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.

 

 

Stardust and Blood

Monday Morning Musings:

 “How close people could be to us when they had gone as far away as possible, to the edges of the map. How unforgettable.”

–Paula McLain, Circling the Sun

“I have perceiv’d that to be with those I like is enough,

To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,”

-Walt Whitman, “I Sing the Body Electric”

 

In the quiet morning breeze

I gaze at the sky, the pink-tinged frieze

of clouds, a line then brushed

by sun and wind, its blush

faded to white, in the diffusing sunlight.

I breathe in the ancient longing

belonging to us all—for affection,

to find connections

(despite an election)

After all, we’re all made of stardust,

and we’ve emerged from the sea,

to inhale the air made by our trees–

all related, far enough back, we share the same genes.

I don’t know what it means,

But we’re all people, not infestations,

no matter our color, religion, or nation.

 

My cousin comes to visit–

his father was the brother of my mother,

we share this blood-bond

but I don’t think we’ve ever talked

so much, so one-on-one

of this and that

(we pause to watch and pet the cat).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I display some family genealogy

and we try to parse a chronology

of those from our past,

discuss and compare

the connections we share,

different views of relatives we know

(bring out more photos to show),

My grandfather as a young man. The photo is undated, but taken in Philadelphia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stories of growing up

an old joke about the Penn Fruit store,

which is no more–

residing now only in our youthful before,

part of the memory,

a moss of summer dreams

that stick, it seems

even in the frost,

when autumn leaves fall,

still they call.

 

We visit the battlefield park,

watch the geese swim in formation

the same way they fly in the sky

(all the whys)

and wonder at their destination,

Red Bank Battlefield
National Park, NJ

National Park, NJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

watch the planes, look at the Philadelphia skyline—

this day is more than fine—

we walk and talk

amidst the ghosts of a battle past

after the guns fired and the cannons blast,

the Hessian soldiers here that died.

But they are quiet, and if they tried

to communicate, perhaps it was too late,

we didn’t hear them today

as we walked the pathway

in and out of yesterday.

 

We go on to our daughter’s,

whose soul glows bright,

sit with family by firelight,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

laugh and talk

and pet their dog,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

content to be in the moment here

multi-generations, with faces dear,

and if you were perhaps to overhear

amidst the jokes and banter,

you might find fear

of the future,

but it would be mostly love, you’d hear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Its Banks

“The hardest part is when the river
is too swift and goes underground for days on end”  

~Jim Harrison from Songs of Unreason

 

Here,

heedless of morning light

or evening flight

of geese across

the river runs,

through history

of people who

in transitory transit

camped along its banks

when silver shad streamed,

fished for oysters and pearls

of wisdom

flowing from,

with,

to

the sea.

Rolling river

pushes and pulls

life through seasons

and time

changes

everything.

Turn, turn

around

and underground

the hidden bones

turn, turn

to dust–

ghosts walk

beside the water

dreaming of what was,

waiting for what will be.

 

Delaware River

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is for Day 14 of Jilly’s 28 Days of Unreason–poetry inspired by the poetry of Jim Harrison.

How Does the Story End?

Like a ghost,

a man already dead–

the dread

of knowing others bled

and he was complicit

in acts morally,

if not legally,

illicit.

Would he be called enabler,

or traitor?

The victors tell the story,

when truth is denied,

then histories lie.

But his eyes betrayed–

me too, they said,

a clue

to what he was thinking–

that he was lost, sinking

lower and lower,

flowing out with the tide

(conquer, divide)–

he tried to divert the course

of fate—

perhaps too late.

And now he only watches

wondering how and why he was chosen.

Like his ancestors there

against the plaster

on the wall—

frozen–

in the famed paint of dead masters.

 

For dVerse, Amaya asked us to take two quotes from different sources and use one for the first sentence on a poem, and the other for the last sentence. I used Munich, a new novel by Robert Harris, which is about the Munich Agreement of 1938. Despite knowing the outcome, it was still a bit of a thriller.  I also used a phrase from Maya Angelou’s, “California Prodigal.”

“In the shadows, at the back of the study Hartmann watched it all without seeing, his long face blank and ashy with exhaustion—like a ghost, though Legat, like a man already dead.”

–Robert Harris, Munich, Knopf: New York, 2018, p. 251

 

“Under the gaze of his exquisite

Sires, frozen in the famed paint

Of dead masters. Audacious

Sunlight cast defiance

At their feet.”

Maya Angelou, “California Prodigal

 

 

 

 

Connections, Past and Future: NaPoWriMo, Day 9

Monday Morning Musings

“I guess I can say that I just wasn’t connecting to everything, because I wasn’t given enough information to know that we all are connected somehow. To every living breathing thing.”

–Denis Dodson, a Maryland prisoner, in Anna Deavere Smith’s, Notes from the Field

“On Passover, among other traditions, we pass down “the spirit of roast beef” and how to make light and fluffy kneidlach instead of “sinkers.”

—from our family Haggadah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter turns to spring,

the week is fraught

and we are caught–

the minor annoyances and major fears

(of fate held back, now it seems, for years

coming due,

in arrears)

the morning call about my mom—

not as frightening as one late at night,

but still the toll

the stress of them all. . .

 

And so, we are comforted by rituals

though celebrated past the date

still cherished, even if they’re late

connecting with our ancestors,

connecting with our past

remembering absent faces

remembering all that’s passed

 

Passover, a celebration of freedom

but so many are still not free

we watch a filmed performance

about people caught in circumstances—

a need to redesign

the school to prison pipeline,

though many are disinclined

(after all, there are profits to be had

in the incarceration of those considered bad)

But how to address the major issues–

there will always be officious officials.

There are big problems, addressed in this drama

food desserts, racism, epigenetic trauma?

Freedom Fighters, John Lewis

the brightest, the truest—

and still problems go on—

a young girl thrown across a room,

and I wonder if we’re doomed?

 

We celebrate freedom

we were slaves, now we are free

but for so many that will never be.

My family picks and chooses our traditions,

most of us without true religion,

accepting each other and the love that we need

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and so, we sit at the Passover table to read

my daughter’s Passover play

(this year’s edition)

each reading our part,

with laughter, we start–

some allusions maybe going over some heads–

the Pharaoh likened to current leader who believes his lies,

(despite the facts before his eyes)

and Moses to Hamilton who’s not going to throw away his shot–

perhaps high art, it’s not,

but we laugh as we sing and say

Dayenu

and name the plagues,

then almost through

pour more wine

and let us dine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the after-dinner glow

I am comforted by our rituals

and all we hold dear,

connections to the past

my niece says do you know—

grandmothers literally hold a part of their granddaughters in their bodies

in the already present eggs of their girl babies in utero?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and so, it goes–

this love of family

past, present, future—

an arch

through which we pass

somehow connecting,

in the parade of time

moving forward and back,

and we here are fortunate not to lack

nourishment of love, food, the mind.

I see the students march,

hear my daughter talk of how she teaches,

begin to hope that some glimmers of light reaches

far away,

floating through both words and deeds

following the leads

of young and old

truth and justice, never old

hoping this trend to hate recedes

hoping the light grows

hoping truth and beauty proceed

Seeking a patch of light

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s an article from The Atlantic on Anna Deavere Smith’s one-woman play, Notes from the Field, in which she plays many different roles. A filmed production is currently on HBO. I did some research on prisons for my forthcoming books on rape and sexual violence. Some people may not be aware that the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

Day Nine’s Prompt for NaPoWriMo is “to write a poem in which something big and something small come together.” I feel like that is always what happens in my Monday Morning Musings.

It was a busy weekend, so I’m behind on reading, but I will try to catch up later today!

 

 

 

 

 

Journey in Place: Beginning and End

Monday Morning Musings:

“It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
—Ursula K. LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969. Often misattributed to Hemingway.

 “To light a candle is to cast a shadow.”

–Ursula K. LeGuin, A Wizard of Earthsea

 “What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. . .

Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph.”

–T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

 

It’s a stressful week, we burrow in—

hunker down

in restful verbs and tasty nouns,

lighting candles in the night,

casting shadows against the bright

light and darkness

co-exist,

without one, is the other missed?

FullSizeRender 324

I journey in place

keeping pace

(I hope with grace)

flowing, risking with rhyme and meter,

thinking of a double feature–

perhaps tonight–

traveling without moving

wondering if I’m improving

no matter,

if it’s soothing. . .

 

to stay in my pajamas

listening to public radio,

interviews with Nathan Lane and Laura Marling,

unsnarling the day’s news with Michel Martin–

mostly disheartening–

I make dough and bake pizzas

enough for us and the shadow figures, too—

of course, wouldn’t you?

I mean, if they should they care to join us,

we’d have enough

and so, we dine,

drink some wine

watch a movie of two families, white and black

see, there’s no going back,

when time moves forward

we go onward,

even while people are wandering

out of place

lost in space–

well, you can take the boy from Mississippi,

but what happens when he returns a man?

People don’t understand

the legacy of poverty and hate,

and racists don’t want to debate

truth seen in a black and white–

it’s easier to fight.

 

So much to consider,

and some of it makes me bitter,

I think about the six million dead,

those who never got a chance, never fled

wonder if my family’s genes were among them—

hemmed in

forced to live in shadows, in nightmares

or rather, left in there

suffering and forced to die

their cries reverberate

(never abate)

we light a candle in their memory

holocaust_memorial_center_memorial_wall_of_victims_005-1

(never forget)

the sorrow of their journeys,

(remember me)

their souls shout out

but what do my words create–

 

and what good is an epitaph for them or us—

is what time was forever thus?

Perhaps to foist a new beginning,

or to change the end

when life circles round,

we can start again.

 

IMG_8045

Not watching the movie.

 

Holocaust Remembrance Day was on Saturday, January 27. We watched the movie, Mudbound, on Netflix.

 

 

 

 

 

Of Lies and Better Things on the Way

Monday Morning Musings:

 

Men should be what they seem,

Or those that be not, would they might seem none!

–William Shakespeare, Othello, Act III, Scene iii

“ they are not men o’ their words: they told me I was everything; ’tis a lie…”

–William Shakespeare, King Lear, Act IV, Scene vi

“Here’s wishing you the bluest sky
And hoping something better comes tomorrow
Hoping all the verses rhyme,
And the very best of choruses to
Follow all the doubt and sadness
I know that better things are on their way.”
–from Dar Williams, “Better Things”

 

We walk through a living, mortal city

see buildings transformed

here an insurance building, now condominiums

a Starbucks at its base

IMG_7150

is the history erased

or still held there, a trace of perfume or smoke

left somewhere in a bit of old oak

and here, the cobblestones and bricks remain

some things, perhaps, stay the same

IMG_7152

We travel through space and time

in books, movies, theater, art

from my small town’s fall festival

to Philadelphia streets

then we enter the London theater

of centuries ago—a show,

the stage framed with the red velvet proscenium curtains

uncertain what we will see

amongst the esteemed company

there at Convent Garden

where a substitute actor

steps in to play the part of Othello, the Moor–

a black man? Well, that’s not been done before!

A character declares, “People come to the theater to get away from reality.”

The cast members of this well-known London troupe are divided,

some undecided about how they feel,

but willing to try some new techniques

or at least to somewhat tweak

their stylized manner and gestures

though scandalized at how Othello touches Desdemona

Do they understand the play and his persona?

We see a bit of the handkerchief scene

enough to glean how it might have been

the critics were vicious, in racist prose

derided Ira Aldridge’s performance in the show.

He is an anomaly upon the stage

We see there both passion and his rage

later hear him, as Lear in madness decry the lies

as fury builds and slowly dies,

around him, slavery still exists

(and even now)

though we can hope through sorrow

that better things come tomorrow

and better things are on their way

 

We discuss and dine

and drink some wine

(well, beer for him)

we’re both well pleased by the cheese

that we nibble sitting there as day turns to night

caressed by a breeze

perhaps it’s wandered round the world

unfurled and carried hope and sorrow

and we discuss the present and the lies

ignorance that triumphs over facts or the wise

but still we hope that tomorrow

better things are on their way

 

Younger daughter and I go to a concert

Dar Williams sang of the pagans and Christians

sitting at the table–

and just like them, we’re able to sit with different folk

but at least they were silent, and no one spoke

and I was more fascinated than annoyed

by the man touching the woman and the other woman stroking her hair

both unaware, I suppose, that we couldn’t help but stare

as we enjoyed the songs, the reading, our food and wine

so yes, we also came to dine

(a bit like the Gilmore Girls—

if they were vegetarians with curls)

and Dar sang of the babysitter, now urban planner

and “positive proximity”

(despite city’s life often anonymity)

she spoke of transformations she has seen

spaces empty and dark, now full of life, green

and when she sang “Iowa,” we all sang along

we all sang the chorus to the song

and despite lost hopes in November

our fears and sorrow

we left in hopes for better things tomorrow

that better things are on their way

 

In the blood

in the dreams

in the cities

and in the seams

and it seems

and it seems

that we wade through streams

against the current

things that are and things that weren’t

sometimes floating

ever light

drifting far and out of sight

journeys through space, time, day, and night

to ponder, to wonder

at art’s spell, we fall under

does it hide or amplify

the truth and the lies

and those who are afraid of women

and those who lie, quite unredeemed

or even worse

(notes on a theme)

they are exactly what they seem

but in our sorrow, we can dream of tomorrow

and let hope linger here, now stay

better things are on their way

 

We saw Red Velvet at the Lantern Theater Company.  The play is based on the life of the real actor, Ira Aldridge. We saw Dar Williams at World Cafe Live.

 

 

 

Cabarets and Conviviality

Monday Morning Musings:

“Life is a cabaret, old chum

Come to the Cabaret!”

–John Kander and Fred Ebb, “Cabaret,” from Cabaret

 

“Which of all my important nothings shall I tell you first?”

–Jane Austen, Letter to her sister Cassandra, June 15, 1808

 

On a summery autumn day,

we left the sunlight

to enter the smoky den–

(the Cabaret, old friend)

Germany in the 1930s

but goose steppers are looming

the winds of war are moving

soon the guns will be booming

but for now, there is consuming

beer and goods,

here in the night,

the women are beautiful

the men are beautiful

they slink and glide

in barely-there wear

the Emcee, in heels and gowns

feather boa and garters,

looming

grooming the audience

flirting and diverting

we’re there, but here

then, but now

I’m surprised–

though why–

startled at my own emotion reaction

because it’s no longer an abstraction,

“Tomorrow Belongs to Me”

and Nazi insignia–

my throat constricts,

the body knows what the mind refuses to accept

(more goose steps)

I hear “some very fine people” gather

drivel and blather

echoes of then and now

the need to fight and disavow

what do politics have to do with us

the characters ask

We’re Germans,

(We’re Americans)

that can’t happen here,

our rights will never disappear

people standing tall and proud

arms held straight in devoted salute

They worship him

(no matter what he says)

small steps with profound consequences

(build a wall and many fences)

the slippery slope

and where’s the rope to pull us back

to ring the warning bell

to tell us now that all is well

So, what would you do

My brave young friend?

Would you pay the price?

What would you do?

What should we do?

What will you do?

 

 

We walk and talk

a wonderful production

the set well-designed,

the orchestra well-tuned and engaging

the voices delightful

the direction, insightful

altogether, quite a show

but—

(rightfully so)

a little too close to current events

(Maybe this time)

we’ll be lucky

maybe this time

he’ll go away

 

We wander some more

through old city streets

encounter wedding parties

one right after the other

brides, grooms, sisters, brothers

“the wedding stalker,” my husband says,

but it makes me happy to see love and joy

(where some want only to destroy)

affirmations of love and life

after the violence, hate, killing, and strife

 

We drink coffee

stroll across the cobblestones

IMG_7090

where men met to create a nation

to establish here a firm foundation

(remember the ladies, Abigail said)

but no, they simply went ahead

We’ve come a long way, baby

but still and all–

life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

flawed men with lofty ideals

feet of clay

and yet they found a way

it’s still the best we have

pledges made then and now

pledges these couples make in wedding vows

to love and cherish

to pursue life and happiness together

to do their best

we must do our best

(to join together)

 

After the play, we join our friends

friends of years

through love and tears

FullSizeRender 221

kindred spirits

saying farewell to one couple’s house

not their first

but one where babies were born and nursed

here a family gathered

here we’ve shared many meals

often, like tonight Chinese food

IMG_7096

viewed one way

something we’ve done before

but there’s always something new and something old

moments to cherish and hold

close here to heart and mind

to bring out and remember

should we ever find the need to,

we say farewell to the house

but not the friendship,

remember that time, we say?

That day?

And then?

Remember when?

“What do you talk about? one friend’s daughter asked.

How do you describe the talk of old friends?

We talk of all our important nothings

and then we talk some more

of children, homes, work, and retirement

of travel, plays, movies, and books

of bats in our houses

and grandchildren in our beds

of catching mice

and stalking cats

of coffee cups and chocolate cake

of food and wine

and all the time

of then

and now

and all things fine

(and some things not so)

until finally it’s time to go.

We part with hugs effusive

despite the hour

and as the moon peeks from her cloudy bower

FullSizeRender 214

 

we part–

Auf Wiedersehen,

but not goodbye

À bientôt

Enjoy life’s show–

it may be a cabaret

but if so, the set changes every day

and yet love, the light, true friends remain

and all our important nothings

in turns out

are really something