Juke Joint Quadrille

Mural on the wall of the Victory Grill, a longtime “juke joint” on 11th Street in East Austin, a neighborhood of Austin, Texas. The Lyda Hill Texas Collection of Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.


Juke-joint jive—
blues rite in purpled night
as bodies sway, in freedom
from the toil of day—

listen to the guitar play
the riff, a midnight train’s goodbye
sigh away the years of strife–
hard-fought life, forgotten

as moon shines
from a mason jar.

We are celebrating dVerse’s Tenth Anniversary. Our special guest host, Brian Miller, has asked us to write a quadrille using the word juke, a word I’m sure I’ve never used in a poem before. I found this mural on Wikimedia Commons. You’re welcome, Resa. 😏

Memories in Major and Minor

Monday Morning Musings:

“Music, when soft voices die,

Vibrates in the memory—”

Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Music When Soft Voices Die.” Full poem and analysis here

“When the dawn comes, tonight will be a memory too

And a new day will begin”

From Andrew Lloyd Webber, Trevor Nunn, “Memory,” Cats

 

 

We who were

are ghosts,

are almost not

lingering

 

here a slow smile,

there a kiss of fire—

this rhythmed dance

of remembering

 

ask her about the laugh,

wake him with the used-to-be

 

all now born away

by clouds and time.

***

A week that seems

both timeless and harried

behind us and carried—onwards

we go

 

from anniversary meal

the feel of fresh air

and laughter

people watching

and city-walking

talking of this and that

as texts fly

from sisters

all the sighs, the whys

of life

and strife

in the play

(on words)

mines underground

young lives destroyed

some never rebound

from unsound decisions

and derision

a corrupt system

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a week of memories

and old friends

who remember what

once was

comfortable pauses

and laughter

remembering

who we were

cherishing who we are—

 

there a wish

upon a star

as stormy skies clear

for sunset rays—

a stay

of hope

that beauty lasts.

We watch a movie

of ghosts

memories of things

unseen—and seen

pretty things that live

in the wall–

they call

from time

and books–

she looks on

staring

the women

sharing, imprisoned

by this house

 

We eat and drink

stop and think

laugh and talk

then take a walk

 

And then there are cats

onstage they prance

but at home, they entrance

with acrobatics

and sleepy glances

share our space

(caress that face)

 

we drift. . .

 

in dreams, memories come

and done

are things that never happened—

but seem so real

we feel

joy, terror, hope

beyond the scope

of everyday

 

wake to find the dawn

new day

the past a memory

the future looms

blooming like a flower

sweetly scented–

and thorned—

dropping seeds

and withering

to be reborn.

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We celebrated our wedding anniversary this week. We saw a play Minors, watched a Netflix movie, I am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House. It’s the kind of horror movie I like, a ghost tale where you are not sure of what’s real (like Hill House)—not a full-of-blood slasher movie. Also, it has Ruth Wilson and Paula Prentiss.  We also saw Cats, which we only saw because it was part of a theater package—but I did enjoy it. All of the actors/dancers/singers were excellent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Inventions from Chaos Comes

Monday Morning Musings:

“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos,”

–Mary Shelley, introduction to Frankenstein (1831)

“We should not be held back from pursuing our full talents, from contributing what we could contribute to the society, because we fit into a certain mold ― because we belong to a group that historically has been the object of discrimination.”

–Ruth Bader Ginsburg, from an interview with journalist Lynn Sherr

 

It is the night before Rosh Hashanah, but even so, we gather together at the table, old and young, to celebrate the holiday. We miss sisters and others who are not with us, but we also enjoy the extra room to spread out. And isn’t that the way life goes—filled with small moments of joy and sadness? We toast L’Chaim! We wish for a sweet year,and hope for the best, as we eat slices of the round challah and dip apples into amber pools of local honey.

Golden honey streams,

sweetness graces our table–

a wish for the year

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I’ve made enough food for the neighborhood (because what if there isn’t enough?). We have pumpkin soup, salad, brisket, turkey, and noodle kugel. Yes. more wine, please. My great niece and nephew tell us about the start of their school year. Our younger daughter talks about her new students. We discuss truckers, nursing (my son-in-law’s future career), long hours, unions, and pay. My husband and I have recently watched the documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and we all share our admiration for her, Notorious RBG. We all wish her a long, healthy life and sweet year. Please stay on the court. We pass plates around, then clear the table. I pack up food for everyone to take home. (Yes, I have more challah in the freezer. I baked six loaves.)  It is time for dessert!

 

Another year comes

harvest moon follows bright sun

green leaves change overnight

 

We walk through wet city streets. Rain and more rain. But still, I find rainbows.

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Thirteenth and Locust, Philadelphia

 

We see a play. Four black men in—where? An afterlife of some sort. The bardo, perhaps. The set is a white space with an incline. There’s a trap door from which they emerge. They need to remember. They need to help one another. They need to make this place a home, a safe space. The playwright says his “guiding principles as a writer” are to “be wild and precise.” The play is both. It is full of physical movement—demanding of the actors who run, tumble, and even dance. There is humor and despair, but this play could only be about black men. “I was eight, when I learned I was scary,” says one. “I can’t breathe,” says another. There’s a toy gun. Games reflect the truth. We watch, as though behind a police interrogation mirror. They see us, but we only watch, never do anything.

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rhythmic breaths, out, in,

times’ losses and gains balanced–

some truths heal, or not

 

It is still raining. We walk and talk. A mural depicts people of many races gathered together–eating and drinking.

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Philadephia Murals, Spruce Street

 

It is hopeful. We go inside, sip wine and beer. Discuss the play.

Our Italian cheese arrives with local honey. Somehow, that seems a fortuitous sign. There is sweetness in the world; there is sweetness sitting here. The sun will come out again. There is no void. The building blocks are all around us. We harbor stardust in our DNA. We can invent new lives and new worlds in our imaginations. We can create beauty and truth from chaos. Behind the clouds, the moon still hums. I fall asleep to the sound of soft cat snores beside me–and we both dream. Past and future merge.

L’shana tova,

a wish extended to all

more laughter than tears

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I’m linking this week’s musing to Frank Tassone’s Haikai Challenge, since he asked us to write about autumn wind, spring wind, or Rosh Hashanah.

If you like Haiku competitions, there is still time to post your haiku and comment on others on this Vita Brevis post.

Pure Haiku is also looking for submissions by September 21. More info here.

We saw Kill Move Paradise by James Ijames at the Wilma Theater.

 

Exits and Entrances, NaPoWriMo, Day 23

Monday Morning Musings:

“We do on stage things that are supposed to happen off. Which is a kind of integrity, if you look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.”

–Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

 “Were there words beyond which they could never touch, or did all that is possible enter their consciousness? They could not tell. .

E.M. Forster, A Passage to India

“This train doesn’t stop at City Hall”

(the conductor says)

as the world streams by

the rushing tracks,

clackety, clackety, clackety clack,

the engine hums, it’s zhhhumy zhumms,

my reflection in the window sways

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am traveling there

but does part of me stay

(a train beat away)

entering here

exiting there?

 

We walk–and

spring is a promise whispered over a wall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Please silence your cell phones and other devices.”

(the announcer says)

before the start of the play,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a somewhat dated farce,

act two and three are clever

better than the first

the play within a play from backstage, reversed

the stage rearranged, the set turned around

so, front is back

a player tumbles and falls,

and we see it all–

again, as the troupe performs months later–

each actor then has two roles,

and the timing and action is right

but as a whole,

well. . . it was OK

we both say

and the tickets were free—

something to see

with excellent seats

in America’s oldest theater,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

so now it’s later

and we walk and talk

see spring a-springing,

the birds still singing,

eat a giant bowl of fries

(in a very noisy bar room)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

then wander back to cats and home,

to see the daffodils still in bloom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day–

another play.

(still no stops at City Hall)

“The kitchen is small,”

says one man to another,

“But the apartment looks out at the rocks, and

the water is right there.”

“Maybe Rehoboth would be better,”

The other man murmurs

he has to stay in New Jersey.

We exit, a bit early,

before finding out if they make a plan.

“A little shifty,” that man,

(my husband says)

as we walk out into the day—

where now spring is more than whispering,

and we say, yes, this weather, please stay.

 

We walk through Washington Square Park

I insist some roots look like feet

though they’d find it hard to tap a beat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trees are blooming in pink and white

Washington Square Park, Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and people are out to see the sight

of them, feel the gentle heat,

sun on their faces,

filling the outdoor spaces

and even the walls shout of spring

Mural by David Guinn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

while the birds trill and sing—

(“Phoebe Phoebe, sings the chickadee,

“Peter Peter” the tufted titmouse calls,

and the mockingbird repeats them all.)

Spring fever all around

Penn’s green country town.

Pennsylvania Hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please silence your cells phones—again,

the play is about to begin,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and thought-provoking it is,

the playwright’s words are his,

but “a fantasia inspired” from Forster’s book

though people and countries are never named

other than with letters,

Country X and Country Y, could be any nation

the characters not assigned by the writer to any gender, race,

or sexual orientation,

F, R, H, M, D, Q, J, B

plus, a mosquito and a gecko–

and, of course, there are those echoes. . .

we hear them, reverberating through now, the ages,

all around us–

and on stage, thus–

F speaks of the people in the darkness,

Dr. B is arrested for a crime he did not commit,

and G breaks the fourth wall to talk to us

questioning,

and yes, it’s a bit uncomfortable–

Are we supposed to answer her out loud?

I wonder, and are we different from another crowd?

 

Later, I say,

“I’d like to see that play all over again with another cast.”

How different would it be to see people of a different race,

or gender, play the roles we just saw?

Because, I think, we must draw

pictures in our minds—leap to conclusions—

have preconceptions that we cannot help but make,

and would it break them–

somewhat–

if what we saw was not,

well, exactly the same.

I imagine this part of the writer’s aim.

(I learn there is a hashtag, #ChenMindFuck)

but my mind is rather more struck

than fucked I think,

and we have much to discuss over food and drink.

Can one be friends with one’s oppressor?

The idea leads to variations and degrees of power

not only of gender and race, but

CEO and factory worker, student and professor,

Black Lives Matter and #MeToo,

seeing things from another’s view. . .

The server brings more bread,

I wonder what lies ahead.

At Tria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We walk and talk back to the train,

ideas swirling in my brain.

“This train doesn’t stop at City Hall.”

but time flows through spaces and goes to places

unknown,

calls–

Every exit is an entrance somewhere else.

 

 

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt to use sound. “The poem, for example, could incorporate overheard language. Perhaps it could incorporate a song lyric in some way, or language from something often heard spoken aloud (a prayer, a pledge, the Girl Scout motto). Or you could use a regional or local phrase from your hometown that you don’t hear elsewhere, e.g. “that boy won’t amount to a pinch.”