Memento Mori

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Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, September 2017

 

Monday Morning Musings (Late Afternoon Edition):


 

Ask the wind where time goes

(away from spring’s light)

 

cycling from beautiful bloom

to cold brown earth—the sight

 

of vultures in skeleton branches, it seems

cleaning up the dead things, and dreams

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at night of when and after,

but yet I wake in laughter

 

and cat purrs, a sniff, a whiff

of coffee, and beautiful dawn breathing if,

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and always on the breeze

is life-music, birds in the trees

 

the sun behind the clouds,

the moon’s setting loud

Late afternoon January Sun

January sun glowing faintly through the clouds over ramp to Walt Whitman Bridge.

 

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with fierce humming,

another day coming

 

time circling again,

and again, and again

 

constant, traveling like light

far beyond our lives and sight.

 

***

We walk city streets in shadow and light

reflecting back the old and true

perhaps, or not—

maybe we see what we want to see,

or see not at all,

 

 

the ghosts and night creatures

walk beside us, and should we fear them,

or they us?

I learn that Mister Rogers loves graveyards

and blood is life—of course–

 

it ties families together

through generations, as we pack and unpack

stories and belongings

carting them across oceans,

over highways, in and out of rooms,

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discarding some, embellishing others

past golden suns and silver moons

to here and now—memento mori,

we all die, forgiven, or not,

still . . .

 

we all carry stardust

in our blood

through time and space,

and if we can, we find the time

to stop, drink some wine,

 

share some kindness

and remember those who came before

and those who will come after

we’re a speck in the wind

blowing into forever.

Late afternoon January Sun

January sun glowing faintly through the clouds over ramp to Walt Whitman Bridge.

 

After some very loooooong days of packing, today we moved my mom into her new facility. Today was the first day I had seen the place. It’s very nice—homey—rather than institutional, and everyone was quite friendly and pleasant. Tomorrow there will be more moving and cleaning. So, it may take me a while to catch-up with posts and comments–and actually get some work done, too!

My husband and I finally saw the movie, It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, which is actually more about the journalist telling Mister Rogers’ story than it is Mister Rogers. The journalist is played by the Welsh actor, Matthew Rhys, who played Phillip in the wonderful show, The Americans.  Tom Hanks, of course, is Mister Rogers. Believe the hype. It really is a very good movie, and even my husband got a bit teary-eyed.  The movie is based on this Esquire article, Can you say. . .hero?

We also watched the new BBC version of Dracula on Netflix, which was also quite good. It puts a different spin on the story, which you may or may not appreciate, but I did really enjoy Sister Agatha.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections: Shadows and Light

Billy Penn Reflecting on Philadelphia--Merril D. Smith, May 2019

Monday Morning Musings:

“But it is only in epic tragedies that gloom is unrelieved. In real life tragedy and comedy are so intermingled that when one is most wretched ridiculous things happen to make one laugh in spite of oneself.”

–Georgette Heyer,  Civil Contract

“Here in the moving shadows

I catch my breath and sing–

My heart is fresh and fearless

And over-brimmed with spring.”
–from Sara Teasdale, “May Night”

 

Here the ghost eyes eternity

looking through a window

from the after

flying through fires of if

laughing at when

they embraced,

in heartbeats

measured time

****

My heart is over-brimmed

as my mother’s eyes fill

and weak are her limbs.

 

Days move from freezing rain

to summer heat

and I reel from pain

 

of seeing her so.

 

But nature and comedy

make me smile and laugh

and provide a remedy

both constant and temporary–

because life is full of

tragedy and joy, the extraordinary

 

and ordinary

of illness, broken cars, and trains delayed

–and the first strawberries

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of the season

the scent alone

a reason

 

to celebrate life

and being here

friends, family, husband, wife—

 

we go through shadows

seek light,

and who knows

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what will be, and if anything will be right

(the world sighs)

but there, the light

 

comes through the trees

and we drink coffee

savor moments, these

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small joys, please–

the walks and shadow shows

pizza, wine, dogs—these

 

simple pleasures bring

to our hearts even in winter

feelings of spring

 

(briefly in my mother’s eyes)

and comedy and tragedy both fly

dancing to the tune

of the moon’s lullaby.

Full Moon over Woodcrest Station

 

Thank you for all the good wishes for my mom. She has improved some from her stroke, and we were able to take her outside yesterday for a little while. We saw our son-in-law perform a stand-up routine at Helium Comedy Club in Philadelphia, and we saw Manual Cinema’s Ada/Ava at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. This is the second time we’ve seen one of their shows.  They’re hard to describe–but combine shadow puppets, actors, and live music to create something unique. If you get a chance, see them perform. There’s a video on this Kimmel Center link.

 

 

 

And If Always Lives

At Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ--Merril D. Smith

When some brilliant star,

breathing time, flies,

no, lingers long

in after-wake of dark, bleeding sky,

it explores eternity

 

and I look up,

smile at it,

and this vast, dazzly universe

laugh, celebrate life,

but listen to

 

for the ghosts about me–

from that tree, see

on a velvet-flowered breeze?

 

Coloring morning with blushing voices

of secret almost-words–

and if always lives

 

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It took some work, but the Oracle always knows.

 

 

And so, You Ask Why?

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Peder Severin Krøyer [Public domain] “Summer Evening at Skagen beach, the artist and his wife”

Through time,

there with us,

 

purple shadows—

and above,

 

the moon,

diamond cool,

 

urging, what?

 

We want beauty and music

(so, we say)

 

Summer sea-sprayed lives

and the smell of storms

 

that blow away—

as life must—

 

but still—

you ask why?

 

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I haven’t had much time to read or write poetry this week, but I didn’t want to miss my weekly consult with the Oracle. Her message seems appropriate for MLK weekend and the Women’s Marches today–and the Super Blood Moon lunar eclipse.

Searching

Monday Morning Musings:

“The search for meaning, much like the search for pleasure, must be conducted obliquely. Meaning ensues from meaningful activity: the more we deliberately pursue it, the less likely are we to find it.”

–Irving D. Yalom quoted in Brainpickings here

 

My sister and I listen to the woman,

she is perfectly pleasant, if a bit harried–

it’s possible she’s double-booked her appointments.

We can only offer your mother six hours of care, she says

(that we may or may not pay for)

but we can’t let you know until you pick one of the providers.

(We stare blankly at the five-page list.)

No, I can’t recommend any of them–

can you imagine if it didn’t work out?

But you can call and ask them questions.

(That shouldn’t take much time, right?)

No, the caregivers are not permitted to give your mom medication

I guess you’ll have to work something else out.

Yes, we do offer some free meals, but only if you go with our program–

and your mother would have to pick up a week’s worth at the front desk

Well, yes, I can see she uses a walker and is nearly blind, but that’s how it’s done.

I hear these meals taste kind of nasty–

Now the dinners from that other program . . .

(the one your mother is ineligible for because her income from Social Security is slightly over the cutoff, though it’s not enough to pay her rent)

Yeah, those meals are delicious. . .Do you have any questions?

My sister and I look at each other—we have lots of questions,

but nothing she can help with.

She’s referred inexplicably a few times

to the process, program, situation

as “catch 52”—

perhaps it is all so ridiculous that “catch 22”

is no longer enough to describe it.

 

My sister goes home, my husband and I go home, too,

we feed the cats, and then visit a winery.

We drink wine, listen to music, and eat mac and cheese.

Decompress, not deconstruct.

Vino and Vibes,
William Heritage Winery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day I cook and bake,

the kitchen exorcism

being a well-known technique for

getting rid of any lingering demons.

Artisan Bread
Mandelbrot
Blueberry Peach Crumble

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our younger daughter is visiting a friend in Japan.

she sends us a photo

the two of them with a snake.

I think if anyone could charm a snake,

it would be her–

though she looks terrified.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think of my younger self–

once I held a snake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and had a head full of dreams,

not as practical as either of my daughters,

and not as charming either,

but in those days

my mother could see and walk

and was raising another child.

I raise a glass to wish,

only suddenly I’m

uncertain what to wish for.

 

We watch a mystery series

there’s murder, conspiracy, and violence

yet we know that at the end

the questions will be answered,

the mystery solved.

And if it’s not completely tidy,

it’s enough to satisfy.

Maybe the answer is 42, after all

though I’m not sure

of the question anymore.

I pour another glass of wine,

toast, “L’chaim.”

Perhaps “to life” is enough.

***

 

We watch the storm—

rain urges moon,

and she sings,

bares away language

to let live the cool whispers

of blue shadow light

on aching skin.

Life is wanted here—

trudge, run.

(If not, when?)

Together, we soar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Oracle gave me this coda of hope and action. I’m sure she knows that the expression is “bear away,” but she is clever, and no doubt she enjoyed the double meaning here.

 

 

 

 

Horizons: NaPoWriMo, Day 5

This pantoum is inspired by a post by Frank of A Frank Angle. I borrowed my first line from him. Thanks, Frank!

 

At the horizon, known and unknown meet,

this liminal space between sky and sea

when the sun dips down, and night not complete

where dreams are unfettered and left to dance free–

 

this liminal space between sky and sea,

in this place, future and past together dwell,

while explorers and dreamers look here with uncertainty,

they still seek this place–and fall under its spell.

 

In this place, future and past together dwell,

some think deep thoughts here, some none at all,

they still seek this place—and fall under its spell

as they watch ships vanish, beyond shouts and call.

 

Can we know what fate foretells here–

when the sun dips down, and night not complete?

Do we fear, question, or wait for what appears?

Certain only, at the horizon, known and unknown meet.

John Frederick Kensett, “Sunset on the Sea,” [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m off prompt for NaPoWriMo.  I’m also linking this to dVerse Open Link Night.

 

The Scent of Wonder: Quadrille

The child peppered the sky with questions,

Why do my tears and the ocean taste salty?

Why does this plant taste like lemon,

but my cat smells like nutmeg?

A moon-breeze carried the scent of roses and wonder–

she understood then, everything is connected.

 

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This is for dVerse. Kim has asked us to write a quadrille using some form of the word pepper in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.