I’m so excited to have two history poems up in the most recent issue of Twist in Time magazine. And my poet friend Luanne Castle has a creative nonfiction essay in it, too!
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.)
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
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
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,
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
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
words onto a page?
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
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.
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.
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,
we sing of if
and whisper when.
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, grow, through the greys
hope for, golden rays
life some bright displays
and love some pathways
without them and they,
without risk, some day
grow tall, through the frays,
tell a tale that sways,
hate, instead to blaze
in unforeseen ways–
Hope for golden rays,
live, grow, through the greys.
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.
Monday Morning Musings:
“Ports are places where stories are told.”
“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 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
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
between sun and moon
halfway from here to there–
In another movie
a woman time-travels
trying to unravel
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
ourselves, geese in V flight
we set off, for the light
or like mockingbirds all night–sing
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.
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
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.”)
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
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
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.
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—
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?
We walk again, view art on the walls
pops of color on fall’s gloomy streets
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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. . .”
“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
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
(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.
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).
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
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
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—
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,
“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—
make me honor those who came before me
and who were not free
to celebrate or see—
a day of sun and clouds,
voices talking out loud,
the daffodils in bloom,
I hope they don’t disappear too soon.
Then a rainbow appears way up high
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
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. 🙂