Remember

Monday Morning Musings:

“It is the onion, memory,

that makes me cry.”

From Craig Raine, “The Onion”

 

“Music, when soft voices die,

Vibrates in the memory—”

–Percy Bysshe Shelley, from “Music When Soft Voices Die (To. ..)

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the universe born

from a fire dance

with a bang, barging forth,

endless now, eternal,

remembering the almost

and the always

rounding in long, liquid circles

creating time,

but timeless,

yet there it is–

the secret poetry,

of the dawning day,

hints of light in the darkness.

***

Leaves turn scarlet and gold

against the azure blue, so bold

 

 

but as the air turns crisp and cold

and the leaves fall, uncontrolled

 

we remember

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the bright green of trees and grass,

the calls of birds, the way they dance

 

into the slanted light of autumn

 

remember

 

the scent of stew and bread

and the blankets piled upon the bed—

and yet, still I see

the bee

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moving from flower to flower

knowing his hours

 

are limited

but uninhibited

 

he flies

and tries–

 

does he remember?

 

(What are the dreams of a bee?)

 

I see the spotted lantern fly,

remember to crush it, say good-bye

 

dead bug, though I feel some remorse

he’s only doing his job, of course–

 

but once, did he remember the air

and sunlight, feel despair?

 

The man in the movie forgets the facts

of his life, he acts

 

on some written instructions,

and we make assumptions

 

connect the dots,

but sometimes, blank spots

 

are filled in with what wasn’t there–

my mom fills these holes in the air

 

with dreams, believes

things that never happened, perceives

 

a different time-line, a reality

of what never was and never will be

 

and so, it goes, we see,

 

and will we remember this

autumn coming, in starts and fits

 

but summer stays, and we sit outside

hide (a bit)

 

from truth, well, who’s to decide

what is right, and what we abide?

 

We smile, drink wine

enjoy the sun, and life is fine

mostly, though we remember

 

autumn comes, and pages turn,

emotions churn, we yearn

 

for things that never were, perhaps

or for our world not to collapse,

City Hall Reflected in a puddle, Merril D. Smith, Philadelphia 2019

City Hall Reflected in a Puddle, Philadelphia

we walk

reflect on the past, talk

of life and a book

and we look

 

observe, that time moves on

and circles back

 

and light comes, sometimes at a slant

or through the cracks,

 

I remember that.

 

We haven’t had a chance to get to the movies (sigh, maybe when this book is done)– but Dale, we did see a good one on Netflix. Remember. Trailer here.  It’s from 2015, but I don’t remember it in the theaters. It’s much better than the synopsis sounds: a man with dementia follows the written instructions of a fellow nursing home resident to hunt down the man who killed their families at Auschwitz. Well, the director is Atom Egoyan, and it stars Christopher Plummer. Certainly not upbeat, but very well-done, a quiet sort of thriller.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering the Days, NaPoWriMo

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Monday Morning Musings:

“Remember you are all people and all people

are you.

Remember you are this universe and this

universe is you.”

From Joy Harjo, “Remember”

 

I remember the week,

the was, the hoped for

the what that came before

 

the sun and storms

the way a cloud forms

and blows across the sky

 

while I wonder how and why

it happens again and again

sun rising, moon sets,

 

dreams floating, drifting,

joy, regrets

shifting, sifting

 

through existence

we’re existing,

sometimes resisting. . .

****

Another shooting on the day

we celebrate Passover,

the end

 

(Hate fills a space

what should be sacred,

this place.)

but we toast to new beginnings,

jobs and a new house,

we douse

 

the hate with love

and wine,

and we dine.

It would have been enough

“Dayenu,”

life is rough and tough

 

but we find the light

in candles on the table.

On this special night

 

we sing and laugh

act out our play

imprint photographs

 

and memories of then

and now,

beginnings and when

 

did that happen?

The sister stories

strains, pains

 

(Laughter)

vomiting in cars,

on planes

 

and on my doll

(she says)

we remember it all–

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ancestors, crash, fall

hide from Cossacks

when very small,

 

and there is more,

Dessert!

Not quite gone, no snores

 

though it’s late,

I remember,

bed awaits.

 

The next day

sky sunny, then grey

we walk through

city and cemetery

sun peeks out

we see a play,

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Oedipus, well,

the shepherds

who raise him, yell

 

and drink

they don’t so much

think,

 

or they do,

too late,

the cow moos

 

and there is

inappropriate sex

a family this

 

dysfunctional,

a tragedy with laughs,

desperate, they fall

 

drink too much

evil and nice

the device

 

of plotting might

not quite work,

but it’s interesting,

 

the play,

and we discuss it

before we flit

 

to other topics

as we sit here

eat mussels, drink beer,

and journey home

watch Voyager, where

Capt. Janeway, onscreen, there

 

wants to save her family

a group united not by blood

but fate, and we await

 

ours,

not family, but fate

sometimes wondering, too late–

 

yet always there are cats

and moon,

a daughter’s visit,

gone, too soon,

but I remember–

we are the stars

 

and all our ancestors

through time and space,

traced

 

filled with sorrow

and grace

I remember today

 

and yesterday,

dream of tomorrow.

 

Today is Day 29, the penultimate day of NaPoWriMo. The challenge is “to blend these concepts into your own work, by producing a poem that meditates, from a position of tranquility, on an emotion you have felt powerfully.” I don’t know if I’ve done that here, but I like this prompt, and I’ll probably return to it.

We celebrated Passover at the end because that’s when most of us could get together. Daughter and Daughter-in-law went with us to see Dionysus Was Such a Nice Man,” a world-premiere play at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia. And then we ate mussels at Monk’s Cafe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baskets

Monday Morning Musings:

“Poetry isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that.”
–Mary Oliver, Georgia Review (Winter 1981), 733.

“There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.”

“I have a right to be angry, but not to spread it.”

–Hannah Gadsby’s, “Nanette”

 

Ask why an ancient wind

rose beneath a hot sun–

they never will

see souls rustle in soft shade.

So,

murmur harmony

to nature’s song

and feel life bloom

 

 

 

 

 

 

***

We listen to the woman, a masterful storyteller,

skilled at creating tension—and

relieving it with a punchline,

but in this set,

she lets the tension linger–

at least for a while

noting both her anger

and its reasons—

reasons that should anger us all.

I think of that,

as neo-Nazis gather in our nation’s capital.

Neo-Nazi? Why should there be new ones

after the defeat of the old ones?

I ponder the other labels–

shouldn’t we all be anti-fascist

and united against hate?

It should be the default mode, shouldn’t it?

 

The novel I’m reading is set in

the early 1930s in Berlin,

the female protagonist had a gay brother

who was murdered.

While they were growing up, she tried

to teach him what she called

“A Code of Masculinity,”

so, he could pass,

but he didn’t.

Hannah Gadsby

in the 1990s in Australia

was assaulted for not being

feminine enough,

she couldn’t pass either. But growing up,

in a culture where she was reviled, left its

legacy on her. She talks about the shame

she felt for being a lesbian, for being different.

 

I think about trying to explain

these weird and artificial binaries

to a visitor from another world,

But how could I,

when they make no sense to me?

You must be this color,

you must love this person,

you must be this religion. Why?

 

And where do I go with this? I seem to have

gone off on a tangent–because

I wanted to tell you about baskets.

Picture the basket itself,

woven together from strands of straw, reeds, or

even wire,

each one different.

And my life, also woven of many different strands.

I weave my basket, and sometimes I take it apart

and start over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, let me tell you how

we celebrated the anniversary of my father’s birth—

He would have been ninety-nine. He’s been dead for twenty years,

and I still miss him.

We toasted him with wine–

and ate ice cream afterward,

because he loved ice cream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We eat Pakistani food with our younger daughter and her husband,

enjoying samosas and other delights

as their dog and cat circle the table,

where there were no scraps tossed,

but love drips,

like melting ice cream,

because it can be messy,

but there is plenty to go around.

 

I could tell you about being with

dear friends over the weekend,

how we eat pizza,

and discuss that new normal, how

it is difficult not to discuss politics

but at the same time,

conversations are fraught

with hesitation—or anger.

How can one be friends with someone

who supports a racist?

 

The saying goes, “Don’t put all your eggs

in one basket.”

We should welcome those who think

differently or look different.

And isn’t part of the joy of having

a full basket

come in examining its contents?

 

There is so much we do not see.

We toss everything

in the basket of life, and pull out what we need

or what we want. But maybe sometimes

we need to look at the basket itself.

 

There is no punchline here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We watched “Nanette” on Netflix. Trailer here.

I’m reading the novel A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Awkward Fantasy and Ghosts

Monday Morning Musings:

“We have grown to trust blindly in our senses of balance and reason, and I can see where the mind might fight wildly to preserve its own familiar stable patterns against all evidence that it was leaning sideways.”

–Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House

The weather has been erratic. Storms followed by sunshine, but always hot, only the level of humidity changes. The volatile, vacillating moods are echoed in the movie we see about a woman with an abusive husband and their custody battle. Neither child wants to see the father, but the daughter, who is almost eighteen, doesn’t have to. It’s the ten-year-old son, Julian, who must submit to visiting his father in this movie that becomes an intense thriller, rather than a legal drama. After the movie, we walk through Old City, where ghosts still walk, flitting through gates to hover over flowers, and drift over the cobblestone streets.

 

Sun-chased charcoal clouds

tumble through the evening sky

bright blooms smile hello

Summer in Old City, Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We sip wine another night as the sky changes once again—blue turning grey. But we stay.

Wine glasses turn red,

echoes of the summer blooms

coloring the gloom

 

William Heritage Winery, NJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We travel to the New Jersey Fringe Festival in Hammonton, NJ—“Blueberry Capital of the World.” We see three short plays, funny, touching, strange. (It is fringe after all.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer festivals

walk through human emotion,

taste laughter and tears

We see a play about two fantasy worlds colliding,

sliding together

the man who lives in a porno world

meets a woman

then hurled

into her action hero world.

We thought the script could be tightened,

some excised, some enlightened,

but it was silly fun—and we’d only just begun

 

when off to the next one

about a man with two cartoon character names

and a most awkward life,

not so much filled with strife,

rather loneliness and seeking to connect

(even when his house is wrecked)

it’s whimsical, with ukulele and narration

and women who give him quite an education

in their multiple roles in his life, unlucky as it is

somehow, we see some hope at the end in his.

 

We pause to shop and eat gelato

 

NJ Fringe Festival,
Hammonton, NJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

walk through the flow, and then go

onto the next play

stay there in the small, hot basement room

listen to the man, the actor, speak,

we jump at every creak

we’ve seen him before

(someone opens the door

to cool the room a bit,

and still we sit).

Last year he performed here

serial murderer Jeffery Dahmer,

he is compelling, in this telling

of the ghosts and demons he has seen.

All the evidence leaning sideways,

We always

Try to make sense of what we see and fear

And here

With theater we sway a bit—wonder what is real

What did he see? What did he feel?

Is it all a metaphor for inner trauma,

Packaged as paranormal drama?

And does it matter if it is?

We take what he gives

entertainment and thoughtful reflection

we walk and talk in the direction

of our car. Then off to dinner, a day well spent

in this summer event.

The clouds fly by—

perhaps it’s my fantasy

to see ghosts and shadow figures in the sky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I decided to play with form a bit today–Haibun and rhyme.

We saw the French movie, Custody. Trailer here. We went to the NJ Fringe Festival and saw, Wildest Fantasy, The Most Awkward Love Life of Peabody Magoo, and Ghost Stories.

We ate dinner at Mera Khana in Berlin, NJ, where I finally got my vegetable samosas. (Everything they make is delicious.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Searching

Monday Morning Musings:

“The search for meaning, much like the search for pleasure, must be conducted obliquely. Meaning ensues from meaningful activity: the more we deliberately pursue it, the less likely are we to find it.”

–Irving D. Yalom quoted in Brainpickings here

 

My sister and I listen to the woman,

she is perfectly pleasant, if a bit harried–

it’s possible she’s double-booked her appointments.

We can only offer your mother six hours of care, she says

(that we may or may not pay for)

but we can’t let you know until you pick one of the providers.

(We stare blankly at the five-page list.)

No, I can’t recommend any of them–

can you imagine if it didn’t work out?

But you can call and ask them questions.

(That shouldn’t take much time, right?)

No, the caregivers are not permitted to give your mom medication

I guess you’ll have to work something else out.

Yes, we do offer some free meals, but only if you go with our program–

and your mother would have to pick up a week’s worth at the front desk

Well, yes, I can see she uses a walker and is nearly blind, but that’s how it’s done.

I hear these meals taste kind of nasty–

Now the dinners from that other program . . .

(the one your mother is ineligible for because her income from Social Security is slightly over the cutoff, though it’s not enough to pay her rent)

Yeah, those meals are delicious. . .Do you have any questions?

My sister and I look at each other—we have lots of questions,

but nothing she can help with.

She’s referred inexplicably a few times

to the process, program, situation

as “catch 52”—

perhaps it is all so ridiculous that “catch 22”

is no longer enough to describe it.

 

My sister goes home, my husband and I go home, too,

we feed the cats, and then visit a winery.

We drink wine, listen to music, and eat mac and cheese.

Decompress, not deconstruct.

Vino and Vibes,
William Heritage Winery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day I cook and bake,

the kitchen exorcism

being a well-known technique for

getting rid of any lingering demons.

Artisan Bread
Mandelbrot
Blueberry Peach Crumble

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our younger daughter is visiting a friend in Japan.

she sends us a photo

the two of them with a snake.

I think if anyone could charm a snake,

it would be her–

though she looks terrified.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think of my younger self–

once I held a snake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and had a head full of dreams,

not as practical as either of my daughters,

and not as charming either,

but in those days

my mother could see and walk

and was raising another child.

I raise a glass to wish,

only suddenly I’m

uncertain what to wish for.

 

We watch a mystery series

there’s murder, conspiracy, and violence

yet we know that at the end

the questions will be answered,

the mystery solved.

And if it’s not completely tidy,

it’s enough to satisfy.

Maybe the answer is 42, after all

though I’m not sure

of the question anymore.

I pour another glass of wine,

toast, “L’chaim.”

Perhaps “to life” is enough.

***

 

We watch the storm—

rain urges moon,

and she sings,

bares away language

to let live the cool whispers

of blue shadow light

on aching skin.

Life is wanted here—

trudge, run.

(If not, when?)

Together, we soar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Oracle gave me this coda of hope and action. I’m sure she knows that the expression is “bear away,” but she is clever, and no doubt she enjoyed the double meaning here.

 

 

 

 

Past, Future, and When

Monday Morning Musings:

“Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.”

–T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton,”

You can hear him read the poem here. 

“Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.”

–Justice Hugo Black, New York Times Company v. United States (1971)

 

“Wouldn’t it be fun if all the castles in the air which we make could come true and we could live in them?”

–Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

 

The present passes, becomes the past

the future now, and now is then.

We ask how did this happen and when?

Too fast for us to learn,

to slow for us to train

the grasping hands

the lizard brains?

 

In May 1933, they burned the books–

but that was there and then

now here, and again,

a leader tried to censor the news

suppress the press

(What are the choices? Choose.)

“I am not a crook,” he said

before he fled

his seat of power

(looking ever more dour)

But that was then

and it is now,

though there are echoes of before

(his followers ignore)

hate and fear

always in the air

like war’s harsh glare—

sow discord, let others bleed,

while those in the lead, feed their greed.

 

Bright days turn to stormy nights

we gather inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and hold our fears at bay

waiting for a stay

from thunder and lightning flashes–

the zigs and zags across the sky–

but in the morning,

the birds still sing and fly

this is the present,

the past, the future whys

converge,

the past, present, future merge

as it’s beginning to do within my mother’s head

confusing the threads of history and time

sometimes—no reason, no rhyme—

but just the way it is

a bridge to what is, or could be

if only we can see—

somehow—

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We celebrate Mother’s Day

a made-up holiday

from what was a protest against war

to one of flowers and treats—

for some, for us, it can also be sweet—

Flourless Chocolate Cake and Cannoli Dip

and we’ve done all this before,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

but still—

my mother has a great laugh—

and it would not be so bad

if that became her epitaph–

gathering with love around a table

as long as we are able

is wonderful and something we need.

No, that is not greed

to desire love and peace.

Perhaps I sometimes long for castles in the air

wish that was here or something there,

want the best for my own little women

as my mother wished for hers

and her mother for her children

in the past, which is now, which was then—

I wonder when?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Candles

Monday Morning Musings:

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”

—Attributed to Anne Frank all over the Internet, but without any source that I can find

 

A single candle

(for miracles)

flickers in the night

IMG_7696

joined by others

till eight in a row

they burn, and then they go

leaving only melted wax behind

and yet, perhaps I find

something, a sense of peace

in watching them increase

and we remember how our daughters

bet on which candle would stand last

one that burned not quite as fast—

lovely memories from the past.

 

 

A single candle

(for wishes)

flickers on a cupcake

IMG_4578 2

baked with love

and so sweet, delivered as surprise treat.

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It’s a strange birthday,

things don’t quite go my way

I lose a filling, and due to the snow

we stay and home, and don’t go

to dinner and a show,

but we eat pizza and drink some wine

and it’s fine, I say,

we’ll do something another day.

 

Everything a bit off this week,

small victories tinged with apprehension

tension over what might come, or be

a tax bill to help the rich–

oh, if only I could flip a switch

to eradicate ignorance and greed

wish on candles and stars that people would read

would help those in need

and instead of hindering, would keep freed

thought and scientific inquiry.

 

The CDC, an agency, supposed to be science-based

is not supposed to use the word

it’s not to the taste

of the current administration

who would like to see a nation

without education based on facts

but the monster simply reacts

without nuance or tact, but snaps,

just twitter taps and taps and taps

 

We fry latkes

IMG_9407

and when we’re through

IMG_7721

we eat them–and donuts, too

IMG_7731

because it’s a holiday of oil and sweets

and it’s a treat to share them with love

we eat the food and laugh and talk of–

oh this and that–

we watch their dog and see their cat

climb in search of treasure—food!

Yes, we’re in a holiday mood

as candles flicker and lights glow

FullSizeRender 290

but soon it’s time to go.

 

I spend the next day working

(cats around me lurking)

I have too much work to do

I sit at my computer

in a bit of stupor

but as night falls

we light the candles

and watch the shadows on the walls

from the flickering glow

I think of miracles past

(wonder if our country will last)

but let those thoughts slide

subside for a more festive mood

as we eat our Chinese food

and watch the Christmas shows

I might doze. . .

 

 

In the morning, before the dawn

I yawn and look up at the sky

and know that hope like a feather flies

and though the clouds block the stars

I know exactly where they are

I close my eyes and make a wish

I hope it flies and travels far.

FullSizeRender 293

 

 

 

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

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

Cabarets and Conviviality

Monday Morning Musings:

“Life is a cabaret, old chum

Come to the Cabaret!”

–John Kander and Fred Ebb, “Cabaret,” from Cabaret

 

“Which of all my important nothings shall I tell you first?”

–Jane Austen, Letter to her sister Cassandra, June 15, 1808

 

On a summery autumn day,

we left the sunlight

to enter the smoky den–

(the Cabaret, old friend)

Germany in the 1930s

but goose steppers are looming

the winds of war are moving

soon the guns will be booming

but for now, there is consuming

beer and goods,

here in the night,

the women are beautiful

the men are beautiful

they slink and glide

in barely-there wear

the Emcee, in heels and gowns

feather boa and garters,

looming

grooming the audience

flirting and diverting

we’re there, but here

then, but now

I’m surprised–

though why–

startled at my own emotion reaction

because it’s no longer an abstraction,

“Tomorrow Belongs to Me”

and Nazi insignia–

my throat constricts,

the body knows what the mind refuses to accept

(more goose steps)

I hear “some very fine people” gather

drivel and blather

echoes of then and now

the need to fight and disavow

what do politics have to do with us

the characters ask

We’re Germans,

(We’re Americans)

that can’t happen here,

our rights will never disappear

people standing tall and proud

arms held straight in devoted salute

They worship him

(no matter what he says)

small steps with profound consequences

(build a wall and many fences)

the slippery slope

and where’s the rope to pull us back

to ring the warning bell

to tell us now that all is well

So, what would you do

My brave young friend?

Would you pay the price?

What would you do?

What should we do?

What will you do?

 

 

We walk and talk

a wonderful production

the set well-designed,

the orchestra well-tuned and engaging

the voices delightful

the direction, insightful

altogether, quite a show

but—

(rightfully so)

a little too close to current events

(Maybe this time)

we’ll be lucky

maybe this time

he’ll go away

 

We wander some more

through old city streets

encounter wedding parties

one right after the other

brides, grooms, sisters, brothers

“the wedding stalker,” my husband says,

but it makes me happy to see love and joy

(where some want only to destroy)

affirmations of love and life

after the violence, hate, killing, and strife

 

We drink coffee

stroll across the cobblestones

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where men met to create a nation

to establish here a firm foundation

(remember the ladies, Abigail said)

but no, they simply went ahead

We’ve come a long way, baby

but still and all–

life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

flawed men with lofty ideals

feet of clay

and yet they found a way

it’s still the best we have

pledges made then and now

pledges these couples make in wedding vows

to love and cherish

to pursue life and happiness together

to do their best

we must do our best

(to join together)

 

After the play, we join our friends

friends of years

through love and tears

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kindred spirits

saying farewell to one couple’s house

not their first

but one where babies were born and nursed

here a family gathered

here we’ve shared many meals

often, like tonight Chinese food

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viewed one way

something we’ve done before

but there’s always something new and something old

moments to cherish and hold

close here to heart and mind

to bring out and remember

should we ever find the need to,

we say farewell to the house

but not the friendship,

remember that time, we say?

That day?

And then?

Remember when?

“What do you talk about? one friend’s daughter asked.

How do you describe the talk of old friends?

We talk of all our important nothings

and then we talk some more

of children, homes, work, and retirement

of travel, plays, movies, and books

of bats in our houses

and grandchildren in our beds

of catching mice

and stalking cats

of coffee cups and chocolate cake

of food and wine

and all the time

of then

and now

and all things fine

(and some things not so)

until finally it’s time to go.

We part with hugs effusive

despite the hour

and as the moon peeks from her cloudy bower

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we part–

Auf Wiedersehen,

but not goodbye

À bientôt

Enjoy life’s show–

it may be a cabaret

but if so, the set changes every day

and yet love, the light, true friends remain

and all our important nothings

in turns out

are really something