To Every Season

Monday Morning Musings:

“For nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, it is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress.”
–Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby

Heron at dawn. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield.

I remember that spring, the winter of despair,
the flow of river into spring again

and again, the earth blooms,
and birds come and go, soaring into clouds

that move across the sky–
the constancy of sun and moon, the ephemerality of life,

insistent green sprigs emerging from driftwood,
bleached and beached.

Driftwood with new growth.

Each day the same and different,
each sunrise a threshold to the unknown.

Driftwood, Sunrise on the Delaware River

In dreams, my mother asks for chocolate–
she says there’s more for them that wants.

This is how it is—
this is who we who are, full of ifs and when

there is both laughter and the aches
of time and memory–

we are here. Now
I watch the bees,

and I remember too late,
to tell them my secrets and wishes–

but perhaps they already know,
telling their own dreams in buzz waltz,

remembering a day of endless sweet nectar,
and brilliant colors that we cannot see,

yet can imagine, reflected
in a sunrise yet to come.

Sunrise with Cloud Reflections. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield. August 2021

This week has been a strange and strangely beautiful week of clouds, rain, and sunshine. I suppose that’s how August is. We’re supposed to get a return of the high heat and humidity. Yesterday, some family members got together at my sister’s house for the first time since the pandemic. It wasn’t everyone, and even though it was right before my mom’s birthday, it wasn’t really a memorial, though we did have a Sunday brunch fish tray, with fruit, and my Mandelbrot and brownies for dessert. For those who don’t know, we used to have lox and other smoked fish with cream cheese and bagels–plus a whole lot more–fairly often when I was growing up. Every so often, my grandfather, my father’s father, would bring the delicatessen food, which also included herring, rye bread, and coffee cake, to my mom’s (even though my parents were divorced). My mom would supply the juice, coffee, boiled red potatoes, and sometimes I’d bake something. Then, it became a special family brunch occasion because it has become very expensive, plus more difficult to get together. Mindful of the Delta strain–even though we’re all vaccinated–we stayed masked indoors, except for when eating—and we tried to stay far apart then. Fortunately, the weather cleared up enough for us to go outside for dessert. My parents were there in spirit and ash.

When we got home, we took a brief walk, and pulling into the driveway were surprised by this.

Literal deer in the headlights.

We Sing Their Songs in Flight

Monday Morning Musings:

Egret

Open a window to another universe–
there is always an after
and before

the bang and birth of stars,
the flutter-shift of vibrating strings
across dimensions, the light on stellar wings—

he sings, she laughs
the fever-dreams of future-past-
perfect brings

remembrance, she, and we see-saw
imperfectly and fractured–all
colored by mood and life-swings

in revolutions, the Earth spins,
love, laughter, tears, and fears—it begins
and ends

the stars sing, and we catch their light,
swallow to hold it within, and in our dreams,
or in some after, we sing their songs in flight.

Ospreys Flying over the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

Today my father would be 102. We’re going to have Chinese food and ice cream for dinner tonight–both of which he loved. My mom’s birthday is later this month, and she would have turned 99. My parents divorced (twice), but in my mom’s final years she believed my dad lived in the same building, and in her final months, she talked about him a lot, always with smiles and giggles. I think she was in love again. Of course, they were my stars.

The first set of photos were taken long before I was born. My brother is about twelve years my senior.

My mom’s first cousin, who was like her sister, turned 95 yesterday. There was a small party for her. My sister, husband, and I stayed masked in the house, but took our masks off outside. We got her a blanket that had a word cloud of English and Yiddish words we chose.

We ate homemade pizza and streamed a play this week: The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington by James Ijames performed as part of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, which looks like a beautiful place to see a play. In the play, Martha Washington is dying, and the enslaved people around her are waiting, as they will be freed when she dies. In her fever dreams she imagines them in various guises, as lawyers, Founding Fathers and Mothers, and King George and Queen Charlotte. The play is funny, sad, witty, and unique. Here’s the NY Times review.

Remember

Monday Morning Musings:

“Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory—”
Percy Bysshe Shelly

“Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.”
–from Jo Harjo, “Remember”

Today we remember—
the ones who lie buried,
the ones lost at sea,

But do you remember
before memory?
How the world came to be?

From stars,
all the oceans,
and then soon the trees,

Sun through the trees at Red Bank Battlefield. I thought it looked like a little amphitheater. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

You remember this,
yes?
Ancestral memory

of long before when,
and where soft voices go,
to live on, maybe

pretend. We should remember
in every war fought,
each side will plea–

saying God’s on our side,
and we’re in the right,
the land of the free.

But after every battle,
there’s a hole, a wound
left in a town and family–

all those who died.
There may be pride, or anguish
or a question of degree—was it necessary?

So, remember the sun
still there behind the clouds,
and the moon, humming fiercely

listen now.
Listen to Crow, the creator,
who foretells what will be,

preserve what you can,
fight if you must
for beauty and truth, disagree

with the haters
and authoritarian dupes,
help the world to better be–

remember her laugh,
remember childhood giggles and purring cat–
hear all the songs in your memory,

and let the world’s wonder wander through–
remember you are all and all are you.

It’s Memorial Day here in the U.S. It’s also a three-day weekend. When vice-president Kamala Harris mentioned that in a tweet, conservative hypocrites who willingly overlooked every horror the former twice-impeached resident of the White House ever did or uttered acted outraged. Meanwhile, they are doing all they can to suppress democratic rights, such as the freedom to vote. I prefer real democracy to mindless flag waving.

Meanwhile, no thanks to the former administration, people in the U.S. are getting vaccinated, and many places have lifted all or nearly all Covid restrictions. I’m not entirely comfortable with it yet, but I have met with friends. The weather has been all over the place–from summer heat, where turned on the a/c to cold enough to turn the heat back on. It was good weather to bake and cook.

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched The Father. One review I read described the movie as “a Rashomon of dementia.” The movie is from the viewpoint of a man whose mind is going. It is difficult to tell what is real, and the movie is purposefully confusing, brilliant, and harrowing. There is also a wonderful opera soundtrack. Anthony Hopkins deserved his Oscar, and Olivia Coleman was excellent, as was the entire cast. Meanwhile, we’re onto Season 2 of Dexter. We might need to take a break with something a bit lighter. 🤣

Ekphrastic Challenge, Day Twenty-Six

This is Day Twenty-Six of Paul Brookes’ January going into February Ekphrastic Challenge. All of the artwork is wonderful, but once I saw Kerfe Roig’s “These Hands,” I had to write about them.

Her Hands

Her hands are a kaleidoscope,
holding within all the colors,
shapes, textures she once touched.
Far distant memories telescoped
and brought close—flaking pink polish on her nails
makes her think of flowers that grew in her garden,
her crooked finger,
reminds her of her mother’s hands.

Her hands are a map,
the etched lines a pathway showing where she’s gone
and where she’s heading. That crosshatch marks the years
of the now-demolished city shop
where she touched goods and gestured to customers—
these show the first time

she picked up a paintbrush, or
held a small boy’s hand as he scampered on a beach.
She sees his boy-face in her mind, clearer to her than his man-face,
though it’s been decades since he was a boy. Her hands

are treasure boxes full of memories—everything she has ever touched—children,
flowers, pets, lovers. She can’t see the spots on her skin, or
the wrinkled creases, but she can feel the touch of my skin—
my hand holding hers.

Two Poems Up in Black Bough Poetry

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The morning moon hummed fiercely today in the heat. I will be staying inside and taking work breaks to read Issue 2 of Black Bough Poetry, “Lux Aeterna” –Eternal Light. It is filled with tributes to Apollo 11–breathtaking poems and wonderful artwork. Please do take a look.

I am thrilled to have two poems in this issue, “Moon Landing” and “Dark Matter.” Thank you to editor Matthew M C Smith (no relation, though my husband has some Welsh ancestry. . .) for selecting my poems and for editorial suggestions on “Dark Matter.”

These are the grown puppies mentioned in “Moon Landing”–a bit blurred, like a memory.

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I Smell the Salt in Seaside Breeze, NaPoWriMo

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I smell the salt in seaside breeze

watch it toss the sun-sweetened flowers

and taste the nectar with droning bees

 

feel how it caresses my face and knees

with kisses, the promises of lazy hours

with books beneath shade of dancing trees.

 

On porches, we recline, so at ease–

a temporary haven, even if not ours–

imagining the taste of nectar, the droning bees

 

An evening walk, some ice cream, please!

wishing if and only we had the powers–

to stop a moment, to smell the salty, seaside breeze.

 

If we could a moment freeze,

would we box it up, using super-powers

to hold fast summer’s nectar-taste and droning bees?

 

For long ago summer vacations, the time of these–

ocean, sun, daughters’ laughter, and showers–

relaxing in the salt-scent of a seaside breeze,

of dreams, tasting the nectar with droning bees.

 

For Day 25 of NaPoWriMo the challenge is “to write a poem that

  • Is specific to a season
  • Uses imagery that relates to all five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell)
  • Includes a rhetorical question, (like Keats’ “where are the songs of spring?”)”

The dVerse poetry form this past month has been the villanelle, so here’s one more before it closes. Sarah’s template on the prompt page is most helpful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birthday Wishes: Haibun

I think of my dad today and how he admired Tony Hillerman’s novels, mysteries involving the Navajo Tribal Police. Once he wrote Mr. Hillerman a letter and received a gracious reply. It’s been twenty years now since my father died. He’d be ninety-nine today—perhaps he’d have new favorite books and authors. He was a man filled with passion—for food, women, art, history–and for his children and grandchildren. He thought we were the best and brightest, no question. Though he expected all to wait upon him–courtiers of the court of Lee–yet—he was generous with love, presents, and hundreds of restaurant meals. He was always proud of me and assigned my first book to his history classes. (Sorry). I wish my dad was still here to read my words. I love you, Dad. I miss you.

 

yellow-green stems grow

vivid blooms in summer’s heat—

then red-gold leaves fall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is for open link night at dVerse, where Lillian is hosting. I’ve given a nod to National Book Lovers Day in my Haibun.

 

 

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.