We’re driving to the shore. Charcoal clouds drift and grow, and the day grows darker. All the rough lines and divisions between sea and sky are feather-brushed into one scene of blended grey. We circle the blocks, looking for a place to park, then sit in the car, listening to thunder, and watching the rain fall in silver sheets around us, filling the air with the scent of petrichor. The steady stream of water becomes drops that tip-tap-taper off, and the dark clouds blow away, leaving a blue sky with an egg yolk yellow sun. We walk to the beach. The sea is calmer now, but I hear it call–it is ever changing and never mute.
A memory. His birthday falls over the long Presidents Day weekend. We wander through greenhouses where orchids and roses bloom, scenting the air with summer perfume. We stroll about the gardens without jackets, enjoying the taste of spring. The next day it snows.
hovers with uncertainty–
mist turns to snowflakes
This year, the morning sun gleams on the bare and budding branches. Birds flock, seeking sustenance, as the skies grow cloudy, and in the evening white flakes drift down to cover the emerging green sprouts. We wrap ourselves in blankets, eat birthday cake, and laugh.
We sit in a vineyard watching a production of Romeo and Juliet. Onstage, the lark sings, the lovers part in sweet sorrow, longing for a tomorrow that never comes. Offstage, the sun sets and the night birds call. In the twilight, my husband and I, together for over four decades, listen to human voices and to nature around us. We have had the joys, the sorrows, the todays, and the hopes for tomorrows. We sip our wine and smile, happy to be here, happy to be together.
This haibun is for Colleen Chesebro’s Tanka Tuesday. This week we’re supposed to use synonyms for bond and seek. This is also for dVerse, where Björn is hosting. He has asked us to write about mirrors. I am fascinated by mirrors and art with mirrors.
Jan van Eyck, “The Arnolfini Portrait,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I first see this painting in an art book of my parents that I like to flip through. I am drawn to it and its mysterious, infinite mirror world. The couple looks young. The man’s hat seems too large for him, as though they are playing dress-up. The woman is in an elegant, heavy green gown; her hair is shaped into elaborate “horns” that peek out from her lace-trimmed headdress. She is not pregnant, I learn, merely fashionable. Is this a wedding or an engagement? The artist announces in a bold script above the mirror that he is here–a boast for the ages. He sees everything, but is he also one of the guests reflected in the mirror scene? Here in this painting, life goes on endlessly through the looking glass, while remaining unchanged. The couple is forever young and forever bound together. I, however, grow older, still looking for answers, though no longer sure of the questions.
This is for Frank Tassone’s haikai challenge. He asks us to write about ravens, but he also says “kangarasu translates as ‘cold crow,'” so I’m going with that. I really like crows. When my daughters were little, there was some sort of illness that killed many crows. I knew not to touch the dying crow in my yard, and I called animal control. They collected his body at some point while I was away.
I hear the sounds of crows cawing, over and over. They have gathered in the trees around their fallen friend, as he lay dying on the ground in my backyard. I stare into his eyes, which seem to plead with me. What is he asking? How do I answer? I want to comfort him. I wish I could. His eyes still haunt me.
windows to the soul
dying crow’s thoughts never voiced
winter without spring
Mikoláš Aleš [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In the time before laptops, I sit in archives making notes in pencil on index cards—sometimes printing neatly, sometimes writing in a scrawl, which I will later regret when I can’t read an important word or date. In the old Philadelphia City Archives, I unwrap the brown paper from books tossed haphazardly on the table in front of me. In other archives, documents are treated with more care, even if we do occasionally pass some of the more ribald ones around. I read the flowing copperplate of professional clerks, as well as less legible handwriting. I learn to decipher superscripts and abbreviations no longer used. I read the words, ponder—ideas flow, and I write.
geese rise heading north
chaos becomes organized
writing on a page
My published work on history, gender, and sexuality can be found here.
My grown daughter is visiting. She dances into the kitchen in the morning, and I join in with a song. I’m happy that this is a safe place for her, and that here she feels the freedom to be silly. We both do.
Too many people think freedom means waving a flag and repeating slogans. But greatness does not come from denying others the right to love, to learn, to live without fear of a knock at the door. Freedom generously shares a dream, but requires effort and vigilance. Freedom looks forward in hope, not backwards to repression.
I’m at the gym. Sally is going up and down, and we’re moving right along with her. Ab muscles burning; eyes yearning for time to move more quickly. We move on to squats and burpees, until we we’re quite literally saved by the bell. Yes, the fire alarm, a warning alarm with an accompanying light show. The woman who lives in one of those fire boxes tells us to exit, and so we do, though staff members continue to stand around the front desk, and no one seems particularly concerned. After ten minutes or more, a fire truck arrives, and then another. Firefighters stream in, then out again, then back in again. I finally leave without knowing what happened. But I know, Sally will be waiting. Till next time, Sally.