Replies: The Poetry of Earth

Monday Morning Musings:

“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”

–Leonard Bernstein (In reference to a concert played after JFK’s assassination.)

“I also believe, along with Keats, that the Poetry of Earth is never dead, as long as Spring succeeds Winter. . .”

–Leonard Bernstein

“He’s alive. He’s alive so long as these evils exist. Remember that when he comes to your town. Remember it when you hear his voice speaking out through others. Remember it when you hear a name called, a minority attacked, any blind, unreasoning assault on a people or any human being. He’s alive because, though these things, we keep him alive.”

Rod Serling, “He’s Alive,” The Twilight Zone.

 

The Queen of Soul with last breath sighs

a cappella respect and pink Cadillacs lay her to rest

and when the war hero dies, tributes attest

to his heroism, morality, beliefs that belie

the petty tyrant’s mocking words

his tweeting calls, unlike the birds

who in dawn chorus sing

and bring the poetry of earth alive

(let freedom ring).

 

At a museum we see the story of a people and a man

a tribute for what would have been his hundredth year

his father wanted him to be a rabbi, but didn’t stand

in his way, when music was what he held so dear

–but he was a rabbi of a sort, teaching with sound

and harmony, questioning and seeking justice, shedding tears

to bring the poetry of earth to light–

his reply to violence was not silence,

but rather let the music swell intensely, delight

in life, for all of us, poetry of earth and air

today, tonight

(someday, somewhere)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We see a movie about a boy and his brothers

violence and love, we and us, a trio till it’s not–

they run wild, as mother and father

and family, all of them caught

a cycle, repeating what they’ve learned

yelling and silence, kisses and slaps

and so, he seeks solace in art, turns

to his frantic scribbling, wraps

his pain and questioning in late night visions

finally realizing, and makes decisions

there’s poetry in this dreamy work

where souls almost drown, but also fly

and even in the light, the darkness lurks

the poetry of earth means changes are sung

but his mother whispers

(may you stay forever young).

 

We stroll through the city

that also ages and changes,

we see ugly and pretty

poverty and wealth, such ranges

and though fall is coming,

summer still holds sway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the poetry of earth ever humming

through violence, love finds a way

we see weddings, people who are happy

and we smile with them as we walk

drink our coffee, discuss movies, and talk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

about this and that

and in end of summer heat

complete

(we’ll do the best we know

and make our garden grow).

 

Song lyrics: “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” which Aretha Franklin sang at Barack Obama’s inauguration. Leonard Bernstein references to “Tonight” and “Somewhere” from West Side Story and “Make Our Garden Grow” from Candide. “May You Stay Forever Young,” Bob Dylan.

We went to the Leonard Bernstein exhibit on its last day at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia. I didn’t know he had performed at a displaced persons camp after WWII. He conducted an orchestra that called themselves the Ex-Concentration Camp Orchestra. You can read about it here and here. We saw We the Animals. Trailer here. I really liked this movie.  We watched the old Twilight Zone episode “He’s Alive.” It was written in the 1960s, but it is a timely reminder about what could be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waves Again (and Again), NaPoWriMo, Day 27

No flask, no wine, no book of verse, this night

We reach for stars and moon, seek gleams of light

Hear the silver streams from the humming moon

Time and rhythms flow, in eternal rites

 

Upon the sand, waves pitch and break and roar

While spindrift flicks in salted breeze to shore

And you with me, now standing hand in hand

Watching the sea, waiting for dreams, and more.

 

Ilya Repin, “What Freedom”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m off prompt for today’s NaPoWriMo challenge. I took bits of yesterday’s NaPoWriMo poem and tribute line from Omar Khayyam’s famous verse for this attempt at a Rubaiyat for Frank Hubeny’s challenge on dVerse.

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom: Haibun

This is for Frank Tassone’s Haikai Challenge. Tomorrow is a federal holiday that celebrates the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. Frank has asked us to reflect and write about freedom. Here is MLK’s “I Have a Dream speech.

My grown daughter is visiting. She dances into the kitchen in the morning, and I join in with a song. I’m happy that this is a safe place for her, and that here she feels the freedom to be silly. We both do.

Too many people think freedom means waving a flag and repeating slogans. But greatness does not come from denying others the right to love, to learn, to live without fear of a knock at the door. Freedom generously shares a dream, but requires effort and vigilance. Freedom looks forward in hope, not backwards to repression.

 

dreams hibernating

wait for spring’s awakening

hearts dance in sunshine

 

 

 

 

For Those Who Came Before, To Those Who Come After

She remembers–

flying,

rising above land and sea,

adrift in the misting clouds,

feeling the wind through her hair,

laughing,

looking below,

resisting gravity,

(the pull to bring her down).

It was all forbidden,

(girls were not meant to rise)

but she knew it was never wrong

to soar as high as she could,

And so,

this is what she taught her daughters–

and her sons–

and when she could no longer fly

or remember

they did so for her,

laughing in the misting clouds,

resisting the forces that sought to bring them down.

 

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Caspar David Friedrich, “Drifting Clouds” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This is for Secret Keeper’s Weekly Writing Prompt.  

The prompt words were:

| SOAR | WRONG | LAND | RESIST | BELOW

 

 

 

 

Safe Harbor: Haibun

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

–from Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus”

 

Our ship is stalled in the harbor–the weather, customs duties, bribes to officials—who knows why? We live in suspended time in a liminal space—on a ship, but not at sea; people who have left their homes, but who have not found a new one, refugees. I worry about leaving—perhaps it would not be so bad to stay? But it is too late, we are sailing. Weeks seem like months, as my stomach rolls and heaves with the ship, till at last we arrive. We are weary, but grateful for our new home, a small room in the house of distant kin. At night, we walk to the beach to escape the heat of the day. My sister’s face mirrors my own—relief that the journey is over, sadness that we may never see our parents again, and joy that we are safe. We dance on the sand under a moonlit sky.

 

Faults in men, not stars

lighting a sea-crossed journey

freedom has a price–

beckoning with torch raised high,

the beacon separates, too

 

Winslow_Homer_-_Summer_Night_(1890)

 

This is for Colleen Chesebro’s Weekly Poetry Challenge.  The prompt words were mirror and harbor. I remember my grandfather telling me about when he was a boy, after he, his mother, and his sister left Kiev, their ship was stuck in Trieste. I don’t know why or how they got there. Trieste was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I mentioned him in a previous post called Feast of the Immigrant. 

And here’s the Hamilton mix tape based on the line from the show, “Immigrants, we get the job done.”

 

 

Setting the Course for Freedom

great_dismal_swamp-fugitive_slaves

By David Edward Cronin ([1], New York History blog.com) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Without a clue of what would come after,

they set a course for freedom,

knowing the threat they faced if recaptured,

But, they knew threat intimately,

he was their dark companion,

he walked beside them daily,

the threat of being sold,

the threat of being raped

the threat of being punished

(for the smallest infraction).

But love was there, too,

though it was fragile,

its tender heart broken

over and over again

like skin

flayed by the whip.

Now was the time,

the questions posed,

How can we stay?

How can we leave?

We just go.

 

This poem is in response to Secret Keeper’s Weekly Writing Challenge.

The prompt words were: Clue/Course/Tender/Threat/Pose

 

Crowns and Independence

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We got crowned! (Our youngest child was married.)

 

Monday Morning Musings:

 

 “Love is the crowning grace of humanity, the holiest right of the soul, the golden link which binds us to duty and truth, the redeeming principle that chiefly reconciles the heart to life, and is prophetic of eternal good.”

–Petrarch

“We need to help people to discover the true meaning of love. Love is generally confused with dependence. Those of us who have grown in true love know that we can love only in proportion to our capacity for independence.”

–Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember

 

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

–Nelson Mandela

 

It has been a mostly beautiful weekend to celebrate the birth of our nation,

colonies declaring independence from the crown

I think of how crown rhymes with clown,

and it amuses me–

I think of all the clowns who’ve worn crowns

and how often the jester or fool has been the wise man.

 

Last year on this day, the Fourth of July,

Independence Day,

My husband and I wore paper crowns,

parents of the bride

a nod to custom,

and an affectionate tribute to a family tradition

of the birthday crowns we construct.

Our daughter carried a fan she designed

with a quotation from Jane Eyre,

“Reader I married him.”*

 

She and our now son-in-law vowed to love and cherish

each other, to join together

forming “a more perfect union”

like colonies becoming states, and then a union,

it is a process that goes beyond the simple declaration of intent

of independence and dependence

a balancing act,

not dependence,

rather, respecting one another,

and enhancing the best in each.

Perhaps our nation could benefit

from a bit of marriage counseling.

 

We had planned to see a baseball game with them,

baseball, the great American pastime,

what could be more perfect?

But because it was raining with violent storms in the forecast

we went to dinner with them instead–

food, that like our nation, was a mixture of all types,

vegan entries, steak for my husband, salads,

Buffalo sauce and Sriracha

many flavors and textures

sharing space on the table.

 

The weather had improved by the next day,

glorious weather for celebrating,

though we stayed at home

listening to fireworks in the distance.

We watched a movie, Belgian, but in French

(Remember how France joined us in fighting

their English enemy though France was still

a monarchy with a King who wore a crown?)

Two Days, One Night,

Marion Cotillard, a wife and mother,

works in a solar-panel factory,

with the help of her husband and support from friends,

she spends the weekend asking her co-workers to vote for her to keep her job,

even though if they do so, they will lose their bonuses.

We make all sorts of negotiations in life,

When is it right give up something that will benefit ourselves

in order to help someone else?

It is a decision each must decide.

Dependence and independence.

 

The sun rises, a crown of pink and orange

beaming golden rays into the azure sky,

spokes like those of Lady Liberty’s crown

promising liberty, standing on a broken chain,

given to the United States by the people of France,

inscribed with the date, July 4, 1776,

a symbol,

not a reality for all

but something to strive for

Liberté, égalité, fraternité,

Emily Dickinson said,

“Hope is the thing with feathers,”

but hope is also the sun rising and setting

each day

and hope is the joining of two in marriage

and love is our shining crown.

Embed from Getty Images

 

*This essay by Claire Fallon discusses the line “Reader, I married him,”

Sweetness

Monday Morning Musings:

“I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”

–James Baldwin

 

Today is Rosh Hashanah,

the start of the High Holy Days.

We say “Shanah Tova,”

and wish people a sweet year.

The weekend began with

the anniversary of 9/11.

Never forget.

As if we could.

Then caring for our grandpets.

Doggy kisses

and kitty purrs.

A party.

People with different jobs,

beliefs

interests,

drinking and

playing volleyball.

No, not me.

I’ll just watch.

Having fun.

Enjoying

the beautiful evening.

Meanwhile—

The man with the hair

whips up hate.

Throughout history

demagogues have appeared.

He is merely the latest.

A little man

for all his wealth.

Seeking to rise by

finding a scapegoat–

as all demagogues do.

It is nothing new.

It’s their fault,

they declare.

You don’t have money,

goods,

or

power–

It’s because of them.

Migrants, Jews,

Women.

People with black skin,

or yellow skin.

Educated people.

Illiterate people.

Gay.

Trans.

It doesn’t matter.

They are Others,

not one of us.

Nativists, Know Nothings, and Exclusion Acts—

We don’t want your kind.

“Give me your tired, your poor.”

Lady Liberty cries,

But not too tired, not too poor.

the followers yell.

We don’t want people who

look different.

And

none of that foreign talk here.

Speak English.

Wave a flag,

like a true patriot.

A clerk in Kentucky claims religious freedom by

denying others their rights.

Doesn’t she know that liberty

is inclusive,

not exclusive?

Hate does not win.

Hate brings more hate.

Hate combusts and burns

like the brushfires out west,

consuming everything it touches.

Love,

Compassion,

Empathy,

Education

tame the flames,

to a warm glow,

enough to sit around,

enough to bake bread.

I baked challahs yesterday.

The kitchen smells

Of bread and memories.

And love, too.

“Bread and roses.”

Fuel for body

and soul.

Dip the apple in the honey.

Taste its sweetness.

It is everywhere.

Look.

It is all around you.

Can you see the sweetness

of life?

Stop.

Just look.

Do you see it?

Can you look past the hate?

Can you see how beautiful

Our Earth is?

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Wishing all of you peace and a sweet new year!

©Merril D. Smith