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.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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That House on Oxford: Haibun

Not a ghost, but the emanation of some past emotion. That’s what I feel in that house in Havertown—the one my mother rented after my parents divorced. Have you noticed that some houses have their own emotional atmosphere? Well, that’s my theory, and if you’ve never felt a house reeking of love, terror, or despair, then it must sound weird to you. But this whole house makes me feel welcomed; my bedroom in particular—it’s as if someone has felt joy there in the past, and the feeling now lingers. . .forever. This room, painted a golden yellow, seems to glow all the time. Every molecule in its walls, floors—even the air—releases joy and serenity—at least for me. Here I also experience first love. I wonder if my feelings will join the room’s aura, biding there for future inhabitants.

thrush sings amid buds,

trees flower, and then leaves fall—

echoes hang in air

Dock Street Creek once flowed here.

 

 

This Haibun is for dVerse, where Lillian has asked us to write a traditional Haibun—that is, a tight paragraph or two, which is a true account, not fiction, followed by a traditional haiku. The haiku should be nature-based but allude to the prose. It should have a seasonal word, and “a haiku must have two parts including a shift, an added insight. Japanese poets include a KIREJI (cutting word). BUT there’s no linguistic equivalent in the English language therefore punctuation creates the cut: a dash, comma, an ellipsis, an exclamation point. Sometimes it’s simply felt in the pacing or reading.”

Lillian has asked us to write about one of the first houses we lived in. This was not the first, but it was the first one we lived in after we moved from Dallas to Havertown, PA, when I was in 7th Grade.

 

This is also for Colleen’s Tuesday Tanka, using synonyms for the words beliefs and strange. I’ve used theory and weird in my prose. Colleen notes that a Haibun should be written as though it is happening now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cloud Houses of Dreams

Monday Morning Musings:

“I would build a cloudy House
For my thoughts to live in;
When for earth too fancy-loose
And too low for Heaven!”

–Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “The House of Clouds”

“I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now

From up and down, and still somehow

It’s cloud illusions I recall

I really don’t know clouds at all.”

–Joni Mitchell, “Both Sides Now”

 

 

Striking in their billowing shapes, watch them drift, the clouds.

Somehow relaxing, to see them shift, the clouds.

***

 

On a beautiful afternoon in July,

we walk, a blue bed is the sky

for puffy clouds to lay upon

transient, seen, and then they’re gone—

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

like the inhabitants who once held sway

on these cobblestone streets, walked each day–

in daily life and times of strife they lived in these houses

with children, relatives, with their spouses,

Elfreth Alley, Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

do their spirits yet walk here under moonlit clouds

shy, hesitant, or fierce and proud?

I must ask my friends who once lived herein

if they ever encountered such ghostly denizens.

 

We watch a movie about a baker of cookies and cakes

who travels under a cloud, with a life that’s fake

but ghosts and memories bring new love–

sort of—

(The pasty looks delicious, but the story hard to convey

without giving too much away.)

 

We eat pizza and drink wine while the weather is fine—

against more green, blue, and white, we sip and dine

taking advantage of this unusual meteorological blip

before the storm clouds roll in and the forecast flips—

Auburn Road Winery,
Salem County, NJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

which it does, the skies turn grey

the white clouds drift away

and I build cloud houses from my thoughts

turn them away from should and oughts

Raining on the Ben Franklin Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

but I dream of houses with stairs to nowhere

or perhaps from here to there,

if only I can find the right paths (or footwear)—

a dream with goals and friends and cats,

and if there’s unfinished business—

well, I can live with that.

His work is done. Sweet Dreams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m sorry about the spacing here. I can’t quite figure out how to fix it.

People still live in the homes of Elfreth’s Alley. You can read about it here.

We saw the Israeli movie The Cakemaker. Trailer here.

We went to Auburn Road Vineyards.

 

 

Ghostwalk

We marked the spot where first we saw her walk

there the woods, and then to the meadow dark.

She seemed to drift or soar, in white, like chalk

of the cliffs, where ships below lay there stark,

old bones without life, bereft without spark.

The ghost though, from what hauntings had she fled,

did she seek love, did she know she was dead?

 

 

 

This is a septet for dVerse. In honor of dVerse’s seventh anniversary, Frank has asked us to write a poem of seven lines on any subject. I’m not sure that it’s quite rhyme royal, but it’s seven lines, and it rhymes. I’ve used Secret Keeper’s weekly writing challenge words: ghost/mark/woods/soar/meadow.

Unquiet

“I’ve spent a lifetime 
trying to learn the language of the dead”

~ Jim Harrison from “Sister” in  Songs of Unreason

 

In the graveyard they lie

cool and peaceful, undisturbed

by us walking there—so we deny,

forget they suffered, dying, the verb.

 

What is the language they speak–

they in their graves, and we strolling by

reading a headstone, what truth do we seek–

once she lived, now hear the sigh

 

of ghosts who wander just out of sight–

that shadow there behind the tree

you almost see, a dress of white–

and wonder now, memories or fantasy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is for Day 15 of Jilly’s 28 Days of Unreason, poetry inspired by Jim Harrison’s poetry. We’re just over halfway through, but you can still join in the fun.

I’m also linking this to Open Link Night at dVerse.

On Its Banks

“The hardest part is when the river
is too swift and goes underground for days on end”  

~Jim Harrison from Songs of Unreason

 

Here,

heedless of morning light

or evening flight

of geese across

the river runs,

through history

of people who

in transitory transit

camped along its banks

when silver shad streamed,

fished for oysters and pearls

of wisdom

flowing from,

with,

to

the sea.

Rolling river

pushes and pulls

life through seasons

and time

changes

everything.

Turn, turn

around

and underground

the hidden bones

turn, turn

to dust–

ghosts walk

beside the water

dreaming of what was,

waiting for what will be.

 

Delaware River

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is for Day 14 of Jilly’s 28 Days of Unreason–poetry inspired by the poetry of Jim Harrison.

Unfinished

“I took a nap and wept for no reason”

~ Jim Harrison from Songs of Unreason

 

My sisters and I

sat at my father’s deathbed

he, though unconscious, raged–

we held a vigil through the night,

waiting for the dawn,

and light

to see him released,

the raging ceased.

I napped then

for days it seemed

dreaming

I heard his voice,

crying when

I realized

it wasn’t real,

but love

disguised.

 

This poem is for Day 13 of Jilly’s 28 Days of Unreason, using Jim Harrison’s poetry for inspiration. I guess this is an early Father’s Day poem.

 

 

It Was Something But Not Enough

“I feel my failure intensely
as if it were a vital organ”

–Jim Harrison, “Vows”

 

I couldn’t save them

all the children,

but I did what I could

hiding them under blankets,

sneaking them away in coffins

beneath the dead

who didn’t complain,

perhaps grateful for companionship.

I couldn’t save them–

all the children–

and those who lived,

but without parents,

family history erased

save for the ghosts

and the dirge they sing–

survivor’s guilt

they say now,

this feeling

that part of my heart is gone forever.

 

 

This is for Jilly’s 28 Days of Unreason, Day 3, basing poetry on quotations from Jim Harrison’s poetry.

 

 

 

 

 

Ghosts of Guilt, NaPoWriMo, Day 30

Monday Morning Musings:

“Not only are selves conditional but they die. Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead.”

–John Updike, quoted here.

“Monsters are real. Ghosts are too. They live inside of us, and sometimes, they win.”

–Stephen King, The Shining

 

There are ghosts we see—or don’t

invoke, as though if left uncalled for

we’ll not provoke

those of the past,

who vanish–or won’t

go gentle into that good night,

the ghosts of guilt,

may waft or wilt

drift silently,

(seen just from the corner of your eye,

fly by)

but whether unexplainable

or declaimed

they are us

and soon, we’ll be them.

 

We see two movies,

walk in between,

to see the vibrant glow of spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first film set in Hungary in 1945,

a small town that seems not war-torn,

some have even thrived.

The town clerk owns a well-stocked drugstore,

more–he lives with his family in a large town house.

Others have also gained homes and wealth

obtained by stealth,

though it’s all legal, they explain

(show the papers,

for goods and property

no one left to claim).

But they are haunted by their complicity

no joy at an upcoming wedding,

where there should be felicity

secrets begin to seep—

they’re all around–

Look! Two Jews in town.

What do they want, these nearly silent men?

As they walk behind the cart,

like mourners to a grave site.

Dark, somber,

(the film shot in black and white)

Here, it’s always “God Bless,”

and the brandy seems ever handy.

There’s a Hungarian saying about this brandy–

“Palinka in small amounts is a medicine,

in large amounts a remedy.”

But there’s no remedy for what they’ve done.

What have they lost, and what have they won?

The Germans are out, the Russians are in–

A new dawn

when the Jews are gone?

But these two, why are they here,

and what is it the town folk fear?

Dark smoke billows from the train,

sun-filled day fills with thunder and rain.

The monsters are real. The ghosts are too.

They are us, and we are them.

 

We walk and chat

about the movie, this and that–

the susurration of sparrows,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the murmurings of spring

though the ghost of winter, touches

with icy fingers clings

as we turn from sun to shadow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

whispers–

you can’t flee me forever,

I’ll return in November or December,

when seeds then huddle underground,

sharing the cold comfort of the dead.

But now is for the living instead,

in blooms of green and pink and yellow and white

glowing, vibrant in the light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We walk, seeing weddings and brides in white

smiling groups, life in color and in light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We see a second film,

this one with ghosts up front

that an investigator will confront.

He’s a skeptic, he doesn’t believe,

but perhaps there are events he also grieves

There are scenes that makes us jump–

doors that rattle, and things that bump,

demons that are locked away,

but are released,

perhaps, to stay.

Three cases become woven together–

Will there be a happily ever after?

(Cue the nervous laughter).

 

We walk some more,

The Signer stands tall

The Signer,
Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

through many seasons–

he’s seen them all—

and thus,

though he represents freedom

he’s surrounded by ghosts

who flit over cobblestones,

manning their posts,

due diligence, remember the past—

remember us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My cat wakes me from a dream—

a ghost tells a character in a play

(stories within stories within my dream, it seems)

“we mourn the dead, but we move on.”

They are us,

and we are them.

Life moves on–

we begin again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final NaPoWriMo prompt asks us to “write a poem that engages with a strange and fascinating fact.” Well, I included some facts. They may or may not be strange or fascinating. For more on “odd facts” about Hungary, see here. And here is more on the Holocaust in Hungary  The Signer statue is in Philadelphia’s Old City.

We saw the movies 1945 and Ghost Stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is Home: Haibun, NaPoWriMo, Day 12

Here, are two, then three, then four, then two again. Here, atop a settling foundation and slightly slanting floors, are family dinners, friends, love, and tears. Here, the venerable oak tree stands tall, shading and shadowing, though the swing set that stood beside it is long gone–and here, decades-old daffodil bulbs still bloom. Generations of mockingbirds have sung through summer nights perched on the new greenery of aged trees. Here is home, where amidst clutter and dreams, cats gaze from windows–then look within.

 

blooms and snowflakes fall

drift through Earth’s revolutions–

ghosts sing to living

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s NaPoWriMo  prompt was to write a haibun “that takes in the natural landscape of the place you live.”