For Those Who Came Before, To Those Who Come After

She remembers–

flying,

rising above land and sea,

adrift in the misting clouds,

feeling the wind through her hair,

laughing,

looking below,

resisting gravity,

(the pull to bring her down).

It was all forbidden,

(girls were not meant to rise)

but she knew it was never wrong

to soar as high as she could,

And so,

this is what she taught her daughters–

and her sons–

and when she could no longer fly

or remember

they did so for her,

laughing in the misting clouds,

resisting the forces that sought to bring them down.

 

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Caspar David Friedrich, “Drifting Clouds” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This is for Secret Keeper’s Weekly Writing Prompt.  

The prompt words were:

| SOAR | WRONG | LAND | RESIST | BELOW

 

 

 

 

Heroes Who Fly: NaPoWriMo

 “Because of Bessie Coleman, we have overcome that which was worse than racial barriers. We have overcome the barriers within ourselves and dared to dream.”

–Lieutenant William J. Powell

“The air is the only place free from prejudices.”

–Bessie Coleman

 

She saw the sky,

and she wanted to fly

far from the Texas cotton fields

and one-room school

she was smart, nobody’s fool

she wanted to fly,

high amidst the clouds

 

She dared to dream

and so, she schemed

worked and saved and moved away

took flight,

to the City of Light,

a woman of color,

An American in Paris,

her life would have been safe, but duller

if she had stayed at home, somehow smaller,

unable to achieve her American dream

 

Yet once she was trained

could fly up and around,

she was beloved, renowned

for her daring and skill,

for her will

to achieve

despite her gender

despite her race

(though she had stepped from her place)

Queen Bess they called her

as she performed

confronting danger

and perhaps placed a wager

as they sat and cheered

because they knew

knew what she could do

when she saw the sky

and wanted to fly

 

And we need heroes who soar,

to adore,

heroes who persist

heroes who resist

prejudice and hate

to show us it can be done

that evil hasn’t won,

we need heroes who reach for the sky,

who place hope and desire
on their outstretched wings,

who dream a dream,

and fly

 

This is Day 21, NaPoWriMo. I’m off-prompt. Back in January, Bessie Coleman (1892-1926) was featured in a Google Doodle. She was the first woman of African-American descent and the first woman of Native American descent to become a licensed pilot.

 

 

 

 

The Journey: Microfiction

 

 

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Ailise hugged and kissed her children goodnight, knowing she might never perform this bedtime ritual again. She sat watching them through the night and thinking of their dire situation. Her husband had vanished, one of the many who had disappeared. She had no idea if he was still alive. Since The Leader had taken control of their country, life had become ever more difficult for them and other Jantos. They were disparaged as tree worshipers. The Leader had made them scapegoats, arguing that they were the cause of all the nation’s problems, real and imagined. His pronouncements made those who were disenchanted with their current way of life feel better. The Tree Worshippers were taking their jobs, the Leader said, and polluting their pure Mountain Worshipping country with foreign ideas and dissolute practices.

Now, all Jantos were being forced to register. There were rumors of work camps where they would be sent. When news came—carried secretly, told in hushed whispers—that the famous flutist, Raoul Sendler, was saving Janot children, Ailise felt both fear and joy. Could her babies be saved? Could she let them go?

Raoul Sendler, known for multi-colored costumes, as well as his musical ability, was so popular that his concerts were usually sold-out months in advance. His skill was legendary; his playing mesmerizing. It was said that people would follow the sound of his flute anywhere. Even The Leader had attended his performances.

Through a network, Sendler had obtained fake papers for Janot children showing they were citizens of his country, Bragnaw. Some children, he would claim, were his students or performers in his show. Other children would appear to be the offspring of those who worked with him. After he performed his final concert at the Grand Academy, Sendler would take the children to Bragnaw, where they would be away from danger. They’d be placed in foster homes until they could return home safely.

In the morning, Ailes gathered the papers that had been given to her. She hugged and kissed her daughter and son one last time—and then she let them go.

 

This story is for Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge. The prompt was the painting above. I’ve copied it from Jane’s post, so I’m not sure where it came from.  When I saw it, I thought, the Pied Piper and the Kindertransport.  Yeah, that’s the way my mind works.  My pied piper is named for Raoul Wallenberg And Irene Sendler , but I think of all the heroes who have fought against injustice.

I may have to write a second tale that does justice to this lovely illustration.

 

Penelope Waits: Magnetic Poetry

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Hero fascinated by fighting,

she, sad quiet at home,

a heart full of love.

Goddess protect him—

light night-hours,

in morning,

a gentle promise,

she has hope.

 

The Oracle seems to be bringing me women in history. Last week was Joan of Arc; and this week, Penelope (the wife of Odysseus), though I would not imagine her so passive. I’ve added punctuation.

This is for Magnetic Poetry Saturday  at Mr. Elusive Trope’s Specks and Fragments.

 

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “Penelope,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “Penelope,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

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ceridwen [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

“Guernica at the Whitechapel It is no idle whim to include an image of this tapestry reproduction of Picasso’s great anti-war painting but because it is so significant for the political and cultural stance of the Whitechapel Gallery, the only British venue to exhibit the painting in 1939. The original work is now too fragile to leave Madrid; this tapestry was loaned to the gallery, for its re-opening, by its owner Margaretta Rockefeller. Normally it hangs in the United Nations in New York where in 2003 it was controversially veiled prior to a speech by Colin Powell on the eve of the Iraq war.”

Monday Morning Musings:

 “The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been hidden by the answers.”

–James Baldwin

 

After the tragedy,

in the calmness after the storm,

then we hear about the heroes.

On that sunny September day,

fifteen years ago,

as a gentle breeze blew,

and the world’s course shifted,

there were soldiers and fire fighters,

there were flight attendants and passengers,

there were ordinary people

who were decent and kind

who helped others before themselves,

and who became heroes.

 

From the hell of the Warsaw ghetto,

Irena Sendler saved hundreds of children,

burying their real names in jars,

and though she was captured,

interrogated, tortured,

she did not give up the information,

then, forced to hide herself,

like the children and their names,

she waited, till

after the wind blew

and the course shifted,

so she could dig up the jars

and return the children to their families–

if any relatives remained.

 

Decades later,

school children in Kansas

(a place known for violent winds)

began researching her life

inspired by the classroom motto

“He who changes one person, changes the world entire.”

They researched, developing a performance piece,

that captured the attention of the people in their area–

and then a larger area.

They discovered that Irena Sendler was then still alive,

and wrote to her, sharing the correspondence with universities

and other groups,

raising funds, and finally meeting her and some children she had rescued,

One called them, “rescuer’s, rescuers of Irena’s story.”

They were children, now adults,

who wrote about a woman, who worked bravely to change the world,

and in their work about her,

they, too, hoped to change the world,

one person at a time.

 

I think about the censoring of artists,

the silencing of poets and painters,

of novelists, musicians, and dancers

who proclaim truth and dare to create

silenced by dictators,

the strong men admired by someone here

who can spout his hate-filled rhetoric

only because our Constitution

allows for freedom of speech and expression.

Yet he would like to censor the press.

Is this the definition of irony?

 

I remember sitting, mesmerized before “Guernica”

decades ago in New York

I can still feel the power of that Picasso work

and remember those moments

though the other details of that college trip remain hazy.

The painting itself was in exile,

returning only after the death of the dictator, Franco,

but by then Picasso was also gone.

 

On a beautiful September evening

we sit in the city of Philadelphia,

we drink wine as a gentle breeze blows,

we see a performance piece,

a sort of homage to James Baldwin,

“Notes of a Native Song,”

created by Stew and Heidi Rodewald,

a memorable evening of music and social commentary

that is a reaction or celebration of Baldwin

rather than an adaptation of his work.

On this September night

as a gentle wind blows

I think about artists

and about heroes

I think about the winds of war

and the changing course of political winds

I think about artists

I think about heroes

And I think

sometimes they are one and the same.

 

“I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually. I think all theories are suspect, that the finest principles may have to be modified, or may even be pulverized by the demands of life, and that one must find, therefore, one’s own moral center and move through the world hoping that this center will guide one aright. I consider that I have many responsibilities, but none greater than this: to last, as Hemingway says, and get my work done.

I want to be an honest man and a good writer.”

–James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son

 

Information:

James Baldwin

Guernica

“Life in a Jar: The Irene Sendler Project

Wilma Theater 

Tria Cafe

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drinking to Peace

Monday Morning Musings:

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Heritage Vineyards by Sheryl Began ©2016

 

We sit not far from the vines,

in wrought iron chairs round a table,

the summer sun still lights the sky,

engilding the end of the day

so that it glows, golden with promise

of sweet nights and gentle dreams,

a gracious breeze blows.

 

I face west, watching the sun slowly fall,

but we drink to sunrises and love,

Coeur d’Est, Heart of the East,

wine with flavors and aromas of blackberry, coffee, and pepper,

fruit and spice,

rich, but not too heavy for this June evening

rolled on the tongue and savored

like life.

 

My daughter takes photos of us

documenting the moment

as we sit there, relaxed

enjoying the wine,

enjoying the company,

enjoying the musician,

singing of angels that fly from Montgomery,

our thoughts fly, too,

flitting here and there,

then hovering,

like bees when they find the right flower,

her husband mentions his sessions in New York.

Is it okay to ask?

Yes, I’ve wanted to tell you, he says.

And so he does.

He talks of the incidents,

the particular one that caused him the most trauma

and others,

foreign words to me,

convoys, gunners, and Vehicle-Borne Explosive Devices

the language of war,

foreign words and foreign lands

known to me only through books, movies, news reports.

 

I learn more later,

when I read some papers he gave us,

I learn of a mission to deliver clothing and supplies

to Iraqi school children,

a humanitarian mission, but still dangerous–

he volunteered.

I am proud of this man,

who is my son “in law,”

but who is becoming the son of my heart, as well

my daughter loves him,

and that’s what matters,

but I discover, he’s officially a hero,

as well as one to her,

but he has paid the price.

Coeur d’Est, Coeur de lion

 

Becoming a combat soldier involves many skills—

I already know, he’s an excellent driver—

But conflict zones require more,

turning off emotions

learning to kill

learning to hate

fearing that hate

fearing killing and expecting to kill

fearing death and expecting death

becoming used to—craving–

the rush of adrenalin that comes from danger,

then having to turn it all off,

stimulation, the drug of war,

duty and bravery, comrades at arms,

but there’s a cost,

the trauma born of war

for soldiers and civilians

who must go on, and live after.

Dulce et Decorum Est

Pro patria mori.*

 

Are we coded to wage war

to defend our homes, our honor, our families

to endure

death, destruction, injuries to body and soul?

To battle through conflicts and then feel conflicted?

Shell-shocked soldiers in WWI

the horrors of WWII,

back through the past

and up to the present,

we humans are intent on finding new,

and better ways to kill.

I don’t have an answer,

but

there must be a better way.

instead of building walls and spouting hate,

hate that nourishes more hate

and makes it grow,

a noxious weed,

requiring little care to flourish

but some skill to eradicate.

Why do we listen?

Perhaps it’s easier to blame others,

the demagogue’s favorite trick.

The candidate’s quockerwodgers

dance when he pulls the strings,

the expert puppeteer,

gorgonizing in soundbites,

but we have to remember to think on our own,

be the voice, instead of the puppet,

perhaps then we can create a better way,

set our phasers to stun, not kill

respect

let peace guide the planets

let the sunshine in

imagine–

imagine all the people

living in peace,

dreaming,

the lion’s heart swelling with love.

 

But now, on this beautiful summer night,

our dreams are of life and the future,

of houses and homes,

we drink and talk,

smile and laugh,

birds fly overhead, singing lullabies,

slowly dusk falls and settles lightly,

a soft blanket to cover us,

and we travel home.

 

*It is sweet and right to die for your country. “Dulce et Decorum Est” is the title of the well-known poem by WWI poet, Wilfred Own. You can read it with notes here. 

Today is the anniversary of D Day, June 6, 1944, and though I wish for a peaceful world, I do not want to slight the heroes of that day—or indeed, any day.

This article discusses some of the forgotten African American heroes of D Day.