Backstories

Monday Morning Musings:

“Music, when soft voices die,

Vibrates in the memory—”

Percy Bysshe Shelley

“Yesterday, today and tomorrow are not consecutive, they are connected in a never-ending circle. Everything is connected.”— The Stranger, Dark (Netflix series)

 

I listen to the silent sounds,

a voice inside my head

remembered phrases—and the laugh—

forever gone

that echoes without reverberation

 

save within.

Yet without,

the birds call and sing the melodies

I cannot sing

with human voice, nor fly

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to treetops, or into clouds.

Where do they go?

What do they think

of the shadow’s encroachment?

Is it an annoyance

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to be interrupted

or more? Are we intruders remembered,

discussed?  I watch the crows gather and caw,

“One for sorrow, two for mirth,”

they follow me, it seems

exhorting

with strident calls—

beware or remember?

What am I to do?

And so, I listen, watch, write

 

of  yesterday—and tomorrow.

We walk through corridors,

where the past sits behind locked doors.

Clothing, furniture, paintings—so many paintings!

Scenes frozen in time

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upon a canvas,

the artist looked, remembering,

translating memories into color and form

each brushstroke, a touch from the past,

the whole, a memorial

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Work in Progress. An artist working on a mural. We got lost, and I took this photo through the windshield while my husband was trying to figure out where to go.

 

to what was—

this life now reduced to her things.

We travel over bridges, rising

over a river of ghosts

traveling–

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Low tide, the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, July 2020. ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

 

through time and tides, 

we go about our lives,

carrying on our daily routines

cooking, cleaning, working, loving

when we can

we erase some backstories,

cherish others–

some will never be known.

Like birds, they’ve flown into the clouds,

drifted away, gone

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never to be seen again,

but we may find a trace, a feather

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Feather–could it be a turkey feather?

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This turkey was walking back and forth around the front of this car–pecking at it.

of what was

like pentimento, the traces of a laugh

left in the paintings’ vivid hues.

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One of my mom’s paintings, title and date unknown.

 

My siblings and I have been paying for a storage unit for my mom’s things. Because she died in April—of Covid 19-related complications during the worst of the pandemic in this area, we could not be with her or pack up her belongings. For some reason, movers were allowed in, and all of her things were packed up and put in the storage unit my sister rented. So, masked and keeping physical distance, we’ve emptied the storage space, an emotional experience. We have not yet held a real memorial for her.

 

Merril’s Movie Club: No movies this week. We finished Dark, a three-season German series on Netflix, which my husband and I both really liked, even though we were totally confused. If you keep with it, the very last episode does explain and tie things up. We started watching The Twelve, a new Belgian series on Netflix, which explores the backstories of the jurors and the people involved in a murder case—actually two different murder cases because a woman is accused of killing her best friend many years before and her child more recently. We’re about halfway through it, and we both like it, and it has a wondering who committed the crime(s).

Also, I read The Women of the Copper Country, a historical novel by Mary Doria Russell. Her books are all well-researched, but she is also an excellent writer with a great ear for dialog and character development. I’ve enjoyed all of her books. This one focused on the copper mines in upper Michigan and the strike in 1913, led largely by the women there. I knew nothing about these mines or the strike, and yet it also seems very relevant. I’m able to get books from the library now in a contactless system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember

Monday Morning Musings:

“It is the onion, memory,

that makes me cry.”

From Craig Raine, “The Onion”

 

“Music, when soft voices die,

Vibrates in the memory—”

–Percy Bysshe Shelley, from “Music When Soft Voices Die (To. ..)

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the universe born

from a fire dance

with a bang, barging forth,

endless now, eternal,

remembering the almost

and the always

rounding in long, liquid circles

creating time,

but timeless,

yet there it is–

the secret poetry,

of the dawning day,

hints of light in the darkness.

***

Leaves turn scarlet and gold

against the azure blue, so bold

 

 

but as the air turns crisp and cold

and the leaves fall, uncontrolled

 

we remember

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the bright green of trees and grass,

the calls of birds, the way they dance

 

into the slanted light of autumn

 

remember

 

the scent of stew and bread

and the blankets piled upon the bed—

and yet, still I see

the bee

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moving from flower to flower

knowing his hours

 

are limited

but uninhibited

 

he flies

and tries–

 

does he remember?

 

(What are the dreams of a bee?)

 

I see the spotted lantern fly,

remember to crush it, say good-bye

 

dead bug, though I feel some remorse

he’s only doing his job, of course–

 

but once, did he remember the air

and sunlight, feel despair?

 

The man in the movie forgets the facts

of his life, he acts

 

on some written instructions,

and we make assumptions

 

connect the dots,

but sometimes, blank spots

 

are filled in with what wasn’t there–

my mom fills these holes in the air

 

with dreams, believes

things that never happened, perceives

 

a different time-line, a reality

of what never was and never will be

 

and so, it goes, we see,

 

and will we remember this

autumn coming, in starts and fits

 

but summer stays, and we sit outside

hide (a bit)

 

from truth, well, who’s to decide

what is right, and what we abide?

 

We smile, drink wine

enjoy the sun, and life is fine

mostly, though we remember

 

autumn comes, and pages turn,

emotions churn, we yearn

 

for things that never were, perhaps

or for our world not to collapse,

City Hall Reflected in a puddle, Merril D. Smith, Philadelphia 2019

City Hall Reflected in a Puddle, Philadelphia

we walk

reflect on the past, talk

of life and a book

and we look

 

observe, that time moves on

and circles back

 

and light comes, sometimes at a slant

or through the cracks,

 

I remember that.

 

We haven’t had a chance to get to the movies (sigh, maybe when this book is done)– but Dale, we did see a good one on Netflix. Remember. Trailer here.  It’s from 2015, but I don’t remember it in the theaters. It’s much better than the synopsis sounds: a man with dementia follows the written instructions of a fellow nursing home resident to hunt down the man who killed their families at Auschwitz. Well, the director is Atom Egoyan, and it stars Christopher Plummer. Certainly not upbeat, but very well-done, a quiet sort of thriller.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secrets and Shadows: Musings and Shadorma

Monday Morning Musings:

“Secrets, silent, stony sit in the dark palaces of both our hearts: secrets weary of their tyranny: tyrants willing to be dethroned.”

James Joyce, Ulysses

“It’s a triumph of art and friendship over time. And it’s also very important, I think, to hang on to the things that mean something to you. And they transcend time.”

–Judy Collins, “Love, Friendship and Music: Stephen Stills and Judy Collins Collaborate on New Album,” All Things Considered with Michele Martin, November 11, 2017

“There is regret, almost remorse,
For Time long past.
‘Tis like a child’s belovèd corse
A father watches, till at last
Beauty is like remembrance, cast
From Time long past.”

–Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Time Long Past”

 

Secret lives

buried deep in walls

or within

chambered hearts,

echoing the beats, flowing,

waiting for release

 

The garage

old, unstable, and so

down it comes

over the years

it’s housed tools and junk,

a chipmunk or two, amidst the rakes

perhaps a snake.

We were told the wall at the back

was bumped out a bit to fit

a Model T–

But honestly, I don’t know,

and it’s all so long ago.

The roof was shingled many times

and covered with leaves, pollen, and snow

beside it children have played,

and a wandering doe has grazed.

The yard is littered

adorned with its pieces–

fragments of a secret life

forlorn in autumn’s fading light,

a building built to last,

but now

shadows cast, from time long past.

 

The weather now has turned much colder

as the year journeys to its end,

no more harkening back, it seems to say

though time winds round again

through falling leaves and winter snow

to springtime bud and summer flowers,

and in the buildings here on city streets

there’s blending of the old and new

where cobblestones meet asphalt streets

and on concrete pavements,

shadows cast, from time long past

We see a musical about phone sex and love

set in the 1990s,

just before

(it opens a door)

the Internet really became a thing

and here a young man and woman

don golden chastity rings,

and vow to remain chaste till wed.

But now with their upcoming marriage,

they realize they do not really know each other.

They learn in song

(Well, it’s a musical, so we go along.)

we all have secrets lives and secret selves–

shadows cast, from time long past

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It’s a funny, enjoyable show

a quirky romantic comedy

if not profound

it covers some familiar ground,

but still we talk of how it’s set

in a changing time.

a time now past

when our children were young.

And as day becomes night,

in autumn’s fading light

We see a bride and groom

and should we assume

they have lives kept private and

shadows cast, from time long past?

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In the car, we listen to NPR

hear an interview with Judy Collins and Stephen Stills,

old lovers, now still friends,

hanging on to important things

and illustrated with their songs

throughout time

things that last,

shadows cast, from time long past.

 

I think of my mom and dad

meeting in time long before technology

of cell phones and Internet

and they connected,

once they were young and in love

then they weren’t either

keeping secrets from each other

yet still, I think the love was always there

and she to him said a final goodbye

the night before he died

shadows cast over time, long past

 

We take my mom to a winery–

“Cross a wine tasting off your bucket list,”

I say.

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Here we can sit at a table

order our selections

of white and red

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served with cheese and bread

and the atmosphere is convivial,

the conversation, mostly trivial,

but as we move to pizza and more wine,

we’re feeling pretty fine,

we talk of Thanksgiving

and of ancestry

I tell her about my poetry,

she tells me things she remembers–

sitting in her grandfather’s lap

though she doesn’t remember much about him,

and after that he died,

from an injury to his skull,

difficult times from them all

immigrants from another land

speaking a language I don’t understand,

I learned there was a baby brother born

after her mother and her aunts

he died young, seldom spoken of.

In the conversation here

ghosts of ancestors now appear–

shadow cast, of time long past

 

Then to home

the weekend ended,

secrets shared

journeys taken,

sunshine and shadows, blended,

cast in a circle

 

through time and

space our souls wander

sharing love

fearing death

casting shadows of time past

long ago and now

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We saw TouchTones at the Arden Theatre. We went to Auburn Road Vineyard.

I’ve begun and ended my musing with Shadorma for my somewhat sporadic participation in Eliot of Along the Interstice’s November Shadorma Challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections on an Assateague Beach

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And so the branch lies there bleached white

Its leaves no longer court the light,

Torn by wind, weathered by spindrift,

Like Ozymandias it stands

A reminder, beached on the sands.

Time’s horses fly, colors redshift,

Yet we remain through words and art,

Cover distances though apart

We’re born, we love, our journey’s swift.

 

This is for Jane’s Poetry Challenge 23: Nove Otto  9 lines, 8 syllables, aabccbddb