Songs of Squirrels, Beauty, and Tradition

Monday Morning Musings:

“I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,. . .”

Walt Whitman, “I Hear America Singing”

 

“The human soul can always use a new tradition. Sometimes we require them.”

–Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline

 

“Perhaps this piece of evolution makes no sense—our hunger for everyday sorts of visual pleasure—but I don’t think so, I think we have survived because we love beauty and because we find each other beautiful. I think it may be our strongest quality.”

–Louise Erdrich, Future Home of the Living God

 

The long holiday weekend is filled with family, food, love, and traditions

my younger daughter and I break bread for stuffing

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it’s a calling, a mission, with certain conditions

some fluid, others unchanging

though life does some rearranging

through time and space

and so, I flashback in my mind  to my sister and me

watching Thanksgiving parades and tearing pieces from loaves

while our mother is at the stove

producing the magic of holiday meals

(then not appreciated, but now, oh the feels)

Now daughter and I, we break the bread

and watch The Gilmore Girls instead

done the day before,

crossing off this chore,

from the to-do list

and while the old, might be missed

a new holiday tradition it seems is born

taking place while the bread is torn

because sometimes we require them

even when the holiday is filled with so many.

 

On the big day—what to do

when our designated squirrel un-molder is not here?*

Another one is drafted and a crowd gathers

Offering advice on this and sundry matters

as the cranberry sauce does not want to leave the mold:

more hot water

use a spatula

A compliment:

Not only is she smooth on the dance floor,

she’s smooth on the squirrel, too.

Critique:

She can’t bang it, it’s a hundred-year old thing.

There will be no banging!

Encouragement:

Come on little squirrel we love you.

do it do it do it

Oh my gosh I think it’s happening

The crowd goes wild:

Yaaaaayy!

Another year with the squirrel!

and so, we talk and laugh and eat and drink

discuss scuba diving and money laundering

the possibility of my mom having off-shore accounts

(she doesn’t, but the thought produces much laughter).

We discover how many people it takes to get

a ninety-five-year-old woman up the stairs to the bathroom

wonder if we’re doomed,

but at least three, it seems,

still, we enjoy the holiday and dreams

watched by the spirits of those no longer with us

it is ever thus,

the ghosts of holidays past,

“remember when,” the common refrain

joining in a train

the days from before

to what will come hence

past and future tense

blended together,

a holiday casserole of memories and dreams,

like the dish of leftovers my sister tells me she made

layers laid atop one another,

savory, tart, and just a little sweet

the art of distinct layers that together seep

to form when mixed through

something entirely new.

 

The next day, we take our older daughter and her wife

on a journey to see visual pleasures

in nature and art, such treasures

a visit with the boating party

scream at monsters

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or just scream

dine by the water

and dance in the woods

we hear America sing

its varied songs

and glory in Impressionistic delight

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Later, we eat leftovers

and watch The Blair Witch Project–

because nothing says family coziness like horror movies–

with food

America singing its varied carols

 

We do a holiday wine tasting in the barrel room

Scott, assists us, keeping up a lively patter

as he describes the wine and other matters

it is a beautiful fall day

and so, we decide to stay

to sit outside

while we imbibe

watching the soaring hawks

and listening to others talk

looking at the daytime moon

enjoying this weather, thinking winter will be here soon.

We eat Pakistani food

and meet out daughter and son-in-law’s neighbors

who have become friends–the kind of whom you can ask favors,

we discuss how our daughters sound alike,

one tells how she used to sneak about at night,

and we counter with embarrassing childhood stories

(the glory of parental territory)

perhaps the start of a new tradition,

of perhaps it is sufficient

to see and relish the present and the everyday.

 

Now, it’s four o’clock Monday morning,

we’re awake for the sake

of our daughter and her wife

who have to catch their flight

though it seems the middle of the night,

yet I’m strangely alert

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear

of parents and children saying goodbye

of politicians trying to tear apart, like stuffing bread,

when they could be constructing something good instead

of children going off to school

hoping they will learn some tools

to navigate this brave new world

that has such people in’t

both good and bad

some sad, hungering for traditions, or new conditions,

for truth and beauty to negate the hate

I see a squirrel scamper from a tree,

and over us, the moon hums her tune

I watch for the sun to rise in autumn beauty–soon

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We visited Grounds for Sculpture again and did a Holiday Wine Trails tasting in the barrel room at Sharrott Winery.

 

*I explained the tradition of the cranberry squirrel in this post.

 

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Thanksgiving Ghosts: Shadorma

Gratitude

for life, love, and food,

we gather

together

around the table to eat

where ghosts watch, smiling

 

they hover

as we make toasts to

absent friends,

ancestors,

spirits in our memories

sit with us in peace

 

 

This is a Shadorma for Eliot’s November Challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Race: Yeats Challenge

This is for Jane’s A Month with Yeats Challenge.  Sorry for so many posts today. I’m doing them while I get a chance before I’m back to projects and before Thanksgiving.

This quote is from “The Old Age of Queen Maeve.”

“out of the dark air over her head there came
A murmur of soft words and meeting lips.”—W.B. Yeats

 

Once she was young and fair of face,

she lived life as if it were a race

where she was the brightest and fastest, and before it stopped

she would need to make it to the top.

But now she was confined to a castle tower

so far in time from her bridal bower

and instead of those who loved her well,

it was to her a sort of hell

with only servants and guards who gaped and glowered.

And so, she sat, and sometimes she’d spin,

sometimes ponder, or wonder about her sins

(of which she thought there were many

but as with her life, far from ordinary.)

Of late she had begun to tire,

become very cold, even before the fire,

she thought sometimes her husband, her lover,

was there in the night, his spirit would hover

as if to say, soon, though not today

once again, you’ll dance and sway

in my arms—we’ll be together,

it will be like yesterday

when you were young and fair of face,

but you’ll no longer be running in the race,

a few nights later he came for her,

took her hand and opened a door

the glowering servants saw a faint glimmer

that grew bright, then dimmer in the night

and she was gone, to dance in the starlight.

 

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Ford Madox Brown, “Convalescent: Portrait of Emma Madox Brown,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Night-Tide: Yeats Challenge, Day 10

For Jane Dougherty’s A Month with Yeats Challenge, Day 10.

Today’s quotation:

“And he saw how the reeds grew dark
At the coming of night-tide,”

—  W.B. Yeats.

 

From the cottage window

he watches the winds blow,

scurrying and hurrying

for the day to be through

to turn evening’s dusky violet hue

into the starry indigo of night.

 

How she had loved that sight,

the clouds dancing in the air

the wispy bits of angel hair

white against the darkening sky.

And still he cried

remembering how she’d died

drifting away at the coming of night-tide.

 

He’d been there, sitting at her side.

Now weary, burdened with a heavy heart,

wondering what to do or what to start

Then softly he hears her gentle sigh,

and though it waits for no reply,

as the moon hums and the reeds grow dark

he knows she’s there somehow, a spark

in every fox’s bark and singing lark

her spirit roams by house and glen

somewhere, sometime, he’ll see her again.

 

'Starry_Night'_by_Edvard_Munch,_1893,_Getty_Center

Edvard Munch, “Starry Night,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

My Love Returned in Summertime: November Yeats Challenge

Jane Dougherty is doing a NOT-NaNoWriMo challenge. It’s the opposite, in fact–a join in, if you wish, whenever you wish, to write a poem based on a line or snippet from Yeats that she will supply every day in November. You can find today’s Yeats’ Challenge here. This is Day One. The quote is:

“they will ride the North when the ger-eagle flies,

With heavy whitening wings, and a heart fallen cold:” —W. B. Yeats

 

My love returned in summertime

from far beyond the sea

through heathered hills we roamed and climbed

when he returned to me

 

We were together from summer to fall

when he returned from the far off sea

then he was killed by churchyard wall

after he returned to me

 

Another man had sought my favor

while my love was beyond the sea

but from my love I’ve never wavered

and he returned to me

 

And now my heart has fallen cold

like the depths of the deepest sea

he was ever fearless, wild, and bold

and still he returns to me

 

At night, I hear him riding north,

coming homing to me

his spirit gallops on ghostly horse

he’s coming home to me

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Franciszek Żmurko, “In Rapture,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Wind Sighs of Dreams: Haibun

I woke to hear the wind sighing and moaning, the lonely sound of a train whistle at midnight. The house creaked, like a person turning over in bed, trying to get comfortable. The branches of the maple tree tap against the window. I try not to think of Wuthering Heights. I fall back asleep, my bed creaking like the house, as I toss through strange dreams: a woman with a mission, possibly dangerous. She may have been someone I know, in a costume, in disguise. Then there was poetry, lyrical snippets, now forgotten. Perhaps it was all an eerie visit from my muse.

 

Red gold trees ablaze

light flows through sun and shadow

dark-clothed ghosts hover

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This Haibun is for Colleen Chesebro’s Poetry Tuesday. The prompt words were eerie and costume.

 

 

 

The Dancers: Quadrille

The house was softly lit

the couple danced and flit

in waltzing rhythm, with delight

till late at night

(as in the past)

up the creaking stairs, they went

content–

no matter that long ago, they’d died,

love is here, the house still sighed

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This is a quadrille for dVerse. The prompt word was creak. I wrote this last night, but at 4 A.M. or so I was awakened by the house creaking from the wind storm we’re having now in anticipation of the rain that’s coming soon. It was creepy walking out in the dark this morning to get the newspaper. This creepy creaking might inspire a less gentle poem.

 

Two Trains: Haibun

“Freight train, freight train, run so fast
Freight train, freight train, run so fast
Please don’t tell what train I’m on
They won’t know what route I’m going. . .”

–Elizabeth Cotton, “Freight Train”

I sit in the movie theater watching a documentary. Mississippi, June 1964–Freedom Summer. Two groups of idealistic white men search for African American delta blues singers, Skip James and Son House, they know of them only from old recordings. The seekers are unaware of what the segregated South is like. While they search, other idealistic, naïve, white college students are heading to Mississippi to set up freedom schools and to help with voter registration. Black activists know those in power do not react to black lives lost, so it’s crucial to have these white civil rights workers involved, too. On June 21, 1964, African-American civil rights worker, James Chaney disappears from Philadelphia, Mississippi, along with white colleagues Michael Schwerner and Andrew Chapman (their bodies found weeks later). They vanish as the musicians are found. The stories converge—two trains running–music and the civil rights movement. I watch all this—the old film footage, the animated scenes, the talking heads. I hear those lonesome, vibrant, haunting blues. The music train arrived, but the civil rights train is still running, fueled by hope and persistence, despite the obstacles on the tracks.

 

Ghosts still walk these roads

haunted sighs in summer winds

rhythm of the blues

 

Embed from Getty Images

 

This Haibun is for Colleen Chesebro’s Weekly Poetry Tuesday. The prompt words were ghost and haunt.

We saw Two Trains Runnin’. More info here.

 

 

Dreaming Shapes in the Mist: Haibun

I am dreaming. I traipse across the moors in Brontë country. It’s almost Halloween, and back home I’ll soon be carving jagged smiles on pumpkin faces. As I walk, the sun sinks lower in the sky, deepening the grass’s golden glow. Shadows walk with me, till they are obscured by the darkness. Night lays a black shroud over the naked trees and heathered knolls, covering them completely. A fine misty rain obscures my vision even more. It kisses me all over, lightly like a playful lover, until I am weakened and drenched. I stand, uncertain where to go or how to find my way home. At the sound of a ghostly screech, I jump, then laugh a bit at my fright. It’s just a barn owl. There’s nothing here to frighten you, I tell myself–until cold fingers wrap themselves around my wrist. I try to call out, but no sound emerges from my throat. I try to wake, but I cannot. I am dreaming I tell myself as the bony fingers pull me down to the cold, damp ground.

 

Shapes in the darkness

nightmares come in autumn’s mist

Jack’s crooked mouth laughs

 

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George Lambert, “Moorland Landscape with Rainstorm,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve been told a true Haibun is supposed to be based on a real experience, but I decided to have a bit of seasonal fun with this. I suppose it is flash fiction with a haiku, but I’m calling it a Haibun. This is for Colleen Chesebro’s Weekly Poetry Challenge. The prompt words were mist and shape.