Ephemeral Beauty in the Book of My Memory

Monday Morning Musings:

In the book of my memory—the part of it before which not much is legible—there is the heading Incipit vita nova [here begins a new life].

–Dante Alihieri, Vita Nuova

“There are lovely things in the world, lovely that don’t endure, and the lovelier for that.”

–Chris Guthrie in Sunset Song

“People like films because stories are a structure, and when things turn bad it’s still part of a plan. There’s a point to it.”

–Tom Buckley in Their Finest

 

Dawn opens the book

write or draw upon the page

ephemeral life

transitory beauty, grasped,

chronicled by poet’s hand

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Every morning, I wake and turn another page,

what will be written there that day?

Not a book, a story, a movie, a play,

our lives

we plan, we think there is a structure, a plot

reasons for our rhyme

we study the past

but put our trust in hope and beauty

 

My husband and I eat Chinese food

sitting in our living room we watch a movie,

about a woman who lived a hundred years ago in Scotland,

using technology that did not exist in that era,

and that will become outdated all too soon,

it’s a rural life of hardship and beauty,

of fighting and song,

an abusive father, a depressed mother, a brother who leaves,

she puts away her books,

but there is the land to sustain her

she falls in love and marries

but the land is still there,

glowing through the director’s vision,

though the work is hard,

her husband goes to war

(the war that was to end all wars)

it changes him

it changes the nation

and all the nations that lose so many of their young men

the poets write, the tyrants sing

dulce et decomum est pro patri mori

the old lie,

that vicious lie,

life is ephemeral,

but love,

that is true and lasting

 

In the morning, I wake and turn another page,

we see another movie

this one about the next big war

about keeping the spirits up and boosting morale,

the movie is funny and charming and sad,

I enjoy it very much,

my husband does, too,

though he says, “It’s a Merril movie.”

And I guess it is,

though I’m not sure what that means,

the movie is mainly about a woman

who gets a job writing “slops,”

the women’s dialog for war movies,

this one is about unlikely women heroes at Dunkirk

the war ministry wants it to have everything though—

even an American and a dog–

and we see the writing (the clicking of typewriters)

and the construction of the movie

location and studio

while the world around them shatters,

and we know that the world will get worse,

and women will take “men’s work,”

then be forced back into their boxes,

but there is romance and Bill Nighy

and really what else do you need in a movie?

 

After the movie,

the spring day turned fine,

we walk around the old city,

where traces of the past remain,

though much has vanished,

structures, people,

and before that

giant creatures who once walked the earth

 

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American Philosophical Society

 

we drink coffee,

enjoy the view,

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laugh at the booming voice of a tour guide

helpfully informing a group that

“Carpenter’s Hall was built for carpenters.”

(though the term carpenters is misleading)

 

Nearby stood the house of a bodice-maker

now house and man, long gone—along with the fashion

all fleeting moments in time

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Carpenter’s Hall, Philadelphia

 

In a garden, we see tulips

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but many of the early spring flowers are already gone,

the petals of the flowering trees float to the ground

joining piles of catkins

(leaving pollen to blow everywhere)

the fleeting life of a butterfly,

helping to create beauty in the world,

ephemeral beauty

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the beauty of spring, fading into summer

lovely things that don’t endure

and are they lovelier for that,

and is that the point?

What will I remember,

what will be retained in the book of my memory?

These moments of beauty, I hope.

We go home

feed our cats and ourselves,

the mundane tasks of life

that have their own beauty and joy,

we sleep,

and in the morning

I wake and turn another page,

hoping for beauty, though it may not endure,

wondering if there’s a plan

wondering and hoping

holding love close

 

We watched the movie, Sunset Song, on Netflix. Here’s a review. I haven’t read the book, which I know is a classic in Scotland. We saw Their Finest in a theater. Here’s a trailer.

 

 

 

 

 

Magic Moons and Tides: NaPoWriMo

 

More magic moons that bring the tide

where mermaids swim and sirens sing,

but we sail on, for hope hasn’t died

 

in dreams, the sea is magnified

the tumbling waves with foam do fling

more magic moons that bring the tide

 

Death may come on horse bestride

to demonstrate that he is king

but we sail on, for hope hasn’t died

 

our love comes in waves, comes sparkling-eyed

as love-crazed, reverie, both unspring

more magic moons that bring the tide

 

so come, my darling, we must have tried

to play in our dreams, as we daily wring

more magic moons that bring the tide

but we sail on, for hope hasn’t died

1024px-Ilya_Repin-What_freedom!

Ilya Repin, “ What Freedom,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A villanelle for Day 30, the last day of NaPoWriMo. I think this may be the first villanelle I’ve written.

Kerfe Roig (check out her latest  here  ) mentioned “more magic moons” in a comment to me, which gave me a prompt for this poem. Then the image above popped into my head. Jane Dougherty used it once for a microfiction prompt. So thank you both!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Skulls: Microfiction

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Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

The princess was awakened in the night by rough hands and gruff voices.  Her attendants were killed, and she was thrust into deep hole, a dungeon known only to few, while her captors decided if she was more valuable to them alive or dead. She was a pawn in dynastic feuds.

She lay there in the dark, too stunned and fearful to think or do anything. A rustling in the fetid space around her, finally got her attention. Somehow she knew the sound came from beings, not only rats–though they probably would come looking for a piece of her to chew on soon.

“Don’t be frightened,” she said. “Someone will help us.

My mother used to tell me stories. Shall I tell you one?”

More than a little frightened herself, she began speaking, telling a tale of magic and light, of music and sunshine, of finding a way home from the darkness. Gradually, figures appeared, glowing spirits. They hovered around her, listening to the tale and illuminating the dungeon with their light. She was now able to see that all around here were piles of bones and skulls, the remains of men, women, and children who had been left here to die alone. The princess told these lost souls story after story, until she, too, was near death.

But the princess did not die. One of her attendants had hidden under the bed and survived the slaughter in the bedchamber. This loyal attendant had run for help, the kidnappers were captured, and the princess was rescued–but she did not forget the lost souls in the dungeon.

Eventually she became queen. Shortly after her coronation, she returned to the dungeon. Ordering her guards to remain at the entrance, she walked down the dark steps alone. She sat there in the dirt and told a story of magic and light, of music and sunshine, and of finding a way home from the darkness. She rose then and told the spirits she would build them a new home.

Before long a section was added to her palace. It was called Hope’s Annex, named for the Queen, who had taken the name Hope. The bones from the dungeon were gathered, sorted, and placed there. The building was filled with light from large windows and glass doors, which were opened to the flower gardens in fine weather. It was furnished with comfortable seats, tables, and bookcases crowded with books. People visited, day and night. They read the books, had concerts, and told stories. And the spirits were happy, at last.

 

This is for Jane Dougherty’s Sunday Strange Microfiction Challenge.

The prompt is the illustration above, which is certainly strange. I have no idea what the original fairy tale was about.

 

 

The Balloon: Microfiction

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Pierre Puvis de Chavannes [CeCILL (http://www.cecill.info/licences/Licence_CeCILL_V2-en.html) or CC BY-SA 2.0 fr (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/fr/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

She had raged against the war, raged against the loss, and raged against fate. Her husband and her three sons had been killed; her grandchildren would never be born. Her city was destroyed, and there was no one left to rebuild it. Bodies lay in the streets, dead of starvation, disease, and hopelessness. Now the fire of her rage had died to embers. Over it, her sorrow had once simmered and stewed, but now, it too was gone. She was hollow, like a shell abandoned on the beach. She wondered if her body carried echoes of her life before–when she had dreams.

As she walked toward the ancient walls of her city, she noticed a balloon rising in the distant sky. A sign of hope or help? Too late, she thought. She wondered if she imagined it, as she watched the balloon ascend higher and higher, mocking her. She knew she would never rise; the only way for her was down. She hoped her flight would be graceful, like the balloon’s, a final bit of beauty amidst the tragedy of her life. She stood at the top of the city’s wall, spread her arms, and dived into the wind.

 

After

She floated, carried by wind currents, by angels’ breath. She floated like a leaf upon the water. She heard a sound, like echoing voices, and a door between worlds opened. There was her city spread beneath her, filled with joyous people, busy with the tasks of everyday life. In a blink, she stood now in the market square. Her eldest son saw her and greeted her with a smile. She noticed a balloon high above her. She dared to dream. Here and always.

 

This story was for Jane Dougherty’s Sunday strange microfiction challenge. The prompt was the painting above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surviving

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Fritz von Uhde [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“The newspaper stories were like dreams to us, bad dreams dreamt by others. How awful, we would say, and they were, but they were awful without being believable. They were too melodramatic, they had a dimension that was not the dimension of our lives. We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.”

—Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

 

She rose in frigid darkness,

hauled water from the well,

lit the fire, cooked the meal,

her work uninterrupted, invariable,

her duties clear,

no surprises, no light in her world,

(no lightness in her soul)

hours of toil,

before she could creep down the steps

to her cold, damp cell,

limbs stiff, ossified, a fossil of a woman

wearing her weariness like a shroud,

her life safe,

(as long as she could work)

well, safer than others,

who hid in fear,

she had a roof,

a bit of food,

she wished she could long for flowers

sunshine, love,

but the reality was

she only wished to survive.

 

This poem is for Secret Keeper’s Writing Challenge, using the words

Life/Work/Real/Safe/Clear.  I used reality instead of real.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 20, 2017: A Quadrille

In 1799, George Washington died,

the nation cried,

with solemn faces,

tears leaving traces,

salt licks of grief.

No relief,

we look at the past,

and fear the future casts

black shadows—so we mourn,

torn

between hope’s whispers, freedom’s shout,

resist, watch out.

 

Another quadrille for Dverse.

 

Countdown to 2017: Tend the Fire

 

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Simon Vouet, “Father Time Overcome by Love, Hope, and Beauty,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Toll the New Year’s bells,

sing, ring, out with the old,

tick tock, the Doomsday clock,

crash, boom, the bombers croon,

disaster looms,

resist, persist,

as midnight strikes,

what is and was

and what will be,

shadows still,

not foreordained.

Sing, ring, in with the new,

the bogus god,

jittery and twittery,

embodiment of hate and fear,

hollow crowned,

filled with vain conceit,

yet mortal.

 

From ashes, hope rises,

like the Phoenix,

even now,

(See the flames flicker?)

glimmering, gleaming,

in the darkness–

gather round,

the embers glow, the fire grows,

no dying of the light

but gently, delicately

feed the flame,

tend it carefully till the dawn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Angel’s Voice

 

 

 

In the dark of winter night

speaks the angel, fierce but sweetly,

singing in a voice commanding,

crying in a voice demanding,

with caramel breath and radiant light,

shimmering and glimmering like the star

shining, pulsing, glowing bright

twinkling, twinkling from afar,

resplendent, lustrous, but not so cheery,

brilliant, dazzling, then her query–

Why do you fight and foster hate?

Why do you listen to lies, then wait

for signs and words and soothing vows?

Don’t you sense that something’s wrong,

that freedom and choice will soon be gone?

The sun will rise on empty space

where earth once was, but now no trace,

so, light the candles and ring the bells

wreathe the doors with evergreen boughs,

but call for love and fight for right,

prevent the waning of the light.

Then she vanishes, darkness returns,

we search for angels, and the candle burns.

 

This is for Secret Keeper’s Writing Challenge.

 

The prompt words were:

Sense/Fight/Free/Voice/Choose

Happy Holidays!  Wishing all of you light in the darkness and peace, and joy in the new year.