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

img_1061

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

img_1130

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

img_1143

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

IMG_0300 2

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

IMG_0823

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.

IMG_0819

Santa riding through town in a fire engine.

 

Waiting–Haibun

IMG_1078

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 11

I wake to see Venus gleaming as the sky lightens from indigo to azure. The goddess of love beckons and beseeches, but the war god always wins.

 

Morning star rises

heralds the poppy-red dawn–

November morning

 

Senseless wars go on,

honoring in fall parades

stars blaze, flash, and die

 

Vincent_van_Gogh_-_Poppy_field_-_Google_Art_Project

Vincent van Gogh, Poppy Field, [Public Domain] Wikipedia

This is for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday–Poet’s Choice of Words, and Frank’s Haikai challenge using the prompt, “Armistice.”

 

 

Once

Monday Morning Musings:

“Falling slowly, sing your melody

I’ll sing it loud”

From “Falling Slowly,” Once,

Music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová

Once. . . I woke in darkness. Then the sun rose golden through rose-tinged clouds. The air was cool but clear. The world shifted and tilted. Dreams rose from the misted woods.

morning moon whispered

softly, praise touched red-gold leaves

geese honked overhead

Morning Moon

If you look carefully, there’s the morning moon.

chevron rises up

earth cycles, river to land,

the tide ebbs and flows

Geese at Red Bank Battlefield Park, NJ

We take a train into the city. We walk over sun-bright cobblestones, passing tourists who stroll and chat in a variety of languages. We wait on corners as wide city buses try to turn onto narrow streets. We enter a theater. Seats surround a center stage area covered with Oriental rugs. Musicians are playing Irish songs of the past and present. I bop in my seat to “Brown Eyed Girl” and tap my feet to a jig. Last call for the bar. The lights go down, and magic begins.

man meets a woman

music flows, drifts from their souls,

they’re falling slowly

 

together in tune

Dublin days strummed in rhythm–

piano echoes

 

musicians rebound

music from aisles and walkways

crowd smiles and applauds

We walk and talk. Watch the lowering sun shine through cloud-dappled sky. Red bricks glow. In Washington Square, a young girl whispers her secrets to a tree. Does it answer?

music of nature

city sounds form the chorus

we dine al fresco

Again. . .

We dine al fresco

wine and pizza in sunshine

a dog rests in joy

Nightfall comes too soon,

moon rises to hum goodnight—

cats slumber and dream

 

Sleeping Cat

Once. . .September was full of rain. The world was full of anger and sorrow and lies. But once, September ended in a perfect weekend of sunny days and cooler nights–falling slowly into October.

 

We saw the  musical Once at the Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia. It was a performance full of warmth and spirit, wonderfully staged. Here they are rehearsing “Falling Slowly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before and Now

Monday Morning Musings:

“It may be the luckiest and purest thing of all to see time sharpen to a single point. To feel the world rise up and shake you hard, insisting that you rise up, too somehow. Some way.”

–Paula McClain, Love and Ruin

“We can never go back to before”

Lynn Ahrens and Steve Flaherty, “Back to Before,” Ragtime

 Once we had two maple trees in front of our house. They provided shade for our house and shelter for wildlife. But they were diseased and had to be cut down. The birds and squirrels have moved on. We will plant daffodils around the stumps, and life will continue, though we can never go back to before.

green leaves turn golden,

sun sings grey skies blue again,

flowers smile hello

IMG_9216 2

Once people saw tyranny and began to rebel with acts of resistance against their government and king. Time sharpened to a single point for some then. They felt the need to rise up. They launched a revolution that was bloody and horrible, as all wars are, that divided families and friends.

sweethearts say goodbye

leaves sigh and fall from the trees–

red blood on white snow

IMG_9923

Old Pine Street Church Graveyard, Philadelphia

 

But it was also a revolution of words and actions that created a new nation, the first written constitutions, and gave some hope for freedom and equality to all—though that did not come about till after another war and new laws. We harken back to before, but we can never go back.

And why would we want to?

demagogue appeals

blames “The Other” for problems–

false hopes and false words

IMG_9886

Wishing on the wood of the last Liberty Tree.  Museum of the American Revolution, Philadelphia

Azure skies send us

outdoors to eat–a plus

seated where we gaze

at history and listen

to the foreign phrase

of people who pass by

and wonder why

they’re here, but know

they come and go–

in this city of hope and despair

filled with travelers

and immigrants,

rising like the nation and the sun

on the famous chair.

 

 

We watch a movie,

the wife behind the great man,

though she’s really greater than

he is,

she says she is “a kingmaker,”

but more than that—

this is

a nuanced performance

that show the complexity

of relationships—

which is

the basis of government, too,

and I think of the before

when we had a king

and bid him adieu

and now the one

who longs to be king

daily sings

(so unbirdlike he tweets

never soft and never sweet)

Will we let the kingmakers

let it happen?

Well, as the foot-tapping

musical notes, “history has its

eyes on you.”

It is complex,

and perhaps what we need

is a nuanced performance.

Though the choice seems simple—

do what you need to do.

Do not believe the lies.

Do not support the liars.

Let’s not go back to before

when I did not have a voice,

when women did not have a choice,

when people I love could not love,

when people I admire could not vote—

keep this sinking ship afloat.

I feel time sharpening and shadows gather.

 

 

But ask the star

how it dazzles and

kisses air with joy—

We are prisoners of time,

embrace its rhythm

and smile.

 

Once there were two maple trees, but now they are gone. . .

yet life goes on.

 

Screen Shot 2018-09-16 at 7.43.52 PM

We visited the Museum of the American Revolution. Saw the movie, The Wife. Trailer here.

Here is Marin Mazzie, who died last week, singing, “Back to Before.”