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.

 

 

 

Art and Shadows

Monday Morning Musings:

“Sweet and faraway voice flowing for me.

Sweet and faraway voice tasted by me.

Faraway and sweet voice, muffled softly.”

–Federico García Lorca (1898-1936) excerpt from “The Poet Speaks to His Beloved on the Telephone,” translated by Francisco Aragón    Full poem here.

 

We entered the installation area as the sun was setting

screens at one end of the room,

in the middle—more screens, projectors, tables,

words on the wall

Gypsy music played from the speakers—

and the telephone rang

I answered it.

the poet recited a poem in English, then in Spanish.

and then it rang again.

we wandered, looked through drawers of the nightstands,

a grasshopper,

poems,

flowers,

a butterfly

tangible traces of the poet’s words, his existence.

The performance still an hour away,

we went into the exhibition—

Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation and Change

We saw cubist works and neoclassical,

side-by-side, as the artist

produced both styles within the same years

contradictory, bemusing critics and friends.

French nationalists condemned cubism

calling it degenerate, associating it with Germany,

spelling it “Kubism,”

though clearly French in origin.

Picasso never commented on the Great War,

though cubism, he acknowledged,

influenced

the camouflage on trucks and ships,

a strange marriage of art and war.

Denouncing art, artists, of all sorts

nations, politicians, war-mongers do this

in every war

repress freedom of speech and expression

slap on the label of nationalism

and suppress, censor

lay waste to all that does not fit

the narrow parameters and forms

of those

who are in control.

Germany destroys the work of degenerative artists

in the the next war,

destroys the artists, too.

Tyrants know the power of words, the power of art,

and music–

music is played at the concentration camps, you know,

dance me to the end of love

 

We slowly stroll back to the installation

the performance begins,

a ringing telephone

the poet runs to answer it,

then disappears,

shadow puppets blend with figures

on a screen

words

spoken

seen

a fish travels across the white surface

taking us on a journey,

Spain, New York

water, a boat, an iguana with a pipe

writing

surreal images

words of love

lush, sensual

space and time

have no boundaries,

the telephone rings

the poet imprisoned

he speaks no more

shot, silenced

but not forever

because art lives on,

art shadows our world

or perhaps it is our shadow world,

the dreams we live inside.

 

After the performance, we’re invited to look at and play with the puppets and talk to the actors, puppeteers, and musicians.

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We were at the Barnes Museum

We saw My Soul’s Shadow created and performed by Manual Cinema,

a Chicago-based company.  The performance was part of the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts 2016 (PIFA), and sponsored by the Kimmel Center.