Hylas and the Nymphs, Poem in Ekphrastic Review

John William Waterhouse, “Hylas and the Nymphs” (1896)

I’m thrilled and very excited that my poem “The Way It Happened” has been published in the Ekphrastic Review as a challenge response. It responds to the most recent challenge–a painting by John William Waterhouse, “Hylas and the Nymphs.”

My thanks to editor Lorette C. Luzajic for selecting my poem. Jane Dougherty’s wonderful prose work is right after mine. You can read all the selected works here.

The Seer Sees the Ancient Story: Quadrille

Seven times the wound I bound,
seven times I wound it round
with white-stitched cloth, now blood-red
drowned–
the legacy of war.

Now, here the hero lies near death—
seven times, I conjure fate
hesitate with breath abated—
for furies wrath, to even scores.

A quadrille for dVerse. Lillian has asked us to use the word wound.

We Named the Sky: NaPoWriMo, Day 12

Monday Morning Afternoon Musings:

“The dead don’t go anywhere. They’re all here. Each man is a cemetery. An actual cemetery, in which lie all our grandmothers and grandfathers, the father and mother, the wife, the child. Everyone is here all the time.”
-Isaac Bashevis Singer (quoted in Shtisel), Season3)

Sunrise Cloud Reflections over the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith

In ancient times, we named the sky—
saw Apollo in his flaming chariot fly
as his sister Diana of the woods and moon
bounded with deer and hound, and soon
the stars were storied, and tunes gloried
creation, emotion, and the cessation of
wind and tides, the slide

of seasons from one to next,
as the gods are first jolly, then are vexed.
But Persephone comes and goes–
snow falls, then flower flows,
and we cry and sigh as people die–
but the seeds remain, though not the same,
each generation evolves, and solves

Spring, Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

new problems, and old ones we revive.
But if we could fly in hyperdrive
to other worlds, or visit holodecks
to greet and meet dear loved ones in an annex
to another world, an alternate timeline,
future, past, present combined—we’d drink wine
with family and heroes, toast the divine

in fantasy. And yet—we recall,
in memories of sight, scent, sound—however small–
within us all the time, sharing space
with those who came before—the interface
of body and mind. Stardust to genes, renamed things
in seasons reborn on hopeful wings
Cycles, seasons, the stories again–real or imaginings?

Clouds and cool weather
Beautiful blue skies, April Morning. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

I’ve combined my Monday Morning Musings with the NaPoWriMo Day 12 prompt: “This prompt challenges you to write a poem using at least one word/concept/idea from each of two specialty dictionaries: Lempriere’s Classical Dictionary and the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction.”


Merril’s Movie/TV Club: We finished Season 3 (most likely the final season) of Shtisel (Netflix). I highly recommend it. My husband and I both got so caught up in this show.
We had Chinese food over the weekend, and so watch two Chinese movies.
Us and Them (Netflix)—a romance of a young man and woman meeting on a train and trying to become successful in Beijing. I liked it, but I’m not sure if I loved it. I think I would have enjoyed it more in the theater. We had some phone calls and other distractions.
Better Days (Amazon Prime rental)—is Hong Kong’s entry for the Academy Awards. It’s about school bullying, and also the high stakes competition/pressure of getting into a good college in China. My husband and I both enjoyed this one more—despite the subject matter of school bullying. There is also a romance. The actress Dongyu Zhou is the female lead in both movies. Watch the end credits for both movies.

Eurydice to Orpheus

Dear Orpheus, I hope this letter finds you well.
I don’t know how long it will take to reach you—
the service here is somewhat unreliable, and truth to tell,
it’s hard to get through,

Charon is cranky, and the ferry service rather slow–
But what I really wanted to say–
don’t wait for me. I mean, you’re not immortal. Show
the world your music, play

those magical riffs. To be honest, I was mad–
I mean really, you just had to look?
I struggled, so sad
and it took. . .

it seemed forever, but time is different here.
I’m finally settled, fitting in—
of course, I miss the sun, the light, the clear
blue sky, warm skin.

(Our shadows shapes of what has been,)

And—I’ve met someone.
He makes me laugh,
he’s a bit tone deaf, but he’s so much fun—
he works on Hade’s general staff.

So, take care, my love. I wish you all good things,
though I hope you’ve learned more self-control.
Our life together is gone. We’ve cut the strings.
Perhaps we’ll meet again, soul-to-soul–

unless you become a star. . .I heard a rumor about your lyre.

With fond remembrance, Eurydice.

For dVerse, where Sanaa is hosting. She has asked us to write an epistolary poem. I had a bit of fun with this.

Pleiades

512px-Pleiades_large

The Pleiades, an open cluster consisting of approximately 3,000 stars at a distance of 400 light-years (120 parsecs) from Earth in the constellation of Taurus. It is also known as ‘The Seven Sisters’, or the astronomical designations NGC 1432/35 and M45. NASA, ESA, AURA/Caltech, Palomar ObservatoryThe science team consists of: D. Soderblom and E. Nelan (STScI), F. Benedict and B. Arthur (U. Texas), and B. Jones (Lick Obs.) [Public domain]

 

He’s breathless

at the sight of them,

all seven

beautiful.

Heedless of their desires,

only knows his own.

 

A god’s touch–

they’re doves. Now weightless,

flying high

and higher

through the moon’s shimmer, and then,

too, they glimmer.

 

Ageless, they

wander, star-lighted,

twinkling and

traveling

through the skies. Are they at peace?

Immortal sisters

 

still pursued

but untouchable,

in stellar

grace they sail

an indigo timeless sea

forever and on.

 

For Laura’s dVerse prompt, “less is more. . .”  She gave us a list of words. I chose breathless, weightless, ageless, and I added timeless. This is a shadorma sequence. I’m also linking it to Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday prompt. 

 

 

 

 

The Lesson

512px-Gowy-icaro-prado

 

I look at the painting. Is it a lesson about hubris? Or that children must make their own mistakes? All I see is father and son, horror and grief.

 

and now your feathers

nicked and torn, you soared too close

bewitched by the sun

 

A haibun quadrille (a poem of 44 words) for dVerse, where De has asked us to use the word “nick.” And also, for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday, using synonyms for enchant and fly.

Odysseus Under the Moon: To Wanderers, A Ghazal

Winslow_Homer_-_Eastern_Point_Light_-_Google_Art_Project

Winslow Homer, “Eastern Point Light”

 

Over star-glimmered waves, we journeyed and sailed under the moon.

There we bemoaned our fate, still sailing—railed under the moon.

 

We see the fork-tongued serpent, slither-scaled–

no siren, silver-voiced with hair unveiled under the moon.

 

From the towering giant, one-eyed, we quailed,

but when blinded he was curtailed under the moon.

 

On blood-wine seas, the winds caught and prevailed–

yet what of the gods, we flattered, yet failed, under the moon?

 

What lands should we conquer? If heroes, we’re hailed.

What tales of those places to you we’d regale under the moon?

 

Do we return to love, or to marriages failed?

My own wife, what of her travails under the moon?

 

Too far, too soon, the poet sleeps unassailed

to the gentle rhythm of the waves, inhales, exhales, under the moon

 

A re-worked ghazal for dVerse.

 

 

The Ballad of Orpheus and Eurydice, NaPoWriMo

Odilon_Redon_-_Orpheus

Odilon Redon, “Orpheus,”

 

“It has been said that the myth is a public dream, dreams are private myths.”

–Mary Zimmermann, Metamorphoses

 

Busking, I play my guitar

mostly by day,

sometimes under the stars

(their music lovelier than ours).

My songs are stunning, striking riffs,

god-blessed, my parents’ gift

to shift a mood–

when I sing my songs

the birds and trees dance along,

while men and women weep

and want to sweep

away the night,

keeping love alight.

 

And so, on this I survived

till my own love came to me.

In my joy, my music soared

as if on Pegasus-winged chords–

and I dreamt all manner of lovely things.

We married, and then one day

she journeyed far by urban subway,

vanishing deep underground

where she would not be found.

 

I wandered for days and night

in corridors

far below the banks and stores,

strumming the strings while I walked

until a fellow said, “Come, we’ll talk.”

He said a bloke as talented as me

shouldn’t be without his love, his muse–

but, well, let’s see what she’ll choose.

 

On the appointed day,

I stood beneath the street

(where she had agreed to meet).

She told me that with me

she had been in love,

but she was tired—sick of

living on song and air,

really it wasn’t fair,

it was no life–

she was dying as my wife.

So, she went down the stairs–

found work with City Transportation–

for her, a cause for celebration.

 

“Now, I’ve made my declaration. Go,” she said.

“Don’t look back, pretend I’m dead.”

 

You, of course, know the tale

I looked, I failed my darling wife

who’s disappeared behind a veil

of mystery and confusing trails.

I still hope that she’ll return.

Till then, I yearn,

I ride the subway cars,

looking for her, undeterred,

I find her face among the stars,

go out to sing about our story,

(now the most popular

in my repertory).

Then people sigh and cry

while I strum and sing,

and wonder why.

 

The prompt for Day 24 of NaPoWriMo is write a poem inspired by a reference book. The Encyclopaedia Britannica says Orpheus had “superhuman musical skills.” He was said to be the son of the Muse Calliope (poetry) and Apollo, who also had musical skills, and who gave him his first lyre. His “singing and playing were so beautiful that animals and even trees and rocks moved about him in dance.”

On dVerse, Anmol has asked us to reimagine a myth. I really wanted to use this painting that I saw on Jane Dougherty’s post the other day.

 

 

 

 

Open the Star: Magnetic Poetry

Open the Star

 

A child, a girl, explores,

lingering with the red star.

(Open it.)

It will fool the dark cloud

and no one need live a life

bleeding, dirty, and sad.

But this then—

you must listen to

voices throb in ocean rhythms,

secrets of time and universe make magic.

Go and wake.

Let your heart breeze

with peace.

 

 

 

 

A bit of surrealism? A myth from the Oracle?

Icarus 2–Quadrille

He rises–

filled with wonder,

on wax wings he flies

high and higher

closer to the flaming fire

spurred towards the sun

(heart’s desire)

too late, stunned,

aware of his blunder

he cries–

no longer inspired–

“Father, forgive me.”

and falls to the sea

 

Peter Paul Rubens [Public domain], “Fall of Icarus,” via Wikimedia Commons

This is a Quadrille for dVerse. De “Whimsygizmo” has asked us to use the word “fire.”