The Violin: Haibun

I awaken in a clean bed, my curls still soap-and-water-damp, but no longer tangled with tears and sweat. Kind people have taken me in–giving me a home and a violin to replace the one Papa gave me years ago. The one the soldiers smashed. It is old, this violin, and as I cradle it under my chin, I wonder what secrets it carries beneath its varnished surface, what tunes lie buried within the fine wood. I look out the window to see the stars, fairy lights that twinkle and beckon in the dark. I quietly hum an old folk tune, the motif of the piece I’m writing, blending old and new–a continuous and repeated theme, as in life, a melody of sorrow and hope. And now, from my window, I see the dawn– pink, orange, and red wings feather-brushed across the sky above the golden sun. The day is bright with magic and possibility. I am ready to greet it.

 

The strings laugh and cry,

sing music of many souls

through light and dark clouds

life twinkles brightly, then blinks

to fly through space, dance through time

 

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Lorenzo Lippi, “Allegorie der Musik” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This haibun is for Colleen Chesebro’s weekly poetry challenge. The prompt words were fairy and magic. She is celebrated fairies and the summer solstice this weekend. Go visit her!

 

Dreams

Monday Morning Musings:

“And, as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That, if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
Or, in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush suppos’d a bear.”

–William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, Scene 1

The Past and Future Merge

She soared high

amongst the stars,

weightless,

her mind everywhere,

she heard the universe sing

felt its rhythm in her soul,

it was part of her

and she of it,

had always been,

but unaware,

then,

before,

if there was a before and a then,

now she sang with the stars

and knew, she and they were one.

For a moment, she remembered—

a body unmoving on a bed in a white room,

beeping machines now silent,

a man with grief-streamed eyes–

now she saw,

as if looking in a mirror,

hundreds of her, stretching back and forth in time

they were her, and not her

different paths and different planes

all part of the universe,

she sang the songs of the stars and floated through space, time, dreams

 

Now

we wandered through bleak city streets

more like December than March

(but without the holiday cheer),

wet sidewalks with snow piled at the curb,

tinged grey from city dirt,

 

 

we walked into the theater,

found our seats

looked down on a stage,

bare, except for players with instruments,

sitting there,

we’re transported,

through time, space, dreams,

sixteenth-century English,

but timeless ideas,

love gone wrong and right,

couples bemused and bedazzled,

parted and reunited,

magic and fairies,

Oberon and Puck smoking a hookah,

watched what they’ve set in place,

musicians played

and displayed

impressive voices and skills,

(in double roles),

we laughed in delight

puckish Puck, the comical Bottom,

and the mixed-up lovers.

We got a treat at intermission

(for being subscribers)

then hurried back to see the conclusion,

watched the moon rise and set over the stage,

the fairy spells recast,

the lovers paired and married,

and the play within the play,

we applauded and rose,

happy to have been transported for a few hours–

the magic of theater

 

 

 

We discussed the play over coffee,

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me sniffling a bit with a cold and the cold,

and both of us waiting for spring to return,

I said that in Shakespeare’s time

the play would probably be ruder,

I thought of the playwright’s wit and wisdom,

then and now the words hold true,

“Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

words transported through time and space,

a play about love and dreams and magic

 

 

The next morning, I slept late

(late for me that is),

still befuddled by the time change and the cold

in the night I had a dream,

a musical, like Mel Brooks mixed with a touch of David Lynch

sprinkled with bits of Carole King and Toni Morison,

literary and ludicrous,

I woke briefly,

then had another dream,

my cold had kept me from a regular Saturday class at the gym,

I dreamt the same instructor had a special Thursday class,

consisting

(so it seemed)

of alternating ab work and running,

instead of mats,

we had our winter coats spread in lines,

our spots on the gym floor,

I was there with some of my gym buddies,

die-hards

(a strange and slightly ominous word),

we ran,

panting and perspiring,

but there were others,

who stood about,

I noticed one man,

he wore a sweater vest,

After I woke, I laughed,

my subconscious mind makes bad puns.

 

and I thought about dreams and dreaming

and what a fool I might be

perhaps lacking reason,

but still able to dream,

and laugh,

thinking of mid-summer

in the winter weather,

turning shapes to fancy,

imagining creatures in the night,

giving them names

thinking of love, magical and irrational

yet somehow real,

throughout time and space

and in and out of dreams

 

I thought of how Chuck Berry died the other day,

but his music is traveling through the galaxy,

“Johnny B. Goode,”

the stars add rock and roll to their repertoire,

and the poet’s words have traveled through time,

read and performed in schools, jungles, prisons,

and perhaps in space,

today my words may travel across the globe

and be read in different spaces, various places,

my thoughts of dreams

traveling through space and time

 

The_Sounds_of_Earth_Record_Cover_-_GPN-2000-001978 (1)

By NASA/JPL (The Sounds of Earth Record Cover) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

The first section of this was inspired by Jane Dougherty’s Sunday Strange Microfiction Challenge.    I didn’t have a chance to get the story in for the challenge. 🙂

 

 

 

 

The Moon and the Sea: Magnetic Poetry

 

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Moon needs music,

recalling in honey’d language

like smooth chocolate

the sea symphony she wants still,

watching with sweet crush

shining beauty from above,

over dreams–

there–

in purple shadow time

 

Guillermo Gómez Gil, “Moonrise,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsGuillermo_Gómez_Gil_-_Salida_de_la_luna

 

 

A poem for the full moon. The Oracle was not in the mood for poetry yesterday, but she came through today.

 

Song and Dance: A Quadrille

Daffodils smile,

dance awhile,

giggle when tickled by the breeze,

tease,

they bask in light,

their faces bright,

listen to the robins sing,

melodies of spring,

flowery laughs join birdsong,

a sing-a-along

till day is gone, all unspun,

the moon rises with a hum

 

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This is for dVerse .  The Quadrille Monday prompt from De Jackson (aka WhimsyGizmo) is “giggle.” (Doesn’t the word giggle make you giggle?) This photo is from a few years ago. Our daffodils haven’t bloomed yet, but they are starting to come up. They make me happy. A quadrille is a poem of 44 words; it is also a dance.

 

 

 

The Red Tree: Microfiction

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Virginia Sterrett (Old French Fairy Tales (1920)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Dove was tired of rules telling her how to dress, how to behave, how to think. She tore off the black cloak that covered her from head to ankle and threw it to the ground. She took the pins from her hair and let the breeze toss about her long, golden brown curls. She removed her shoes to feel the grass, slightly damp, on her bare feet. Then she walked to the red tree with its fruit of many colors, and defying the laws of her people, she picked a purple one and took a bite. She didn’t die; she didn’t feel any ill effects at all. In fact, the forbidden fruit was delicious. She continued to munch on it as she strolled home, ignoring the gasps and murmured prayers of the people she encountered.

Within an hour, the council summoned her. Though her parents begged for leniency, Dove was unrepentant, and the council banished her from the village. She hugged her parents and left her homeland.

She walked for days and nights until her food was gone. Wrapping herself in the hated cloak, she cried herself to sleep. In the morning, she woke to see the bright, rosy-pink dawn, and she was filled with hope that something good would happen that day.

She brushed the dirt from her clothing and continued her journey. Before long, she came to a town. As she approached it, she heard the most glorious sound.  She stopped a woman and asked her what the sound was.

“It’s the town choir,” the woman said. “Come, I’ll show you.”

The woman took Dove to the town hall. There Dove saw that the sound—music—came from a group of men, women, and children dressed in colorful garments.

That is how a rainbow must sound, thought Dove.

In time, Dove discovered that she had a voice, too. All she had to do, was open her mouth and let it out.

This was the first of many discoveries Dove made. She soon realized that the people of her homeland were not protected, they were trapped there by their ignorance and fear. She took a new name, Violette, for the purple fruit she plucked from the red tree, the fruit that set her on her journey of discovery and knowledge. Eventually, she fell in love and gave birth to a daughter. They named her Aurora as a reminder that dawn always comes, even after the darkest night.

 

Although I went way above the word count, this fairy tale is for Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge.  The prompt was the painting above. I have no idea what old French fairy tale it is actually illustrating.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rainbows of the Heart

Monday Morning Musings:

The star explodes, creating a black hole.

Hate does the same thing,

it absorbs, but does not reflect light.

The sound of explosions,

the sparks and flames,

this is our world.

Fevered spirits glow, combust

creating bursts of colors

But where are the rainbows?

 

What if music flowed from our hearts

along with the rhythm of the beats?

And what if the music could be seen as rays of light?

Would rainbows shoot from our hearts

repelling bullets aimed there?

Would colored prisms dance in the air beside us

as we walked down the street?

Where are the rainbows?

 

Perhaps the rainbows are here,

have always been here,

if we could but see them.

Perhaps it takes a child

You have rainbows in your heart.

the eight-year-old wrote.

I wonder where the rainbows go when we die?

 

We attended a family event,

to celebrate a 50th birthday,

the husband of my niece,

who I call my sister.

We sat in a little group,

my husband, daughter, and son-in-law

apart from the others

joined by my great-niece,

(who is great, by the way)

she added her middle-school perspective to the event

a running commentary,

clearly adoring my husband, while mocking him

We chaired-danced at the table

not caring who saw us

my niece fluttered by,

a frazzled butterfly,

wanting everything to go smoothly

(Did you ever eat?)

But it was fine,

and everyone was fine

we were there for love,

driving distances

agreeing to sing a song parody

even though we didn’t know the song

(because, well, country music)

But still

it’s what we do for those we love

so we tried to follow along

but couldn’t really

still, it was fine

we knew it was love we saw and felt

(well, that and determination to power through)

and though we laughed

we felt the love

glowing like the light of the fireflies

that flitted around us

and we were the rainbows.

 

It was raining when we left our house,

but the sun came out for the party

sprinkles and clouds,

off and on

in the distance

I saw a rainbow

against the smoking mirror of the sky

it danced

and I danced along.

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Photo credit: Sheryl Began

 

I took your fevers and smoked glass and made rainbows, Mr. Elusive Trope!

“You have rainbows in your heart” comes from a letter written by 8-year-old Leila Eisen-Ramgren, who attends J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in St. Paul, Minnesota, where  Philando Castile worked as a cafeteria supervisor. This past Wednesday, Mr. Castile was killed by a police officer after a traffic stop. His girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter were in the car. You can read about the letter here.

 

More rainbows. I love this version of

Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World, Israel Kamakawiwo’Ole

 

Movie Recommendation:  I’m not sure why we never saw this one before, but the 2012 movie, Quartet (directed by Dustin Hoffman) was a perfect antidote to the week’s news. There are no rainbows, but there is music. It’s on Netflix. It is totally predictable, but still delightful. Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, and Pauline Collins are in a home for retired musicians. Every year there is a gala to raise funds for the home. Will Jean take part? As I said, predictable, but such fun to watch these accomplished actors and to hear Verdi, Bach, Gilbert & Sullivan, and other great music. Watch the credits at the end, too.

 

 

 

The Voyage is Not Easy

'Canoe_Fisherman'_by_D._Howard_Hitchcock,_1911

 

The voyage is not easy

in our small canoe,

traveling across the ocean

we sing,

I am coming hither,

liquid vowels gliding from our throats

punctuated by the rhythm of the oars

sliding almost silently

into sapphire sea

 

There is no time here,

there are no hours,

just the sea and the sky

we navigate by the stars,

watching them chase each other

guiding our way

we sleep with water flowing under us

and I laugh and laugh and laugh

feeling joy in being alive

as the water rocks me like a cradle

 

Here in this small craft

I will sing of the shrimp

and of a maiden rescued from the eel

I am coming hither

I will sing a song of the seas

rolling waves carry me

in this tiny craft

the water is wide

but I row steadily

silver fish fly through the water

and white birds dive to seize them

 

I am coming hither

the moon shines full and bright

I am coming hither

My voice will drown the siren calls

I sing,

I am coming hither

I am coming hither

the sun is rising

turning the sky orange and pink

leaving a path on the water’s surface

I am almost there.

 

A few days ago, I saw a story about a Hawaiian canoe traveling around the world. You can read about the canoe here and here.  Then this morning I heard the late Israel Kamakawiwo’ole  singing a song called “Opae E.”  I imagined a man on one of these canoes singing the song. There is a legend that a young woman is kidnapped by an eel. He calls on the creatures of the sea for help, but only the shrimp will help the man to free his sister. The shrimp blind the eel, and the man frees his sister.

Sound and The Hard Problem

Monday Morning Musings:

 “Out, out brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more: It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.”

–William Shakespeare, Macbeth, (Act V, Scene v)

“Someone tells you you can run the film backward billions of years to an enormous bang and nothing but particles joining up into big clumps like this one one, except not like this one—because on this one the chemistry came alive and kicked into an algorithm that kept unspooling till there was you collecting spit from a poker game, and you don’t bat an eyelid.”

–Tom Stoppard, The Hard Problem

 

Scientists tell us that the universe was created with a bang,

Not with a whimper. Although who knows, for sure

What existed before our world?

Was there a before?

Or did time begin then, too?

 

Who heard the dawn of the universe?

Was there another universe

With other creatures who lived then?

Did they have wings to fly about their planets?

Were they shaped in the image of the gods

That humans fashioned?

 

Now scientists have re-created the sound

Of our universe’s birth.

Did sound exist before then?

Was there anyone, anything

Who felt that shock

The birth

The first cry of the newborn universe?

 

I ponder the glory of sound

And what we do for music,

Tapping out rhythms with a pencil

On a desk

Singing nonsense songs

To babies.

Humans throughout time

Talking, whistling, singing

Infants reacting to our voices

Even in the womb.

 

Animals, too.

Cats meowing to humans,

Whales singing to other whales

Wolves howling

Birds chirping,

Learning new songs

To communicate.

They have dialects, you know.

 

When I was young

We had one telephone with a long cord

And an extension in my parents’ bedroom.

When my mother was a child

They did not have a phone

Until her parents got one for their store.

But people want to connect

To hear voices

And sounds.

In the old Soviet Union,

People recorded rock and roll on X rays

Black market trade in sound

On bones made visible by light.

 

I wonder at the beauty of our Earth.

As we drive over the bridge

Heading west, the clouds so low

I feel that I can almost touch them.

A trick of mind and perspective

Light bending

Mind bending

Well, I have no spatial sense

That’s why I almost failed geometry.

But I’m great a memorizing

And I understand logic

And beauty

And the sounds of nature too,

As we know it here

In our tiny part of the universe,

The tumbling of waves,

The patter of rain

The buzzing of a bee on

A sunny summer day.

 

We see a play,

The Hard Problem,*

Leave it to Tom Stoppard

To tackle the subject of

What is consciousness?

How does the brain

Differ from the mind?

We listen intently

A man plays a saxophone

Mournful,

Or are they hopeful, riffs

Echoed and echoing

During the scene changes

We discuss the play afterward.

While drinking coffee—

(Hear the perking

Smell that divine scent

Taste its flavor)

I think of the movie,

Ex Machina

Can an android truly think?

Yes, machines can play chess.

Certainly, they can hear,

But what does that mean?

It senses vibrations.

Can a machine truly feel?

The tree falls in the forest

The big bang occurs

Would other beings cry

If they heard Barber’s Adagio for Strings?

 

So Long, Summer

Monday Morning Musings

“By all these lovely tokens

September days are here,

With summer’s best of weather,

And autumn’s best of cheer.”

–Helen Hunt Jackson, “September”

Sunday morning, and I’m in the car. The windows are open to the cool breeze, the sun is shining brightly, and Bob Dylan is singing.

“When your rooster crows at the break of dawn
Look out your window and I’ll be gone
You’re the reason I’m trav’lin’ on
Don’t think twice, it’s all right”

–Bob Dylan, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”

And I think, “OK, Summer, just travel on then. Don’t think twice, it’s definitely all right–because this September morning is truly glorious.” It’s a beautiful morning and a beautiful day, and to quote another American classic, “The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye.”

Yes, I know that technically it is still summer. The autumnal equinox falls on September 23. But the sun comes up later now, and it sets earlier. The early morning bird chirps are giving way to the honking of geese as they fly in V formations across the clear, azure sky. (Were you wondering why they fly in a V? Here you go.)

And today is Labor Day in the U.S., which marks the unofficial end of summer. It is a time that many celebrate with barbecues, picnics, or a final day at the beach or pool. At the same time, people prepare to return to work or school. It is day that looks back to summer and forward to the fall, a combination of melancholy and excitement, a bipolar day.

Labor Day was intended to honor “the working man.” Never mind that women have always worked—and labored in ways no man can experience. Labor Day was first observed in 1882, when a New York City labor organization, the Central Labor Union, a branch of the Knights of Labor, held a parade there. Over the next few years, Labor Day holidays were celebrated elsewhere. In 1894, Labor Day became a federal holiday. In the summer of that year, President Grover Cleveland sent in US army troops to end the Pullman Strike, which had stopped the railways. At least 30 strikers were killed and more wounded in the ensuing violence. Within a week after the strike was so violently put down, Cleveland signed the legislation making Labor Day a federal holiday. The September date was chosen to distance the holiday from May 1 (International Workers Day), which was associated with the Haymarket Riot in Chicago (May 4, 1886) and protests by labor unions. (Here is a short article on Labor Day. And another.

School terms in the U.S. used to begin the day after Labor Day, although weirdly, many now begin in August. This is the first time in 37 years that my husband will not be entering his school on the day after Labor Day. In his former district, it is still the first day for students. As a public school teacher, my husband has also been a member of the teachers’ union. Yes, the union that our governor has said should get “a punch in the face.” Many Americans have forgotten that it is because of unions that we have child labor laws, eight-hour workdays, work breaks, and other benefits.

Labor Day is also the title of a book by Joyce Maynard made into a movie with Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet. It is both a coming-of-age story and a romance. If you read the book or see the movie, be prepared to dream of peach pie. Really. (Here’s the recipe used in the movie. I would use all butter for my crust.)

So what will I be doing today on Labor Day? Well, I’ll be working, of course. After all, I have deadlines to meet. But there will be time to eat some killer nachos and watch a movie with my husband, too. Perhaps I’ll bake a peach pie, as well. It’s a holiday. I will labor, but I won’t forget to enjoy the waning summer.