Love is a Song: Ghazal

“Love is raw as freshly cut meat,

mean as a beetle on the track of dung”

~ Jim Harrison  from Songs of Unreason

 

It can be painful and raw, sometimes it’s wrong, but love is a song.

It’s sung both in hearts and in brains–if given free rein–because love is a song.

 

It makes lovers dance and full of romance because love is a song.

But what happens when dampened, or gone with dawn, will you still say love is a song?

 

It can make someone evil, cause great upheaval, but love is a song

with notes that can sway, make some go and some stay for the love of love is a song.

 

You can love one child or ten, again and again, because love is a song

that makes mothers sigh when parted, cry broken-hearted, because love is a song.

 

The notes can be doleful and soulful and wonderous and wise because love is a song

that grows and expands without any demands—love is love is love is love is love is a song.

 

Love of country is sung, by those with forked-tongues, because love is a song

to convince some not to think, or to look at the brink, just sing that love is a song.

 

Its music can frighten, can make our hearts tighten, but love is a song

that may protect a few or cause trouble anew, but love is a song.

 

Listen to the stars and moon, listen to the celestial tunes—high above love is a song.

Listen to the birds and bees, listen to the earthly seas, listen long and sing along, love is a song.

 

This ghazal is for Day 20 of Jilly’s 28 Days of Unreason, poetry inspired by Jim Harrion’s poetry (and other works).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shadow Portraits: NaPoWriMo

Monday Morning Musings:

“We kiss in a shadow

We hide from the moon

Our meetings are few

And over too soon”

From “We Kiss in a Shadow,” Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers, The King and I

“When you are old and grey and full of sleep,

And nodding by the fire, take down this book,

And slowly read, and dream of the soft look

Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep; “

–From William Butler Yeats, “When You are Old”

 

When our older daughter was young

she was afraid of shadows

perhaps she sensed that they were alive,

captured, like Peter Pan’s

when our porch windows were shut.

“Shadows hurting you,” she would say,

only “you” meant “me,”

her pronouns confused,

and so, we played in another room

where the shadows were benign.

those porch shadows are long gone

the girl is a woman,

her small, curly-haired shadow gone,

except in my heart,

now older, I take out these memories

like a book,

to read before the fire.

 

We go to a dance performance,

a fusion of dance and shadow puppet theater,

a full-length production

of athleticism, grace, and imagination,

we’re caught in traffic on the way there,

an entire block closed,

a large crane in its center, reaching to the sky,

casting a shadow over the street

where police officers chatted,

(ignoring the frustrated drivers).

We manage to get to the theater,

pick up our tickets,

get to our seats

(close enough to see the dancers’ muscles),

about a minute before the show starts–

it’s worth it.

The story opens with a girl getting ready for bed

her parents kiss her goodnight,

she goes to sleep on her bed made of dancers,

she begins to dream,

the walls spin,

and she becomes trapped in a land of shadows

where she goes on a voyage of discovery

turned into a dog-girl

experiences the joy of a dog riding in a truck,

the horror of being forced to perform in a circus,

controlled by a whip,

the ecstasy of first love,

the girl becoming a woman,

the shadow world is a magical, fantasy world,

the dancers’ bodies tumble, roll, fly

the hour and a half goes by quickly,

the dancers perform an epilogue,

a shadow tribute to New York City,

bodies creating the Statue of Liberty, the library lion, 42nd Street,

and other iconic spots,

and then to Philadelphia,

the Liberty Bell, the “Rocky Steps,” Pat’s and Geno’s Steaks,

at the final bow, the dog-girl dance leaps into the air,

seemingly still full of energy,

the shadows of the show behind her now–

until the next performance

 

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We leave smiling

into a day of sunlight and shadows

in a city where history has cast a long shadow,

shadows through history,

now and always,

shadow worlds

where people are forced to work,

living secret lives,

held in bondage

or living hidden,

an underground economy,

people who can only kiss

in shadows,

though love is love is love

there are shadowlands all around us

obscured by smiles and sunshine

 

 

We walk and talk,

see students celebrating Holi,

their faces and shirts bright with colors,

no shadows on their smiling faces,

on this spring day

the flowers smile and dance in the radiant light,

we drink coffee

discuss the show

later, we go out to dinner,

drink some wine and talk some more,

when we leave

the moon is shining brightly

though not quite full,

I look at her,

wonder what secrets she has seen

from her shadows deep,

hidden lovers and girlish fancies,

we head home,

I dream of shadows and the moon.

 

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This musing is for NaPoWriMo, Day 10. The prompt was portrait.

We saw Pilobolous at the Annenberg Center in Philadelphia.

You can see a brief clip of this show performed at another location here.

Voices and Memories

Monday Morning Musings

 

“I’ve never had a way with women, but the hills of Iowa make me wish that I could”

Dar Williams, “Iowa”

“We are not lost in the mortal city.”

–Dar Williams, “Mortal City”

“We both know what memories can bring

They bring diamonds and rust.”

–Joan Baez, “Diamonds and Rust”

“This shirt is just an old faded piece of cotton

Shining like the memories

Inside those silver buttons.”

–Mary Chapin Carpenter, “This Shirt”

 

I don’t go to concerts very often,

but this weekend, there were two.

strong women, with beautiful voices

their voices shined and stirred memories,

diamonds and rust.

 

My daughter and I went to see Dar Williams,

her husband drove us through the puddled night,

the city lights glowed through the mist,

reflected on the streets of the mortal city,

but we were not lost.

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And we ordered food and wine

sharing platters and talking

of friends, family

(her sister would have loved to have been with us)

of TV shows, of her house-to-be

a special momma-daughter night

 

 

I remember when I first heard Dar Williams,

I was driving home from teaching a night class,

listening to Philadelphia station, WXPN,

hearing “When I Was a Boy,”

and I thought,

Who is this woman?

I have to find this album

And I did

sharing with daughters

(young voices of strong girls)

who sang along, even not quite understanding the words

until they grew older,

And now here we are, one of them with me at a concert

in this mortal city

It is a wonderful concert

And she is generous to others

Sharing the time with local author, Liz Moore

Who reads from her latest novel, The Unseen World

And joins Dar on the chorus of “Iowa”

And for several hours we

forget about the candidate who never had a way with women

(Voices of women will be heard.)

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In between concerts

my husband and I get a visit from our daughters’ friend,

our older daughter’s friend since kindergarten,

younger daughter was the little sister she never had.

I watched them all grow up together.

(Diamond memories, comfortable like an old shirt)

 

She had messaged me,

she was coming home and had been dreaming of my cookies,

the cookies we call “Mommy Cookies” in my house,

she wondered if there might be some this weekend,

And I said I could make it happen.

How could I not?

So she stopped by and picked up the cookies,

enough for her boyfriend to try one.

She says she likes where they live,

a people’s republic in Maryland

the town will take in refugees

(voice of the people).

She’s a strong woman,

like my daughters

all working to make this world a better place.

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So then that night

(Sunday, if you’re keeping track)

my husband and I drive back into the mortal city

we see the rainbow flags and signs

of the Outfest celebration in the Gayborhood

(Voices of love, is love, is love, is love is love is love

is love is love)

And though the rain has finally stopped

it is cool and windy,

We eat at a bar–

my husband laughs when I say,

“It is a good night to eat in a dark bar.”

He picks a beer to drink

I order wine

We both have the Belgian frites

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And we sit and talk before walking to the Academy of Music

(I’ve never sung in such a beautiful hall before,” Mary Chapin Carpenter says.)

and it is beautiful

and she sings,

and her voice is beautiful and strong.

(I remember, diamond memories, of my daughters

singing along to “Passionate Kisses”)

She reveals a bit of hero worship for both Lucinda Williams

and Joan Baez

who then comes out on the stage,

elegant and strong at 75,

with that voice

that distinctive soprano vibrato

(Who doesn’t worship her?)

She begins with a folk song

“Pretty Peggy-O,”

alone on the stage

the way she probably sang at the start of her career,

and she sings her way through the years

(memories of diamonds and rust)

and she sings alone

and she sing with others

all strong, beautiful voices,

and despite claiming she is tired and her feet hurt,

she sings several encore songs

including “Imagine”

because we need this song,

and “The Boxer,”

another song of another mortal city

still timely,

as we hear what we want to hear

and disregard the rest.

She ends with “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”

wanting it to carry us all home,

she sings with a laugh and says “Good night.”

 

In the car

(traveling home from the mortal city)

I read the texts from my daughter

(a strong woman with the voice of an angel)

She has filled me in on the debate.

I turn on NPR,

I hear a strong woman

and I hear the other voice

that I hope will fade like rust

leaving only a slight orange stain

We know what memories can bring,

diamonds and rust.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strawberries

Monday Morning Musings:

“Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”

–Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love

I wanted to write of strawberries

we feasted on them,

farm stand fresh, luscious

their scent perfumed the room

earthy-sweet,

tasting of sunshine and promise.

My daughter and I ate them,

picking at them from a bowl,

putting them in a salad,

eating them baked

mixed with other berries,

under a crust of oatmeal, flour,

and brown sugar.

We sat companionably,

talking and watching TV

sharing the characters’ lives and our own

proposals, marriage, diamond rings,

we laughed,

we watched the cats

and drank coffee,

a summer afternoon,

with summer heat and summer flavors.

And love.

 

When the girls were young, we picked strawberries

and had strawberry shortcake for dinner,

a special treat

sun-browned girls in berry-stained clothing,

laughing at dessert for dinner,

the food was eaten long ago, but the memory is still sweet

sweet with the love of family

And love is love.

 

Not long ago, a friend’s son, a little boy,

hugged her so hard

that he cracked her rib.

Another friend said it’s a reminder,

a reminder that our bodies are fragile,

though we think we’re strong in body and mind

and we love hard and fiercely,

no matter the love

because

love is love.

 

we’re all strong

we lift weights

we’re determined

we fight cancer

and sorrow,

but in a second,

bones shatter

poppy-red blood splatters floors

or fields

final breaths exhaled

in battles

or hospital beds–

no more sunshine or promises.

Sometimes love hurts

but it doesn’t kill,

not like hatred.

And love is love.

 

I wanted to write of love and memories,

of strawberries sweet on the tongue

like kisses

I wanted to write of life,

of spending time with people I love

of happy June days

of wine and desserts

of hugs so hard they take your breath away

I wanted to write of strawberries today

but there are fifty people dead in Orlando

their bodies stained not by berries, but by blood.

But still

love is love.

“We’re on this Earth for such a short time. Let’s try to get rid of the hatred and the violence.”

Christine Leinonen, mother of one of the Orlando shooting victims

 

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Autumnal Tragedy and Comedy

Monday Morning Musings

“Numberless are the world’s wonders, but none

More wonderful than man. . .

Words also, and thought as rapid as air,

He fashions to his good use. . .

Oh fate of man, working both good and evil!”

–Sophocles, Antigone

The play was Antigone,

A play over two thousand years old.

The chorus entered,

Stark and bleak,

Mouths open in mask-like images of tragedy

And horror

Resembling the figure of Munch’s The Scream.

Greek and English

What are we watching?

I’m not certain.

Afterward, we walk,

My husband and I.

It is a beautiful October day.

Far from that tragedy

In time

And space

Far from Thebes

Or Ankara,

For that matter.

We stroll through the city streets

Through “the Gayborhood.”

The 25th annual “Outfest”

Is taking place.

Men holding hands,

Women holding hands,

Men and women holding hands.

Love is love.

Rainbows

Music

People dancing in the closed off streets.

We just miss a hula hoop competition.

We walk some more,

To a wine café,

Wine for me,

Beer for him,

Cheese to share,

And coffee after.

We discuss the play.

The spitting and the drool

From the actors’ mouths.

“Well, it was visceral,” I say.

“That’s not exactly the word I was going to use,” he said.

“More like gross and disgusting.”

I have to agree.

But I also have to admit the power of live performance—

Because I can’t stop thinking about it.

A play thousands of years old.

How many times has it been performed?

Humans have new ways of killing now.

And new tragedies occur daily.

Families torn apart

By violence.

Women raped.

Children dead.

Human tragedy

Human comedy

We create beauty and destruction.

And please and appease the gods.

Art reflecting life

And life imitating art.

But here and now

It is a beautiful October day.

There are rainbows.

There is love.

We see fans ecstatic about the football game.

There are some happy endings, too.

Walking through the streets of a modern city

Reflecting on life in one long ago.