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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreams of Generations

Monday Morning Musings:

“Time makes room

for going and coming home

and in time’s womb

begins all ending.”

From Ursula K. Le Guinn, “Hymn to Time”

 

“Sunrise, sunset, Sunrise, sunset

Swiftly fly the years

One season following another

Laden with happiness and tears”

–from “Sunrise, Sunset” Jerry Brock and Sheldon Harnick, Fiddler on the Roof

IMG_3522

The dream flits,

flutters

spreading its wings

and soars

as the moon whispers

and shadows dance–

circles of light,

circles of darkness,

together, apart

beginnings and endings

all one thing,

in time

timeless.

***

A hot July day

time with a friend

not wanting it to end

 

we drink, eat stay

talking of what was

and what now is, because

 

we’re catching up

he knew us way back when–

the before, and then

The Cool Lights! Revolution House, Philadelphia

we went our own ways

but kept in touch—

and now this lunch

IMG_3513

though life intrudes

as I get texts about my mother

one after another

 

but still we laugh

then part, agree to meet

again soon—sweet

 

are friendships,

fleeting is time,

the clock chimes

 

echoing

through city streets

in buzzing beats

 

between the pauses, I feel

dreams rise from the cobblestones

beneath us buried bones.

***

 

We watch a movie

of fantasy and dreams

and my mom dreams, it seems

 

not certain of what is real

sometimes, but to her

fantasies, we defer.

 

And it is hotter now

some water ice to keep cool

in shaded bower, where statued pools

spray and children play

while others kept in cages

cruelty growing in stages

 

“Lock them up!” “Send them back,”

the ugly crowds chant

as the demagogue rants

 

and I listen to the fiddler play

and Yiddish spoken–

a culture not yet broken

 

entirely, and being revived

though they tried to kill us

six million then—but let’s discuss

 

how hate never goes away

entwined with fear

year after year

 

beneath the surface

like a dream.

Do you hear the scream

 

of those in a nightmare life

who are fleeing?

What are you seeing

 

when children in cages

appear before you?

Ho, hum, it’s nothing new.

 

Japanese, Jews, camps

of them, this and that–

and off them someone gets fat

 

(follow the money)

through history. We watch

a movie–does the cop botch

 

his life,

or is it ordained

as we see it explained

 

backwards through time.

Sci-fi and noir, violence and lust–

was it a story that must,

 

that always ended a certain way?

So many ifs and could-have-beens,

the outs and ins

 

of love and time

dances in circles, intertwine—

sometimes–

 

but the sun rises and sets

through our laughter and tears

and the years

 

circle in seasons

round and round–

light and darkness abound.

 

IMG_3564

We watched two Netflix movies this week. In Sicilian Ghost Story, I liked the way dreams were a key part of the story and the fantasy of it; my husband not so much. We both liked The City of Last Things.  The story is told backwards in time.

I listened to this Fresh Air episode about the Yiddish version of Fiddler on the Roof. Well worth the listen, if you have the time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ghosts Linger, a Legacy

Monday Morning Musings:

“Legacy, what is a legacy?

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

From Lin-Manuel Miranda, “The World Was Wide Enough,” Hamilton

 

All ghosts linger–

they sail on secret rhythms,

brilliant in the joy

they celebrate

floating beyond

the melancholy twilight,

blushing in time’s embrace,

they laugh the poetry of morning

and cry midnight’s anguished tears.

***

Legend says—

at Yorktown, the British played

“The World Turned Upside Down”

 

But now

let’s sound the truth–

 

(facts unknown back in our youth)

 

of the airports there

and the rockets’ red glare

 

over forts that didn’t yet exist

 

People believe, they twist

facts to follow ignorance

 

a delightful dance

enhanced

 

by putting down others

smothering new thought

we say, we ought

 

to do this or that

 

and debate

ideas reborn, the hate

 

lingers, like ghosts

 

unfurl the blue, white, and red

we eat, well fed

 

find comfort and ease

with old friends,

 

no worries to please

 

they accept me

as I dance, don’t flee,

 

smile to see another side

of me (I sometimes hide)

 

well maybe it’s the drink

(very pink)

IMG_3370

but doubtful, I think

 

since I danced around my kitchen

making ratatouille, listening

We’ll tell the story of tonight. . .

or we’ll forget

no regrets

 

in memories fragmented

by time segmented

 

the ghosts linger

like dreams

 

my mom tells, unreal,

but she feels

somehow, they appeal

 

false stories

in strange categories

 

one day weak

the next lucid, painting

no straining, no waning

her truth, her art

 

from her heart

that her eyes can’t see

 

she’s free in creating,

though it’s frustrating

 

for her and us

the ghosts linger, discuss

 

in whispers

we sisters fret

 

regrets,

but let’s

 

just do this

 

on another day, we’re fine

homemade pizza and wine

EAF86A35-F0F5-4FE9-BA40-AF7B143B5DDE

Stranger Things

the Upside Down brings

 

relief, as believable

not inconceivable

 

in this crazy world,

where conspiracies unfurled

 

believed as fact

impossible to retract

 

swirling in tornado winds

we wait to see what sunshine brings

a new day

a new way

 

yet the ghosts linger in

 

morning laughter

midnight’s tears

 

all the ever afters

of joy and fears

 

future on past climbs–

we see the light

 

of stars long dead,

still traveling through time

 

in sparkling trains go, come

and still, a legacy

 

(enduring beyond)

 

the moon, she hums.

Full Moon over Woodcrest Station

 

Another strange week with presidential lunacy amidst his narcissistic parade, storms alternating with sunshine–and some quality time spent in the basement during a tornado warning! My mom is perfectly fine one minute, and totally not the next. We watch the new season of Stranger Things (still a couple episodes to go) on Netflix, but sometimes feel like we’re already living in the Upside Down.

 

 

 

 

 

Art and Craft

Monday Morning Musings:

“It will be as if we never existed if our history cannot be read.”

― Minette Walters, The Last Hours

Ask about time–

or the night–

the woman of then

the woman of now

listen and remember

the voice of the universe calls.

***

 

In the book,

many people die.

They wonder why–

what they’ve done,

so many gone

from this new plague.

They question

their narrow existence,

wonder about resistance

and the distance

between people

and place.

And then the rats–

so many, except

where there are cats.

 

It’s a new world,

the crash of the feudal,

for rebuilding, crucial

to have the art and craft

survival skills and more–

and even serfs may leave

the manor, to soar

 

like the clouds that come

with thunder and rain

then blow away again

to reveal blue skies

and days that surprise

one with their beauty.

We visit the fountain,

the water spouting

in wind-blown sprays,

and children laughing

in all the ways

they can,

making sculptures

and eating free ice cream

(like a dream!).

A man tells me

about the turtle

he holds

over fifty years old,

he says,

points to her shell

and what it tells

of her age.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Not as old as the fountain,

dedicated nearly one hundred years ago,

public art and public show,

the craft and skill creating

a place for people

for waiting, hesitating,

lingering, as the water gleams

over allegories of history and streams,

and water showers,

but we walk on

admire the colorful bowers

of flowers.

 

We visit my mother

sit outside, the air

is pleasant with a breeze

and birds sing in bushes

and trees.

We go inside to see some art

a show and reception–

she has some connection

to the club, if not the artists,

and she can’t see their art

but still she charts

a course around the room.

Later we talk about the paintings

she’s painted

the work she’s created,

and when she and my father dated,

the clothes she wore

in that time before.

IMG_3197

Painting by Sylvia Schreiber

One of my mom’s paintings

 

We leave her before dinner

to walk some more

this glorious day

stop to say

hello to Rodin, and stay

for a drink in the statue garden,

the view a delight,

and we linger

but leave before night.

I see my daughters and their friend

almost like when they spent

all their time together

–birds of a feather—

all creative,

two artists, two who also write,

all who see the darkness and the light.

Soon all will be married

with husbands and wife.

These three—I wish them all

a happy life.

We binge on Netflix

eat nachos, and dream

of what the world might bring,

and I delight

to hear the birds sing

in morning chorus and in the night.

Sweet Potato Nachos with Mango Salsa

Sleepy cats lie

in peace, as I wish we could all–

IMG_5690

the art and craft of living

and dying,

history told in statues and stories

past, present, future fold

the moon hums and sighs

while time flies by.

Morning Moon, June 2019, Merril D. Smith

Here is some history on the Swann Memorial Fountain.

I read  The Last Hours by Minette Walters. She is known for her crime fiction. This is her first historical novel. It’s set during the “Black Death” plague of the fourteenth-century. The lady of the manor seems somewhat too enlightened, but nevertheless, I enjoyed it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Poems in Wellington Street Review

I’m so thrilled to have two poems up in the first issue of Wellington Street Review. It is “a new quarterly journal specialising in creative responses to the past. ” This entire issue looks fabulous.  I appreciate the editorial kindness and dedication of those involved with this publication–so wonderful to work with them–and I thank them for publishing my poems The Pogrom and In Memoriam: Their Names .

Truth and Lies and In Between

Monday Morning Musings: Truth and Lies and In Between

“a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. . .

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark”

–Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot

“. . .

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon. . .

. . .When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.”

From Maya Angelou, “A Brave and Startling Truth”

You can read and listen to the entire poem here on Brainpickings

 

Here within the pale blue dot

in this place within the speck

 

in this space, wrought

by nature and time, unchecked,

 

the days grow colder

 

the days grow colder,

and the vultures circle

44177320_2169870979692820_3414401556101988352_o

the lies grow bolder

as the sky turns purple

 

and choppy is the sea

 

to which the choppy river flows–

do you see?

Delaware River from Red Bank Battlefield, NJ

There it goes,

while elsewhere people flee

 

retreat from tyranny

 

retreat, flee, from tyranny

on flimsy ships, in caravans

 

not criminals, but wanting to be free

yet stopped by wall-builders’ bans

 

the bans that echo through history

 

the bans built on lies

about the other we hate

 

their skin color or nose size

perhaps their rising birth rate—

 

rouse the crowd, don’t make them wait

 

no, don’t make them wait,

their blood is pumping now,

 

so never speak the truth out straight,

and if lies are revealed somehow,

 

well, kill it—you know how.

 

You know how journalists die

through censorship—and worse–

 

rehearse your stories, fly your lies

praise the dictators and yes, truthtellers curse—

 

while we hope times will get better, and not worse

 

we watch movies about lies and hate

but also, truth and kindness, the human spirit rising

 

to help others, to banish and negate

the hate, to uncover the lies, without compromising

 

and we come to it

 

remembering history and seeing friends

remembering that someday the cold

 

will grow colder, but that it will end,

and the lies will grow bolder than bold

but we will love and each other hold

 

with care, eat comfort food, drink more wine

cuddle under blankets, dream, it’s fine

 

to remember time was born

in a brilliant cloud

 

from a void, torn

with a bang, how loud

 

if no one heard the birthing horn

or saw the light that’s now allowed

 

to flow and dance throughout all space

within the cracks and every place

 

where darkness lurks and surrounds

with beauty, hope, and grace

 

And so, we come to it,

in this time and place

 

on this pale blue mote, recommit

to seek the light—or at least find a trace.

IMG_8558

Sunset over the bay, Cape May, NJ

 

We streamed two movies this weekend. 22 July about the terrorist attack in Norway. Though certainly a grim subject, we both thought it was done well, without a lot of gratuitous violence. It focuses more on the aftermath, particularly on one survivor and the trial.  We also watched Three Identical Strangers, a documentary about triplets that delves into the moral issues that I won’t go into to, in case you want to be surprised.

Shadows Cast

Monday Morning Musings:

“Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.”

–Fortune Cookie Wisdom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moon music whispers

a lust for life—and light

in the darkness.

Ask—does the sky ache above

seeing death below?

There, like the shadow

that lies black beneath the rose.

***

The power of her voice in song–

now only her shadow sings–

caught on video and audio, sing along–

to “A Natural Woman,” it brings—

memories of a president’s tears,

as now a nation fears

the future filled with tweeting jeers.

 

He and they try to destroy the press

but those of us who cherish thought

protest. We need the freedom to express

ourselves without duress.

Though the shadow ones know—some are bought—

some are complacent, some complicit–

elicit the illicit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We sit outside, it’s still summer hot

though autumn hovers in the shadows

and we begin to think ahead, no, perhaps not—

there’s still time to sip wine, dip our toes

into pools or walk a sandy beach

and reach. . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

for love. Seek time with friends

fight the shadows, that lurk around us

and yes, we can’t know how it ends

hate is around, and it’s been ever thus.

It’s a fine line we walk

but we must talk

 

about the hate we see, it’s been freed

no longer do they lurk in the dark

the white-robed shadows proclaim their creed

of white supremacy–they bark

and parade in the open to dog whistles from above

and we must spark the light, the dove–

 

she flies somewhere high, beyond this rainy sky

where we walk through puddles on cobblestones

the air scented with summer flowers, and all the whys

float through the air, and do we care about the bones

that lie beneath us

the souls that flit above us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

in the shadowed world, we cannot see

we shine a light, where is the door,

where is the key?

In the before,

we look for the after

and the in-between

is still to be seen.

 

There is no moral, this is no fable

but disaster can come suddenly, coffee spilled

across the table.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A recap of my week. Aretha Franklin died, the nation’s press fought back against 45’s attacks, we drank wine, and we saw the movie BlackkKlansman. Trailer here.

Cloud Houses of Dreams

Monday Morning Musings:

“I would build a cloudy House
For my thoughts to live in;
When for earth too fancy-loose
And too low for Heaven!”

–Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “The House of Clouds”

“I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now

From up and down, and still somehow

It’s cloud illusions I recall

I really don’t know clouds at all.”

–Joni Mitchell, “Both Sides Now”

 

 

Striking in their billowing shapes, watch them drift, the clouds.

Somehow relaxing, to see them shift, the clouds.

***

 

On a beautiful afternoon in July,

we walk, a blue bed is the sky

for puffy clouds to lay upon

transient, seen, and then they’re gone—

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

like the inhabitants who once held sway

on these cobblestone streets, walked each day–

in daily life and times of strife they lived in these houses

with children, relatives, with their spouses,

Elfreth Alley, Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

do their spirits yet walk here under moonlit clouds

shy, hesitant, or fierce and proud?

I must ask my friends who once lived herein

if they ever encountered such ghostly denizens.

 

We watch a movie about a baker of cookies and cakes

who travels under a cloud, with a life that’s fake

but ghosts and memories bring new love–

sort of—

(The pasty looks delicious, but the story hard to convey

without giving too much away.)

 

We eat pizza and drink wine while the weather is fine—

against more green, blue, and white, we sip and dine

taking advantage of this unusual meteorological blip

before the storm clouds roll in and the forecast flips—

Auburn Road Winery,
Salem County, NJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

which it does, the skies turn grey

the white clouds drift away

and I build cloud houses from my thoughts

turn them away from should and oughts

Raining on the Ben Franklin Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

but I dream of houses with stairs to nowhere

or perhaps from here to there,

if only I can find the right paths (or footwear)—

a dream with goals and friends and cats,

and if there’s unfinished business—

well, I can live with that.

His work is done. Sweet Dreams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m sorry about the spacing here. I can’t quite figure out how to fix it.

People still live in the homes of Elfreth’s Alley. You can read about it here.

We saw the Israeli movie The Cakemaker. Trailer here.

We went to Auburn Road Vineyards.