Past and Future, Touched

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.”

–Stephen Hawking

she once had

a mortal body

long ago–

or was it?

Unbound by time, she’s unsure

drifting in moonlight. . .


and starlight

and in brightest sun–

it is all

part of her

and she of it. Wandering,

she touches your heart–


you feel it,

a shock, fear–and awe,

but also


for knowledge. Look at the stars–

time and space folding


Embed from Getty Images


This is for dVerse. We were asked to write a shadorma with the prompt “phantom.” I’ve done a series of connecting shadorma stanzas.










Stories Beneath the Surface

Monday Morning Musings:

“I could be

In someone else’s story

In someone else’s life

And he could be in mine. . .”

–Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, Tim Rice, “Someone Else’s Story,” from the musical Chess

“People’s personalities, like buildings, have various facades, some pleasant to view, some not.”

-François, Duc De La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) Moral Maxims and Reflections, no. 292


On a sunny day–

spring in February thinking of May–

we stroll through sun and shadows

façades that hint of love inside

I wonder if it is—

and who they are–

wonder about their stories

(someone else’s story)


All of the stories that have been lived

as the centuries turn

eighteenth to nineteenth and on

through changing façades–

those that remain–

past and present merge

modernized, expanded, reformed–

like this church–

where beneath the surface

lie the remains of those

who once lived and breathed here

Old Pine Church looking toward St. Peter’s Philadelphia


their breaths becoming part of the ecosystem

their steps leaving footprints,

sometimes larger in death than they were in life.

Other people’s lives,

Someone else’s story


When they lived,

did they wear their hearts openly—

like the cutouts on the door,

or did they keep their feelings buried

deep inside

behind a façade of smiling respectability?

I wonder how many had secret lives

yearnings that they could never admit?

Complex creatures

we divide ourselves

closing doors—saying this is not allowed

we must not live that story,

but times change

and churches, too,

and love is love is love


In the quiet here, there is not silence.

Do their ghosts walk by my side here?

that sound

the wind,

or their sighs

telling me their stories?

In the unquietness of this place,

filled with hundreds of stories

of birth, love, sorrow, and death

a living child with his mother screams in delight

and runs over the graves. . .

what happens at night behind the gates?


We wander back to the movie theater to see

someone else’s story—

there up on the screen

A Fantastic Woman

and she is

what does it matter that she was born a man

(we all have our façades)

but she was loved

and still is by her sister and friends

and a dog–

who doesn’t care about societal labels–

some do not treat this woman well

they threaten and humiliate her

but life and her story go on

because she is a fantastic woman


And after –

we talk and walk

to where fire recently destroyed part of a block

nineteenth-century buildings

one will have to be demolished

all but it’s first floor cast iron façade–


Third and Chestnut, Philadelphia February 2018


the stories of these places–

the people who lived there now displaced–

and while we stand there

gazing at the devastation,

I get a text from a friend,

find out about her son’s illness—

the dangers of the invisible world

within our bodies

beneath the surface,

we don’t always see or know what is there–

(thankfully, it seems he will be okay)

and though this is someone else’s story

they are my friends,

so it becomes part of my story, too.


The next day, it turns cold again–

February’s story–

we turn the heat back on

eat homemade pizza, drink some wine,

huddle under blankets,

watch Netflix–and our cats—

we text our daughters,

sending virtual hugs–

behind the walls of our house

this is our story,

and I don’t want someone else’s life.


A Fantastic Woman stars the fantastic Daniela Vega,  a trans woman (who also sings in the movie). The movie was made in Chile, and it is nominated for best foreign film. I keep thinking about it. See the trailer here.

The architecture of the fire-damaged buildings is described here.











Ghosts and Questions

Monday Morning Musings:

“Some questions remain long after their owners have died. Lingering like ghosts. Looking for the answers they never found in life.”

–Michael Frayn, Copenhagen

 Bohr: “A curious sort of diary memory is.”

Heisenberg: “You open the pages, and all the neat headings and tidy jottings dissolve around you.”

Bohr: “You step through the pages into the months and days themselves.”

Margrethe: “The past becomes the present inside your head.”

—Michael Frayn, Copenhagen


We go to bed with snow on the ground and wake to spring. We step through the door, and into the day.


Winter’s ghostly forms

banished by the golden light—

one bloom has opened

We walk down city streets. Here, as we approach Chinatown, sound travels faster than sight, if not light.

We hear the drums and firecrackers, long before we see the lion. We step into the crowd. The lion dance, a centuries-old tradition. The noise of the firecrackers, the constant beating of the drum, and the lion itself will scare away evil spirits. Perhaps the ancestors smile.


Lion’s head and tail

sweeps away year’s bad fortune

brings longevity


We stop for coffee, and walk and talk, passing nineteenth-century buildings that co-exist with their newer neighbors. I feel the ghosts around us.


We step into the theater. We step into time and space. We are in Copenhagen. No, we are sharing the memories of these three: German physicist Werner Heisenberg, his Danish mentor Niels Bohr, and Bohr’s wife, Margrethe with whom he shares everything. We are in some sort of limbo.


They are ghosts, perhaps–

well, no longer living–

in this place,

this space

where they try to remember

what was said

and by whom,

recreating a meeting

when Heisenberg, who worked in Nazi Germany

visited Bohrs in occupied Denmark.

Late September, Copenhagen, 1941.


We learn about quantum mechanics,

Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle,

Bohr’s Complimentary,

nuclear fission,

calculations made and not made,

the Jewish scientists who flee the Nazis,

taking their knowledge to England and the U.S.

(those who are not murdered.

The characters move around the stage,

like electrons,

but who is the nucleus?

That depends on who is telling the story.

Are we each the center of our universe?

But then why can’t we see what others see?

Going through several “drafts” trying to remember

realizing that every moment becomes the past,

looking for answers

to questions that they never asked when they were alive.


It is a play about science.

It is a play about morality.

It is a play that asks what is truth?

It is a play that I wish the abomination in the White House

could actually understand.


Like Bohrs and Heisenberg, we step outside,

walk and talk,

try to make some sense of the play,

if not the world around us–


We drink wine and beer—

celebrate my husband’s birthday—

We discuss the play

We laugh.

We’ve been together a long time.

Sometimes our memories are different.

“I’m afraid you’re wrong, dear.”

“The seasons, they go round and round”

But are we captives of time,

or did we create it?


Winter turns to spring,

time travels with light and sound

Do ghosts know the answers?


Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Maybe they reframe their stories.

living them over,

trying to find the right questions to ask,

but as for us,

we live now–

seeing the beauty in a single bloom,

even as it becomes the past,

and our diaries pages jumble and fade,

it lives on in our memories—somewhere—

perhaps twisting and turning like a Lion Dance–

in time and space.


I played around with this, and I suppose it is a sort of Merril Musings Extended Haibun. 🙂  We saw the Lantern Theater Company’s production of Copenhagen. I highly recommend it, but since it was the last performance, you won’t be able to see it.





The Warmth in Winter Storms: Haibun

This is a Haibun for Frank’s Haikai challenge on winter storms. On the day of the snow “bomb cyclone,” we only had a few inches of snow, but it was very cold blustery day. In between phone calls about my mom, I made soup and baked.


I bolt the door against the raging winter winds. Outside, the snowflakes soar and drift–lost souls looking for a home. They howl and beat against the windows, but I do not let these winter ghosts in. I turn away, seeking warmth and substance, not frosty ephemera. My siblings and I talk on the phone, connected by invisible cords that close the space between us. Once my mom cared for us, now we care for her. I chop onions and sauté them till they turn golden sweet. I think time is frozen, but I realizes it bends, diverted by laughter and memories. My soul is warmed by love; my body warmed and sustained by soup and bread.


Ghosts flitter around

soup pots filled with scented thoughts–

memories linger

FullSizeRender 304








New Year’s Doorways: Haibun Quadrille

This 44-word Haibun is for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday Poetry Challenge, where the challenge was to use synonyms for ambition and change, and it is also a quadrille for dVerse, where Grace asked us to use the word leap.


In the past, I leaped into the new year with aspirations. Now I glide on the slipstream of ghosts. Past, future merge in star songs. I wonder if doorways are opening or closing?


Pirouetting stars–

old year leaps into the new

embraced by moonlight  



Embed from Getty Images







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


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.


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

There will be no banging!


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:


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

FullSizeRender 265

or just scream

dine by the water

and dance in the woods

we hear America sing

its varied songs

and glory in Impressionistic delight


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

FullSizeRender 269


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.


Thanksgiving Ghosts: Shadorma


for life, love, and food,

we gather


around the table to eat

where ghosts watch, smiling


they hover

as we make toasts to

absent friends,


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.



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.



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


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