When the Stars were Bright

When the Stars were Bright

He wooed her when the stars were bright,

she liked the way he smiled at her.

He kissed her first one moonlit night–

she thought, “he is my future.”

 

She liked the way he smiled at her,

not knowing then his smiles would fade.

She thought, “he is my future,”

forgetting daylight darkens to evening shade.

 

Not knowing then his smiles would fade

when hardship came in winter cold,

forgetting daylight darkens to evening shade

and so, her youthful dreams remained untold.

 

When hardship came in winter cold,

he packed a bag and sailed away,

and so, her youthful dreams remained untold

to him, but she was glad he had not stayed.

 

He packed a bag and sailed away.

She remembered the things she had not said

to him, but she was glad he had not stayed,

caressing her belly as she lay on their bed.

 

He kissed her first one moonlit night

(she remembered it so well.)

He wooed her when the stars were bright–

to their babe, that’s all the story she’d tell.

 

Joseph_Noel_Paton_Hesperus

Joseph Noel Paton, “Hesperus, the Evening Star, Sacred to Lovers,” 1857 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This is for dVerse. Björn asked us to write a poetic narrative. Jane and Kerfe have me thinking of pantoums.

I wrote this while listening to the Kavanaugh hearings. . .it started out much darker. . .

 

 

 

 

 

Time and Timeless

Monday Morning Musings:

“There is a certain part of all of us that lives outside of time. Perhaps we become aware of our age only at exceptional moments and most of the time we are ageless.”

–Milan Kundera

Art and music travel through our genes, stopping at some destinations longer than at others, like the train our older daughter takes from Washington, D.C. after visiting archives at the Smithsonian. She takes hundreds of photos of sketch books, correspondence, diaries, and newspaper clippings of our artist ancestor, Abraham Hankins. She shows me newspaper articles—how his mapmaking skills saved his life in France during WWI because he was left behind to draw maps when the rest of his unit was sent into battle and killed. He also trained as a singer, until gassed during the war, and apparently, he wrote some poetry, too. But my daughter becomes even more fascinated by his French wife Estelle, called Esther by my family. After Abe’s death, Estelle makes it her mission to get her late husband’s work into major museums. There is still much to learn, and most of the people who lived then are gone. It is my mom’s ninety-sixth birthday.

 

skipping stones hit pond

concentric circles ripple

spring turns to summer

Abraham P. Hankins,
Pocket Full of Dreams,
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Bequest of Mrs. Abraham Peter Hankins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We celebrate my mom’s birthday in sunshine with shades

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

munch on snacks, laughter cascades

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

as we discuss pets and art and politics

with eyes rolling—intermixed–

as my niece describes her “other family,” with their alternate truth—

if only we could blame it on the folly of youth—

but salacious tales about the Clinton’s gleaned from right-wing memes,

treasure troves of garbage carried by the false fact streams

they insist it’s true,

what does one do?

We move on to sandwiches and cake

blow out the candles, make

each moment count, and we laugh, dance, and sing—

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

it’s in our genes, so let’s bring

it on in celebration of familial love

rock the ghosts from rafters above

and around, perhaps they watch from some place–

that shadow there, across your face.

 

The weekend is full with movies, puppies, and wine

we dance, laugh, eat, drink—feeling fine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My mom tells us that Abe asked her mother to sing with him at a family gathering. She says her mother had a beautiful voice, but that my uncle, my mom’s baby brother, cried when their mother sang, so she stopped singing. I had forgotten, she says, but now I remember some of those songs she taught me. Songs of the shtetl that crossed the ocean. We, the grandchildren never learned the songs. I like to think though that no song is ever lost. Each note rises. Birds carry some, and others float high into the sky filling the clouds. I think that is why I hear music in the rain, and why rainbows sing, and the moon hums. We are filled with star music, and it returns again and again to us. Music flits like spindrift from the waves of time.

 

Stars sail ink-black seas,

cat against me softly snores,

dreams dance to moon song

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dream Message: Magnetic Poetry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Look,” the woman said,

“from a window, day dazzles.

Explore!

See that brilliant blue ocean

vast, ferocious, and old?

Sail it with joy,

let in magic—

perfumed mornings’ colored fire,

embrace its poetry.

Listen. It’s time.

Wake.”

(Her ghost lingers.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A message from the Oracle.

Flowing and Flown: Haibun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four years ago, our older daughter married. I look at photos of that day—her and her wife, my husband and I, our guests—all of us bound by affection for these two women. On their anniversary day, I have lunch with dear friends. They were at the wedding, too. As our children have grown, we’ve now attended many weddings together. We eat, sharing stories and talking in the way old friends who are comfortable with one another do. We were all young when we met, beginning married life, beginning careers. From the restaurant window, I see the Delaware River flowing as it has for centuries, but not without change. It, too, has seen joy and sorrow come and go, and still it flows on.

 

New buds burst open,

butterflies savor sweetness–

spider weaves her web

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Haibun is for Colleen’s Tuesday Tanka Challenge. Colleen asked us to use synonyms for love and time. I’ve tried to create the overall feeling of each word here.

 

 

 

Baskets

Monday Morning Musings:

“Poetry isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that.”
–Mary Oliver, Georgia Review (Winter 1981), 733.

“There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.”

“I have a right to be angry, but not to spread it.”

–Hannah Gadsby’s, “Nanette”

 

Ask why an ancient wind

rose beneath a hot sun–

they never will

see souls rustle in soft shade.

So,

murmur harmony

to nature’s song

and feel life bloom

 

 

 

 

 

 

***

We listen to the woman, a masterful storyteller,

skilled at creating tension—and

relieving it with a punchline,

but in this set,

she lets the tension linger–

at least for a while

noting both her anger

and its reasons—

reasons that should anger us all.

I think of that,

as neo-Nazis gather in our nation’s capital.

Neo-Nazi? Why should there be new ones

after the defeat of the old ones?

I ponder the other labels–

shouldn’t we all be anti-fascist

and united against hate?

It should be the default mode, shouldn’t it?

 

The novel I’m reading is set in

the early 1930s in Berlin,

the female protagonist had a gay brother

who was murdered.

While they were growing up, she tried

to teach him what she called

“A Code of Masculinity,”

so, he could pass,

but he didn’t.

Hannah Gadsby

in the 1990s in Australia

was assaulted for not being

feminine enough,

she couldn’t pass either. But growing up,

in a culture where she was reviled, left its

legacy on her. She talks about the shame

she felt for being a lesbian, for being different.

 

I think about trying to explain

these weird and artificial binaries

to a visitor from another world,

But how could I,

when they make no sense to me?

You must be this color,

you must love this person,

you must be this religion. Why?

 

And where do I go with this? I seem to have

gone off on a tangent–because

I wanted to tell you about baskets.

Picture the basket itself,

woven together from strands of straw, reeds, or

even wire,

each one different.

And my life, also woven of many different strands.

I weave my basket, and sometimes I take it apart

and start over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, let me tell you how

we celebrated the anniversary of my father’s birth—

He would have been ninety-nine. He’s been dead for twenty years,

and I still miss him.

We toasted him with wine–

and ate ice cream afterward,

because he loved ice cream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We eat Pakistani food with our younger daughter and her husband,

enjoying samosas and other delights

as their dog and cat circle the table,

where there were no scraps tossed,

but love drips,

like melting ice cream,

because it can be messy,

but there is plenty to go around.

 

I could tell you about being with

dear friends over the weekend,

how we eat pizza,

and discuss that new normal, how

it is difficult not to discuss politics

but at the same time,

conversations are fraught

with hesitation—or anger.

How can one be friends with someone

who supports a racist?

 

The saying goes, “Don’t put all your eggs

in one basket.”

We should welcome those who think

differently or look different.

And isn’t part of the joy of having

a full basket

come in examining its contents?

 

There is so much we do not see.

We toss everything

in the basket of life, and pull out what we need

or what we want. But maybe sometimes

we need to look at the basket itself.

 

There is no punchline here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We watched “Nanette” on Netflix. Trailer here.

I’m reading the novel A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the Blood Moon

After blood moon’s

shadow rose, misted

and rust-still

with music,

a symphony urging you,

Love, to soar away.

 

But time screams

a luscious pink sky,

here in day–

asks, sweet-tongued–

must and if–and so, I moan—

we trudge together

 

 

Embed from Getty Images

 

 

 

The Oracle must have been sky gazing last night and gave me this double Shadorma.

It was cloudy and rainy here last night.

That House on Oxford: Haibun

Not a ghost, but the emanation of some past emotion. That’s what I feel in that house in Havertown—the one my mother rented after my parents divorced. Have you noticed that some houses have their own emotional atmosphere? Well, that’s my theory, and if you’ve never felt a house reeking of love, terror, or despair, then it must sound weird to you. But this whole house makes me feel welcomed; my bedroom in particular—it’s as if someone has felt joy there in the past, and the feeling now lingers. . .forever. This room, painted a golden yellow, seems to glow all the time. Every molecule in its walls, floors—even the air—releases joy and serenity—at least for me. Here I also experience first love. I wonder if my feelings will join the room’s aura, biding there for future inhabitants.

thrush sings amid buds,

trees flower, and then leaves fall—

echoes hang in air

Dock Street Creek once flowed here.

 

 

This Haibun is for dVerse, where Lillian has asked us to write a traditional Haibun—that is, a tight paragraph or two, which is a true account, not fiction, followed by a traditional haiku. The haiku should be nature-based but allude to the prose. It should have a seasonal word, and “a haiku must have two parts including a shift, an added insight. Japanese poets include a KIREJI (cutting word). BUT there’s no linguistic equivalent in the English language therefore punctuation creates the cut: a dash, comma, an ellipsis, an exclamation point. Sometimes it’s simply felt in the pacing or reading.”

Lillian has asked us to write about one of the first houses we lived in. This was not the first, but it was the first one we lived in after we moved from Dallas to Havertown, PA, when I was in 7th Grade.

 

This is also for Colleen’s Tuesday Tanka, using synonyms for the words beliefs and strange. I’ve used theory and weird in my prose. Colleen notes that a Haibun should be written as though it is happening now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stardust and Blood

Monday Morning Musings:

 “How close people could be to us when they had gone as far away as possible, to the edges of the map. How unforgettable.”

–Paula McLain, Circling the Sun

“I have perceiv’d that to be with those I like is enough,

To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,”

-Walt Whitman, “I Sing the Body Electric”

 

In the quiet morning breeze

I gaze at the sky, the pink-tinged frieze

of clouds, a line then brushed

by sun and wind, its blush

faded to white, in the diffusing sunlight.

I breathe in the ancient longing

belonging to us all—for affection,

to find connections

(despite an election)

After all, we’re all made of stardust,

and we’ve emerged from the sea,

to inhale the air made by our trees–

all related, far enough back, we share the same genes.

I don’t know what it means,

But we’re all people, not infestations,

no matter our color, religion, or nation.

 

My cousin comes to visit–

his father was the brother of my mother,

we share this blood-bond

but I don’t think we’ve ever talked

so much, so one-on-one

of this and that

(we pause to watch and pet the cat).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I display some family genealogy

and we try to parse a chronology

of those from our past,

discuss and compare

the connections we share,

different views of relatives we know

(bring out more photos to show),

My grandfather as a young man. The photo is undated, but taken in Philadelphia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stories of growing up

an old joke about the Penn Fruit store,

which is no more–

residing now only in our youthful before,

part of the memory,

a moss of summer dreams

that stick, it seems

even in the frost,

when autumn leaves fall,

still they call.

 

We visit the battlefield park,

watch the geese swim in formation

the same way they fly in the sky

(all the whys)

and wonder at their destination,

Red Bank Battlefield
National Park, NJ

National Park, NJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

watch the planes, look at the Philadelphia skyline—

this day is more than fine—

we walk and talk

amidst the ghosts of a battle past

after the guns fired and the cannons blast,

the Hessian soldiers here that died.

But they are quiet, and if they tried

to communicate, perhaps it was too late,

we didn’t hear them today

as we walked the pathway

in and out of yesterday.

 

We go on to our daughter’s,

whose soul glows bright,

sit with family by firelight,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

laugh and talk

and pet their dog,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

content to be in the moment here

multi-generations, with faces dear,

and if you were perhaps to overhear

amidst the jokes and banter,

you might find fear

of the future,

but it would be mostly love, you’d hear.