The Ancient Wanderer

In time’s shadow, I recall the languid summer–
light whispered of love, and if the wind called come,
the moon goddess hummed, why go?
Swim, she said, in these blue waters,
feel the blood-beat beneath your skin,
here far from the ship-crushing waves.
Wait—watch, savor
the sweet unknown.

But Death drooled, raining destruction, and
men with their blood-chants beckoned from afar.

Now in the bitter after of broken dreams, I sigh,
while the fiddler plays yet another tune–
still, the stars sing,
and dawn’s maidens toss gilded rose petals
as I wake,
remembering love’s aches, feeling my skin sun-warmed,
and tasting morning’s honeyed beauty on my tongue.

My poem from the Magnetic Poetry Oracle. It’s only fitting that a poem from her would have a mythic feel.

Star-Storied

Picture—
storm-chased seas, waves
in white-foamed roiling crash
against the small trireme, fortunes
plumet.

Behold–
a tale unfolds,
ocean-dark legends, gods
and mortals interlocked, love lost
and found.

Slay now,
the snake-haired beast,
though she blood-births magic–
this winged-horse, muse-beloved, soars
skyward.

Listen–
and hear beyond
ancient, echoed voices,
flashes of ghost-light memory
linger–

each pulse,
part of time’s dust
in gleaming streams–glimmers
of what was, what is, what might be–
somewhere

a place
in time, circling
round, like a comet bound
for space, yet ensorcelling each
story.

I haven’t done one of Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday prompts for a long time. This is for an ekphrastic prompt based on the photo above. It sent me off into mythology, as well as the stars. For most of Colleen’s prompts, you must write a poem using one of the listed syllabic forms. This is a Crapsey Cinquain series—though I don’t think I have the rhythm quite right. First draft.

Persephone

What shall I tell you–
of time and seasons–
the repeating loops—
war, the gods, of seeds and ceded
lands and women, blooded, growing.

Past is future, future past—
the corn grows, the flowers never last,
but rise again from mud and ash.

On that day the robins trilled,
I watched a heron dip his wings into the wind,
and feather-touch the sea and sand,
I reached for the narcissus–and was pinned
beneath a demon, a monster, my husband, a king.

It’s said I ate and consented,
but what is consent, and what would you do?
I was the victim, a prisoner,
the seeds were red and tart, but sweeter
than his heart.

Hear me,
and don’t talk of wanton spring–
my womb is barren in the cold,
above the ground, I open,
and with my joy, the trees grow buds,
the crocus pops, and dawn-birds sing
as I remove his ring.

When I leave again, as I must,
my mother cries—and so do I.
Our salted tears sway the green
to withered grey,
while I, like dried husk, fall to the ground,
the bargain made, and ever thus,

the fragrant rose fades,
all too soon when placed at tombs—
in the sanctuary of time
past is future, future past,
circling round through many rooms.

Look now to the dead stars’ light,
think long about its glimmer trace,
a shimmer left within your blood,
and in your soul–
recall, I told you all.

For dVerse, where Sarah has asked us to write about Persephone.

Glancing Back

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, The Muse History, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Coy Clio,
with half-smile and backward glance,
her stance unsecured–
she balances time and chance.
Reflected in the glass,
her image wavers, not quite straight,
always moving, she knocks down Fate.
She leaves her scent in dusty tombs,
and book-filled rooms, and there within
a musty cell, a faded ledger in a bin.
There are cries from eras long forgotten,
she sighs through silk and ships of cotton,
whispers through graveyards and dockets, ill-gotten
gains and weathered remains of centuries, unexplained.
Ask her for enlightenment, not for glory,
still she replies there are many untold stories–
look at the monuments, partly erased, salted
and wind-kissed, the lines spaced
unevenly in past’s embrace.
And here, a doll, a letter, a locket
that falls from a red-splattered pocket—
love and connections, a mystery,
blood-drenched fields, the history.

This is in response to Ingrid’s dVerse prompt this week to write a poem invoking a muse. Some of you know I have a history book chapter that I need to finish writing (like now), so perhaps a poem about Clio, the muse of history will help. I’m posting this for today’s dVerse Live Open Link Night.

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.

I’m sharing this with dVerse Open Link Night.

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.