Day Thirteen: Special January Ekphrastic Challenge

For Day Thirteen of Paul Brookes’ Special January Ekphrastic Challenge, I’m Responding to “Second Autumn” (KR) and CO19.


Why is that sometimes spring and summer seem to come again,
but autumn only once?

The azure skies that fade into violet sighs,
the leaves of russet and gold, turn brown, fold within
leaving only a crunch—

they turn to dust.

Now I hear the geese in honking V, pull free time’s stitches—
land to sea.

And if I sit on moonlit porch—and listen–
will I hear the rustling ghosts of what was or what might have been?

A summer night. A picket fence. A snake. A bite.
Life or death? What happened after? What happened then?


Image Credit: © Sally Cronin


“We all were sea-swallow’d, though some cast again,

And by that destiny to perform an act

Whereof what’s past is prologue,”

–William Shakespeare, The Tempest




the tide brings treasures

lost at sea,

and found–

we begin again


find magic

in ordinary things,

discover beauty

and hold life in woven strands–

fated patterns of past and future.


A gogyohka sequence for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday—photo prompt using the photo above by Sally Cronin, and also linking this to dVerse Open Link Night.












Photo of the Earth taken from Apollo 8, called Earthrise (1968).


I see the morning moon

dream-full of spring songs—

of sap, worms, crows


(a murder gathers, cawing)


Now she hums fiercely through the clouds,

stirring my senses—


my mother’s alive, the call a mistake,

but my tire’s flat

on an earth that tilts, revolving.


This a quadrille for dVerse. De has asked us to use some form of the word “stir.” Yesterday, my sister got a call that my mom was “unresponsive.” It turns out the facility called the wrong person, and my mother was fine. However, I pulled out of my driveway and discovered my tire was flat. Fortunately, that didn’t happen when we were driving on the expressway.

The Sojourners


Carl Locher, “Fishing Cutters in the Moonlit Night,” [Public Domain] Wikipedia

Guided by the glittery night,

the sojourners flee,

sailing by starlight,

looking for their destiny.


The sojourners flee

north, south, east, or west–

looking for their destiny,

which constellation offers rest–


north, south, east, or west?

Which the most auspicious sky?

Which constellation offers rest.

Which offers them a why?


Which the most auspicious sky,

a harbinger of hope?

Which offers them a why?

(Their fate spins in a horoscope.)


A harbinger of hope–

and so, off they go–

which offers them a why—

visions on an epic scope.


And so, off they go

sailing by starlight,

carried by the current’s flow,

guided by the glittery night.


Here is another pantoum, the dVerse form of the month. This is for Anmol’s prompt on geography.










Horizons: NaPoWriMo, Day 5

This pantoum is inspired by a post by Frank of A Frank Angle. I borrowed my first line from him. Thanks, Frank!


At the horizon, known and unknown meet,

this liminal space between sky and sea

when the sun dips down, and night not complete

where dreams are unfettered and left to dance free–


this liminal space between sky and sea,

in this place, future and past together dwell,

while explorers and dreamers look here with uncertainty,

they still seek this place–and fall under its spell.


In this place, future and past together dwell,

some think deep thoughts here, some none at all,

they still seek this place—and fall under its spell

as they watch ships vanish, beyond shouts and call.


Can we know what fate foretells here–

when the sun dips down, and night not complete?

Do we fear, question, or wait for what appears?

Certain only, at the horizon, known and unknown meet.

John Frederick Kensett, “Sunset on the Sea,” [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons









I’m off prompt for NaPoWriMo.  I’m also linking this to dVerse Open Link Night.


Blood and Fate

Monday Morning Musings:

“They were deceiving themselves, but the blood couldn’t be denied.”

–Federico Garcia Lorca, Blood Wedding

 “The duende is a momentary burst of inspiration, the blush of all this is truly alive. . .it manifests itself principally among musicians and poets of the spoken word. . .for it needs the trembling of the moment and then a long silence.”

Federico Garcia Lorca, “Play and Theory of Duende,” quoted by Blood Wedding dramaturg, Walter Bilderback


On this weekend before Halloween

we watch Stranger Things

cocooned in our living room

food on the table


cats besides us

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we become immersed–

the Upside Down and the Shadow Monster–

we tremble in the moment,

the deliciousness of a scary story,

this is the new normal in their town

but it echoes the world around us

where monsters climb from the shadows.

Perhaps we need to listen the children

before we face a long, perhaps forever, silence


The skies have turned dark and dreary

and we walk through damp streets to see a play.


Transported to a society that is bound by strict rules,

and though all try to abide by them,

they cannot escape fate

and the blood that can’t be denied,

flowing through generations,

blood and fate,

knives, like Macbeth’s dagger

foreshadowing what’s to come

inevitable, despite all they do

the actors tell the story with percussive rhythms

of feet, hands, and voices

Hungarian folk dances and flamenco.

The characters sing

with and without instruments,

an actor portrays the horse,

that he is always racing,

the players climb on each other

pull up the floor mats to form barriers–

and shrouds–

The Bride and Groom are dressed in red

the color of passion, desire, and blood,

she wears the crown of orange blossoms

he gives her

the flowers of purity, chastity, and fertility

but they are made of wax, not real

and their marriage will not result in children,

no blood of deflowering or childbirth

but a blood wedding all the same,

we tremble in the moment

as the figures on the stage end in silence


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We walk again through wet city streetsIMG_7263

discuss the play over wine, beer, and cheese


I think of the idea of blood throughout history

“bad blood” running through families and generations

the ideas slave owners and white supremacists

one drop of black blood, one drop of Jewish blood

dooms you in their minds

when we know—that blood is blood

and all who are pricked will bleed

despite the beliefs of the shadow monsters

we all tremble before the long silence


I am called for jury duty.

I wonder if it is my fate to serve

and whether the fate of someone accused is already predetermined

I don’t believe this,

not really

. . .and yet. . .

the sky is dark

I wait for the dawn

the branches tremble in the wind

that breaks the silence with a moan.




I Close My Eyes and Dream

Monday Morning Musings:

“For myself, I declare I don’t know anything about it. But the sight of the stars always makes me dream.”

Vincent van Gogh, letter to his brother Theo, July 1888

“I think about our ancestors. Thousands of years, wondering if they were alone in the universe. Finally discovering they weren’t. You can’t blame them for wanting to reach out, see how many other species were out there, asking the same questions.”

–Captain Kathryn Janeway, Star Trek Voyager, Episode, “Friendship One”


At night

ghosts sail to stars

dazzling the universe

with wild poetry,

that thing there—

see it?

the liquid blush of desire

Screen Shot 2017-09-30 at 6.41.06 AM


Earth spins and orbits our Sun

but all is not right

(in day or night)

the heavens rage

the surface heaves

the forests burn

the oceans churn

(do you hear them sigh)

and creatures die

on the stars I make a wish

for planet, us, for birds and fish

and then under the glowing stream

I close my eyes and then I dream


I wake to see bright Venus,

high above

she sings of love

there in the eastern sky

she dances and she wonders why

(as do I, oh, as do I)

we are not swayed from the hate

and do not counter or negate

the dotard’s words of folly

but instead sink into a melancholy—

(as do I, oh, as do I)

under starlight’s beam

once again

I close my eyes and then I dream


We watch Star Trek Voyager

Earth’s greeting of friendship gone wrong

a civilization pushed headlong

into nuclear winter,

the next day—synchronicity

a radio story of the real Voyager

the golden record as it would sound to aliens

Simplicity? Specificity?

We want to reach out,

to know we’re not alone

the moon smiles and gleams

I close my eyes and then I dream


We have a holiday dinner

missing daughters, sister, and niece

still I present the soup and loaf

(a masterpiece!)


with apples, honey, and some wine


we drink and eat and we are fine

(we pour more wine)

talk of movies and van Gogh

(there’s a new movie out, you know)

wonder about Ben Franklin’s diet and life

then matter-of-factly my mother’s zinger

that he did not sleep alone

at ninety-five, she was so in the zone!

and with that, the laughter lingers


like the honeyed fingers

from the baklava and apple cake

she mangles the middle

and picks at the pieces

but sister laughter

follows after

and after


We drink more wine, again we’re fine

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under moonlight sky and starry stream

I close my eyes and then I dream. . .


of the universe’s wild poetry

of singing stars and humming moons

of spirits soaring and swaying to the tunes

before dawn’s blush of desire

turns the sky to fire

I wake and look up to the sky

to see Venus shining bright

I gaze and wish

for us, for cats, and fish

for dogs, and horses, and for birds

(and yes, even for the dotard)

for the planet, earth, and trees

and for the seas

under Venus’s beaming gleam

I close my eyes and wish and dream


So, we watched Star Trek Voyager and saw an episode about the result of a probe that was sent out from Earth that was very similar to the real Voyager and its golden record. Then the next day, I heard this story on NPR’s Weekend Morning Edition and the Oracle gave me that poem. Synchronicity?


Some of you may know because I’ve ranted about it   that I’ve been working on two reference books about rape. I am happy to report that both manuscripts have now been sent in. I also finished another project over the weekend, so I should now have time to answer e-mails and respond to comments and prompts. At least until, I receive copyedited manuscript (first one is coming next month).








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Monday Morning Musings:

It was a weekend of possibilities and near misses,


Might have beens,

fitting perhaps for a month that can’t decide

if it’s March or May.

A promise to drive someone

lost in the mist of early morning fogginess,

Friday the 13th,

just a day, just a number,

but perhaps we should beware.

The day worked out,

just not as planned,

son-in-law made his train,

husband drove daughter to work instead,

an opportunity to talk and visit.

There was a chocolate tour planned for Saturday.

cancelled for lack of registrants.

We will go another day.

There was a play we were supposed to see

but we didn’t go.

In between the canceled tour and the play we didn’t go to

we ate Chinese food

and watched the movie The Lady in the Van,

which also explores possibilities.

What would playwright Alan Bennet’s life have been like

if he had never met “the lady,” and if she had not lived in a van in his driveway for 15 years?

What would her life had been like?

Is it fate that they encountered each other?

Bound together, an unlikely couple.

I can’t hariolate.

no powers of divination here.

Perhaps you’re wondering why

we didn’t go to the play?

(Nope, not one of Alan Bennett’s. That would have been too weird.)

Well, that is the rest of the story.

Chance, fate

an unfortunate bedtime accident,

an automatic gesture of placing lens in eye–

done how many times over –could it be four decades?

Automatic gesture

at the wrong time

with the wrong solution

so a trip to the ER in the middle of the night.

Thank you, Dear.

I’ve never had to go to the ER before,

not for myself,

but it wasn’t on my bucket list.

Perks of not living in the city,

it was actually empty at 3 A.M.

Corneal ulcer

flushed with saline

a trip to the pharmacy

fortunately open 24-hrs

although the computers were down,

causing the pharmacist to be creative.

Thank you, Pharmacist.

So drops every two hours,

set the alarm,

and a visit to an ophthalmologist soon.

And meanwhile

I’m sitting here with my face close to the screen–

So I can see it—

But only for limited stretches.

I suppose it could have been far worse,



A near miss.


And we’ll see the play another day.








Sometimes Opportunity Knocks, and Sometimes it Knocks You Over

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

–Emily Dickinson

In the recent Indian movie, The Lunchbox, a lunchbox delivered to the wrong address sparks an unusual correspondence and changes the lives of the two main characters. (The lunchbox delivery service by the dabba wallahs of Mumbai transports over 200,000 lunchboxes each day, with mistake occurring only once in a million times. Here’s a video I found.) All of us have heard stories of a person who “was at the right (or wrong) place at the right (or wrong) time.” There are hundreds of movies, plays, and books based on chance encounters—for example, Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (1951) based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel. The reason why we repeat these clichés, and why these stories resonate with us is because they are so real. We’ve all had chance encounters; we’ve all experienced unexpected good or bad luck.

A few days ago, I learned how my dad got into the antique business. He and my mom were newlyweds. They married in 1942, shortly after the US entered WWII, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. My parents expected that he would be called up, and so they hurried to get married first. In fact, my dad tried to enlist, but he was rejected because his eyesight was extremely poor. My dad had had no particular job training, and he had dropped out of college after a year or two. So like many other Americans, both my mom and dad did vital “war work” in factories. Many of the workers, like my parents, had no experience with the type of work they were doing, or attempting to do, and apparently in the rush to get items to the troops, these neophytes were not always trained very carefully. One day, the man with whom my dad was partnered, accidentally pushed something the wrong way—right into my dad’s face, knocking him down, and causing him to lose a couple of teeth. My dad decided right then that he had had enough of factory war work.

         An acquaintance offered him ten bucks a day to go with him door-to-door to buy old furniture and other items from people’s home. The man then re-sold the items. As my mom said, my dad was “a quick study.” He decided he could do this business by himself. He went to the library to read about antiques—no doubt taking copious notes and memorizing facts (as he later did when he went back to college). Before long he started his own business. After one store did not work so well, he found a business partner, a friend lent them some money, and they built up successful business in a store on Pine Street, in the heart of Philadelphia’s Antique Row.

         During the post-war boom—and baby boom—people were buying and furnishing new homes. Wealthy southerners wanted antiques from northern shops, and eventually my dad started an antique business in Dallas (his business partner kept the Philadelphia store), and our family moved and lived there for about 8 or 9 years. He worked hard to make the business a success—and so did my mom—but if the factory accident had not occurred, and if the acquaintance had not asked him to help in his little door-to-door business, perhaps Lee Antique Company would never have happened.

         When I was in ninth grade back in Pennsylvania, the boy sitting in front of me in English class never had a pencil. I, of course, was always prepared for class. I had a 3-ring loose-leaf notebook with one of those plastic zippered bags snapped into the rings  (do they even make them anymore?) with pencils, paper clips, and other important classroom items. I became his designated pencil carrier and supplier. I am now married to him, so I suppose I still have that job. If my parents had not divorced, if we had not moved to Havertown, PA, if the alphabetical seating chart had not positioned my future husband in front of me, and if I had not been prepared with pencils and paper, we might never have really talked and eventually married. In a way, my parents’ divorce led to my marriage.

         I’ve had other opportunities that occurred because of chance. Many years ago, someone told an editor at NYU Press about my recently completed dissertation, and I got a surprise phone call saying they wanted to publish Breaking the Bonds. A friend introduced me to test writing at ETS, and it turned out that I have a knack for it.

         Professional cooks advise people to always have a well-stocked pantry, and it is true that I have whipped-up some great spur-of-the moment meals based on “What’s in my pantry or freezer?” or on “What do I want to get rid of in my refrigerator?” But still some basic ingredients have to be there, and one has to have some skill in combining them—and then be willing to eat the results. Chance, preparation, skill, and hard work—important ingredients for many of life’s recipes.

         We have all encountered “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” I know I have, and sometimes I’ve retreated, not willing to fight that battle. Sometimes though I’ve been able to deflect those arrows. And I’ve learned to hit my own targets. I’ve discovered that with my sling I can slay my own Goliaths, especially the ones that exist only in my mind.

         I guess the moral of this post is that one should always be prepared—because sometimes opportunity quite literally results from a punch in the teeth.

Childhood Dreams, Childhood Memories

“Walkin’ through the world
Things happen
Right before your eyes
Things happen
Soon enough you’re lost
And thinkin’
When I’m gonna go back home”
–John Kander and Fred Ebb, “Go Back Home,”
The Scottsboro Boys


I was in my car today listening to Radio Times, as poet Lynn Levin described the doll on the cover of her new book Miss Plastique. The brief discussion brought back vivid memories of my daughters playing with their dolls. They loved playing with “the Barbs,” and gave each one a name. I remember Mary, Colonial, Tracy (aka Tracy-Hopping-on-One-Foot after she lost a leg). The Barbies had so many adventures—some of which, I recently discovered, I knew nothing about. It’s probably better that way. I did witness though, and participated in, many of the dolls’ escapades. Little Women Barbies was a favorite game of my younger daughter that we played together when her older sister was at school. She selected particular Barbie Dolls to be the main characters of Louisa May Alcott’s story. In my daughter’s Barbie version, Amy had superhuman gymnastic abilities and drove a car. And I’m pretty sure I remember Aunt March sang “Bare Necessities.” I’m not certain why.


Dolls have existed since ancient times and in cultures throughout the world. (See an example here.)
They can be made from all sorts of material. My daughters made paper doll families, seashell families, and on one family vacation, they made a family from the chopsticks they took home from a restaurant. I was never worried about them being unduly influenced by Barbie’s freakish body. Clearly, the dolls were merely props for the worlds their imaginations created.


These reflections about dolls and childhood came after my checkup with my oncologist. He said everything looks great. I was relieved, of course. I know how easily I could have been told something else. Yesterday I had attended the funeral of a young man who died much too soon. He was only 23, barely out of boyhood. I am happy that I am well, but it makes me feel almost guilty. I cherish the memories of my daughters’ childhoods, but they are alive, and this wonderful young man is not. His family has the memories of his childhood to cherish, but he is no longer with them, and memories are all they have.


Like many people here in the US, I’ve been feeling that “Right before your eyes things happen.” In the case of the “Scottsboro Boys,” it was being on a freight train at the wrong time and place. Last week it was watching a marathon in Boston. Why is one person injured, while someone else moments before just happened to move away? Sometimes randomness is reassuring, but at other times it’s frightening. Since prehistoric times, humans have tried to understand fate, but it is impossible, of course. “Giddy Fortune’s furious fickle wheel”


Girl with collection of dolls

Girl with collection of dolls (Photo credit: George Eastman House)

spins and we don’t know what it will bring. Perhaps that is one reason why children are so drawn to dolls. They can be held, loved, and cherished. They can be used to create a new universe where characters in a novel take on new lives, or where a family member still exists. They can help to bring shape and order to a random world.