Replies: The Poetry of Earth

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. . .”

–Leonard Bernstein

“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

today, tonight

(someday, somewhere)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

complete

(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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Between the Storms

Monday Morning Musings:

“But to find out the truth about how dreams die, one should never take the word of the dreamer.”

–Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

“Each night, without fail, she prayed for blue eyes. Fervently, for a year she had prayed. Although somewhat discouraged, she was not without hope. To have something as wonderful as that would take a long, long time.”

–Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

 

Between the storms of rain and snow

as chilly winds still come and go,

cleaning the air of winter’s skies

in days yet cold, but with lengthening tries

the sun extends its warming rays–

even though it doesn’t stay.

 

During this week, as awakening spring

flitters and flutters, young people bring

hope with their rising, taking charge

urging others–politicians, the public at large–

to fight to make the world better and safer,

not just hopes and prayers, or words on paper,

but action, something that will stay,

through winter cold and summer days.

 

Between the storms of rain and snow,

more are fired, they come and go,

falling like dominos, one after another

a White House in chaos, one like no other,

the swamp grows larger, it hasn’t gone away

monsters of winter–hopes for spring to slay.

 

During this week, of awakening spring

as blooms arrive, and songbirds sing,

we walk a bit through city streets

where gardens stir amidst urban beats.

We see a play of dreams, though planted,

are wishes that cannot, can never, be granted

even as regret sighs to end the play,

still innocence is lost, but madness stays.

Arden Theatre
Pre-performance subscriber refreshments

Between the storms of rain and snow,

as icy fingers tap shoulders, then go—

(winter ghosts that haunt and taunt)

what matters if skin is black or white

brown eyes, or green, as well as blue delight–

how does orange hair and white skin filled with hate

bring peace or joy–or make anything great?

 

 

As we ponder the play, and color and race,

all around us are Irish, no matter their hair or face,

St. Patrick’s Day revelers in Old City, Philadelphia

standing in streets, wandering through this space,

we walk around them for coffee and quiet

(hoping there is no drunken riot)

though an ambulance struggles by

and we see a young man on the sidewalk, he cries

in pain with cuts on his brow

and we think perhaps we’ll go home now. . .

 

Looking studious over post-theater coffee

to dream of spring, to dream of space

and time without a hate of race

or children who are killed or raped,

of people who by hate are no longer shaped–

we call to sun and warmth, come here, this way,

then hope that dreams will come to stay. . .

 

at dawn I hear the robin’s warbling song

and know that spring will come before too long.

 

 

We’re expecting another nor’easter tomorrow with rain and snow.

We saw The Bluest Eye, based on Toni Morrison’s novel, at the Arden Theatre.  

On Wednesday, students throughout the U.S. walked out of their classroom for seventeen minutes—a memorial to the victims of the most recent school shooting and a protest against the current do-nothing gun policies. I got so angry this week seeing Facebook posts by ignorant people who likened the protesting students to sheep—as if seeing classmates killed or facing threats of violence isn’t enough to make them have their own opinions!  Some of you know that I’ve been working on two reference books on rape and rape culture. They will be out in May and August. Yesterday, I heard an investigative report on the radio about children who are bullied and raped in school–even in elementary school and on military bases.

 

 

 

 

 

In Turbulent Times, Look for Magic

Storms rage,

we vanish from the stage,

fires flash and burn

destruction comes at every turn

(Is it ever thus–

what, oh what, is wrong with us?)

in wind and water rising

in troubles of our own devising,

storms rage

 

But which is more powerful,

love or hate?

Do we build to then negate?

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty”

Does the urn remain

when all is lost to rains

or flames?

When we’re destroyed by fear and greed

and people lost we cannot feed

beauty vanishes from past ages,

and still the storm rages

and rages

 

We hope then,

we long to see

what is and what might be

that magic gently comes

without fanfare, fifes, and drums

in soaring rainbows

in poetry and prose

in all that beguiles

in smiles

or baby’s laughter

(and how we laugh after)

ephemeral and fleeting

but etched upon our hearts,

(still beating)

the humming moon, the singing stars–

forget the wars

remember love,

and cooing of the peaceful dove,

or build the walls

and watch them fall

while the storm rages

and rages–

turn now the pages–

look for the helpers in turbulent times,

search for truth and beauty, magic and rhymes

Rainbow, National Park, NJ

 

A late entry for Tuesday’s dVerse hosted by Paul. He’s asked us to write about magic.