The Walk: Ekphrastic Challenge, Day 22

Inspired by Jane Cornwell’s image below.

The morning glowed, spring-scented,
the air seemed full of promise, contented
they talked of ordinary things, the commonplace–
conversation as comfortable as their pace–
the children, the news, that new restaurant—Thai–
that they never got to try–

Yet does he walk beside her—
there where the branches stir?
The pace still comfortable, the air still aglow?
There’s a sparkle on the water, catching the flow
of currents and light. Yet only one shadow, no talk–
the birds keep her company on her walk.

For Paul Brookes’ Ekphrastic Challenge, Day 22. I gave this a slight edit. Last week a woman at the park told me she missed her walking companion, her husband, who died this past year. I thought of her when I saw this image. You can see all the art and read the poems here.

Poems in Fevers of the Mind Poets of 2020

I apologize for posting across social media, but some people follow me only on this blog. I an honored to have three poems in David L. O’Nan’s massive (over 300 pages) anthology, Poets of 2020. There are so many wonderful poets in this volume–many well-known names! The book is available in several formats. Here’s the US link.

Remembering

Monday Morning Musings:

My mom and me. I’m about 3 years old.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“History says don’t hope

On this side of the grave.

But then, once in a lifetime

The longed for tidal wave

Of justice can rise up

And hope and history rhyme.”

–Seamus Heaney, “Doubletake”, The Cure of Troy

Lines quoted by Joe Biden at DNC 2020

 

My Mom’s Last Birthday Party
Remember when blowing out candles on a cake was something we did?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My mother would be ninety-eight today–

we’d hug and kiss, and smile in the way

 

you do with people you love–when we could and did,

we never thought it all would end, we’d bid

 

farewell to normal hopes, and sail into tomorrow

on boats barely afloat, fueled by sorrow

 

and a bit of hate. Yes, for the dissembler and enablers

who’ve made the situation worse. The world’s more unstable,

 

increasing so every day. And yet they play with clichéd lines–

heavy-handed, rabble-rousing—creating conspiracies, signs

 

of the time and getting worse. The storms come, the fires burn

still the seasons, turn, turn, turn—

 

I walk and think of flowers, our year of sitting amidst blooms,

the garden a refuge of sort from boredom, doom, the rooms

We spent a lot of time in this garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

that confined you—and us–as we kept you company,

week after week, watching for changes, hungrily

 

asking you to remember the past, but wanting you to see

what you could of now, of me,

 

and we ached, all of us,

and we’d discuss

 

each change, each day, the words you’d say

of imaginary pets and our dead father, weigh

 

hope, laughter, grief in equal measure

and still remember and treasure—

 

a gift you’ve given me, to lift my face to the sun

to see that there are many, not just one

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

way to see color, beauty, light

the way it changes on the water and fades slowly into night

 

Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

where perhaps I’ll hear a mockingbird sing farewell–

a lullaby rather than a knell–

 

a song of love, of peace, of rising up–it’s time,

it’s time, that hope and history rhyme.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As some of you know, my mother died in April from Covid-related complications. Today she’d be ninety-eight. We couldn’t be with her when she died, and we haven’t really had a memorial. Tonight my husband, daughters, their spouses, and I will have a virtual dinner get together. I baked my and her favorite cookies over the weekend, and I’m baking a cake today.

Madelbrat (aka, Mommy Cookies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Thursday, my husband and I had a date night at a winery. We bought tickets a month before, but we were fortunate that the humidity was gone that day, and it was beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.