Ghosts and Questions

Monday Morning Musings:

“Some questions remain long after their owners have died. Lingering like ghosts. Looking for the answers they never found in life.”

–Michael Frayn, Copenhagen

 Bohr: “A curious sort of diary memory is.”

Heisenberg: “You open the pages, and all the neat headings and tidy jottings dissolve around you.”

Bohr: “You step through the pages into the months and days themselves.”

Margrethe: “The past becomes the present inside your head.”

—Michael Frayn, Copenhagen

 

We go to bed with snow on the ground and wake to spring. We step through the door, and into the day.

 

Winter’s ghostly forms

banished by the golden light—

one bloom has opened

We walk down city streets. Here, as we approach Chinatown, sound travels faster than sight, if not light.

We hear the drums and firecrackers, long before we see the lion. We step into the crowd. The lion dance, a centuries-old tradition. The noise of the firecrackers, the constant beating of the drum, and the lion itself will scare away evil spirits. Perhaps the ancestors smile.

 

Lion’s head and tail

sweeps away year’s bad fortune

brings longevity

 

We stop for coffee, and walk and talk, passing nineteenth-century buildings that co-exist with their newer neighbors. I feel the ghosts around us.

 

We step into the theater. We step into time and space. We are in Copenhagen. No, we are sharing the memories of these three: German physicist Werner Heisenberg, his Danish mentor Niels Bohr, and Bohr’s wife, Margrethe with whom he shares everything. We are in some sort of limbo.

 

They are ghosts, perhaps–

well, no longer living–

in this place,

this space

where they try to remember

what was said

and by whom,

recreating a meeting

when Heisenberg, who worked in Nazi Germany

visited Bohrs in occupied Denmark.

Late September, Copenhagen, 1941.

 

We learn about quantum mechanics,

Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle,

Bohr’s Complimentary,

nuclear fission,

calculations made and not made,

the Jewish scientists who flee the Nazis,

taking their knowledge to England and the U.S.

(those who are not murdered.

The characters move around the stage,

like electrons,

but who is the nucleus?

That depends on who is telling the story.

Are we each the center of our universe?

But then why can’t we see what others see?

Going through several “drafts” trying to remember

realizing that every moment becomes the past,

looking for answers

to questions that they never asked when they were alive.

 

It is a play about science.

It is a play about morality.

It is a play that asks what is truth?

It is a play that I wish the abomination in the White House

could actually understand.

 

Like Bohrs and Heisenberg, we step outside,

walk and talk,

try to make some sense of the play,

if not the world around us–

 

We drink wine and beer—

celebrate my husband’s birthday—

We discuss the play

We laugh.

We’ve been together a long time.

Sometimes our memories are different.

“I’m afraid you’re wrong, dear.”

“The seasons, they go round and round”

But are we captives of time,

or did we create it?

 

Winter turns to spring,

time travels with light and sound

Do ghosts know the answers?

 

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Maybe they reframe their stories.

living them over,

trying to find the right questions to ask,

but as for us,

we live now–

seeing the beauty in a single bloom,

even as it becomes the past,

and our diaries pages jumble and fade,

it lives on in our memories—somewhere—

perhaps twisting and turning like a Lion Dance–

in time and space.

 

I played around with this, and I suppose it is a sort of Merril Musings Extended Haibun. 🙂  We saw the Lantern Theater Company’s production of Copenhagen. I highly recommend it, but since it was the last performance, you won’t be able to see it.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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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

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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.