Garden Shadows

Monday Morning Musings:

“’I am half sick of shadows,’ said

The Lady of Shalott”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “The Lady of Shalott”

 

“We’re neither pure, nor wise, nor good

We’ll do the best we know,

We’ll build our house and chop our wood

And make our garden grow. . .

And our garden grow.”

From Leonard Bernstein, “Make Our Garden Grow,” Candide

 

 

All week the sun plays hide and seek

perhaps preparing for the eclipse

my soul also wanders

in and out of shadows

I think about life

blooming in the late summer plants about me

at a make-your-own-terrarium night,

 

 

we each make one,

the open kind—succulents–

though the closed kind would be more interesting to me–

and less so to the cats–

I think,

as we drink wine

and visit with our friends’ daughter who had also showed up

(Surprise!)

I wonder how long our plants will live,

we, who are good at bringing up children and cats,

are not so adept at raising plants,

though the weeds seem to thrive,

still we put them in the sun

(but where there is sun, there are shadows)

and try to make our garden grow

 

As the sun plays in the August sky,

we go to the movies

(shadows turn to light and life upon a screen)

the film is about life and death

and making choices

telling the truth

confronting traditions

rejecting what does not work for you

embracing differences

seeing people as people,

not as members of different groups,

it’s kind of a comedy

and a romance

the comedy of life

the tragedies

funny family dinners

love

and a coma,

existence in a shadow world,

while life goes on about you

 

Afterwards, we sit upstairs

in an open-air part of a restaurant

flowers planted, blooming in boxes outside the railing

and street performers serenade us from below

it’s noisy,

but, hey, summer in the city

a beautiful evening

we watch buses and tourists below us

and pedicycle drinking groups,

laughing and singing

we eat tater tots and pizza

because it’s that kind of night

summertime

and we’re not at war yet,

we walk around

Do these creatures protect the house?

 

just a bit

because there’s work to be done

and an early day tomorrow

the shadows deepen

 

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The sun dances through clouds

casting shadows large and small

on the eighth, Barbara Cook and Glen Campbell both die

glorious soprano and beautiful tenor

perhaps they sing duets in some other world

(do gardens grow there?)

the next day is the anniversary of my father’s birth

he would have been ninety-eight this week

and I think of my mother,

who will soon turn ninety-five

the seasons turning, sun and shadows

Auburn Road Vineyard

The sun comes and goes

hiding

seeking

gone for a woman in Charlottesville

gone for her family

gone for people killed in mosques and churches

gone for women taken as spoils of war

call evil by its name

the darkness of the soul

never brightened by the sun

hidden beneath shadows

 

I watch the sun rise and set

watch the shadows lengthen

as summer turns to fall

I hold on

seeking light

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giving it to the terrarium plants

because they are still holding on, too

despite all odds

we’ve made our gardens grow

 

I wrote about my father here.

We went to Plant Nite at Auburn Road Vineyards.

We saw The Big Sick, official trailer here. We ate at Revolution House.

You can hear Barbara Cook in “Make Our Garden Grow” the original Broadway cast recording of Candide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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August: Songs in my Heart

You would have been ninety-eight today. I mark the date as the day awakens—crickets chirping, and birds beginning their morning chorus, a little later now in August than June. I imagine you as you were before you got sick—larger than life, or so it seemed. Until you shrank, encased inside a body that had become frail, and then your life shrank, too. In your last apartment, filled with bric-a-brac (a word that always sounded like a magical game to me), the Chinese vases and statues, the antiques that shared space with other collections–books and papers, drawings and old art projects we had made—later, after you were gone, and the space echoed with silence, we found the old school lunch boxes and report cards in your closet.

 

Your grandchildren, my daughters, played on your balcony. I remember red geraniums there, but perhaps I’ve added them in my mind, as I’ve added them to my kitchen window box. I think about my daughters playing and singing, wonder if their love of music came from you. I wish you could have seen the women they’ve become. You would be so proud of them. (I hate that you are gone.) I suspect you, and not my mom, bought the Broadway soundtrack recordings that my sister and I listened to so often when we were little, making up plays in our Dallas bedroom. I remember you singing. Did you have a soundtrack running in your head, as I do?

When I was a teen, you drove me crazy singing “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” over and over again. I hated that song (I hate that you are gone); I’d love to hear you sing it again. With age, I’ve realized the universe is filled with music, though we don’t always hear it. Some songs drift through your brain, others you hear in your heart.

 

Heart-songs float through time

stars, the proud troubadours, sing,

tones linger like dreams

 

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My dad’s birthday was yesterday, August 9. This Haibun is for Colleen’s Weekly Poetry Challenge. The prompt words were hate and pride. I had another idea that used the words much more definitively, but this happened instead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Echo of Mothers’ Cries: #Haibun

 

Demeter_rejoiced,_for_her_daughter_was_by_her_side

Walter Crane [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, from The Story of Greece Told to Boys and Girls by Mary MacGregor (1914)

 

I bid farewell to my husband and our cold, dark home. I walk uphill, placing six pomegranate seeds in my mouth. The burst of tartness on my tongue staves my hunger as I travel from the gloomy shadow world. I exit and taste the honeyed sweetness of the air. Freedom. Gazing at the horizon, I watch the Sun God’s golden steeds pull his chariot above the horizon, trailing coral flames. The day glows with promise.  A robin looks at me quizzically, then lets out a delighted trill.  I am no longer a matron; I am reborn, young, virginal. I answer the robin with a girlish giggle. As I laugh, the grass begins to grow, flowers bloom, and buds appear on the trees. I savor my brief time here. Mother, I am home.

 

Captured, bound, and wed

tethered by hunger and seeds,

Persephone’s fate

ancient Greece, Nigeria

mothers’ cries echo through time

 

My daughter is here. Alive! Her belly is swollen with the seed of her abductor. Her eyes haunted, she gives me a tremulous smile. I open my arms and embrace her–once again.

 

This Haibun is for Colleen Chesebro’s Weekly Poetry Challenge. The prompt words were light and dark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Balloon: Microfiction

le_ballon-pierre_puvis_de_chavannes-img_8274

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Game

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Albertus Pictor (1440-1507, “Death Playing Chess”

By Håkan Svensson (Xauxa) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Life and death, becomes a game

(it’s played for keeps)

study the board,

black and white

(in a world of color)

in a world of uncertainty

predictable,

life and death,

black and white,

the stark focus of opposites,

sad, happy, quiet, loud.

Kings captured, castles fall,

we’re all pawns,

in the game

a draw

only delays the inevitable

checkmate

 

This poem is for Secret Keeper’s Writing Challenge. The prompt words were: Game/Study/Sad/Loud/Become

For some reason, the image of the knight and Death playing chess in Ingmar Bergman’s movie, The Seventh Seal popped into my mind. Who know where these things come from?

 

 

 

My Uncle

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Studio portrait of my uncle, undated, taken in Philadelphia

Monday Morning Musings:

My uncle was a kind man,

with a twinkle in his eye.

Perhaps he would not seem remarkable

unless you knew him, knew that

he was curious, with a love of gadgets–

my mom always talked about that–

his latest gadget, she would say,

after he purchased a camera or computer,

an e-reader, or kitchen appliance.

We sat in her apartment, after hearing the news.

We drank to his memory,

blood red wine,

in bright blue plastic cups

like college students at a party.

We ate brownies, remembering

his love of chocolate—

that love, a family trait, it seems

a dominant gene.

“Didn’t he used to pour chocolate syrup

on his cereal?” I asked my mom.

And she laughed, happy memories mixed with sad.

Then she remembered how excited he was

when their father, my grandfather,

sent chocolate Tastykakes to him in Florida.

Isn’t it funny what we remember?

I think of how I never knew my uncle as a young man,

but I’ve heard the tale of how, when they were first married,

my aunt asked my mother how she prepared a particular dish.

My mom replied that she used “the shit method,”

shocking her new sister-in-law.

My mom then explained that she meant shitarein,

a Yiddish phrase,

a little of this and that

thrown together.

It makes a good story.

It’s strange to think of them all so young and carefree,

children of the Great Depression who learned to navigate

the technology of the twenty-first century.

I learned that my aunt and one, perhaps two, of my cousins

lived in our house in Philadelphia for a brief time

when I was a toddler.

Of course, not something I recall,

Though I vaguely remember the big, old house

in Germantown.

My uncle must have been in Miami,

I suppose to get settled there

before his family arrived.

A big move to a new city.

I remember their house, perhaps not their first,

but both of the Miami houses I remember had sunken living rooms—

a feature that I, as a young child, then associated with Miami,

thinking that all Miami houses must be constructed that way.

Random memories of visiting my uncle, aunt, and cousins—

their little dachshund,

(Was her name Penny?),

my aunt playing the piano late at night,

the music forming a soothing backdrop to my dreams,

swimming in their pool,

playing board games,

and when my husband and I visited

shortly after becoming engaged,

I remember my cousin baking cookies in a microwave oven,

the first one I’d even seen (See: gadgets, above).

I was a young mother when I read

my uncle’s hilarious account of pooping

while sitting out Hurricane Andrew–

sitting, you understand, taking on more than one meaning here.

He and my aunt huddled in that inside corridor–

except for that brief, and necessary foray into the bathroom,

umbrella held strategically—no shitarein story this time, the literal thing.

I wish I still had that letter,

but relieved a bit there were no selfies then.

Only my uncle could have made such a terrifying experience

laugh out loud funny—

in retrospect.

Real-time texts might have revealed a different story.

 

After the storm,

they emerged to find destruction all around them,

and then the rebuilding began.

Yet their foundation was strong.

Years later,

I remember my aunt and uncle coming to Philadelphia

for my mom’s 85th birthday.

My daughters said, “Uncle Irv smells so good.”

I have no idea what the scent was,

but I think it was his own—

as if kindness and genuine interest

in people and places enveloped him.

We all loved him.

He died as he lived,

gently, without a fuss

with his true love by his side.

A star has gone from our family universe

leaving a black hole

dense with memories

but without the twinkling of life and light.

Perhaps with time,

just as starlight travels

across the vastness of space,

so in our hearts

we will find that light again.