Transfixed, Transformed

In the play—that scene—

falling rain, a soft drumming on the stage,

two women in white nightgowns, dance and kiss

glorious, not indecent—

 

later, in the Lodz ghetto,

they perform again–

the drumming of jackboots looms–

 

the play’s not indecent, their reality is.

 

 

Paula Vogel’s play, Indecent, is a play about a play Sholem Asch’s 1903 drama God of Vengeance, which was performed in Yiddish in Europe, then in Yiddish theaters in the U.S. When it was translated into English and performed on Broadway it triggered an obscenity trial in 1923. The play was performed in the Lodz ghetto with a diminishing cast and audience. This sounds very depressing, but I love this play, and there is humor and joy in it, too. And that rain dance scene. (If you’re a PBS member and have Passport you may be able to see the play on Great Performances online.)

This is a quadrille for Mish’s dVerse prompt using the word, “drum,” and it also addresses Anmol’s Pride Month prompt  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering

Monday Morning Musings:

“He supposed it was always that way with the dead; they slid away before we knew enough to ask them the right questions. All we could do was remember them, as much as we could remember of them, whether it was accurate or not. Walk the same streets that they’d walked; take our turn.”

Emma Donoghue, Akin

Sunrise on Delaware River

Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, January.

 

January mornings are slow to wake–

the sun lifts his sleepy head

so slowly from his bed

extending his rays over river and sea

while gulls gather on the shore

 

and I watch sun and gulls

while walking into the day,

the clouds lifting, rolling tides

that flow into tomorrow

carrying echoes of yesterday

***

 

I remember yesterday and look to tomorrow

(the present never is, can never be)

no predictions, we don’t know what comes,

only what was and what might be

as the world circles

 

some remember yesterdays of horror

survivors, tattooed numbers on their arms,

scarred bodies and souls–

they ask us to never forget–

the tides ebb and flow, days turn to night

 

carrying secrets

within families

within neighborhoods and nations

the pretense– we didn’t know what was happening,

the fear and shame of discovery.

 

But I have been privileged—

my ghosts mostly benign,

though I hear the ghosts of six million call,

“Remember,”

and I wonder how we can ever forget

 

a world of hate

that hasn’t vanished

where people were—are–

trafficked, enslaved, murdered

simply because they exist.

 

Is there another timeline

where we are not destroying our planet,

where we don’t say a leader is crass,

but I like what he’s doing–

where facts still matter, where the secrets are exposed?

 

I watch the river

carrying ghosts and memories

out to sea, out of sight

and the birds hover and land

and fly away again

like thoughts

that flitter through my mind,

the trivial and mundane,

the weighty and bizarre,

mixing like water and dust

 

raining through my brain.

What will evaporate?

What will stay to form a river

that streams

words onto a page?

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Reflections on Delaware River at sunrise. Red Bank Battlefield. 2020

 

My daughter and I watch the movie

(laughing and wiping tears from our eyes)

and I think of all the movies we’ve watched

sometimes over and over again–

it seems so long ago now

 

this past

where she played Little Women with her Barbies

giving Amy, the youngest, like her,

superpowers—and a car—

that she teaches Jo to drive

 

and in the past

both daughters saw the real Amy’s drawings

still on the walls over a hundred years and many wars later

this past, what I remember, my daughters

existing with the past of the old house—both moving on

 

as we do.

We drink wine

talk of books, travel, life

time slows for awhile,

we laugh enjoying ourselves and each other–

 

the crescent moon smiles

her secret smile

as we drive home

into our future

remembering the past.

 

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My musings are a bit late today because my editor had a few final queries about my book, and naturally I had to answer them right away. Last week, Adobe Acrobat ate the page proofs I had worked on, and I had to re-do everything.

Merril’s Movie Club: My younger daughter and I finally saw the latest movie version of Little Women. We both loved it, though we wished older daughter was there, too. The casting is perfect, and we both liked the way the story went back and forth in time.  We visited Orchard House when our girls were little.

My husband and I finished the Icelandic drama series, Trapped, which we enjoyed very much. There were many secrets and memories in this series, which also touches on political and social issues.

I finished reading Emma Donoghue’s novel, Akin over the weekend. It’s about a man about to turn eighty who suddenly finds himself caring for his grandnephew and taking him to Nice—where he uncovers family secrets from WWII.

We visited Almathea Cellars.

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day—the 75th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

 

 

We Debate the Use of the Term Concentration Camps As People Are Imprisoned and Children Die

 

512px-_The_Cemetery_Gates_,_Marc_Chagall_(1917)_Musée_d'art_et_d'histoire_du_Judaïsme

Marc Chagall, The Cemetery Gates

 

Bitter-breasted men crush us

driving us on

in a repulsive show

of blood and sweat.

As storm sprays a blackened sky

and wind screams,

“Never again,”

we sing of if

and whisper when.

 

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Even the Oracle is appalled, but she still gave me “if.”

This week protesters in New York, Boston, and elsewhere were singing mir veln zey iberlebn  “We Will Outlive Them.”

 

 

 

 

Live and Grow

 

Live, grow, through the greys

hope for, golden rays

that give

life some bright displays

and love some pathways

to live

without them and they,

without risk, some day

 

grow tall, through the frays,

tell a tale that sways,

outlives

hate, instead to blaze

in unforeseen ways–

forgives?

Hope for golden rays,

live, grow, through the greys.

 

Grace is hosting Open Link Night at dVerse.  This is another attempt at a lai noveau.

I walked by the Holocaust Memorial in Philadelphia yesterday, and I was happy to see the Theresienstadt Tree has grown since the last time I saw it.

 

 

 

 

 

In Transit

Monday Morning Musings:

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“Ports are places where stories are told.”

Transit (2019)

“Time is being and being
time, it is all one thing,
the shining, the seeing,
the dark abounding.”

–Ursula K. Le Guin, “Hymn to Time.” Full poem and more here.

 

We travel here to there

and back again

full moon shimmers

then grey clouds reign

 

The movie set in a sort of purgatory–

or is it hell?

Well, there they dwell

 

in a timeless space,

1942, or perhaps today,

first Paris, then Marseilles

 

where the man

and all the refugees

flee and plea

 

and then they wait

for updates—human freight

telling their stories—annotate

 

in endless exposition

tales of existential despair

they share, aware

 

 

of soldiers raiding houses

and the whispers of cleansing and camps–

there mark with the official stamps

 

the necessary papers

but another visa always needed

and time passes on, unheeded

 

are the pleas

there’s no direct here to there

false names and identities, stare

 

now at your betrayer

and then betray–

go again, or stay

 

it’s all the same, it seems

the stuff of nightmares and false dreams

of hope

 

of getting out.

And is the story even reliable,

truth seems rather pliable

 

on “The Road to Nowhere”

echoes sigh and ghosts flitter

and titter, while fear litters

 

the air—here

now in this my port city

ghosts also walk, in close proximity

to us, all around,

people who came to escape, in fear,

in tears and sometimes a cheer

 

for whiskey and beer

refugees arriving each year

surviving or dying—the crying

 

of those left behind

and so here my ancestors also arrived

and mostly thrived,

 

but what of the untold tales

and the stories that are told,

of the days of old,

 

perhaps embroidered details

come to sit atop the truth

but lost, the tales of grandparents’ youth

 

I learn, when vision fails,

the brain fills the void with what has been

projecting patterns on the unseen screen

 

My mom says, I see it there

like a bird cage

it covers your face, your hair–

 

a cage without

birds, visions in transit sprout

high–set free to fly

 

So, we eat hamantaschen

and we drink some wine, it’s fine

because tomorrow we may be

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between sun and moon

halfway from here to there–

in transit.

 

In another movie

a woman time-travels

trying to unravel

Homemade pizza and Netflix

timelines to save a boy

and her daughter—her joy

lost if time’s not changed again

 

between storms, or mirage,

stories hidden between and around

suddenly lost, suddenly found

 

like spring when trees and flowers smile

and dance the secret of all breathing

and times stops, but just for a while

a short embrace

of light–a kissing space

to gather pace

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ourselves, geese in V flight

we set off, for the light

or like mockingbirds all night–sing

Geese at Red Bank Battlefield

our stories

in transit,

transitory always,

like shadows and spring

 

Last week was strange and surrealistic, as I’ve noted elsewhere. We saw the movie Transit. Trailer here.  [Dale see] this new movie by Christian Petzold is bold, intriguing, and haunting. I keep thinking about it. One review said something like it’s Casablanca as written by Kafka. So, you know, my kind of movie.  I really liked his previous movies Barbara and Phoenix, too, and the director has said he sees them as a sort of trilogy. I didn’t know until afterward that the movie was based on a novel written in 1944 and set in 1942, but there are no direct references to that time in the movie.

We also saw Mirage, a Spanish movie on Netflix. Trailer here. It was good, with echoes of a Twilight Zone episode in the use of TVs–but you probably shouldn’t watch it during a storm.

 

 

 

Walking Through Time and Colored Space

Monday Morning Musings:

“People observe the colors of a day only at its beginnings and ends, but to me it’s quite clear that a day merges through a multitude of shades and intonations, with each passing moment.

A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors.”

–Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

I.

Valley Green Inn

Valley Green Inn

A lunch date at a favored place

where time both moves and pauses, still—

 

(our hearts, across, but not apart.

He says, “Look at that horse and cart.”)

Valley Green Inn

We eat and talk, at a leisurely pace

we walk through sun and autumn chill

past greens and blues and shadowed grey

where rival geese gangs gather like Jets and Sharks

 

(honks and echoes through the park)

 

and pops of red and golden leaves gently sway

in the breeze that sparks

 

more conversation–

punctuated by loud fowl annotations.

 

All the colors of the day, all the light that bends

as life begins and as it ends

 

what do we see—

no, really look, stare

 

focus on a tree,

at all the colors there

October, National Park, NJ

the hues of yesterday tread

on tomorrow–but see today.

 

And so, we do,

and watch it slowly fade away

 

to the bright humming moon in the indigo blue

who sends our dreams out on their way.

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II.

Another walk, I see AMOR, bright red

and nearby, a yellow flower

then a memorial to survivors and six million dead

murdered by those came to power

while others stood by.

(Not humanity’s finest hour.)

 

I see fountains and birds

and buildings and sky–

but what are the words

to offer, when I wonder why

 

the hate—then comes another shooter

thoughts and prayers do not suffice

 

against the looters and wannabe storm troopers–

how many more must be sacrificed?

 

What of memorials then, and statues of love

when the haters make no amends

 

and the peace dove

seems to fly a route that bends

 

and sways precariously

while the refugees flee–

 

So, we gather together, family and friends

find joy in cats and pizza, hold close hope—

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look for the helpers, the lights in the crack

look for love, and those who have your back

 

because who knows when something wicked this way comes

and if only we could be warned by pricking of the thumbs

 

and if evil only came in theatrical play

wouldn’t earth be a wonderful place to stay?

 

III.

We walk again, view art on the walls

pops of color on fall’s gloomy streets

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discuss stories and recall

this and that, before we take our seats

 

to see a play about after the apocalypse

a ragtag group that performs The Simpsons.

they recount episodes, buy lines for scripts

try to come to grips, that they’re the ones

 

who are left. The play continues, years pass

and a mythology forms, but has love won?

 

Certainly, the need to tell stories is ageless, ancient

words, rhythm, art, song—is eternal

 

and so is the need to make a statement

about our own times–so it comes full circle.

 

We discuss the play over cheese and wine

then walk to the train to return to our home

Tria

Orange wine at Tria

feeling fortunate that we are fine–

though my thoughts roam

 

to those who have lost people they cherish

killed by hate and those who support it

 

how do we make it perish,

make the world emit

 

love, kindness, joy,

and hate outwit–

 

so, a ploy–

I sleep and dream–

 

see time rippling in a wave

flowing in an endless eternal sea

 

colored by infinite hues, and thoughts we save

ride through all space, simply waiting to be

 

born again with a bang.

Dreams of a thousand colors. Think if. Maybe. Stay.

 

Sunrise, National Park, NJ

 

Even though this is more than one walk, I’m also linking this to Robin’s Walktober. I hope that’s OK, Robin.

I. We had lunch at the Valley Green Inn, then walked along Forbidden Drive.  II. I walked through the Philadelphia Holocaust Memorial Plaza (also written about here) and along the Parkway in Philadelphia. III. We walked around before and after seeing Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play at the Wilma Theater.

 

The Tree

 

Theresienstadt Tree

Sapling from the Theresienstadt Tree, Philadelphia Holocaust Memorial Plaza

 

I walk through the triangular plaza, this memorial to those known and unknown; those who survived, and those who perished because of hate. It is the little tree I focus on. It’s small but carries a mighty legacy of survival. I think of the children who tended its progenitor with such dedication, knowing that they themselves would most likely perish. I consider those children then, and all the children now fleeing from horror or living in war zones. In the words of a woman who survived hate, who survived a hell, I hear an invocation. “Hate is a terrible thing,” she says. And I think we must never forget: hate only nourishes more hate, but kindness makes both people and trees grow.

 

Ghosts walk among us

whisper through buried ashes

brave saplings rise up

 

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This Haibun is for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday. We were to use synonyms for haunt and spell. Yesterday, I walked through the Philadelphia Holocaust Memorial, which was dedicated on Monday.  You can read more about it here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Replies: The Poetry of Earth

Monday Morning Musings:

“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”

–Leonard Bernstein (In reference to a concert played after JFK’s assassination.)

“I also believe, along with Keats, that the Poetry of Earth is never dead, as long as Spring succeeds Winter. . .”

–Leonard Bernstein

“He’s alive. He’s alive so long as these evils exist. Remember that when he comes to your town. Remember it when you hear his voice speaking out through others. Remember it when you hear a name called, a minority attacked, any blind, unreasoning assault on a people or any human being. He’s alive because, though these things, we keep him alive.”

Rod Serling, “He’s Alive,” The Twilight Zone.

 

The Queen of Soul with last breath sighs

a cappella respect and pink Cadillacs lay her to rest

and when the war hero dies, tributes attest

to his heroism, morality, beliefs that belie

the petty tyrant’s mocking words

his tweeting calls, unlike the birds

who in dawn chorus sing

and bring the poetry of earth alive

(let freedom ring).

 

At a museum we see the story of a people and a man

a tribute for what would have been his hundredth year

his father wanted him to be a rabbi, but didn’t stand

in his way, when music was what he held so dear

–but he was a rabbi of a sort, teaching with sound

and harmony, questioning and seeking justice, shedding tears

to bring the poetry of earth to light–

his reply to violence was not silence,

but rather let the music swell intensely, delight

in life, for all of us, poetry of earth and air

today, tonight

(someday, somewhere)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We see a movie about a boy and his brothers

violence and love, we and us, a trio till it’s not–

they run wild, as mother and father

and family, all of them caught

a cycle, repeating what they’ve learned

yelling and silence, kisses and slaps

and so, he seeks solace in art, turns

to his frantic scribbling, wraps

his pain and questioning in late night visions

finally realizing, and makes decisions

there’s poetry in this dreamy work

where souls almost drown, but also fly

and even in the light, the darkness lurks

the poetry of earth means changes are sung

but his mother whispers

(may you stay forever young).

 

We stroll through the city

that also ages and changes,

we see ugly and pretty

poverty and wealth, such ranges

and though fall is coming,

summer still holds sway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the poetry of earth ever humming

through violence, love finds a way

we see weddings, people who are happy

and we smile with them as we walk

drink our coffee, discuss movies, and talk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

about this and that

and in end of summer heat

complete

(we’ll do the best we know

and make our garden grow).

 

Song lyrics: “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” which Aretha Franklin sang at Barack Obama’s inauguration. Leonard Bernstein references to “Tonight” and “Somewhere” from West Side Story and “Make Our Garden Grow” from Candide. “May You Stay Forever Young,” Bob Dylan.

We went to the Leonard Bernstein exhibit on its last day at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia. I didn’t know he had performed at a displaced persons camp after WWII. He conducted an orchestra that called themselves the Ex-Concentration Camp Orchestra. You can read about it here and here. We saw We the Animals. Trailer here. I really liked this movie.  We watched the old Twilight Zone episode “He’s Alive.” It was written in the 1960s, but it is a timely reminder about what could be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope Rises and Falls, Like Us All: NaPoWriMo, Day 2

Monday Morning Musings:

“Remember only that I was innocent
and, just like you, mortal on that day,
I, too, had a face marked by rage, by pity and joy,
quite simply, a human face!”

From “Exodus,” by Benjamin Fondane, murdered at Auschwitz in 1944

“But where there’s hope, there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.”

Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl, June 6, 1944, written after Anne hears the news about D Day.

“I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty will end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.”

Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl, July 15, 1944

 

This Passover—at least at the start,

my husband and I dine alone–

we’re on our own

for this Seder

(apart from the cats,

who join us later).

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It’s been a strange week of that and this

things not quite right, a bit amiss–

the whole afternoon at the doctor for my mother’s hand

in a city office

(the building still grand)

 

I look at my hands

starting to look like my mom’s

when did this change begin of fingers and palms–

these strange hands turned from mine to others

how did they become so much like my mother’s?

 

The weather turns from cool to warm

but still I feel the coming thunder, the storm—

I read about a French woman who survived hate and the camps,

stabbed by her neighbor to whom she showed only kindness–

but he was caught up in blindness

(of the soul)

if that is how we can characterize it all—

this hatred or fear,

we should remember her

not him,

Mireille Knoll,

for whom the bell finally tolled.

 

This climate of fear

seems to grow daily

the president goes on another Twitter rant

and I just can’t–

listen to him (sniff sniff) speak or chant

transplant

fiction in his supporters’ brains

(enough of them still remain)–

where and when does it end,

will it ever stop,

the firing of the latest shot,

the hate, the finding of scapegoats to label

the fear of the intelligent and able?

There’s fear in the air,

but does fear rise above hope?

Which is denser, which one floats?

 

We see a performance, a play

people forced together, every day

having to live in close quarters

annoying each other, parents, strangers, daughters,

dependent upon friends for food—

for everything

never permitted to go out

or glance through a window—or shout–

forced to be silent all day—

even chatterbox Anne must sit still and stay,

but she finds a way,

observing and recording

in her diary she writes,

somehow hope rising above despair

as if she’s gathered it from the air

“Think of beauty,” she writes,

and

“I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

Her writing, an art,

though she’s doing her own part

for the war effort, for after, for when life re-starts,

revising her words for the novel she hopes will one day be—

when the war is over—when they’re all free—

We know watching, that it is not to be,

and yet, still, I hope for a different ending,

one that ends without sending

them off in cattle cars to the East

to be treated worse than beasts

to die hungry, filthy, covered with lice,

wonder why she and others had to pay such a price—

would she then have written what she did–

as she slid

as if down a well

from hiding into Hell?

 

We celebrate miracles, the Exodus,

I’m not religious, but the history of us

of pogroms and hate at this time—

the crimes—

make me honor those who came before me

and who were not free

to celebrate or see—

here now–

a day of sun and clouds,

voices talking out loud,

the daffodils in bloom,

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I hope they don’t disappear too soon.

Then a rainbow appears way up high

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It seems magical, and though I’m cynical,

perhaps it is a Passover miracle,

whatever, it’s beautiful, I think,

and so, we eat matzah and drink

(more wine)

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Passover Walnut Cake

and before desert, the full moon appears to hum in the sky–

filling me with wonder and whys

 

The human face,

if we could only see it

instead of looking at a space

feel—seek out!– the pity and the joy

but instead, we destroy.

Fifty years ago, this week, a man was killed

perhaps from him, some hope was spilled

“I have a dream,” he said,

but before long, he was dead.

He urged others onward in the fight

for justice, for light.

Anne Frank, a young girl, also died

her family, too, only her father survived.

she wanted to be remembered, a famous writer

and so, she is, with life gone and so much missed.

I don’t know that our future looks any brighter,

(Do you hear it? The wind carries their cries.)

and yet. . .when I look up at the sky

I still see the stars and moon, and then I sigh,

hoping their dreams will never die.

 

We saw, The Diary of Anne Frank at People’s Light in Malvern, PA. 

This is Na/GloPoWriMo, Day 2.  The prompt was to play with voice, but well, these are my musings.  🙂