The Value of Art and Dancing in the Rain

Monday Morning Musings:

“Great art evokes a response. . .emotion.”

Bruce Graham, The Craftsman

“We have a story we want to tell you about a play — a play that changed my life. Every night, we tell this story. But somehow I can never remember the end.”

–Lemml, at the beginning of Indecent by Paula Vogel

“Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin. . .dance me to the end of love.”

–Leonard Cohen, “Dance Me to the End of Love”

 

The day began with a stunning sunrise

a prize or disguise

for what would come later?

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Pitman golf coures, Pitman, NJ

We walk through city streets

listen to the beats

the syncopation of traffic and conversations

the announcements from underground stations,

look at the buildings and public art

take heart that the rain has not yet started.

I notice a clock, a reminder to go inside,

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the theater,

another world unfurls.

 

At the back of stage

projections of artwork by Vermeer

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Johannes Vermeer, “Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

over them we suddenly hear

guns or bombs and the paintings disappear

overlaid with black

then from the back

a man appears to give a speech

he is the head of the provisional government,

the Nazis are gone

the dawn of a new time

but justice must be done.

 

The play is about a forger, a con man

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who longs to be an artist, and when he can—

he also gets revenge upon the man, the critic

the con man’s a cynic

his wife, perhaps anti-Semitic

later she says she should have spoken out

without a doubt

a line that is relevant today

as is much of the play

which explores art, creativity, ability

and should an “expert’s” opinion hold dominion

over art

What is it worth, what is fake and what is real?

what will you pay to seal a deal?

I’m reminded of a man, an emperor with no clothes,

(as everyone knows)

who insists that his paintings (and news) are real

because he could never admit that he was taken

for a fool

(He is mistaken.)

The play is partly a courtroom drama

set in a particular time and place

the space converted

with a clever set and lighting

inviting us to see the different scenes—

office, jail cell, and courtroom.

there are flashbacks to the past,

and an excellent cast.

The setting is important–

the Netherlands had been occupied

those in the Resistance tried to defy

with some success, but also retaliation

leading to the Hunger Winter

and more lives splintered.

What should happen to those collaborate?

The play explores how we express hate

“revenge has become a spectator sport,”

do we resort then to the level of the oppressors?

We walk and talk

See a house with sunflowers

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Walking now a bit in showers

discuss the play over wine, beer, and cheese

then out into the night

see rain reflecting off city lights

prance and dance

tap a beat onto the street.

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Over homemade pizza and wine again

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Cozy inside from wind and rain

we watch a play on TV,

we see

another story based on events that were real,

and we feel,

we definitely feel—

this play within a play

to Klezmer music, the actors dance

and ashes fall from their coats and pants

they dance to the end of love

and perhaps they dance then back again,

there is a scene in the original play,

written in 1907, God of Vengeance

by Sholem Asch

the scene, referred to as “the rain dance”

involves two women, lovers—

the play is about the history of that play

performed successfully in Yiddish in Europe,

then the cast was arrested on obscenity charges

when it was translated into English and performed in the U.S.

(not a success),

the play is performed in the Lodz ghetto, in an attic room,

though all there know, they are probably doomed.

The play is about a culture lost

to time, to the Holocaust,

but it is about past and present

and how art matters

even when people are battered, shattered

their life in tatters,

and though some only value art for its monetary worth

the true value is in what it brings forth

in emotion and feeling

art sends those who value it reeling–

makes us think and want to dance in the rain

again and again

makes us laugh, or cry

makes us sigh and want to defy

Does it change our lives?

Yes, this I know,

art does, and helps us grow.

 

We saw the Lantern Theater Company.’s  production of The Craftsman.

We saw Indecent on PBS’ Great Performances. You may still be able to see in online.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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From the Ashes: A Month with Yeats, Day Nine

 This is for Jane Dougherty’s November Month with Yeats, Day Nine. The quotation is: 

“Troy passed away in one high funeral gleam,

And Usna’s children died.”

—W.B. Yeats

I was also inspired, or perhaps haunted, by this article that I saw last night about a girl’s pendant found at Sobihor.

 

Once she played and laughed upon a hill,

once there were families, hope, delight

before darkness came and all was still

in a nightmare world of constant night

monster-filled with hate and fear

and all that once was cherished and held dear

lost forever, or perhaps entombed

within the ruins, amidst the gloom.

 

Years passed in revolutions round the sun,

and grass sprouted in ashes cooled of fired hate

buried there, searchers found that she was one

in rubble raked beyond the gate

found there, a victim of the slaughter,

someone’s child, once a daughter,

found her broach, inscribed, a sign, a trace

that she existed once, now not entirely erased.

 

But does this finding some closure bring

to those who are left or suffering?

The ashes of the dead once rained like sordid snow

fertilizing now the ground where flowers grow

light’s restored, but mutable

and darkness still falls, indisputable,

hope the feather that softly flies

from wings of knowledge and wistful sighs.

 

 

 

 

 

Falling Stars

The child presses her face against the window glass

watching as the sun sinks into the sea

and the first stars appear in the sky.

She makes a wish as one streaks, burns, and falls

vanishing like her neighbors.

(“Poor things,” her mother had said

seeing their yellow stars.)

She wonders if they will send her a postcard

from wherever they are,

and if she can change her wish–

to see them again,

the doctor with the kind eyes

and his daughters with their long, silver hair

who had played with her.

 

The child, older now, presses her face against the window glass

and watches the stars in the sky

the bombs silenced,

she hears a song murmured by the wind

singing to her of hope and dreams,

bittersweet, like chocolate she remembers,

she sees streams of starlight

sowing dreams in sparkling silver waves,

thinks of her long-ago wish

and knows—somehow– it will come true.

Starlight_sower_(1)_by_artist_HAI_KNAFO_2011_inspired_by_Or_Zaruaa

Star Sower by Hai Knafo, Wikipedia Commons

 

This is for Secret Keeper’s Weekly Writing Prompt.  The prompt words were:

| APPEAR | PRESS | POOR | CARD | FALL |

 

The Beauty Is: NaPoWriMo

 

Monday Morning Musings:

“Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night –William Shakespeare, Romeo, Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, Scene 5

“And the beauty is, when you realize, when you realize, Someone could be looking for a someone like you.” –Adam Guettel, “The Beauty Is” from the musical, The Light in the Piazza  Song here.

“At such moments I don’t think about all the misery, but about the beauty that still remains. This is where Mother and I differ greatly. Her advice in the face of melancholy is “Think about all the suffering in the world and be thankful you’re not part of it.” My advice is: “Go outside, to the country, enjoy the sun and all nature has to offer. Go outside and try to recapture the happiness within yourself; think of all the beauty in yourself and in everything around you and be happy. –Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl, March 7, 1944

It’s a rainy Earth day,

the grey skies swaddle pink and white blossoms

Spring, verdant, full of life, thirsty, greedily drinks like a baby,

unselfconscious and we the admiring parents watch her,

she is beautiful, even when she’s a dirty mess.

 

A mother-daughter outing to see Beauty and the Beast,

the theater has reserved seats that we recline in ready for the magic to begin

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My daughter is comfortable in the theater.

 

— the Disney version of the story,

though we’re both impressed by Gaston, more nuanced than his cartoon version,

possibly charming at first in an oafish way

until the true darkness of his soul is revealed,

the mob scenes remind me a bit too much of history and recent events,

mobs inflamed by ignorant narcissists,

it’s happened throughout the ages

it happens now,

but how can I not enjoy a story where the heroine loves books,

a movie that is a shout out to literacy,

and where lovers bond over reading,

Belle reads poetry to the Beast,

he knows a quotation from her favorite play, Romeo and Juliet,

there’s singing and dancing, people and objects,

I had forgotten Audra McDonald was in this movie–

until she sang,

and I didn’t know Dan Stevens had such a fine voice,

(remember that time he was in a little series called Downton Abbey?)

we get a backstory for the Beast (which we both like)

Belle’s backstory is inserted more awkwardly,

Still it is an enjoyable couple of hours of mother and daughter time

And there is more beauty in the day

the beauty is. ..

a bowl of lemons

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not exactly life giving them to us

as going to the store and buying six bags of them

and rather than lemonade, we mix them with vodka to make limoncello

aren’t grownup daughters fun!

(And beautiful?)

So, we grate lemon peel,

the kitchen becomes gloriously lemon-scented,

a Chopin polonaise plays softly in the background,

(her husband’s study music),

we talk, of her girlfriends, of work, of this and that,

my husband has been doing yard work

(it’s not raining that hard, he says),

he sits at the table with us,

their dog chews on his toy,

their cat ventures out to see if it’s dinner time

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Not pleased by the citrus scent

 

When we’re finished, we eat takeout Pakistani food,

my husband and my son-in-law learn

the kind and talkative restaurant owner was educated at Oxford

(perhaps he is a book lover, too?)

And what do I do the next day with leftover lemons?

Make lemon cake, of course!

 

 

It’s beautiful and delicious.

And though there are beasts all around, the beauty is. . .

spending time with people you love,

enjoying good food and wine,

beauty simple and sudden,

striking you, when you look up from your morning coffee

to see the sun dawning over the neighbor’s white dogwood tree

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The photo does not capture how beautiful it was

 

the profound beauty of birth, mixed with blood and pain,

the simple beauty of a smile,

the beauty that is there within the beast,

the beauty is

it surrounds us

the beauty is. . .

in yourself and in everything around you

 

Today is Day 24, NaPoWriMo. We’re asked to write a poem of ekphasis, a poem inspired by a work of art. We’re challenged to base a poem on marginalia of medieval manuscripts. I suppose you could very loosely say I’ve done this, as they are beautiful and filled with beasts. (Such as this one )

Huffington Post summarizes some previous versions of Beauty and the Beast here.

Today is Yom HaShoah ( This year, it’s Sunset, April 23- Sunset April 24), Holocaust Remembrance Day. I wonder what Anne Frank would be writing about now, and if she would still see beauty in the world.

I’m Not Yet Ready to Write an Elegy for the World: NaPoWriMo

Monday Morning Musings:

“See what you lost when you left this world, this sweet old world”

—Lucinda Williams, from the song, “Sweet Old World” (Listen here.)

“I am of certain convinced that the greatest heroes are those who do their duty in the daily grind of domestic affairs whilst the world whirls as a maddening dreidel.”

–Florence Nightingale (I could not find a source for this.)

 

When the fool becomes king

it’s difficult to celebrate

to know what is real and what is fake

(news)

a radio host said

it didn’t seem right

to slip in an April Fool’s story

because this year

 

it’s a crazy, mixed-up world

our, sweet old world

 

I dream about Mary Todd Lincoln,

grieving over her dead son and husband,

ghosts that walk the White House,

does the current resident see them,

feel the presence of the great and not so great?

Will he destroy our world?

(the news spins and whirls maddeningly)

I wonder if Mrs. Lincoln crazy,

or was it simply the world about her,

the nation torn apart,

brother fighting brother,

her husband a martyr,

and did she long then to leave this sweet old world?

 

We watch movies about strong women,

twentieth- century women,

one raising her son alone,

we eat pizza and drink some wine

because it’s a sweet old world, isn’t it?

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the woman is confused

but she does her best,

most people do

(as I hope, as I believe)

and I guess she does a good job,

because her son wants to be a good guy

who cares about women,

she does something right,

because, after all, many years later her son will make this movie,

and Annette Benning will play her,

crazy and sweet, this world.

 

The other woman hid people,

(in a zoo)

she truly lived in a crazy world

where the monsters ruled,

living in plain sight,

real human monsters

scarier than fictional demons,

the zoo became a pig farm

because the animals had been killed,

people, animals,

to monsters there is little difference,

the woman’s husband fights bravely with guns,

the woman fights with her soul,

she understands that she needs to woo the monster,

as she does an animal,

though she is terrified,

they are heroes, this couple,

in a world spinning crazily like a dreidel,

will it fall on nun, their “guests” must wonder

or will a great miracle happen there?

They saved 300 people,

perhaps a great miracle did happen there.

they raised pigs on garbage from the ghetto

(the Nazi’s love the irony)

though those in the ghetto can scarcely spare their garbage,

because they are starving

 

And I’m reading a book about a young girl who is starving

in a small, Irish village

starving for Jesus, I suppose,

subsisting on manna from heaven, she says

her nurse, her watcher,

has been trained by Florence Nightingale,

(a nineteenth-century strong woman)

I don’t know what happens,

I haven’t finished the book,

though I hope the girl eats, hope she lives,

hope she gets to grown up in this sweet and crazy world

 

And we go out to lunch,

Indian food,

discuss movies and books,

and this and that,

(not starving),

we come home,

I bake a cake–

because we need sweetness

in this crazy, mixed up world,

and I’m not ready to write its elegy

 

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Sour Cream Coffee Cake

 

It’s Day Three of NaPoWriMo. The prompt was elegy. I hope we do not yet need one for our sweet old world.

We saw the movies, 20th Century Women and The Zookeeper’s Wife.

I’m reading The Wonder, by Emma Donoghue

Light a Candle

“It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen everywhere.”

–Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved

 

Light a candle

six million, if you can,

resplendent glow,

for those who say they didn’t know,

for those who didn’t, do not see

what once was, what could be,

who overlooked the ash-filled air,

who still ignore the pleading cries

and do not hear the ghostly sighs

that float over the walls of hate,

now, don’t hesitate–

light a candle

for those who suffered

and had no buffer

from the fear,

no one to wipe away a tear,

who died because you didn’t see.

 

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By Takkk (Own work), via Wikipedia, Holocaust Memorial Center, Memorial Wall of Victims – Budapest, Hungary

For International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 27 January 2017. The anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops. The few survivors are now elderly. It is important that we do not forget.

 

 

 

 

The Journey: Microfiction

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

The Sale: Microfiction

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Antoš Frolka [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Gerda clutched the bill-of-sale in her hand, glancing with smug satisfaction at Rose Zukerman’s amethyst ring that now sat tightly on her own fleshy finger.  Franz had purchased it for her, along with the Zuckerman’s house. Gerda had always coveted that elegant townhouse with the piano (that she couldn’t play), the many books (that she would never read), and the china (that would end up broken).

They had gone to the Zuckerman’s early this morning, even though it was a Sunday. Gerda was afraid that some well-connected Party official would get the house first. They’d offered Dr. Zuckerman a fair price. Better than being thrown out, she had sniffed, when the doctor had hesitated at the offer, a sum that was far below what the house and its contents were worth.

Dr. Zuckerman was no longer allowed to treat Aryans, and most of his Jewish patients could not pay him. He could not afford to live in this splendid house, even if he was permitted to stay in it. Gerda chose to forget Dr. Zukerman’s gentle kindness. She chose to forget how he had traveled in a blizzard to treat Franz for pneumonia. Gerda brushed aside the thought that now their medical care would come from Dr. Höss with his trembling fingers and schnapps-scented breath.

I’m not a monster, Gerda thought. We’re giving them the day to pack up some personal items and food. The image of the two little Zuckerman girls with their honey-colored curls who had clung to their mother’s skirt stayed in her mind; she wondered where the family would go. Well, it’s not my concern. They’ll be with their own kind.

She understood that the hook-nosed caricatures of street posters bore no resemblance to the educated, cultured Zuckermans. But still she thought with pride that now true Germans would get their due. The Führer would make Germany great again.

She urged Franz along. She didn’t want to be late to church. She wanted to pray to God for their continued good fortune.

 

This is for Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge , but I’ve gone over the word limit. The prompt was the painting above by Antoš Frolka of a couple going to church.

 

A Wish: Microfiction

 

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By Felix Nussbaum, “Lovers,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 “Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin

Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in

Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove

Dance me to the end of love.”

–Leonard Cohen, “Dance Me to the End of Love”

 

Felix and Miriam hurried to reach the new hiding place along the coast. Felix had lost count of the number of places in which they’d hidden. Was it four? Five? In each, he had painted or sketched with whatever materials he could find. The urge to create was powerful.

Although most waterways were heavily fortified, Felix had been told the patrols in this rocky area were infrequent. Still, he wished the night was not so clear.

“I could swim to freedom from here, even with the rocks and waves,” said Miriam. She was a champion swimmer before war and restrictions intervened.

“You could, my little fish,” he replied, as he looked around. Something about the deserted quay did not feel right to Felix. He had always trusted his instincts.

“You hide here,” he told her. “I have a bad feeling about this place.  If it’s OK. I’ll let you know. If it’s a trap, you must run for freedom.”

“But I can’t leave you,” Miriam replied.

“You must. For the sake of our child.” He put his hand on her belly.

She nodded. “First though, we must make a wish on that bright star.”

They held hands and closed their eyes. Then Felix clutched her, kissed her, and left.

He entered the deserted building. In the seconds before the Germans kicked in the door, he heard a faint splash in the distance. He had a good feeling that his wish had come true, and Miriam had escaped. He smiled as they beat him, knowing in his soul, that at least one of his creations would survive.

 

This is in response to Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge.

The prompt was the painting above by Felix Nussbaum. His family were German Jews who had been proud Germans. His father was a WWI veteran. Felix and his wife, Felka, also an artist, hid in several locations before they were discovered and sent to concentration camps. Felix Nussbaum’s entire family was murdered at Auschwitz. The Leonard Cohen song played in my mind with this painting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Survivor

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Vincent van Gogh, “Sorrow,” 1882 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Now years have passed, the pain is gone–

physical pain, the dreams remain,

demons, terror, always the same.

 

Family gone–denouement

of war, of destruction, of fright–

she mourns them still, alone at night.

 

For evil men, she was a pawn.

They took her youth, left no trace

in tattooed arm and withered face.

 

The past is gone, she won’t dwell on,

memories–peace comes, with a book,

a cat, some tea, a quiet nook

 

in which she sits, sometimes till dawn,

longing to die, willing to live,

she tries not to hate; she tries to forgive.

 

This week, Jane asked us to write about pain for her poetry challenge in a poem using the rhyme scheme: abb acc add aee, etc. I didn’t use the prompt words or the image she suggested. I think this Van Gogh drawing conveys the mood of the poem. The model was pregnant and abandoned by the father of the child. She was forced to prostitute herself to buy food. Van Gogh took her in as a model, paid her rent, and shared his bread with her. The Wikipedia page has more information.