In a Dream I Found you

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Odilon Redon, “Béatrice”

“All that we see or seem

Is but a dream within a dream.”

–Edgar Allan Poe, “A Dream Within a Dream”

 

In a dream, I found you

there, not as I knew you,

but aglow,

 

your spirit gilding your face,

and through the mist,

you reached, took my hand,

 

and gazed at me with sea-green eyes

and led me to a sailing raft

and there reclined with me.

 

Then, under blossoming clouds–

scarlet, gold, and sapphire–

we sailed into the infinite,

 

a thousand tomorrows waited.

But I awoke,

my face salty only with tears

 

and longed to sleep

and dream again and again

and forever of you.

 

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Odilon Redon, “Flower Clouds”

 

Lillian has asked us to write a poem about dreams at dVerse today.  I think I probably write about dreams often, but these two paintings popped into my head. Can you have an ekphrastic poem based on two sources?

 

 

Listening, Watching, Hoping

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The world is sad and broken,

clouds of smoke rising

 

and the voices of trees lost.

(Say not forever.)

 

Still I listen for the secret rhythm

of stars and moon

 

and watch the sun rise

brilliant fire in the sky

 

lighting our days,

reminding us of if and when

 

the universe is born and dies,

again and again–

 

and yet, the flowers bloom in spring

(until they don’t)

 

and their perfume rises

in morning’s smile.

 

My collaboration with the magnetic poetry Oracle. She always seems to know what is and what might be.

 

 

Hidden

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Look up!  Vultures just hanging out. Hidden in plain sight.  National Park, NJ.

 

Monday Morning Musings:

“. . .for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

― George Eliot, Middlemarch

“I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars”

–Walt Whitman, #31 from “Song of Myself”

 

“It may diminish some our dry delight

To wonder if everything we are and do

Lies subject to some little law like that;

Hidden in nature, but not deeply so.”

–from Howard Nemerov, “Figures of Thought”

 

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The sun is hidden behind the clouds,

the images waver through a wet wall,

and the world is dark, dreary, until the charcoal clouds part

through the droplets, a ray of bright hope–

colors arc across the sky,

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and in that magic moment

my spirits lift, not forever, but enough

there, hidden behind the gloom

there is beauty, beneath the sleepy despondency,

there is hope, joy, love.

 

We walk through Old City streets,

bones beneath our feet, hidden

ghosts walk with dry leaf rustle.

We see their reflections

in the end of the year.

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Curtis Center Building, Philadelphia, December 31, 2019.

The year turns, a page reflected

(we reflect)

in the late afternoon sun-glow

as couples take their vows,

beginning a new life

 

We see a movie,

a hidden life,

but reflect upon so many hidden lives

at that time, in this time–

time flows faster

 

towards what?

We travel east,

the sun setting behind us

announcing the year is ending,

a new year about to begin.

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From a Patco train, crossing the Delaware River from Philadelphia to New Jersey. December 31, 2019.

We eat Chinese food,

watch a musical of hidden lives

danced into acceptance

in boots—

kinky boots. Well, why not?

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Why not? And why–

do leaders deny and lie?

foment hate?

The world burns

hidden beneath smoke and rage

 

are flower bulbs,

seeds of hope.

If we destroy the world

perhaps something better will come,

rising over our hidden bones

 

buried, like secrets

of family and history

in tombs sealed and forgotten

someday to be uncovered

to live again

 

perhaps in legend or song.

I find a recording of Yiddish songs

hidden in plain sight in my mother’s bookcase.

She is calmed by old, familiar melodies

as we sort and pack her belongings,

 

much of her past now hidden (treasures)

buried in time, tossed aside in many moves

“I’m reduced to one room,” she says

almost in tears,

saltwater, like the sea

 

from which we sprang,

the work of the stars,

their light and songs carrying us on

Starlight, starbright,

I wish tonight.

 

Hope buried, sometimes found, like that piece of bread that drops into the fondue pot.

Merril’s Movie Club—So many movies; so little time! We saw A Hidden Life, Terrence Malick’s latest. It was beautiful, like all of his movies—and well, you have to accept and go along with the meandering pace. It is based on a true story, and while I admire someone who sticks up for his convictions– and it is difficult not to see present-day parallels—I also was not certain what his objections actually were. At one point, he says he doesn’t know if Hitler is evil. Um, what? And though he suffers for not signing a paper giving allegiance to Hitler, the war does not really seem to touch the beautiful village in the clouds. I liked how the movie showed all the hard work the women do on their farm, but everyone seems well-fed while the war is going on. Yes, this man stood up for his undefined objections, but places were being bombed, people were sent to concentration camps, and other horrors were going on.

Last night we watched I Lost My Body.It’s a French animated film about a severed hand looking for its body. I know that sounds weird and creepy, but it’s surprisingly moving, as we learn about the young man’s life. I never thought I’d be rooting for a hand.

On New Year’s Eve, we watched a Broadway production of the musical Kinky Boots that I had recorded when PBS’s Great Performances ran a few weeks of Broadway shows in November. It’s great fun, and it was perfect for New Year’s Eve. (If you’re a Passport member you can see it.)

We’re almost finished with a Turkish show on Netflix called, The Gift. We’ve enjoyed it—an artist who draws strange symbols teams up with an archeologist to uncover family secrets and legends from the past.

And finally–a shout out to my cousin, David Lesser! His story, Bodies at Rest, was made into a Chinese movie. I don’t know how it will be distributed, but it’s an action movie, set in a morgue in Hong Kong, and it opened an Asian film festival. Trailer here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the Storm, the Moon Rises

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Monday Morning Musings:

“Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?”

–Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

“Every time I sing this song, I hope it’s the last time.”

–Lisa Petersen and Denis O’Hare, An Iliad

 

After the storm, the moon rises

humming fiercely in the winter sky.

Do you hear her music—

urging, warning, comforting?

Cold, but bright, shimmering

ever-present

reflecting all our ifs

back to us,

and in shadows and dreams,

we sometimes understand.

 

***

It is the season of joy and sorrow

of unexpected gifts

and the kindness of strangers

of carols and bells

and hypocritical politicians

 

It is the season of rain and snow

of a full moon setting as the sun rises

of comfort food and warm clothing—and cats–

of a flock of turkeys that suddenly appear

and disappear

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like my mother’s thoughts and memories

delusions and dreams

shadows of things that were

or might have been

things that never were or will be.

 

It is the season of my birth

perhaps a miracle of a sort,

considering the gap of years

between my older sister and myself?

A rapprochement between my parents

 

carrying on to the birth of my younger sister

two years later?

I guess I’ll never know,

and does it matter?

I am here.

 

And so, we celebrate

a weekend with food and wine—

we watch Mrs. Maisel.

We walk in the city

decorated with Christmas lights

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We are reminded of things that were

of things that might be

We are reminded, too, that there is more

in the world

than what we can see

 

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Though The Poet is doomed perhaps

to sing her song of war

over and over and over again–

“Do you see?” she asks us.

We do.

 

We see the rage, the endless killing

over what?

A woman?  A piece of land?

We hear the lies.

We see the man rallying his base–

 

evil, madness, pestilence–

Marley’s chains rattle and clank.

The spirits appear

over and over again . . .

 

and yet . . .magic exists all around us

in birdsong, the moon, the stars,

a baby’s laugh,

a deer appearing in the woods,

sunrise, sunset–

 

Do you see?

Look.

Listen.

Sing the songs of joy and peace–

dream.

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I had a wonderful birthday weekend. We watched several episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, ate Thai Curry Mussels at Monk’s Cafe in Philadelphia, saw a wonderful one-man performance of A Christmas Carol (Lantern Theater Company), saw a performance of An Iliad, (Arden Theater Company), a mostly one-woman show (along with a musician), a glass of wine at Pinot Boutique in Old City. Followed by Chinese food, more Mrs. Maisel, and my own flourless chocolate cake (The Oracle told me to eat cake!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is Always Magic: A Birthday Poem for Myself

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Breathe away sad rhythms,

wake to morning joy—

go celebrate life’s dazzling color

 

(eat cake)

 

Listen to the poetry of the stars kissing the night sky

and remember to embrace the lingering blue

as the clouds dance in brilliant-red fire–

 

explore time’s window and the universe’s ifs

but live your heart—

there is always magic

 

(the ghosts of your ancestors smile).

 

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The Oracle gave me this poem for my birthday.  I forgot to take a screen shot of the final version of the tiles, and we collaborated a bit, but she did tell me to eat cake.

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Beat Blackness Away

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Beat blackness away,

and dream

of cool lakes and gardens—

the scent of peaches

lives here

where sun honeys skin and rocks.

What if the storm still screams?

The sea sprays blue whispers,

and the moon sings through shadows

with silvered light-music

recalling all the whys of love.

 

From my Saturday visit with the magnetic Poetry Oracle. I forgot to take a screen shot of the tiles. It’s been one of those days already, and it’s not even noon.

Hope Carried Forward

Monday Morning Musings:

“We can never go back to before.”

–Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, “Back to Before,” Ragtime

“Go out and tell our story

Let it echo far and wide

Make them hear you

Make them hear you”

–Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, “Make Them Hear You,” Ragtime

 

“It’s important to emphasize that hope is only a beginning; it’s not a substitute for action, only a basis for it. “

“The past is set in daylight, and it can become a torch we can carry into the night that is the future.”

—Rebecca Solnit , from Hope in the Dark, quoted in Brainpickings

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I wake from dreams

where before and after merge

the past that never was,

the future that will never be,

where old friends visit a house

that is mine

only in a dream–

and I smile when I wake

because dream-world cats

knock objects from tables, too.

Somehow that makes

everything seem right.

***

 

There are hopes so small

scarcely thoughts at all

 

wishes, feather light

almost out of sight

 

they drift

away so swift–

 

a desire for fair days,

and then we gaze,

 

see beauty in the mist,

buildings lightly kissed

 

by grey, yet they shimmer

even as they’re dimmer

a paradox, perhaps

like seeing in the gaps

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what could be.

And then behind a tree

 

a deer, or two, three,

more you see

than what is here—

hope for what could be.

 

And quiet sanctuaries

where history tarries

Garden at Christ Church, Philadelphia    Merril D. Smith, October 2019

Christ Church Garden, Philadelphia Credit: Merril D. Smith, October 2019

telling the story of before

in church steeples, and old doors

 

steps decorated for fall

historic houses call

but we can never go back to before

even if we try to restore

 

a status quo–

you know

 

there is no time machine

only dreams

where past and future blend,

but it doesn’t have to be the end—

 

we tell our stories

of past glories

 

and of little things

our hopes with wings

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for our children, to bring

the awakening of spring

 

and they will hear you

and we hear, too

 

through mist and dreams

hope beams

 

a light,

a torch in the endless night.

 

Bonus Photo: “my willow.” I think people often dream under it.

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“My” willow, October 2019 At Dock Creek, Old City Philadelphia

We saw Ragtime at the Arden Theatre. It was performed in the round with a minimal set (with the clever use of two pianos and benches), but I loved the intimate aspect, where even though I knew the story, the three groups seemed clearer, as was their desire for their children to have better lives. I think there are many people today who want to go back to an idealized past. Well, that is evident in the campaign slogan used by the current U.S. president. But though I tear up at the musical, it leaves me with a sense of hope.

And, if you’re keeping track, my manuscript for my book on sexual harassment is nearly completed. I’ll be sending in the first five chapters in just a bit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rising Storm

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Sea screams a storm

of purple winds blowing wild

cool salty spray

 

rising

 

as we rose up together–

and after, in luscious light

the moon whispers, “if” . . .

 

. . .and we dream

 

I got a bit over 1,500 words written for my book, so I’m taking a quick poetry break before I get back to work. (Slow going when you’re researching at the same time.)  The Oracle knows what’s going on.

Travelers

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Monday Morning Musings:

 

“My baby takes the morning train

He works from nine till five and then

He takes another home again

To find me waitin’ for him”

Florrie Palmer, “Morning Train (Nine to Five),” (Recorded by Sheena Easton)

 

“Why do you write like you’re writing out of time?”

Lin Manuel Miranda, “Non Stop,” Hamilton

 

“Legacy. What is legacy?

It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.”

Miranda, “The World Was Wide Enough,” Hamilton

 

“Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?”

–Lin Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

 

Blue wind soars

into a day of pink and peach

recall this picture– or forget

how the rhythm of earth

turns grey to dazzling bright,

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and the magic of a cat

in a long, liquid stretch

with a purr that transfers

burrowing into your soul

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How does it happen—

 

that the light of ghost stars

dances into your morning horizon

and you vow to remember this

 

how it travels

in light years

 

but blink—

and it’s gone.

***

We catch the train

walk a cobblestone lane

 

and past the willow tree

where Hamilton’s bank peeks softly

Willow tree at Dock Creek, Philadelphia

through branches still green

past, present, what might have been

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but here we are

to watch women on trapeze bar

 

climbing silks, twirling on a hoop

they move in the air, dance, swoop

 

in transit, a search

for love, a perch

above offers reflection

(and they are perfection)

 

in strength and skill

traveling without a spill

 

from any apparatus

and those hearts grab us

 

the emotions she carries

with colors that vary

 

red, black and blue

well, we understand, do you?

 

The red given to lovers, the black

weighing her down, from the lack–

 

but friends help with the burden

though life is still uncertain.

 

We so enjoy the show

then it’s time to go

 

past a wedding

heading

 

from where the Founding Fathers’ prayed

bridal party and guests all finely arrayed

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and we walk and people-watch

from a little swatch

 

with drinks and apps

then perhaps

it’s time to walk

and talk

 

down streets and alleys

where people have rallied,

 

where a Revolutionary generation

fought, died, and built a nation–

to reflect on light

as we travel into the night.

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We catch the train

the next day—again

 

over the bridge, high

above where boats sail by

Delaware River from Patco train

eat a pre-theater meal

and I’m so excited, I feel

happy to be here

(Hamilton walked near)

 

lucky to be alive right now–

and wow!

the show lives up to every expectation

and anticipation,

 

believe the hype, what they say is true

it’s brilliant through and through.

 

I cry a bit after Philip dies

but laugh and clap, too, and time flies

 

till we’re heading home on the train

again.

 

And though moon peaks from a cloud

humming—not too loud

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Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

 

I dream of things I don’t understand

of Hamilton, and far off lands

 

of immigrants who get things done–

well, my grandfather was one.

 

But where does a dream go

between slumber and slowed

 

breathing and thinking

thoughts slinking

 

and winking in your mind

till you wake to find

 

the dream’s traveled far

beyond time, and where are

 

they? Where do they go

when they’ve flowed

 

from your brain,

but sometimes appear again?

 

My mother asks if my father’s alive

and I ponder and strive

 

to find a way

to say–

 

cause he died

years ago, not alive

 

but I’m helpless when she insists

and the dreams twists

 

then falls away.

 

So, I write, prose and rhyme

because I’m running out of time

 

planting seeds, a legacy

she’ll never get to see.

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We saw In Transit, a show that’s part of the Philadelphia Fringe line-up this year. We both really enjoyed it, and this group of women of Tangled Movement Art who we’ve seen perform before. They combine theater and circus art. “Morning Train” was a song that was repeated throughout the show. Then, of course we saw Hamilton. The show is a bit of a love song to NYC, but Philadelphia knows Hamilton walked here, too.

I’m delayed today because my computer decided to eat my file, but fortunately, I was able to recover it. Moment. Of. Panic.