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.

Blue Dreams

Monday Morning Musings:

A luscious dream shines blue
sun-diamonds of if

Blue is the sea, river, and sky
that flows beyond what we can see
but never ending, flowing, going
round again,

Finally a sunny day! Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

the light bends, refracting and reflecting
shapes, colors, moods—blue hues—
clear and bright, or misty-infused
with pink and grey, a foggy day

Light across the Delaware River on a foggy morning at Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2020

or mind, we say. Sometimes reality blurs,
dims with age, or fever-dreamed perceptions
and neurons misdirecting proprioception,
the mind filled with misconception,

flies. And yet, when we dream,
fantasy and reality blur, the dead come alive,
the alive are dead–
I see blue, but dream red

A photo from last year, Day of the Dead display in Philadelphia. ©️Merril D. Smith 2019

when my grandfather visits me
from some other realm, sitting at a table
well, he was a man who loved to eat—
but now, we’re waiting for a play

My grandfather, my father’s father

but I say, I can’t stay
and race off in a panic, and up, across the stage
almost colliding with a male actor, to whom I apologize,
waking soon after, without words, wise, or otherwise

from my grandfather. I wonder still after weeks,
why was he in my dream? His family had to flee, asylum seekers
from a repressive regime. He knew about hate, but also love,
eloping when he was young, seeing ninety plus winters and sun,

announcing his presence with the scent of a cigar—
I haven’t thought of him in a long time, why did he come
to me that night? Against the vivid red of anxiety curtains,
he was calm, unperturbed, in a grey suit,

slipping a message into my dream chute
that this is just a moment, not final–
the vivid reds and gold, turn brown,
but the moon hums a song of cycling hues

with beauty all around. Blue moon tonight,
then her circle grows smaller—
but still there, just beyond our view
directing tides through monthly cycles.

Black waters of night
turn grey, then blue in morning light
and though we know they’re there,
the ghosts shimmer in the air—just out of view.

Heron in flight. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2020

Over the past few days, every time I visit the Oracle, she gives me dreams and blue. The message above was from today. So, I went with it. We’ve had days and days of clouds and rain. The sun finally came out on Saturday, but then we had pouring rain yesterday. It’s sunny today, but it’s cold with gusty winds.
We managed to find a time to get together with daughter and son-in-law—sitting well apart outside on their deck. We ate Thai food–and got some puppy time (and then it rained again).

Merril’s Movie Club: On Halloween night, we ate pizza with my homemade pumpkin pie for dessert and watched His House (Netflix), a thoughtful horror movie about South Sudanese refugees in London, who are (literally) haunted by ghosts of their past as they try to adjust to living in a new place and culture. There were several scenes that made me jump, but it’s the kind of horror movie that I like because it makes you think–and of course, it’s timely.

Remembering the Light

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Monday Morning Musings:

 

“I have forgotten that dark Berlin winter.

I will not forget the light of the horses.”

–from Pablo Neruda, “Horses.” 

 

Winter has its own beauty–

bright holiday baubles and candle light

glowing flickers within window frames

stars twinkling in December night,

their glow a memory from the past

 

and we remember, too, the past

celebrations in other places with people now gone

but stop we say, we are here, and now

with family and friends gathered together

we cook, we open gifts, we light the candles

 

first night

second night

each night one added

until finally, eight candles burn

and if there is no miracle, at least there is light

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My mother does not remember–

how many candles? Ten? she asks.

But she sings along in Yiddish with the rabbi,

songs from her childhood

songs of another world, now gone.

 

We walk in twilight through city streets

winter here, a different kind of beauty

of lines, reflections, and angles

people on holiday time without the frenzy–

the train at rush hour, not so crowded.

Philadelphia December Cityscape, Merril D. Smith, 2019

Philadelphia, Lines, Angles, and Reflections

 

Winter has its own allure–

dramatic grey clouds and stark, elegant branches.

We drink mulled wine and eat Christmas cookies,

we watch a show of space exploration and new worlds–

love and war the constants of human experience.

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Reflections at Red Bank Battlefield, December 2019.

 

Winter holds its secrets tight–

rising behind the clouds, the sun blazes and the moon shimmers,

beneath the snow, green sprouts watch and wait

beyond the darkness, comes the prancing light of horses,

carrying yesterday into tomorrow, and I remember

 

the light.

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Older daughter made this ornament for me.

 

Last night we watched a movie on Amazon Prime called Remembrance (original title: Die verlorene Zeit or The Lost Time) 2011. It’s loosely based on a true story of a couple who meet and fall in love in Auschwitz. He’s a Polish Christian, and she’s a German Jew. He smuggles photographs out of the camp, and he helps her escape. The movie toggles back and forth between her remembering the 1940s and the present (set in the 1970s.)  It seemed a fitting movie for the last night of Hanukkah–and I suppose their escape was a bit of miracle, too.

We’re also nearing the end of The Expanse.

To Drive the Dark Away

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Monday Morning Musings:

“Stars, in your multitudes

Scarce to be counted

Filling the darkness with order and light. . .”

–“Stars” from Les Misérables

“So the shortest day came, and the year died,

And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world

Came people singing, dancing,

To drive the dark away.”

Susan Cooper, “The Shortest Day”

“Even if all life on our planet is destroyed, there must be other life somewhere which we know nothing of. It is impossible that ours is the only world; there must be world after world unseen by us, in some region or dimension that we simply do not perceive.”

–Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle

 

The shortest day approaches,

we celebrate with tales and light

in centuries-old traditions,

we gather, talk, and drink

to drive the dark away

to drive the dark away

we count the stars

on the shortest day,

they fill the sky

with order and light.

 

With order and light

soon we’ll celebrate

eight nights of Hanukkah

to drive the dark away,

remembering

 

remembering, my mother says

girls were not sent to school,

but her mom knew where everything was

in their store, she could find the peas

the cans had pictures

 

the cans had pictures

and she knew the prices

she could add the figures quickly–

order in this world

like stars in the sky

 

like stars in the sky

we make patterns in our brains

memories form

and we fill in the gaps

stories of might and if

 

stories of might and if–

is the movie a cautionary tale?

What happens when we mess with nature?

Or is it tale of mothers and children,

variations on madness and guilt?

 

Variation on madness and guilt,

describe a host of myth and legends

along with greed, anger, and lust,

in animating stars, clouds, and trees

we try to make order of our world.

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We try to make order of our world

in patterns and statues and stories.

In art and poetry and song, we transform

and celebrate the light within

and without

and without this ability

what would we be?

Worlds unseen, other dimensions

beyond the stars, but here now,

we drive the darkness way

 

we drive the darkness away

with love and light and food

with sisters and sister-friends

with children and mothers and kin

we let the light in.

It’s been a busy, crazy week, and I apologize for being so behind in visiting and reading other blogs. I’m finishing reviewing my copyedited book manuscript. There have been many calls and text with my sisters about my mom’s care. We had to suddenly go to my mom’s when an aide called out sick. While there, we discovered that PBS was showing the 25th anniversary concert version of Les Misérables, which my mom and I both enjoyed. We did a “Nightmare Before Christmas” tour for my early birthday celebration with younger daughter—it turned out to be a fun evening of talking and drinking. We visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Christmas Village.

Merril’s Movie Club: We saw Little Joe. It’s a quirky film about a woman who develops a new plant that she names for her son Joe. But perhaps there are unintended consequences. It’s filmed in bright colors and with a percussive soundtrack. Emily Beecham won best actress at the Cannes Film Festival. We liked it, but I may not sniff a flower for a while.

We’re on the penultimate episode of The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime. It’s so good—and kind of frightening to think of what could be, what might have been, and where we’re headed with the present administration.

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From “Designs for Different Futures” Philadelphia Museum of Art

And a more peaceful image to leave you with

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Winter trees form a bower outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art–Merril D. Smith, December 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sound, the Sight, the Magic, the Light

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Monday Morning Musings:

“Can you fly

I heard you can! Can you fly

Like an eagle doin’ your hunting from the sky”

–Joni Mitchell, “That Song about the Midway” Listen Here.

 

“No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted

out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.”

–Billy Collins, “Forgetfulness” 

 

In these days of gloom

dimmed dreary days

of November blues

while in the news, the hints of doom

constant, unrelenting–

 

but then comes the sound

and sight

hundreds of birds, in flight

this murmuration, a delight,

their orienting

 

so breathtaking

shaking me, awaking

all the wonder,

this magic, a gift

drifting from the sky

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flying low and high,

they call in their ancient tongue

(we the earthbound

can’t understand)

and then they go–

but birds seem everywhere,

even in the show we watch–

where the crows are what?

Harbingers of fortune or fate?

Or perhaps they come too late

 

for our planet,

pale dot of blue,

so, I delight

in nature’s gifts

and sights

 

the morning sun,

the moon of silver-white

smiling in benediction

even when we forget

it’s there.

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I cook and bake,

as the days in constant gloaming

take their toll, I want to snuggle

not go roaming

through rain-filled streets

 

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Puddle Reflections on a Rainy November Day , Philadelphia Parkway

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Crossing the Ben Franklin Bridge into Philadelphia, from Patco Train

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Rainy Day Reflections, Philadelphia

yet, we do what we must

and so, I write poems with my mother

who only thinks of summer coming

her thoughts drifting through time—

like birds in murmuration flight–

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Writing poems with my mother

and her eyesight

diminished, like the day’s light

her memories uncertain

confused, a twilight zone

of fact and fiction

 

but still we make her laugh

and try to remember what was—

hold mental photographs

of before, then walk through the door

to our other life,

 

husband and wife

we drink some wine

and I remember what I can

hold everything that’s fine

within my mind

 

and see the magic of moon and birds

and the old oak tree

glowing in the autumn gloom

remember how

it holds hundreds of memories

 

listen–

hear it murmur, murmur, murmur

as the acorns fall

in the rustling leaves of brown

covering cold ground

 

where secrets lie

waiting, waiting

for the warming sky–

and I dream

(I heard you can)

we fly.

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Dance

Monday Morning Musings:

“And may the spirit of this song

May it rise up pure and free

May it be a shield for you

A shield against the enemy”

–Leonard Cohen, “Lover, Lover, Lover”

 

“Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on

Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long

We’re both of us beneath our love, we’re both of us above

Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the end of love”

–Leonard Cohen, “Dance Me to the End of Love”

 

My absent daughter

draws the golden peacock

but forgets the fallen feather

can also be a quill

to write the words that dance

upon the page of time,

and from love and grief

and longing

the phrases soar in endless flight–

to bear witness of love and loss

in song to spread the light

***

In this week

of lies and revelation

we go about our lives

without hesitation

because there are deadlines

and care

for those we love

and responsibility

to share—

but oh, the sky,

the clouds

the air

that shimmers

and glimmers

on dew drops

in the morning light

that sight–

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and the honk of geese

in victory flight

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and so,

we take a break

forget the cake

I still must bake

 

reflect

upon each passing sight

on this autumn day

the sun is bright

and summer-like

but inside cooler

as the lights dim

and the show begins

the dancers strong

and full of grace

without a trace

of doubt, fluid lines

muscle and bone

move together, alone

upon the stage

they dance

homage to poetic phrase

in each turn or raise

of arm and leg

and yes, I say

it was worth it to pay

though now

I’m even more

behind

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I see love–

coming and going

and isn’t that always the way?

spring to summer and fall

and before long

winter will come

and will we dance then at all?

Yes, I think

we will add layers

to layers

and though our hair

will turn greyer

still we’ll laugh

and dance, press

on

 

my sister-niece says

I love mom’s belly laugh,

and we all agree

a bright spot

in a gloomy sea

that seems endless–

a beacon, a buoy

we embrace,

when she and the world is screwy.

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And though there are fewer

at our holiday table

and we miss those unable

to be with us,

we laugh and talk

and drink our wine

dip apples in honey–

that boy is so funny

the way he loves my challah—

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we eat the meal

and here’s the deal—

time moves on

but our traditions remain

so, there’s brisket and kugel

for the year to be sweet, not dull–

bright gold of pumpkin soup

and before long, dessert—

 

in and endless loop

the seasons pass

and years dance on

from dusk to dawn

in saraband or waltz

sorrow, love–

with just a bit of schmaltz

 

we say our goodbyes

and sigh

(though the men roll their eyes)

we need that family compound

so we can all come around

whenever need be.

That could be

easier for all of us, you see

 

time will tell

somehow, dwell

on the here and now,

we have each other

and sleepy cats—

there is that.

 

We clean up,

put away each dish

I pause, wish

to dance to the end

of light

as it bends

refracts

and twirls

to begin again.

 

Dream–

the spirit of this song.

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Last night was the start of Rosh Hashanah. Wishing all of you a very sweet year!

One of my daughters posted her drawing of a golden peacock from Jewish tradition and a message about what it means to her. You can see her Instagram post here. 

We saw Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal perform Dance Me, “an exclusive creation inspired by the rich and profound work of Montreal-based poet, artist, and songwriter, Leonard Cohen” (from the program notes). You can see some excerpts here.