Field, Memory, Magic: The Traitors’ Gate

Traitors’ Gate, Andrew Wood, Wikipedia Commons



They sail, a slow journey from glory to despair,
above them, vacant-eyed heads grin
in recognition of what was and what shall be–memories

carried as if by magic through the green English fields
where the ghosts wander,

waiting for history to be rewritten in each new reign–
queen to traitor, rebel to hero, recusant to saint.

This is a poem for Sarah’s dVerse prompt. She asks us to choose a set of three words from a list that she has posted. The words correspond to a site in London. I chose “field memory magic,” which if I understand correctly corresponds to the Traitors’ Gate at the Tower of London. The three words are part of larger project, which you can read about on the dVerse page.

Hate, Love, Hate, Love

117391151_3549883188358252_1568966934364081331_o

Blue Mood with Pegasus clouds racing across the sky. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ ©️ Merril D. Smith 2020

Monday Morning Musings:

“Your voices matter, your dreams matter, your lives matter. Be the roses that grow in the concrete.” –Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give

“There’s a saying in Hebrew, ‘No matter how dark the tapestry God weaves for us, there’s always a thread of grace.”—Mary Doria Russell, A Thread of Grace

 

Glowing ships on the aquamarine sea,

Moon and Venus shine their beacons–

 

Farewell night!

The moon smiles a crooked grin,

 

and Venus titters

such fools, these mortals be.

 

***

 

I hate everyone, she says to me.

Well, not you—not my family—

 

and I know what she means, because I feel it, too,

the constant barrage of evil and ignorance,

 

people who refuse to wear masks,

who spread misinformation,

 

and insist they’re not racist while sharing racist posts—

the people, who like black holes, swallow the light,

 

but not all of it.

 

Sigh. Breathe. Walk. Begin again—

 

as each day does–

the sun rises, even if we don’t see it

117334346_3549854235027814_6829415646818479456_o

shining over the horizon

waking the world

 

again and again,

though some never awaken

 

to see the world around them,

its beauty

 

flowing on a river of hope

reflected over and over

36BD2E6F-9D0D-40E0-8D9C-9500FBB581E6

Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ. ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

a dream

of what was and what could be.

 

Some of the things I’ve seen on my morning walks this week:

These mushrooms that look like umbrellas set up for fairies.

117725239_3555721547774416_4926228518955450788_o

 

Deer and red-tailed hawks this morning.

 

On Friday nights, we get together virtually with our children and their spouses. We light the Sabbath candles and share the things that we’re grateful for.

IMG_0682 2

Saturday night homemade pizza and movie night

563A7874-155F-4C88-9B16-1ACA3A112305

Lots of baking

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched The Hate U Give. (Amazon Prime with an additional slight fee, but I believe it’s on other streaming platforms.) We both thought it was a very good movie, and I highly recommend it. It’s based on a YA novel of the same name. It gets very intense, but in a thoughtful, nuanced way. Here’s a review in The New Yorker. We finished Season 3 of Bordertown, which I mentioned last week. I’m happy that apparently Season 4 is in the works.

I’m rereading Mary Doria Russell’s A Thread of Grace, a historical novel set in WWII Italy. She’s an author who does her research, but also tells a good story with captivating characters. Another story that seems timely when read now.

And this–unconditional love.

IMG_3072 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Color of Truth

FB55F253-5037-4CA9-B2A1-FD6E9170C6E2

Low tide, blue mood. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

Monday Morning  Afternoon Musings:

The fiddler’s notes float

through the village as he stands,

one foot on the roof, balancing

life and death– all the celebrations between,

colored by love and loss–

Chagall-The-Fiddler-1912

Marc Chagall, “The Fiddler,” 1912

 

blue moon, blood moon, silver moon

sighs and whispers

in a thousand tongues, but

a million ears do not listen–

her voice joins the fiddle notes

 

that hum in the background—

do you hear it?

Crow calls a warning,

heed the past,

beware the future

D41EC270-3D5A-40DE-8C05-E2DFD00A4C1D

Crow caws from the chimney of the Whithall House, Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ

 

the red sky of morning

hinting of the storm ahead

the indigo and grey-shadowed ripples

lighten to azure as the sun rises—

colored by time, tides, and perception,

DE77BEE2-00B9-4FC8-99EA-AB8328A95BA3

Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

our expectations of what is real,

changed not always by what is there,

but what we are told–

there is no plague, there is no famine,

the leader loves his people

 

(like a wolf loves a lamb), perhaps

 I make connections

between what is, what was, and

what might be

when there is no connection—

 

the sky is simply red,

like the summer flowers

an intensity of the dying season—

verdant woods, vibrant blooms

against the bluest sky,

 

black birds flock in murmurations

telling the truth

that life goes on

in cycles of pain, gain,

the black and blue that fades, the blood red

 

we drink, fruit of the vine

sun-ripened, bursting with intensity

we listen, laugh, love

the ones we’re with, love others from afar

in all the colors we see

 

beauty, life

buzzing

drifting

soaring high

with feathered hope, even if it falls,

 

090E3B58-BE2F-4656-9E8B-E353EB5907B1

we may see the reflection–

upside-down the world still glows

we swim toward the light

float amid clouds,

watch azure turn violet, indigo, midnight blue,

FBF86D2E-8780-4BF4-B14E-A9E7CB4310A8

Cloud Reflections on the Delaware River at West Deptford, NJ ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

 

 

and then, and still,

an apricot glow appears above the horizon,

a blush of pink spreads across the east,

our pale blue dot rolls on,

the colors of truth, immutable, forever for this world.

 

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched Mr. Jones (2019). I don’t think this one made it to theaters near us before the pandemic; we watched it on Amazon Prime (slight fee). It’s probably available on other streaming platforms, as well. My husband and I both enjoyed this one very much. It stars James Norton as Welsh journalist Gareth Jones, who tried to tell the world about Stalin in the 1930s, even as others were covering it up. Supposedly, he and his story were the inspiration for George Orwell’s Animal Farm, though that doesn’t really add much to the story.

This week has been packed with wild stories by you-know-who and his followers. Demon sex, aliens, and “thoughts” of rescheduling the election. . . If this took place in a movie, it would be considered too ridiculous.

The Oracle and the world seem full of color right now, but I find connections in odd places. Before watching the movie, I listened to an interview with Welsh actor Matthew Rhys. I don’t have HBO, where he is now starring in a new version of Perry Mason, but I loved The Americans. On that show, he played a Russian spy posing as an American. I was always struck by the extra layer of having a Welsh actor in the role, and he did mention that in the interview. So, for me, there were connections in this interview and movie about Welsh men, truth, lies, deception, Russia, and governments.

Our younger daughter—sommelier in training—did a virtual wine tasting with us on Friday night. Her husband was there for the beginning, but was taking care of pets during the screen shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lovely Bright, The Sight

01CC2FF0-0C65-4313-B799-E819A84EC0EA

Monday Morning Musings:

“How clear, how lovely bright,

How beautiful to sight

Those beams of morning play. . .

 

Ensanquining the skies

How heavily it dies. . .

How hopeless under ground

Falls the remorseful day.”

–from A.E. Houseman, “How Clear, How Lovely Bright”

 

 

The line, the flow

the glow

of life, scattering

 

leaves, the gathering of nuts and seeds

(the sky bleeds)

reflecting the spattering

IMG_5011

of wounds, the broken glass

before the gas

and rustlings

 

of war and wind

the leaves are thinned,

but hear them crunch and crackle

IMG_5051

as squirrels scamper and play

in the fading light of autumn day

and the birds fly—geese and grackle—

and hawks and vultures soar

before the train comes, roars

down the tracks

IMG_5027

taking me somewhere—

up and down, stairs

we go, into the wind,

 

the boat sails

and what tales

might it have, of rivers or sea?

Delaware River from Patco train heading to Philadelphia

Delaware River from Patco train heading to Philadelphia

And is there a lighthouse, with ghostly

glowing and horn blowing, or mostly

sunny skies?

 

Time must sail, too

and we a sometime crew

walk through history

7D881329-DEAE-47AA-9C2A-C15FFC2A6E11

18th Century garden on site of Benjamin Rush’s House, Philadelphia

how can it be otherwise,

the lows and highs

of our own lives, the mystery

 

of others–we see a groom and bride

and I hope they lovingly glide

into a life of love and joy

IMG_5046

A wedding party taking photos at “my willow” at Dock Creek, Old City, Philadelphia

(Pause, we drink coffee and wine

stop for a time—

but time is coy)

and autumn comes cold and dark

but there is beauty, even if it’s stark—

see the moon rise over fields stripped of grain

C5042A07-6D23-4DAE-95F5-ACE6071EB456

Moonrise over a South Jersey field, November.

glowing, humming—this autumn sky

and the clouds and time

the time before the rain, snow, the train

 

of time. The movie train that circles

through the frozen world, almost eternal

but the cost

 

a cautionary tale

of where we might sail

and is our world already lost?

 

Crow calls

the remorseful day falls

setting underground

 

in fiery ball, unheeding

the world goes on, speeding

and we spellbound.

 

But I don’t celebrate bleeding—

or ferocious gods, the leaders leading

into destruction–

 

let poetry fly

through vast haunted eternity, die

the war-fever. Find a new function

 

for our minds and hearts

in words of love, kindness, and arts

that soar with feathered wings–

5D9BE830-BD64-4323-86CF-15028BA2C0F1

how clear, how lovely bright

the sight

of what could be, of hope that sings

 

as the walls tumble down.

IMG_5012

 

This was a week of elections, cat dental surgery, the anniversary of Kristallnaught (November 9, 1938), and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. In the U.S. today is Veteran’s Day. It was formerly Armistice Day, but of course, war has not ended. I respect all who have served and honor all those who have given their lives in serving their country. While someone like Hitler had to be stopped, it would be better if people did not let such people gain power.

 

For Merril’s Movie Club: We watched Snowpiercer, a 2014 movie we had never seen, but since we recently saw Parasite, and it is an earlier movie by the same director, Bong Joon-ho, we decided to watch it. It’s on Netflix. This one’s in English, and it’s much more of an action movie than I would normally see. Like Parasite, the movie covers the issues of class and climate,and there was definitely much to think about. Overall, we both liked it. There is also fighting and bloody scenes though, so be forewarned. We saw Lighthouse in the theater. It’s also in English. I know, strange, right?  (Don’t worry, we’re still watching Black Spot, so reading subtitles there.).  Great acting, beautiful black and white cinematography. Very strange, surrealistic movie of two lighthouse keepers on an isolated island. Some of the dialogue is taken from Melville and lighthouse keepers’ diaries. It’s somewhat similar in style to his previous movie, The Witch.

 

 

 

1692: Salem

256px-ArrestingAWitch-Pyle

 

Evil is growing here. It is in the soil, where our fields lie fallow. Is this the barrenness of harvest or pestilence? Village and town are plunged into darkness, no light remains. But what lives in the shadows? Demons surround us, and the devil gains more converts every day. Even the households of ministers are afflicted. We are torn apart. Undone.

Yet it’s our duty to fight the darkness and expel the evil that lurks here. It is our duty–we the justices–to send the witches to death. This affliction has spread through the region; so many blackened with devils’ marks, though they bleed red as anyone (their master teaches them tricks).

They will suffer the justice of righteousness, crushed by rocks or hanged by a rope, until they die, and we are saved.

But at night I wonder—what if we’re wrong?

 

For dVerse, Prosery #5. Prosery is prose using a line from a poem. Björn has asked us to use the line: “This is the barrenness of harvest or pestilence,” from a poem by Louise Glück. The word limit is 144 words. I rewrote part of an old poem, and I turned the given prompt line into a question.

 

Poem Up in Wellington Street Review

Friends' Alms-House. on Walnut St. Philada. -- Erected in 1745. Taken down in 1841. [graphic].

Friends’ Alms-House. on Walnut St. Philada. — Erected in 1745. Taken down in 1841. [graphic]. Library Company of Philadelphia

 

Thank you to Annabel Mahoney and team for selecting my poem “The Almshouse” for the current issue of the Wellington Street Review. I am so pleased to be included in this issue.You can read the poem here. 

Travelers

IMG_4227

Monday Morning Musings:

 

“My baby takes the morning train

He works from nine till five and then

He takes another home again

To find me waitin’ for him”

Florrie Palmer, “Morning Train (Nine to Five),” (Recorded by Sheena Easton)

 

“Why do you write like you’re writing out of time?”

Lin Manuel Miranda, “Non Stop,” Hamilton

 

“Legacy. What is legacy?

It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.”

Miranda, “The World Was Wide Enough,” Hamilton

 

“Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?”

–Lin Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

 

Blue wind soars

into a day of pink and peach

recall this picture– or forget

how the rhythm of earth

turns grey to dazzling bright,

4FB4E4B3-2397-4BC5-92B2-524DDDF1B3E4

and the magic of a cat

in a long, liquid stretch

with a purr that transfers

burrowing into your soul

IMG_3866

How does it happen—

 

that the light of ghost stars

dances into your morning horizon

and you vow to remember this

 

how it travels

in light years

 

but blink—

and it’s gone.

***

We catch the train

walk a cobblestone lane

 

and past the willow tree

where Hamilton’s bank peeks softly

Willow tree at Dock Creek, Philadelphia

through branches still green

past, present, what might have been

IMG_4221

but here we are

to watch women on trapeze bar

 

climbing silks, twirling on a hoop

they move in the air, dance, swoop

 

in transit, a search

for love, a perch

above offers reflection

(and they are perfection)

 

in strength and skill

traveling without a spill

 

from any apparatus

and those hearts grab us

 

the emotions she carries

with colors that vary

 

red, black and blue

well, we understand, do you?

 

The red given to lovers, the black

weighing her down, from the lack–

 

but friends help with the burden

though life is still uncertain.

 

We so enjoy the show

then it’s time to go

 

past a wedding

heading

 

from where the Founding Fathers’ prayed

bridal party and guests all finely arrayed

IMG_4204

and we walk and people-watch

from a little swatch

 

with drinks and apps

then perhaps

it’s time to walk

and talk

 

down streets and alleys

where people have rallied,

 

where a Revolutionary generation

fought, died, and built a nation–

to reflect on light

as we travel into the night.

IMG_4193

 

We catch the train

the next day—again

 

over the bridge, high

above where boats sail by

Delaware River from Patco train

eat a pre-theater meal

and I’m so excited, I feel

happy to be here

(Hamilton walked near)

 

lucky to be alive right now–

and wow!

the show lives up to every expectation

and anticipation,

 

believe the hype, what they say is true

it’s brilliant through and through.

 

I cry a bit after Philip dies

but laugh and clap, too, and time flies

 

till we’re heading home on the train

again.

 

And though moon peaks from a cloud

humming—not too loud

IMG_4059

Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

 

I dream of things I don’t understand

of Hamilton, and far off lands

 

of immigrants who get things done–

well, my grandfather was one.

 

But where does a dream go

between slumber and slowed

 

breathing and thinking

thoughts slinking

 

and winking in your mind

till you wake to find

 

the dream’s traveled far

beyond time, and where are

 

they? Where do they go

when they’ve flowed

 

from your brain,

but sometimes appear again?

 

My mother asks if my father’s alive

and I ponder and strive

 

to find a way

to say–

 

cause he died

years ago, not alive

 

but I’m helpless when she insists

and the dreams twists

 

then falls away.

 

So, I write, prose and rhyme

because I’m running out of time

 

planting seeds, a legacy

she’ll never get to see.

IMG_3989

We saw In Transit, a show that’s part of the Philadelphia Fringe line-up this year. We both really enjoyed it, and this group of women of Tangled Movement Art who we’ve seen perform before. They combine theater and circus art. “Morning Train” was a song that was repeated throughout the show. Then, of course we saw Hamilton. The show is a bit of a love song to NYC, but Philadelphia knows Hamilton walked here, too.

I’m delayed today because my computer decided to eat my file, but fortunately, I was able to recover it. Moment. Of. Panic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Message in a Bottle

message-in-a-bottle-1694868_1280

I read the news—an Alaska man finds a bottle with a fifty-year-old message inside. The Russian sailor’s note conveys friendly greetings. They drift through Cold War seas, through glasnost and perestroika to shores not yet submerged by the rising seawater of melted glaciers. The man shows the message to his sons.

Past meets the future

carried on time’s tumbling waves

ebbing and flowing

lives tide-lifted and lowered

as moon-silvered sea rolls on

 

This is a Haibun tanka (because sometimes you have to break the rules) for Colleen’s tanka Tuesday photo challenge, using the photo above.

Here is the story that was in the news.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ghost Connections

Monday Morning Musings:

“Why lay yourself on the torturer’s rack

of the past and future?

The mind that tries to shape tomorrow beyond

its capacities will find no rest?

–Rumi from “That Lives in Us” 

“I’ve got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen.”

–Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

 

The moon sails through time

over and over

through the purple sky.

We sit in the dark

and watch it

together

in a universe of only

and always

dazzled

to wake from dreams . . .

feeling the ghosts

in the breezes,

lingering.

***

On the day of the storm

the sun blazed,

and animals were dazed

 

by the glare as his chariot rose

higher and higher.

But the gods conspired

 

and sent the wind

and rain to shower

the flowers, but taking our power

IMG_3578

The storm rolling in

away for a day.

So, we sat in the twilight,

then read by flashlight

F1164976-480E-45F4-BCFF-A8498EE7783C

Making the best of the situation when the power went out.

 

and fortunately,

the air had cooled—

but we weren’t fooled,

 

we knew

it was only a temporary stay

from heat and humidity, but hey,

IMG_3597

Carpenter’s Hall all a-flower

we’ll enjoy it while we can

walk in the city, eat ice cream–

talk and dream.

In the movie we see

the family lies

Is it wise?

IMG_3600

Who knows?

Done to be kind

though they’re in a bind

 

about how

to carry out the hoax.

There are tears and jokes–

 

a crowd-pleasing film

of cultural clashes

and flashes

 

of tenderness

in family gatherings and meals–

and the deals

 

we make

as we scatter

world-weary, what matters

 

still are our connections,

the invisible ties,

the love and lies,

 

that bind

generating power and loss,

crisscrossing

 

synaptic bursts

through wires and minds

creating dreams and incredible finds.

 

But the loss

when there’s a faulty connection

the hesitation and misdirection.

 

In my mom’s mind

dream and reality blur—

sometimes–and I’m not sure

 

how it works at all.

Past, present, future circle round

intertwine–wiring unsound?

 

Perhaps. Or do ghosts come to visit?

That shadow almost seen?

What is it? Where has it been?

 

I don’t know tomorrow

I can’t shape the past

or make fine weather last.

3DD28BE0-18D3-46ED-8C7A-43F6FD7D1698

A beautiful summer night at William Heritage Winery, New Jersey

 

but I enjoy the moment

of summer fruits, the flavors

bursting, bits of sunshine savored

before the next storm. . .

and sometimes magic just appears.

 

We got free tickets to a preview of The Farewell. Trailer here. We enjoyed it very much, and it seems like the rest of the audience did, too. Lulu Wang also told the story of the movie—her real life story on an episode of This American Life

We’re watching a series on Netflix now called Typewriter. It’s marketed as a sort of Indian Stranger Things, mainly because it involves four kids. They’re middle school age. It’s not very scary (yet), but I’m enjoying it. Trailer here.

I also heard a recent episode of This American Life about a young woman held as a prisoner by her biological parents in Pakistan. She only had one book to read—that she kept hidden—and read over and over again hundreds of times.  It was Little Women.