Walls, Again and Again

Monday Morning Musings:

From a window I watch the birds flocked together to find food, to feed, fueling before the chilly winter rain begins again, following each other ground to sky and back again. I watch a couple of black birds—starlings perhaps–pecking at an old light fixture hanging below the eaves of my house. We think they don’t think or love or dream. Perhaps they think the same of us?

Species to species,

is there communication?

Walls between us all

 

I watch my cat dreaming and wonder what he sees. I wake from my own dream. It fades to mist. I remember only my sister. Her hair is styled in coils on each side of head—a 1940s hairstyle. She slowly morphs into my grandmother, my mother’s mother–

dream walls dissolving

past, present, future merging

an uncertain message

 

On a chilly day, we see a production of Romeo and Juliet. The cast wears modern street clothes, Mercutio raps. There is a band and a “Greek chorus” of local college students. There are curtains of shimmering golden strands; the actors part and walk through them. They also wheel these golden strand curtains into place to form walls on the otherwise mostly bare stage. There is another wall at the end of the play, where the singer and band sing about love being “a waste” if it is only “a wall to keep the truth away.” Some of the beauty of Shakespeare’s play has been lost, yet we enjoy this imaginative production. We talk as we walk through city streets. Then within walls, where it is warm and dry, we sip some wine, and eat some cheese.

enemies fated,

or find love notwithstanding—

what is in a name?

 

We walk past garden gates and walls to see another play. Ripped from too many headlines—the far too common killings of black people by white law enforcement officers—the play is set in the jury room where the jury is deadlocked. They decide to try to react the circumstances of the case giving all those involved a backstory, which leads to the final, surprising, and powerful conclusion. The play is not perfect and some it is a bit contrived, but it seems designed to help tear down some walls. Every performance has a talk back session. Some people say they like how the characters are made human. No one here is evil, even if we do not agree with their opinions. There are walls of human misunderstanding and conflict in both plays.

conversations help

break down walls of distrust

challenge our notions

And yet—we finish watching the third season of The Man in the High Castle. I am chilled by the vision of smiling youths tearing down monuments and burning the New York Public Library. This is a fictional world, but lately there are too many similarities to the real world. The petulant baby foments hate. We should all be behind a slogan to Make America Better, not to the one he champions that looks back to world where racism, sexism, and homophobia flourished. I see too many posts railing against “illegals,” the ignorance astounds me. And on Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorating when Auschwitz was liberated, too many do not believe it happened, while there are some who would like it to happen again. I watch Rent, and I think of the Parkland students singing “Seasons of Love” at the Tony Awards last year.

“It’s time now to sing out,

though the story never ends”

still walls of hate here

Every family has its secrets, its walls. Every family has its tragedies and comedies, a play in several acts. We live out our stories within the walls of homes, schools, workplaces, or in confinement somewhere. My mom rarely ventures outside the walls of her building now because she can’t go out by herself. We drive her to our daughter’s house for brunch. We talk, eat, and watch the dogs play. We laugh. We love. Sometimes that is enough.

Walls can shelter us

from bad weather, and from life

but love helps us grow

The moon hums a lullaby for birds, cats, and me. Walls dissolve, and we share a dream.

 

I guess this is more prose and verse rather than a series of haibun. And also, sorry, WP won’t let me delete the video below.

 

 

 

 

 

Cold, Wars, and the Music of a Dream

Monday Morning Musings:

For a brief time, the world is shot in black and white. Silent, like an old movie, till the wind sighs.

Quiet morning snow

soft sugar sprinkles glisten—

finch flits from bare branch

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I sit at the computer. In my head, a fantasy world. On the screen, test items, following a prescribed style. Test takers will read these sentences and answer questions, never knowing that the people and places they read and promptly forget about lived a full life somewhere in my imagination.

black lines on white screen,

silhouettes in the snow,

whispered world awakes

 

The world is grey again—and again. The world seems broken and full of ignorance. I finish a project, find comfort in baking. I used to bake these cookies for my children. Sometimes I bake them for my mother. Today, I bake them for me.  Mommy cookies.

Scent of cinnamon

stirring up memories, dreams—

tastes of yesterday

Mandelbrot   Merril D. Smith, 2019

Mandelbrot

 

We walk cold city streets. Above, I hear a hawk cries, echoing. Ghosts stroll beside us, as we walk across cobblestones. Free and enslaved. Immigrants and native born. Shades of white, brown, and gold. In life, some had wealth, education, and fine homes; others died illiterate and in poverty. The promissory note has yet to be paid.

Spirits sighing

wondering when and why they died

dreams left unfulfilled

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We go to a movie that opens with a scene of a cold, Polish winter with a car traveling on snow-covered rural roads. There is a search for folk music, or something that fits the bill. They become choral tunes, resurrecting a past that never was, as one government replaces another with slogans and rules. There is still prejudice and inequality in the workers’ state. Cold War politics. Realpolitik versus ideology. A couple that can’t live together, but who can’t live apart. We see time pass and locations change—rural Poland to Warsaw, Berlin, Yugoslavia, and Paris. We see velvety black and white images, shadows and light–the woman’s blond hair haloed as she sings, cool jazz. Polish becomes French and Polish again. The soundtrack of the film is a soundtrack of their lives. The unofficial theme song, in all of its permutations, a story of lovers who cannot be together.

Caged bird sings in hope

waits for a door opening

to fly, free at last

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I stock up on spices and examine all the angles. We laugh at whimsical signs. Over coffee, we discuss the movie. My husband says he would like to have seen the costumes in color. “They were in color in my head,” I say. He replies, “of course they were.”

Imagination

seeing color in the grey—

blue eyes and red lips

 

On the radio, I hear the writer/director/producer of a new documentary, Who Will Write Our History. She discusses the film about the clandestine archive kept by residents of the Warsaw Ghetto. They know that they will probably all die, and the Nazis, who think they are the master race want to rewrite history. Even in the ghetto, they were filming propaganda. The Jews bury their records in batches, so that their true history will be known. “A time capsule of a murdered civilization,” the director calls it.

buried underground

bulb emerges in the light

truth flowers and grows

 

The world is grey and broken. Still, I laugh as our cats play and chase each other around the house, then plop–toddler-like–and fall asleep. Our path sometimes looks straight, but then circles around. It is cold, but spring will come again. The moon rises, and tomorrow, dawn will come, again. In my dreams, I hear the music of the stars.

Blood-red, frosted moon

hums tunes of what might be . . .if

dreams rise, set, and rise

 

 

Sweet Dreams  Merril D. Smith, 2019

Sweet Dreams

 

 

We saw the movie Cold War—beautifully photographed with wonderful compelling performances. Trailer here.  The main song has been playing in my head on a loop—well, perhaps I’ve listened to it a few times, too. Dale–highly recommend this one.  🙂 Music is definitely important in this film. I may have to get this soundtrack. We also enjoyed the previous film Ida, by writer/director Pawel Pawlikowski, which won the 2017 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.

Last night was the super blood wolf moon eclipse. The eclipse occurred after I was in bed, but the moon was certainly bright last night and early this morning.

Today is Martin Luther King, J. Day here in the U.S. I’m linking this to Frank’s Haikai Challenge on equality. Here’s a link to MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The current resident of the White House is not participating in any MLK activities today. Of course, it would be a bad joke if he did.

 

Grey Clouds, White Snow, and Beautiful as You Feel

Monday Morning Musings:

We’re frozen in a shadow world of dreary grey clouds, not even interesting enough to be chiaroscuro, just day after day dismal bleakness. Finally, the sun appears, and though the wind is gusting, and it is cold, I am thrilled to see sunshine. I have a doctor’s appointment, and we decide to make the rest of the day into an afternoon date—lunch and a movie. Before the movie, Green Book, I discover a little pond by the multi-plex parking lot. Beauty in unexpected places.

sun shines one fine day–

cold white clouds on blue surface,

rippled by webbed feet

Pond beside Multiplex, Voorhees, NJ--Merril D. Smith 2019

A friend stops by–just for a moment to drop off a belated birthday gift. The presents are lovely, but it’s the thoughtfulness that I cherish more. We’ve been friends since our college years when our now husbands were roommates. She’s a friend I could call in the middle of the night if I ever had to.

know you’ve got a friend

in January’s dark cold

to bring glimpse of spring

 

We’re watching The Man in the High Castle. In this alternate reality, the United States is split between the Nazis on the East coast and the Japanese on the West. In one episode, a Jewish man (who practices his religion in secret) tells another character to continue to create art, to find beauty so that “they” don’t win. He says Jews have outlived evil before, and they will do it again. I hope he’s right.

creating beauty,

wondering if it’s too late

for seeds to flower

Sylvia Schreiber Painting

One of my mother’s paintings.

Sun and wind, then grey skies again. A Sunday morning snowfall, quiet and beautiful.

there, up on the roof

snow lays a silent white quilt–

inside all are warm

 

We eat mussels and pomme frites at a Belgian bar. Then we walk through the cold city streets, where some holiday decorations remain.

 

small blankets of white

lights twinkle so far away–

city winter night

In the beautiful Academy of Music, we see Beautiful. The show tells the story of Carole King’s life, focusing on her relationship with Gerry Goffin, her husband and writing partner, and their friendly rivalry with songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. The show ignores the social and political events going on at the time, though her declaration of independence got a cheer from women in the audience. Still, the songs that carry the show along—and they, of course, are wonderful. The show begins (“So Far Away) and ends with Carole alone on the stage at the piano (“Beautiful”).

light so far away,

you’re beautiful as you feel—

hope in dark of night

 

We go home to dream–of some kind of wonderful.

White Cat on Grey Couch, National Park, NJ

Each of the haiku–and the final line– includes a line from a Carole King song:

“One Fine Day” (Gerry Goffin and Carole King)

“You’ve Got a Friend” (Carole King)

“It’s Too Late “(Carole King)

“Up on the Roof “(Gerry Goffin and Carole King

“So Far Away “(Carole King)

“Beautiful “(Carole King)

“Some Kind of Wonderful” (Gerry Goffin and Carole King)

And here’s a bonus for you from when Carole King was honored at the Kennedy Center.

If you’ve never seen this, then you’re welcome. And if you have, then you know–Aretha Franklin, the Obamas, and Carole King herself–all the feelings!

 

Grey January Blues

January—the new year begins with day after day of grey skies and rain. I sit in a medical center. The light here is muted, the voices are hushed, except for those on the TV set, which no one is watching. I wait for a fax to arrive so that I can have a test done. Like Godot, the fax never appears. After three hours of waiting, I reschedule the test for another day. I walk outside to find it’s now sleeting. I travel home, only a few miles, but it’s another world, one of warmth and light. The cats greet me. My husband naps in front of the TV.  I defrost some homemade soup for dinner for us and drink a glass of wine. It is dark now, but somehow the world seems brighter.

unrelenting clouds,

sun and moon sheathed in cold grey–

wind sighs lonesome blues

Onion Soup

Warmth for body and soul

This Haibun is for Haibun Monday at dVerse, where Kim asks us to write about January. This was my afternoon yesterday. Thank goodness I had a good book to read. In case anyone was worried, I was simply getting a routine test to check my bone density.

 

 

Impressions

Monday Morning Musings:

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.”

–T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

In the last week of the year, in the dark of December, we gather with family. We eat and eat some more. We drink and drink some more. We exchange gifts. We laugh at our goofiness, and we laugh to keep from crying. Laugh for joy, laugh to keep the ghosts at bay.

winter dark lingers

pale sun hides behind grey clouds–

winter birds still sing

 

 

There are endless lists—the best movies of the year, the best books, and the famous people who have died. This has been a year of horror for many, and a year of fear for my country. Guns, fires, protests, children abused and dying–and those nonstop tweets. We bury our heads in pillows, blanket our thoughts to pretend this is not happening. I listen to ghost stories because they are less frightening than thinking about what could really happen in this world.

ghosts replay stories

winter always, never spring–

still, sapling sprouts, grows

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Theresienstadt Tree

 

The rain comes again and again. Finally, we walk in sunshine. We walk through city streets decorated for Christmas. We see a movie about Vincent Van Gogh, a tortured soul who created beauty with a ferocious passion. His impressions have lasted longer than he did. He taught us how to see the starry night, to see all the shades of yellow in a sunflower, to see the light and color.

red and green doors call

holiday cheer to neighbors–

winter warmed with smiles

Tonight, we’ll gather with our friends. The friends of decades–from before we had children, and they had grandchildren. We’ll eat Chinese food, and find our fortunes in a cookie. We’ll wish each other Happy New Year, though we will all most likely be in bed long before the bells peal, the ball drops, and the fireworks light up the sky. My impression of the old year—tortured souls and broken lives, missing pieces, like van Gogh’s ear. Yet, there is still beauty. Like van Gogh, we need to find light, and paint it quickly with our souls before it fades away. Remember it in our hearts. My heart swells as the dawn rises on a new day, a new year—awaiting new words.

 

old words tucked away,

come new year in harmony–

bird on snowy branch

bravely sings in hope of love

soon cherry blossoms will fall

 

Greeting Dawn    Merril D. Smith 2018

 

Wishing all hearts filled with joy and peace in the new year.

I’m linking this to Frank’s Haikai Challenge for the New Year prompt. We saw the movie, At Eternity’s Gate. Trailer here.  Husband and I agreed it was not a great movie. I think the parts were greater than the sum, but William Dafoe is wonderful as van Gogh, and van Gogh and his brother Theo’s relationship is depicted with great tenderness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magic is Coming

Monday Morning Musings:

The week has been busy with chores and long with anticipation. The solstice has come and gone. Full moon and winter sun are concealed behind the clouds—but they are there.

winter moon hidden,

she hums of spring a-coming

dreams bloom like flowers

Almost Full, Almost Solstice

A tsunami crashes upon a beach. Seething like volcanoes, protestors erupt, striking and burning. Children starve. Our government shuts down. Our leader is not one, and he grows increasingly erratic. When will his enablers realize he is a wannabe emperor? When will they finally realize he has no clothes? I look for the helpers. I need to be a helper. I look for the light.

long winter darkness

broken by dawn’s blushing sighs

dormant dreams awake

Solstice--Merril D. Smith, 2018

Our older daughter and her wife arrive from Boston. Our other daughter comes over to eat Wawa hoagies with us and to decorate cookies. We drink warm spiced wine, and they watch a bad movie they asked me to record. I go upstairs to watch the “In Excelsis Deo” episode of The West Wing, my own holiday tradition. I wrap presents and sing along to “Little Drummer Boy.”  My cat lifts his head, then snoozes.

caroling voices

sing in joyful harmony,

Pa rum pum pum pum

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I think about the ghosts of Christmas past–our young girls whispering on Christmas morning waiting for 6 A.M. when they can finally get up. We lie in bed, then hear them sing, “Christmas Time is Here.”  Happy memories. Over the next few days we’ll be seeing family—laughing at jokes and eating and drinking too much. I’ll be enjoying the magic that is now different–but still here.

lights and music now

break December’s silent night–

dreams of magic come

 

Wishing all of you a most wondrous holiday season! I’m linking this to Frank’s Haikai Challenge with the prompt Christmas.

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Santa riding through town in a fire engine.

 

The Week That Was

Monk's Cafe--Inside Looking Out

Monk’s Cafe, Philadelphia Merril D. Smith 2018

I was born in this city where now we go to celebrate, the night before my birthday. Holiday lights glow through the misty air. We sit in a pub, warm and cozy, even though the nearby tables are loud with after work parties, students, and academics. I gaze through the window as two young girls outside take photos of an older couple standing in front of the Christmas lights. Perhaps the girls’ grandparents? My husband and I clink our glasses in a toast, and I dig into my mussels.

 

holiday spirits,

sparkling souls in glowing light

December revels

We walk around the neighborhood for a bit. Rittenhouse Square is full of light; the skyline shimmers. We see winter trees and signs of city life.

 

ghostly branches wave,

beckoning to seasons past

harboring futures

We go to show, laugh at the jokes and clever Broadway parodies. The woman next to me sits stoically, never applauding, but suddenly lets out a loud guffaw at a joke about [vice-president] Mike Pence waiting to be raptured. Well, it was a funny joke. It is raining as we walk back to the train.

 

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raindrops dripping from branches—

glimmers in puddles

It is still raining the next day, my birthday, but we walk around anyway. Then go to a movie of cinematic splendor, filmed in black and white. The images linger on screen and in my mind–

 

puddles on cement

an airplane flying through clouds

crashing ocean waves

Class struggles. Race. But always women without men, raising children.

 

 

We eat Chinese food with friends, laughing, catching up with this and that. I receive roses from one friend, and another bakes me a birthday cake. My husband gives me chocolate truffles. I get birthday wishes from family and friends. I talk to one daughter on the phone, and I see the other at a winery holiday party. Despite the weather, this has been a wonderful birthday weekend.

 

I am thankful for this life.

I was born just before the solstice. The days have been gloomy, and the nights grow longer.

now coming darkness

then the coming of more light

long night’s moon whispers

softly from behind the cloud cover, where meteors blaze across the sky. Perhaps I hear them sigh.

I close my eyes. Like a vision—I see a snow owl. It swivels its head. Looks at me, raises its magnificent wings, and sails off into the night sky. I think of the owl I saw once on my birthday. Spirit animal? Magical vision? Who knows.  .  .

this feathered glory

shining white in midnight sky–

hope in the darkness

 

At Sharrott Winery, Members Holiday Party, 2018

 

I’m linking this to Frank’s Haikai challenge—solstice. We went to 1812 Production’s annual show, This is the Week That Is. We ate at Monk’s Café.  My daughter took me to the member’s holiday party at Sharrott Winery. We saw the movie, Roma. It will be on Netflix, but if you can, see it in the theater. The cinematography is worth it. Here’s the official trailer.

 

 

Lights and Life: Quadrille Haibun

First Night of Hanukkah, December 2018

Candles burn, in winter darkness, a miracle of light. The ancient hatred is rising again. Six million and more, but we survive. We clink our glasses lightly, saying not, “Cheers,” but “L’chaim.”

twilight comes early

shadows blanket ground and trees—

light glows in windows

 

De, aka Whimsy Gizmo, has asked us to write a quadrille using some form of the word cheer for dVerse.  I’m also linking to Frank’s Haikai Challenge to write a poem that alludes to Advent or Hanukkah.

I know I wrote about Hanukkah yesterday, and there will probably be more—but you know, it lasts for eight nights. Tonight will be the third night of Hanukkah.  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at Fire, Exploring the Cold

 

Leaves crunch underfoot,

above red planet rises–

owl hunts unconcerned

 

Thrusters fire, and a ship lands securely in a sandy crater. Passion burned in the heart of the war god; his namesake is rust-hued, barren, and frigid. But–once water flowed here, and perhaps life flourished, too.

 

We look up, wonder

see fiery stars, and ponder–

elsewhere, sun sets blue

 

117989main_image_feature_347_ys_full  Sunset on Mars

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Texas A&M/Cornell
On May 19, 2005, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit captured this stunning view as the Sun sank below the rim of Gusev crater on Mars. This Panoramic Camera mosaic was taken around 6:07 in the evening of the rover’s 489th Martian day, or sol.

My poem was inspired by the Mars Insight probe that landed this week. This Haibun is for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday using synonyms for cold and safe.  And for dVerse, where Victoria asked us to write any type of poem using fire.

 

 

 

 

Waiting–Haibun

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I’m sick, my face is broken-out, and my slender body swells large over a period of nine months. Outside snowflakes fall, but I am cocooned inside where there is no time or seasons. Days of labor, and she finally appears, tiny and bald—the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. We’ve waited nearly ten years to have her. Three years later, we’re back at the same hospital, again in the February cold, again the wait to be surprised, to be exhausted and overjoyed. Now we have two daughters. Some things are worth waiting for.

robin trills in hope–

beauty rises from the snow

snowdrop sprouts and blooms

 

This Haibun is for the dVerse Haibun Monday prompt. Imelda is guest-hosting. She has asked us to write about waiting.