
through the clutter

of the everyday.

What we say in tears and laughter—
flies on heart-wings from here to here-after,

becoming another story—added light–
to all the stories of tonight.

I’m sorry if I’m overwhelming with photos in this post. Friday night was the start of Passover. Our older child is here, and we celebrated “our” book River Ghosts being out in the world. (They designed the stunning cover art.) We had some summer-like days this week and some beautiful spring days. We’ve also had thunderstorms, heavy rain—and this morning, I had to turn the heat back on.

On Passover, we are commanded to tell the story of the Exodus as part of the seder. Let’s just say, we are not traditional. My talented children wrote this year’s Passover play—the best one ever—over glasses of wine Friday night and coffee on Saturday morning. Where do they get this last-minute writing under pressure thing?

My siblings could not be with us on Passover, but it was still wonderful to have my children here and my sister-niece and her family. This was our first Passover together since the pandemic. Today is the two-year anniversary of my mom’s death.

Christmas, 2021: Still Plagued

Monday Morning Musings:

Christmas, 2021

Winter Solstice

We celebrate in the long dark days—
in the after–recalling what was—
and almost remembering

how we embraced
without care.

But in the lingering kiss of night,
the air whispers secrets,

and dreams float from fiddle strings
taking form–nutcrackers, marzipan castles–
shapeshifters of hope and fear in cold winter days

Nutcracker from the Pennsylvania Ballet

I baked a few cookies.

as the moon hums,
the house fills with the scent of vanilla, cinnamon,
mulled wine, and chocolate,
laughter echoes from beyond to within
and hereafter,

if you wonder–
we’ve always been in-between

shadow and light, spinning as


the colors of time bend
like giant wings, hovering, circling,
and moving on,

reflecting what is, what was, and what might be.

Puddle Reflection, December ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

I never posted my Christmas poem from the Magnetic Poetry Oracle. So, I’ve embellished it a bit here. I hope all of you had a joyous holiday season. It’s so very complicated trying to figure out how to get together right now, even when everyone is vaccinated and some of us are boosted. We saw some of my family on Christmas Eve—testing first, staying masked much of the time. Again, doing the same thing, we saw my husband’s family yesterday, but somehow did not take any photos.


My husband and I had our now traditional cheese fondue and mulled wine for our Christmas dinner. For our Christmas brunch, I made us a Dutch baby, and we watched a show I had recorded from PBS of Alan Cumming with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra telling the full tale of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The story tells the origins of the Nutcracker and explains what happens to the girl and the nutcracker afterward. You can read more here.

I looked up from writing this morning to find my dining room glowing pink.

Dreams in Blue

Monday Morning Afternoon Musings:

Frosted River Blues ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

I dreamt my dad
was visiting Boston, as was I.
I knew it was a dream, but I was glad
to see him, to know he didn’t die

completely. Death takes,
but the mind recalls—
at least in dreams. We wake
to cry or sigh or laugh, but all

is part of life, like spring and fall—
the cycle of the seasons, the folds
of time–dream-me is not one age, clocks toll
differently there, controlled

by mind, the shadows and the light.

Now, beneath a canopy of crimson, gold,
and yellow-green
I gaze up at the blue-gowned sky, foretold
by orbit’s path and revolution, the unseen and the seen–

November Sunrise over a Frosted Field ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

the beauty of frosted November mornings,
despite the baring of the trees, the death of things,
the ignoring of all warnings—
see the gulls fly with scintillating wings

reflecting the glow, and letting it go?

Autumn Scene, ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

This the balance, life and death–
the cloth bag I took to my mother’s hangs on a chair waiting,
I take a breath,
hesitating

to make her death final and real.
Crow caws beauty, evil, life and death—all are true,
parts of a whole, a cycle, the real we feel,
a sigh within, a heart-soar reaching for the endless blue.

I have been amazed this week by the beauty of nature. The glorious light of this time of year, even the frost is beautiful. Soon, everything will look barren and grey, so I’m enjoying this while I can. I’ve also been dismayed by how willing people are to embrace the haters and those who spread misinformation. People I know who “don’t believe in” masks voted for the baby Trumpty-Dumpties, who have already been called out for racist slurs. UGHHHHH!
But on the bright side, I got to see friends this week—who definitely do NOT believe this nonsense.

And today, I went walking and talking with a friend. Then we had my homemade challah cinnamon toast and coffee and talked some more. Thus, the late post today. I will be back in a little while because I’m hosting Prosery on dVerse today.

Merril’s Movie/TV Club:

We watched and finished Maid (Netflix), inspired by Stephanie Land’s memoir. My husband and I both enjoyed it, although after the first episode, he looked at me and said something like, “well, that was uplifting.” But if you haven’t watched it, there are funny incidents, times of joy, and surreal moments—it’s not all bleak. I listened to an NPR interview with Stephanie Land that was done before the Netflix series. Here

We streamed a new movie, I Am Your Man (rental, Amazon Prime). It’s a German movie about an archeologist who agrees to evaluate an android who has been designed to be her perfect partner. It’s sort of a rom-com with a tiny touch of sci-fi, but also poignant– as it asks what we really want in a mate. Do we want perfection? And also, apparently Dan Stevens can do anything, even speak German. We both liked this movie a lot. Trailer here.

To Every Season

Monday Morning Musings:

“For nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, it is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress.”
–Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby

Heron at dawn. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield.

I remember that spring, the winter of despair,
the flow of river into spring again

and again, the earth blooms,
and birds come and go, soaring into clouds

that move across the sky–
the constancy of sun and moon, the ephemerality of life,

insistent green sprigs emerging from driftwood,
bleached and beached.

Driftwood with new growth.

Each day the same and different,
each sunrise a threshold to the unknown.

Driftwood, Sunrise on the Delaware River

In dreams, my mother asks for chocolate–
she says there’s more for them that wants.

This is how it is—
this is who we who are, full of ifs and when

there is both laughter and the aches
of time and memory–

we are here. Now
I watch the bees,

and I remember too late,
to tell them my secrets and wishes–

but perhaps they already know,
telling their own dreams in buzz waltz,

remembering a day of endless sweet nectar,
and brilliant colors that we cannot see,

yet can imagine, reflected
in a sunrise yet to come.

Sunrise with Cloud Reflections. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield. August 2021

This week has been a strange and strangely beautiful week of clouds, rain, and sunshine. I suppose that’s how August is. We’re supposed to get a return of the high heat and humidity. Yesterday, some family members got together at my sister’s house for the first time since the pandemic. It wasn’t everyone, and even though it was right before my mom’s birthday, it wasn’t really a memorial, though we did have a Sunday brunch fish tray, with fruit, and my Mandelbrot and brownies for dessert. For those who don’t know, we used to have lox and other smoked fish with cream cheese and bagels–plus a whole lot more–fairly often when I was growing up. Every so often, my grandfather, my father’s father, would bring the delicatessen food, which also included herring, rye bread, and coffee cake, to my mom’s (even though my parents were divorced). My mom would supply the juice, coffee, boiled red potatoes, and sometimes I’d bake something. Then, it became a special family brunch occasion because it has become very expensive, plus more difficult to get together. Mindful of the Delta strain–even though we’re all vaccinated–we stayed masked indoors, except for when eating—and we tried to stay far apart then. Fortunately, the weather cleared up enough for us to go outside for dessert. My parents were there in spirit and ash.

When we got home, we took a brief walk, and pulling into the driveway were surprised by this.

Literal deer in the headlights.

We Sing Their Songs in Flight

Monday Morning Musings:

Egret

Open a window to another universe–
there is always an after
and before

the bang and birth of stars,
the flutter-shift of vibrating strings
across dimensions, the light on stellar wings—

he sings, she laughs
the fever-dreams of future-past-
perfect brings

remembrance, she, and we see-saw
imperfectly and fractured–all
colored by mood and life-swings

in revolutions, the Earth spins,
love, laughter, tears, and fears—it begins
and ends

the stars sing, and we catch their light,
swallow to hold it within, and in our dreams,
or in some after, we sing their songs in flight.

Ospreys Flying over the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

Today my father would be 102. We’re going to have Chinese food and ice cream for dinner tonight–both of which he loved. My mom’s birthday is later this month, and she would have turned 99. My parents divorced (twice), but in my mom’s final years she believed my dad lived in the same building, and in her final months, she talked about him a lot, always with smiles and giggles. I think she was in love again. Of course, they were my stars.

The first set of photos were taken long before I was born. My brother is about twelve years my senior.

My mom’s first cousin, who was like her sister, turned 95 yesterday. There was a small party for her. My sister, husband, and I stayed masked in the house, but took our masks off outside. We got her a blanket that had a word cloud of English and Yiddish words we chose.

We ate homemade pizza and streamed a play this week: The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington by James Ijames performed as part of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, which looks like a beautiful place to see a play. In the play, Martha Washington is dying, and the enslaved people around her are waiting, as they will be freed when she dies. In her fever dreams she imagines them in various guises, as lawyers, Founding Fathers and Mothers, and King George and Queen Charlotte. The play is funny, sad, witty, and unique. Here’s the NY Times review.

In Feathered Light

Monday Morning Musings:

The moon hums and the sun sings,
and feathered things with outstretched wings
soar into the light

dazzling white, the egrets’ flight,
the eagles’ glide, a majestic sight
above my head

and down below, the scent of dead
attract the vulture’s blooded head—
but even they fly

with graceful beauty in the sky
circling round—hello, goodbye—
life comes and goes

This cormorant spent several days in this spot.
Oh, Hello!

the questions everybody knows,
and none can answer, I suppose
there’s beauty in that, too–

science can tell us why the sky is blue,
yet perceiving it, is that new?
Do we name things so that we see–

or does sight come, and we feel free–
And still, we disagree
about the color of the sea,

fields of grain, and climbing vines
lost to asphalt, modern signs
of progress made,

decisions that now cascade,
a waterfall, decisions weighed
spinning in retrograde, still we shine

in setting sun, sipping wine,
fruits of field and vine,
talking as time slow-walks–

a paradox—the universe’s sleight–
time, truth, the beauty of the feathered light.

Morning— Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

We went to Blue Cork Winery in Williamstown, NJ this past week, where our daughter gave a talk—a brief history of sangria–and then guided us through making our own using a white and red base they supplied, along with fruit and juices. It was a fun event, and of course we bought a bottle of wine to take home, too.
I’m still finishing that chapter, so I apologize for my slow response time here. Also, I’m hosting dVerse Poetics tomorrow.

Green and Growing

Monday Morning Musings:

In June, my world is greening, growing
high, the sky in shades of blue and grey,
but showing a spark, a glow, some bit of light,
even on a cloudy day

before daybreak, the robin sings, brings
the pink of dawn, so bright, the sight
awakens geese and bees to hover on
some golden flowers, and in delight

the little ones scamper, goslings, rabbits, deer
hiding in the shade, wade through bushes for the blooms
of orange, yellow, red, violet, and green
growing, knowing all too soon

the colors fade,
but grandmothers with grey-haired wisdom weigh
and know how plants, pictures, stories grow
when nourished with love sway past grey, to stay

beyond June, in memory greening, growing,
like the mockingbird’s song all night and day
holding heartache into laughter flowing–and showing
a path to make everything okay.

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched Minari this week. We both liked this lovely, tender movie very much. It’s the story of a Korean American family trying to make their own American dream on a farm in Arkansas. The dream is really the husband’s, which causes some conflict in the marriage. Yuh-Jung Youn, who plays the grandmother, won an Oscar for her role. She plants minari, a leafy green plant often used in Korean dishes, and also creates a bond with her grandson, after a rocky start.

Thinking about the movie and seeing all the color in this growing season made me think of my mom. She didn’t know anything about planting, but she did teach my children how to see plants and how to paint them, and she loved flowers and color.

Some paintings by mom, Sylvia Schreiber.

We went to Vino and Vibes at William Heritage Winery with daughter and son-in-law, and we returned there on a Sunday for a members’ only event.

Is it?

Monday Morning Musings:

Early Morning Sun on the Delaware River, West Deptford, NJ. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

Is it in my blood
to see the color and the light?
To find delight in dappled ground,
cerulean sky, and honeyed beams
spread all around?

A beautiful spring morning, Delaware River. ©️Merril D. Smith

To take some of that and this,
and make a dish, a story, art—
to lose my heart in joy, or fear
being apart, and sail
aboard an anxious ship on
shadowed seas, yet sing the songs
of moon and stars?

I wish I could know—
the ones who came before—
when in living with the making do,
was there room for questioning and for beauty, too?

Did they sigh at rippled water, and see within
the upside-down,
and all around, the spirits, shadows, flowers, trees—
the families?

We gather bits of ours—in hummingbird hover
midway between here and there,
under a clouded-feather sky,
ask what if we did, ask what if we didn’t, and wonder why—
but there are no answers, no words for what might have been,
only recalling what was—her laugh, the words she said—
and what is–here, now, us–a thread,

connecting yesterday, today, tomorrow–joys and sorrow,

we wait to see what the future brings, heart-sung, our wishes fly, bird-winged on our sighs.

I consulted the Oracle, and she gave me the phrase, “It is in my blood,” so I went with that. I’ve been thinking of my ancestors lately. In my grandparents’ generation, I know of artists and musicians, but art and music were not considered things one should do as a career. Slowly, we’re emerging from our Covid cocoon. We saw our daughter on Friday, and my sisters yesterday. We forgot to get a picture to mark the occasion, so we’ll have to do it again. The photo of my mom showed-up in my FB memories.

Mother’s Day

I thought of you as the sky turned gilded-rose
and brightened from indigo to azure–
you’d be wearing pink to match the dawn,
a white jacket to keep you warm,
your hair a silver halo.
We’d sit and talk, our voices like bird chatter.
The generations of fledglings grown would flitter
setting food before you, salty and sweet—your eyes would glitter.
“There’s more for them that wants,” you’d laugh,
and we’d laugh, too, the sound of spring mornings and love—
dove-winged it flies, circling from above,
to land just there within my heart.

Yeah, I went straight for the sentimental today. Remembering my mom. ❤️

We Named the Sky: NaPoWriMo, Day 12

Monday Morning Afternoon Musings:

“The dead don’t go anywhere. They’re all here. Each man is a cemetery. An actual cemetery, in which lie all our grandmothers and grandfathers, the father and mother, the wife, the child. Everyone is here all the time.”
-Isaac Bashevis Singer (quoted in Shtisel), Season3)

Sunrise Cloud Reflections over the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith

In ancient times, we named the sky—
saw Apollo in his flaming chariot fly
as his sister Diana of the woods and moon
bounded with deer and hound, and soon
the stars were storied, and tunes gloried
creation, emotion, and the cessation of
wind and tides, the slide

of seasons from one to next,
as the gods are first jolly, then are vexed.
But Persephone comes and goes–
snow falls, then flower flows,
and we cry and sigh as people die–
but the seeds remain, though not the same,
each generation evolves, and solves

Spring, Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

new problems, and old ones we revive.
But if we could fly in hyperdrive
to other worlds, or visit holodecks
to greet and meet dear loved ones in an annex
to another world, an alternate timeline,
future, past, present combined—we’d drink wine
with family and heroes, toast the divine

in fantasy. And yet—we recall,
in memories of sight, scent, sound—however small–
within us all the time, sharing space
with those who came before—the interface
of body and mind. Stardust to genes, renamed things
in seasons reborn on hopeful wings
Cycles, seasons, the stories again–real or imaginings?

Clouds and cool weather
Beautiful blue skies, April Morning. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

I’ve combined my Monday Morning Musings with the NaPoWriMo Day 12 prompt: “This prompt challenges you to write a poem using at least one word/concept/idea from each of two specialty dictionaries: Lempriere’s Classical Dictionary and the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction.”


Merril’s Movie/TV Club: We finished Season 3 (most likely the final season) of Shtisel (Netflix). I highly recommend it. My husband and I both got so caught up in this show.
We had Chinese food over the weekend, and so watch two Chinese movies.
Us and Them (Netflix)—a romance of a young man and woman meeting on a train and trying to become successful in Beijing. I liked it, but I’m not sure if I loved it. I think I would have enjoyed it more in the theater. We had some phone calls and other distractions.
Better Days (Amazon Prime rental)—is Hong Kong’s entry for the Academy Awards. It’s about school bullying, and also the high stakes competition/pressure of getting into a good college in China. My husband and I both enjoyed this one more—despite the subject matter of school bullying. There is also a romance. The actress Dongyu Zhou is the female lead in both movies. Watch the end credits for both movies.