Holding Truth

“We, this people, on this small and drifting planet

Whose hands can strike with such abandon. . .

 

. . .When we come to it

We must confess that we are the possible

We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world

That is when, and only when

We come to it.”

–From Maya Angelou, “A Brave and Startling Truth”

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Declaration of Independence, 1776

 

There are truths I want to say–

that the sun rises every day

 

whether we see it, or not,

acknowledge the light, or distraught

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Delaware River, West Deptford, NJ    I throw a stone in river, my morning and mourning ritual–grief acknowledge, a soul remembered.

 

by glowering clouds, tears, and fears

of what is or might be, and years

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suddenly darkened by plagues and death,

a beloved one’s last breath

 

that you want to catch and hold

lightly cupped in your hands, to fold

 

a flap of time over, like a page

marked, even as you rage

 

against time and the powers that be,

you forget, then remember to see

 

the light that shines, the people who fight

against darkness with kindness, who know right

 

can be funny and loving and true,

self-evident, you’d think, but not all do–

 

so, you remember, as you can,

unfold memories, like a fan

and wave them to and fro—

let them softly blow

 

across your face,

leaving a trace

 

of what once was, but cherish, too,

what is—the love (and presents) given you

the children, the pets, the friends—

all the beginnings, and all the ends

 

that circle round, and then again,

like sun and moon, birds in flight, and rain

from moisture in ground, flowers, and trees,

returning, rolling over and over, tides of seas

 

and rivers’ flowing–the startling truth, not of never,

but of always, now and forever.

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Puddle Reflection, May 2020 Upside Down World

 

We had a theater night at home this weekend and purchased a ticket to stream The People’s Light and Theatre Company’s production of Hold These Truths, “A Solo Play Inspired by the Life of Gordon Hirabayashi .”

“Play Synopsis:
As a young University of Washington student and practicing Quaker, Gordon Hirabayashi struggles to reconcile his deep admiration for the U.S. Constitution with the government’s 1942 orders to forcibly remove and intern over 120,000 people of Japanese descent from the West Coast. Gordon’s remarkable resistance ultimately leads to the famous Supreme Court case Hirabayashi v. United States, and continues to resonate today as we encounter questions of national security, citizenship, and what it means to be an American. Steven Eng plays Gordon Hirabayashi (and 37 other characters!) in Jeanne Sakata’s critically-acclaimed solo play.”

 

My daughters surprised me with a brunch (some mailed and some stealthily left at the door) for Mother’s Day, and we had a virtual brunch with them. We last celebrated Mother’s Day with my mom in 2018. Last year she had a stroke just before Mother’s Day, from which she did quite remarkably recover quite a bit. Today, my sister reminds me, is the anniversary of my father’s death over twenty years ago.

 

 

And After

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An ache—and after–

she lives

in rain whispers,

moon music,

and dappled light

 

~winging through trees~

 

the crows call, and I laugh

a dream of ifs, why, and how

love is a recalled–

the scent of roses

on a summer breeze, lingering.

 

A puente from a collaboration with the Poetry Oracle. She truly does know everything. My mother died one week ago.

To See the Stars Behind the Sun

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Monday Morning Musings:

 

“To see the stars behind the sun. . .

Somewhen a boy is counting stars.

Somewhen a man is photographing light.

Somewhen his finger strokes the stubble on another’s cheek,

and for a moment everything is relative.”

From Neil Gaiman, “In Transit (for Arthur Eddington)”

 

Some of you know the news already that my mother died early Saturday morning, but this is my official WordPress announcement.

She had been in a nursing home, and she died of Covid 19-related complications. Yes, this is real, and I can’t tell you how angry I am at the people who are not taking this seriously, including the horror in the White House or his enablers. Given the current circumstances, we were unable to be with her, and we do not when we will have any type of memorial service for her.

Friday I went into a flurry of comfort cooking and baking. We visited with our daughters virtually, as we’ve been doing recently on Friday nights.

That night, I dreamt several times of people waving goodbye. Each time, I woke up after the dream with the image lingering in my head. Then early in the morning, my sister called with the news. For a long time, my sisters and I have called each other, saying quickly, “No one has died.” She told me this time it wasn’t one of those calls because my mom had died.

 

My parents were married to and divorced from each other twice, but he was the love of her life, and I think she was of his, too. Towards her end, she remembered only the good times, and she thought my father lived in the same nursing home. He’s been dead for over twenty years.

 

On Sunday morning, I went for a long walk. At the river, I cried, threw a stone into the water, and said goodbye to my mother, as I watched the ripples on the surface and watched the river flow.

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Delaware River, West Deptford, NJ April 2020

 

Two stars in orbit—

causing time and space to shift

 

in tumbling waves

the universe ripples,

 

stops, frozen–

 

a moment caught,

a family vacation,

you laughing,

heels kicking in the air

as you fling yourself across a motel bed

young and beautiful

 

somewhere

 

learning a new dance with a girlfriend,

or meeting a young man at a party–

he runs after you

to get your phone number

traveling in the wrong direction–

or the right one

 

to somewhere

 

you see the stars behind the sun.

 

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The Closet, NaPoWriMo

spring cleaning,

of a sort—perhaps–

objects that

beget the

remembrance, past events, some

forgotten, we smile

 

at the old

report cards, boxes

of them and

school projects–

you kept them through all the moves–

holding our childhoods

 

long after

we’d outgrown them, but

there it is–

a lunchbox–

a small book I made for you,

in a school art class,

 

there my first

published book, you stamped

it with your

name, assigned

it to classes, proud father

storing books and dreams,

 

phases of

our lives sharing space

with antiques.

Ming vases

once held living flowers, but

all things turn to dust–

 

we vacuum

the closet, and close

the door, laugh

so much junk!

Though I understand wanting

to hoard memories

 

 

Today, Day 18 of NaPoWriMo, we’re challenged to write an elegy “one in which the abstraction of sadness is communicated not through abstract words, but physical detail.”  This is written in a series of shadorma stanzas. I couldn’t get this poem started until I remembered my sisters and I cleaning out the big storage closet in my dad’s last apartment. He died over twenty years ago in May.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ancient Faces: Day 3, Yeats and Shadorma Challenge

For a different tone, I’ve combined Day 3 for two November challenges today: Jane’s Yeats Challenge and Eliot’s Shadorma Challenge.   

The Yeats quotation for the day is:

“With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones,”—W.B. Yeats

 

The women–

ancient faces etched

with grief. They’ve

seen war, deaths.

Like rain-beaten stones, weathered,

worn, but unyielding.

 

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George B. Luks, “Old Beggar Woman, “ Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Survivor

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Vincent van Gogh, “Sorrow,” 1882 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Now years have passed, the pain is gone–

physical pain, the dreams remain,

demons, terror, always the same.

 

Family gone–denouement

of war, of destruction, of fright–

she mourns them still, alone at night.

 

For evil men, she was a pawn.

They took her youth, left no trace

in tattooed arm and withered face.

 

The past is gone, she won’t dwell on,

memories–peace comes, with a book,

a cat, some tea, a quiet nook

 

in which she sits, sometimes till dawn,

longing to die, willing to live,

she tries not to hate; she tries to forgive.

 

This week, Jane asked us to write about pain for her poetry challenge in a poem using the rhyme scheme: abb acc add aee, etc. I didn’t use the prompt words or the image she suggested. I think this Van Gogh drawing conveys the mood of the poem. The model was pregnant and abandoned by the father of the child. She was forced to prostitute herself to buy food. Van Gogh took her in as a model, paid her rent, and shared his bread with her. The Wikipedia page has more information.

The Mill

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Juliette trudged up the hill in the rain. Day was turning to night, and she wanted to make certain her beloved boy made it home safely from the mill. Henri was only twelve and small for his age; Juliette worried about him. Though he made little working at the mill, it was enough to help the family a bit. He had not complained about having to leave school, though he loved his books.

Henri is a good boy, she thought, fondly recalling the way he gently teased her. Maybe he’ll tell me a new joke tonight.

She pictured the family sitting around the dinner table, eating the stew she had left simmering at home. She knew Henri would appreciate it. He was a growing boy, after all.

She continued walking and musing about him, as she did every day at this time. As she had been doing every day for fifteen years, since the mill had been destroyed in a fire. Her Henri would not be tasting her stew tonight–or any night. He would never again tease her in his quiet way. But he lived still in Juliette’s mind and dreams, forever a boy of twelve.

 

This story is in response to Jane Dougherty’s microfiction challenge . The prompt is the above painting by Henri Rousseau.( I can’t find any information about it.) Also, the word “abandon.”

 

Words

“[Words] do not live in dictionaries; they live in the mind. And how do they live in the mind? Variously and strangely, much as human beings live, ranging hither and thither, falling in love, and mating together.”
Virginia Woolf

Sometimes words march through my mind like soldier ants on a mission, orderly and controlled. At other times, they swirl violently in the currents and high winds of emotion. Occasionally, they drift like clouds, beautiful and beyond reach.

I’ve spent countless hours in archives reading the words of people long dead. I’ve held the centuries-old parchment that a mother touched long ago, placing quill on paper to share the grief she felt over the death of her child. Her words conveyed anguish still so palpable that my eyes filled with tears as I read. I’ve read court records–the dry, official language that nevertheless reveals details of spousal abuse and sexual transgressions. From both the heartfelt words of love and grief and the cold words of law and bureaucracy, we uncover the buried lives of others and unearth truths about the past.

We use words to express love: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” We use words to create images: “The fog comes on little cat feet.” We use words to proclaim liberty and freedom: “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” “We the people.”
But sometimes words are too much. “Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words!” Eliza Doolittle sings in My Fair Lady. “Show me!’ she demands of her would-be suitor, Freddy Eynsford-Hill

There are times when we want don’t want words, we want action, whether it is fighting, loving, or marching. We want someone to do something. “Don’t just stand there. Help them! Help me!” We need a hug, a kiss, a caress, or a human touch.
Sometimes words are inadequate. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say.” We cannot make a broken heart whole again. I cannot heal your heart, as much as I want to. But we—but I– put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard because that’s all we can do.