Time Bends and Echoes

Monday Morning Musings:

“Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past. . .

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.

Footfalls echo in the memory,

down the passage we did not take,

towards the door we never opened,

into the rose garden. My words echo

Thus, in your mind.”

T.S. Eliot, from “Burnt Echo”, No. 1 of “Four Quartets”

 

“So much of history is mystery. We don’t know what is lost forever, what will surface again. All objects exist in a moment of time. And that fragment of time is preserved or lost or found in mysterious ways. Mystery is a wonderful part of life.”

–Amy Tan, The Bonesetter’s Daughter

 

This week–

a photo,

hidden within a mislabeled envelope, appears

challenging history

what is known and what may be,

tangible, frangible,

certainly mysterious

does it show what we think it shows?

Can it?

Will we ever know more of lives that soared and crashed?

The photo,

a door opened into the past,

within it the people still live

a passage, a channel

leading this way or that

perhaps many such secret passages exist

burrow along well-traveled pathways

winding passages that bend and shape the straight roads of time

time past, time present, time future

 

We go to a play,

three men enter a room, one at a time,

Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens, Count Leo Tolstoy

(Barefooted and dressed as a peasant, he says

don’t call me Count, throughout the play.)

The room is furnished with a drawered table and three chairs,

in the drawer, the men will discover notebooks and pens.

(Jefferson is amazed at a pen with ink–amazed he did not think of it himself.)

Though they lived in different times,

each man has just died and entered this room,

At this discovery, Jefferson remarks,

“Evidently time bends.”

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Bulletin board in the lobby of the Lantern Theater.

The door lock after each enters the room,

they cannot exit until—what?

Each man is a writer,

and it turns out each wrote his own version of the gospels,

each man was a visionary of sorts

who wrote about reforming society,

each failed within his own life to uphold the standards he envisioned

and in this amusing and entertaining play,

the men write and argue,

debate their ideas,

and write some more,

facing the mirror—us–

we, the audience, the fourth wall

hear their words,

hear them confess their deeds and weaknesses.

And what if they did meet,

and what if they did debate and discuss,

and what if we could hear them,

bending time

 

On a beautiful summer day,

after the play

we walk the streets that bear traces of Jefferson everywhere

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a medical school and university named for him.

Centuries ago, he walked these streets

sat in a room, penned (with quill) his elegant words*

of sacred rights, of equality and independence,

even while he continued to enslave others,

words that led to a revolution,

words that still resonate today,

I imagine him,

his long-legged stroll across the cobble-stoned streets,

conversing with his unlikely friend John Adams,

perhaps opening a door into a rose garden

there

the scent lingers in the air

the words echo

time bends

Charles Dickens visited Philadelphia, too.

in March 1842, he stayed at the United States Hotel

on Chestnut Street near Fourth,

the part of the city

now called Old City

where Jefferson and other delegates declared our independence

I imagine their ghosts meeting on these city streets

that Dickens found much too regular

longing for a crooked street–

perhaps seeking a place where time bent

and echoes lingered in the air

 

Dickens met with Edgar Allen Poe,

they discussed poetry.

Dickens had a pet raven, Grip,

his stuffed body rests in a glass case

at the Free Library of Philadelphia

Dickens wrote about Grip in his book

Barnaby Rudge,

which was serialized in the Philadelphia Inquirer,

and Poe reviewed the book for a Philadelphia publication in 1842,

mentioning the raven,

and Poe later writes a poem about a raven

whose word “nevermore” echoes in the air

and through time

 

And on this beautiful summer day

we sit outside at a café,

drink wine

(and beer)

 

eat cheese

(luscious)

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I wonder to my husband

how it would have been—

what if a woman had been in that room?

He says, was there one who wrote gospels?

I don’t know,

though I think there must have been

perhaps, lost to history,

or yet to be found,

a mystery,

perhaps to be revealed

in a mislabeled envelope,

or amidst remnants unearthed from a secret passage

in the locus of past, present, and future.

We sit at the table

(a window becomes a mirror

old buildings blend with new)

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watch the people,

listening to words echo

lingering in the breeze

 

We saw The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens & County Leo Tolstoy: Discord by Scott Carter at the Lantern Theater Company in Philadelphia.

We went to Tria Café Washington West

A photo said to be of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan was in the news this week.

*Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration of Independence 

Dazzled

Monday Morning Musings:

Tell all the truth but tell it slant — (1263)

“Tell all the truth but tell it slant —

Success in Circuit lies

Too bright for our infirm Delight

The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased

With explanation kind

The Truth must dazzle gradually

Or every man be blind —“

–Emily Dickinson

 

 

A brilliant she is born

here, there, in the past, now

she lived, flowered—perhaps

a rose with thorns—

or a pale bud that only blooms unseen,

but the fever, the desire to create

to know

to explore

is not enough,

confined by men,

labeled

(only a woman)

put in a box

(too weak)

on a shelf

(an ornament)

in a cage

(shackled and punished)

Don’t think too hard, they say to her

your insides will be twisted,

you’ll go mad,

but she rises, resists

her voice rings out

and we wake

 

***

We see a new movie about Emily Dickinson

I learn afterward that

before she confined herself to life to Amherst,

to her home, garden, and poetry

she traveled a bit,

to Boston,

and to Philadelphia

walked the streets we’ve walked

I imagine her ghost lingering still

though the streets are paved and surrounded by new buildings,

 

she published only a few poems during her life

though she wrote thousands

she admired the Brontës,

women who had their work published

(though first under pseudonyms )

they loved their homes and families,

neither Emily married

(wives did not have time to write)

 

What was her truth

and what is truth

and does it slant,

or do we slant it?

Are facts facts

or alternate facts,

difficult, didactic, diffused

gradually, dazzlingly, deliciously

revealed?

 

We see a performance of Gypsy

I remember watching the movie on TV

with a bit of a crush on Natalie Wood–

the way girls admire older teenage girls–

we’re entertained

we let them entertain us

and make us smile.

the orchestra sweeps us along with Mama Rose,

the ultimate stage mother,

annoying, unyielding, and yet we feel sorry for her

as she seeks the American dream for her children

during the Great Depression

and watch, listen to the music and words of Laurents, Styne, and Sondheim,

the great American musical

 

 

I think the real Gypsy Rose Lee must have dazzled

but not all at once–

or rather showing only some, not all–

hinting–

so that men would not be blinded,

but rather left with wanting more

as she entertained them and made them smile.

 

After the performance

on this Memorial Day weekend

the sky suddenly clears

slowly,

dazzling gradually

delaying the delectable,

revealing the late spring night of beauty

 

and we sit, eat, drink

 

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and watch the people walk by

listen to their conversations

wonder about their plans

the young woman leaning on the car taking a selfie

the man with his children waiting for their table,

the trio at the table next to us, discussing diets,

a couple strolls by, the woman says,

“But he’s no longer addicted.”
my husband and I agree that’s good,

even if it seems unlikely.

 

I think about Memorial Day

the day to honor and remember the military fallen,

the long weekend celebrated with parades, barbecue grills,

and trips “down the shore”

Isn’t it strange?

though perhaps not,

to celebrate life, instead of death

and isn’t that what they fought for–

so that we could sit and eat with our families in peace

so that all can receive educations, and not just those who can afford private schools

so all will be able to sort fact from fiction

so that all men and women, all genders, all races, and religions

can live in freedom

isn’t that why they fought

so that I can write these words

and you can read them?

my truth,

slanted like the sunglow as evening falls

blinding, dazzling

truth

revealed gradually

coming full circle

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Today is Memorial Day here in the US. I am mindful and thankful for all the men and women who served and sacrificed their lives, even if I have not supported the wars and conflicts in which they fought.

We saw A Quiet Passion and Gypsy. We ate at Cuba Libre.

I dreamt poetry last night, but sadly I will not have much time to write it this week. As some of you know, I am reading, writing, and editing articles on rape, and my manuscript deadline is. . .um, gulp. . .this week. So. . .I may not be so active in Blogland for the next week or so. Then again, I do need to take a break occasionally. 😉

 

 

 

 

Shadow Portraits: NaPoWriMo

Monday Morning Musings:

“We kiss in a shadow

We hide from the moon

Our meetings are few

And over too soon”

From “We Kiss in a Shadow,” Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers, The King and I

“When you are old and grey and full of sleep,

And nodding by the fire, take down this book,

And slowly read, and dream of the soft look

Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep; “

–From William Butler Yeats, “When You are Old”

 

When our older daughter was young

she was afraid of shadows

perhaps she sensed that they were alive,

captured, like Peter Pan’s

when our porch windows were shut.

“Shadows hurting you,” she would say,

only “you” meant “me,”

her pronouns confused,

and so, we played in another room

where the shadows were benign.

those porch shadows are long gone

the girl is a woman,

her small, curly-haired shadow gone,

except in my heart,

now older, I take out these memories

like a book,

to read before the fire.

 

We go to a dance performance,

a fusion of dance and shadow puppet theater,

a full-length production

of athleticism, grace, and imagination,

we’re caught in traffic on the way there,

an entire block closed,

a large crane in its center, reaching to the sky,

casting a shadow over the street

where police officers chatted,

(ignoring the frustrated drivers).

We manage to get to the theater,

pick up our tickets,

get to our seats

(close enough to see the dancers’ muscles),

about a minute before the show starts–

it’s worth it.

The story opens with a girl getting ready for bed

her parents kiss her goodnight,

she goes to sleep on her bed made of dancers,

she begins to dream,

the walls spin,

and she becomes trapped in a land of shadows

where she goes on a voyage of discovery

turned into a dog-girl

experiences the joy of a dog riding in a truck,

the horror of being forced to perform in a circus,

controlled by a whip,

the ecstasy of first love,

the girl becoming a woman,

the shadow world is a magical, fantasy world,

the dancers’ bodies tumble, roll, fly

the hour and a half goes by quickly,

the dancers perform an epilogue,

a shadow tribute to New York City,

bodies creating the Statue of Liberty, the library lion, 42nd Street,

and other iconic spots,

and then to Philadelphia,

the Liberty Bell, the “Rocky Steps,” Pat’s and Geno’s Steaks,

at the final bow, the dog-girl dance leaps into the air,

seemingly still full of energy,

the shadows of the show behind her now–

until the next performance

 

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We leave smiling

into a day of sunlight and shadows

in a city where history has cast a long shadow,

shadows through history,

now and always,

shadow worlds

where people are forced to work,

living secret lives,

held in bondage

or living hidden,

an underground economy,

people who can only kiss

in shadows,

though love is love is love

there are shadowlands all around us

obscured by smiles and sunshine

 

 

We walk and talk,

see students celebrating Holi,

their faces and shirts bright with colors,

no shadows on their smiling faces,

on this spring day

the flowers smile and dance in the radiant light,

we drink coffee

discuss the show

later, we go out to dinner,

drink some wine and talk some more,

when we leave

the moon is shining brightly

though not quite full,

I look at her,

wonder what secrets she has seen

from her shadows deep,

hidden lovers and girlish fancies,

we head home,

I dream of shadows and the moon.

 

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This musing is for NaPoWriMo, Day 10. The prompt was portrait.

We saw Pilobolous at the Annenberg Center in Philadelphia.

You can see a brief clip of this show performed at another location here.

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

 

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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. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Dolls, Ghosts, and Memories

Monday Morning Musings:

 “Remember thee!

Ay, thou poor ghost, whiles memory holds a seat

In this distracted globe.”

–William Shakespeare, Hamlet

 

“but with ribbons

it was spinning Fates conjured,

bewitched by the doll mistress

who knew her dreams.

Whose intention they must spin.”

–Luanne Castle, “For the Doll Mistress”

from Doll God (Aldrich Press, 2015)

 

The play began,

the first floor of a bed and breakfast,

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, late November,

every surface is covered with knickknacks,

including American Girl doll Samantha,

and it turns out that Jenny, a guest there,

had a Samantha doll,

who she believed was always angry at her,

maybe is still angry at her,

now that she’s packed away in the basement of Jenny’s parents’ home,

(though Jenny cut out pieces of the cardboard box so the doll could see)

And the innkeeper asks Jenny and her boyfriend,

who are facing problems in their relationship,

she asks them each separately,

if they’ve ever felt that they were watched

as though something watched over them.

(I think of how I don’t like people to watch me

when I sleep. How I’ve been awakened by a gaze.)

The bed and breakfast might be haunted,

(this is Gettysburg, after all)

the Jackson room is sometimes “unreliable,”

(perhaps, so are we all)

Mertis, the innkeeper, mentions

the building was a hospital for Union soldiers,

amputated limbs were tossed out of the windows.

Jenny later meets Genevieve, Mertis’s, blind friend,

Genevieve might be crazy,

she thought she was possessed by the spirit of her ex-husband John,

and John, is also the name of Jenny’s former lover,

(we all know someone named John)

who also has a hold on her,

Genevieve hears rustling sounds that no one else hears—

is it us, the audience?

Mertis admits she’s a bit of a mind reader.

Is she also a witch,

a doll mistress, arranging the scenes for Jenny and Elias?

Mertis winds the clock at the end of each scene,

she closes the curtains at the end of each act, and opens them again.

She lights her “angel chimes,” near the end of the play,

flames cause the angel figures to fly,

there is a final sort of “ah-ha” moment,

did Mertis help bring it about?

Did she know their dreams,

the intentions they must spin?

 

There is much to ponder in this play,

filled with as many details as the B&B’s room,

It is long, punctuated with silences,

but it does not seem long to me.

We sit, drinking coffee,

and discuss it.

 

 

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Customs House Coffee is–of course– across the street from the Customs House Building

 

The next day, I look for my daughters’ American Girls dolls,

I see Molly and Felicity high up on a shelf

(one of each daughter’s dolls)

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Molly and Felicity with Frieda

 

but no Samantha or Josefina,

I wonder if they are in the attic

then I  wonder if they are angry.

Should I find them a new home,

foster parents to take them in?

I think of my son-in-law

who was saved by a couple who took him in,

who became his new parents,

moving behind the scenes,

directing them, providing props,

to make certain he was cared for

before he knew his dreams.

Was it fated,

fated he’d meet his love in a play?

 

We talk about dolls at my younger daughter’s house.

(ghosts and memories)

She remembers–

she didn’t want to send her Molly doll off to be repaired

fearing her doll might be replaced,

another Molly,

so she kept her Molly,

and cared gently for her fractured arm,

holding it on with a rubber band,

battlefield medicine.

 

My son-in-law enters the room,

makes an innocent remark,

daughter and I burst into laughter,

laughter that bring tears,

and simultaneously,

sitting across from one another,

we wipe our eyes,

mirror figures,

mother and daughter.

 

My mother tells us,

when she was a little girl,

sick with diphtheria,

(a ghost disease),

she dropped her doll,

“they” took it away,

wouldn’t let her have it in the hospital,

and she cried for her doll,

and she cried for her parents,

who also were not allowed in her sick room,

when she was finally  home,

there was another doll for her,

It wasn’t the same doll,

but. . .she shrugs.

Did your mother make clothes for your dolls?

(She sewed beautifully, I tell my daughter.)

Yes, until my brother was born when I was six.

He was a handful.

He baby brother, now gone,

gone before her.

Ghosts and memories.

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I have not been good about reviewing the books my friends have written. But with a play in which a doll was a key plot point, and a discussion of dolls, I thought of my doll-loving blogger friend. Poet Luanne Castle’s writes about many different topics on her blog— including family, history, travel, and cats.

Her book of poetry, Doll God   is the 2015 winner of the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award. The poems are thoughtful, thought-provoking, lyrical, and sometimes enigmatic. Do check it out!

We saw John by Annie Baker at the Arden Theater in Philadelphia.

 

Together and Alone: The Essentials

Monday Morning Musings:

“Writing is a job, a talent, but it’s also the place to go in your head. It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon.”

–Ann Patchett, Truth & Beauty: A Friendship
 

“Those dripping crumpets, I can see them now. Tiny crisp wedges of toast, and piping-hot, flaky scones. Sandwiches of unknown nature, mysteriously flavoured and quite delectable, and that very special gingerbread. Angel cake, that melted in the mouth, and his rather stodgier companion, bursting with peel and raisins. There was enough food there to keep a starving family for a week.”

–Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

 

“Art bears witness to human existence through the prism of beauty.”

– – Wajdi Mouawad

 

Art, the creative impulse,

my husband and I

witnessed it in many ways over the past few days

We see the movie Manchester By the Se,a

the acting is exceptional

making us feel like we know these people.

We’ve met people like them,

ordinary and unique,

as we all are,

the New England backdrop reflecting the characters,

gritty, hard, seemingly unyielding, but fluid,

and grief comes in waves like the sea.

Later, after our dinner at a Thai restaurant,

I say to my husband,

We didn’t discuss the sound track.*

It was beautiful, but I was so aware of it—perhaps it was even a bit intrusive?

What was in the soundtrack? I didn’t notice it.

He tends to listen to music when he is working.

I do not. It’s already in my head.

We carry the essentials with us.

 

The next day we go to tea.

More accurately, we go to lunch

in a tea room.

He gave me the gift card almost a year ago,

we finally use it.

The room is quaintly Victorian,

or perhaps Edwardian.

We chose our teas and have a full spread.

(More than the essentials.)

We talk of this and that,

cozy in dining room

with Christmas music playing in the background

a break from work,

a small retreat,

and I understand how this became a ritual,

it is difficult to discuss weighty issues over small, crustless sandwiches

and dainty iced cakes.

I think of tea parties and Tea Party,

attempts to return to a time that never was,

like this tea room,

an escape from reality.

He eats some of my sandwiches,

I take home some of my sweets.

 

Afterward, we go for wine,

we have a shipment to pick up at a local winery

We sit, sipping wine

discussing this and that again

timeless moments

watching the sky,

warmed by space heaters,

music comes from a frog speaker nearby

and I wonder if there’s a metaphor there

but I can’t find it,

it slips away,

unessential

and there is already too much that I carry

in my heart and mind.

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Heritage Vineyards

The day after,

(Sunday by now)

we visit the museum

we get there just after opening,

Again, we go through the exhibition on Mexican artists

who painted the revolution,

who were revolutionary,

(And perhaps all artists are)

overturning the flotsam and jetsam in their brains,

discarding the unnecessary

salvaging the essentials from the debris.

We see Diana surrounded by Christmas lights

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I share a moment with Renoir’s “Washerwoman,”

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So many forms of art

created and collected.

We stop for free coffee (also essential)

It is members’ day. Yay!

 

Next we go to a play

I must say I’ve never seen anything like it

Seuls—alone

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The artist asks:

Qui sommes-nous? Qui croyons-nous êtres? (Who are we? Who do we think we are?)

I should mention that the play is in French—a bit of Arabic—with the English translation projected on a screen.

It is a one-man show,

not autobiographical exactly

but based somewhat on Wajdi Mouawad’s life

As a child, forced by war in Lebanon,

his family left for Canada,

his and his character’s,

As a child, Harwan, the character,

counted the stars in the night sky,

he tried to paint them

he wanted to be a shooting star.

When they left Beirut, they brought only the essentials.

What happened to his paintings, he wonders?

and what if they had never left?

Harwan is struggling to finish his doctoral dissertation,

to find a conclusion.

His relationship with his father is fraught with words unsaid

in French or Arabic,

and broken memories–

it is the story of immigrants

and artists

Harwan, goes to St. Petersburg,

he has mistakenly packed paint instead of clothing.

Only the essentials?

His father is in a coma from an accident.

Or is he?

We travel with the character, with the artist

to a place inside his mind,

perhaps.

The story of the prodigal son is told,

a son’s journey

a father’s forgiving heart,

a story told and retold

we paint the story of our lives,

we bring the essentials,

bearing witness

we paint over truth and lies,

we create new truths

we are alone—together–

and on a stage, the artist is alone

but we are there with him.

 

After the play, I say

We will have much to talk about.

I need to think about what I’ve just seen,

My husband says.

 

We walk through City Hall to the courtyard.

Once the world’s tallest building,

completed in 1901.

Now there are taller buildings

but this one is unique,

beloved cultural icon topped by the statue of William Penn

we walk through the Christmas village,

we drink hot, mulled wine

I watch my husband watch the children posing for photos

with a man dressed as The Grinch

they shriek and laugh as he changes his pose

my husband laughs, too.

We stroll some more,

I wonder what creatures from other worlds would make of

our need for light

to brighten the darkness,

our joy in tea and wine,

and Christmas baubles,

We carry joy and sadness

in our souls,

we create and recreate light in the darkness,

we generate new worlds within our minds

construct, paint, and

imagine the impossible

to discover the essential

bearing witness to our existence.

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*Lesley Barber, “Manchester By the Sea Chorale”

We went to Amelia’s Teas & Holly

Heritage Vineyards

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Seuls, Written, Directed, and Performed by Wajdi Mouawad

At the Wilma Theater

Christmas Village in Philadelphia  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Words and Deeds

Monday Morning Musings:

“but looking through their eyes, we can see

what our long gift to them may come to be.

If we can truly remember, they will not forget.”

–Miller Williams, “Of History and Hope”

“Manliness consists not in bluff, bravado or loneliness. It consists in daring to do the right thing and facing consequences whether it is in matters social, political or other. It consists in deeds not words.”

–Mahatma Gandhi

 

On Halloween,

a holiday based on Celtic and Christian traditions,

Americanized by collecting and eating as much candy as possible,

we see a Swedish movie

followed by dinner at an Indian restaurant

where the Diwali candles

from the celebration the night before are still on display.

(Multi-culturalism at its best.)

In the near-empty theater,

two women choose the seats directly behind us to talk—

throughout the movie,

fortunately, not too loudly.

The plot of the movie is familiar,

the curmudgeonly old man turns out to be not-so-curmudgeonly,

but the way the story is unveiled, and the acting itself

make it fresh.

We care about this man

who does not know how to show his emotions,

except through anger, scorn, and impatience,

His father did not cry or show much emotion either,

though he loved his son,

love shown by teaching him how to repair Volvos

and how to behave decently while cleaning train cars.

Ove, the old man, learns to love again, even while planning suicide,

helped by a pregnant Iranian refugee,

he learns again the bonds of friendship.

Both words and deeds are important.

 

We go to another movie about a man.

This time without a father, poor, black, gay

living with his drug-addicted mother.

It could full of clichés, but instead,

it is a bleak, but perhaps hopeful movie,

a poem of a movie, lyrical, with magical cinematography,

a great score, and wonderful performances.

The camera lingers on faces and places in this

coming-of-age story,

focused completely on its characters,

though it deals with universal themes,

and moonlight and the healing power of water.

Three different actors portray the main character in three episodes,

as the boy, known as “Little,” the teen, Chiron, and the man, “Black.”

The film never preaches or moralizes,

but the theme of what it means to be a man is central.

He is bullied because other kids sense he is gay, different,

not one of the pack.

A local drug dealer becomes his father figure,

a strong man, who does evil, but also acts with kindness.

a mixed, flawed being.

Little/Chiron/Black’s friend admits to “wanting to cry” but not actually crying,

because boys don’t cry, but he is also tough and tender.

My husband says to me, “I didn’t want the film to end.

I want to know what happened after the end.”

I agreed.

 

We walk around Old City,

I see this sign

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Sign written on a trash can in Old City, Philadelphia

I wonder about it

This message to the world.

 

I think about a candidate who uses his position of power

to spread hate, to bully and denigrate people.

It seems obscene here, walking past these historic buildings,

where men and women have fought

for freedom and liberty.

The “Founding Fathers,” not perfect men,

some held others in bondage,

but still, they gave us a foundation

that it troubles me to see trampled

by ignorance and hate.

It took courage for them to sign the document, declaring independence.

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I think of my own father,

not a perfect man either,

a man who enjoyed his power as a man,

he was the prince of his family,

his mother and sisters doted on him,

and he enjoyed having women wait on him,

yet he thought his daughters—and granddaughters—

could do anything,

be anything they wanted.

And yes, I saw him cry.

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My dad and I when I received my Ph.D.

Women are not better than men

and men are not better than women

white is not better than black

black is not better than white.

Love is love is love is love is love is love is love.

Girls and boys,

need to know

need to learn from history,

the good and the bad

to remember, so that they will not forget,

so none of us will forget

to strive

to dare

to fight

to show with words and deeds

to do the right thing.

 

We saw A Man Called Ove.  And we saw Moonlight.

Don’t forget to vote. #LoveTrumpsHate

 

The Past, the Future, Ghosts, and Drag in the City of Brotherly Love

Monday Morning Musings:

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”

–L.P. Hartley

“This play is so American. . .[it] shows us that transformation can only happen when we break apart our fears, our suspicions and our judgments. Because the America I know is not the one that is portrayed by only a few, isn’t the one that discriminates against its citizens for their differences. NO. The America I know and cherish and honor is one that all these characters are creating.”

— Emmanuelle Delpech, From her Director’s Notes, The Legend of Georgia McBride, Arden Theatre, Philadelphia

 

When was the last time the four of us had spent a day together at a museum?

We all wondered, but couldn’t remember,

somewhere amidst childhood’s ghosts

left behind with dolls and story books,

ghosts of Halloweens past

when little girls dressed in costumes

that they slept in,

a princess and a clown

(not a creepy one at all).

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And so we went,

a family outing,

our girls married women now,

but still crazy sisters, having fun,

interpreting the works of art

 

 

And since the big new exhibit is on Mexican revolutionary art

and it’s close to Halloween

there are Day of the Dead displays

 

We eat Wawa hoagies*

(My daughter misses them in Boston.)

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I score Super Momma points

by making hot fudge sauce,

totally spur of the moment

(in record time)

so we can have it with our coffee ice cream

as we watch Grey’s Anatomy

It’s another ghost from the past.

 

It is Halloween weekend,

my husband and I go to the theater

(which, I guess fits, when you think about it)

In the play,

a man discovers his inner femininity—

becoming a drag queen,

with the help of a real drag queen.

After a slow start,

the play picks up

struts its stuff,

so to speak,

along with the actors,

a feel good show

about finding your passion

and not giving up,

accepting those who are different from you.

A good lesson, don’t you think?

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After the show, we drink coffee

sitting on a bench outside of Christ Church in Philadelphia.

 

a beautiful October day,

we watch the people in the present

learning about the people of the past,

as they walk in and about the beautiful eighteenth-century church

where George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and others attended services.

We walk the streets, some still cobbled,

where founding fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers

once walked,

where free and bound lived and worked.

 

None of them was perfect,

neither are we.

But the past is a foreign country.

people then did not know all we know now

(perhaps we have lost some of their knowledge, too)

Progress and human rights come slowly

as babies crawl tentatively before they walk and then run eagerly

to explore the world.

So are there stages

of nations

that rise and fall.

And of discoveries that humans uncover and embrace with hesitation

or delight.

Thirteen colonies came together,

representatives walked the streets we now walk,

worked together to fight for independence,

and later, to form a more perfect union,

evolving over centuries

with greatness from the start,

along with evils,

slavery, racism, sexism, xenophobia.

We should not move backwards

to the foreign country of the past,

not regress, but rather progress,

build upon the great to make greater.

 

We travel to another part of Philadelphia,

Fairmount Park,

one of the largest urban parks in the world.

We are there for a Lupus Run/Walk

my younger daughter and her husband run,

my husband and I walk,

some people drag their heels,

some are in drag,

well, costumes.

There is a team of Star Wars characters,

others in purple tutus,

a sea of purple t-shirts.

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We begin at Memorial Hall

(now the Please Touch Children’s Museum)

with its figure of Columbia at the top,

it was an art museum,

constructed for the Centennial Exhibition in 1876,

a huge exhibition with many buildings

and many visitors.

A Women’s Pavilion gave women a chance to display and demonstrate

the new opportunities available to them in professions and business

there were displays of dress reforms, too.

But women were segregated in their own pavilion,

and still denied the vote.

And so we run/walk through

beautiful Fairmount Park

passing statues of Civil War generals

and the Japanese Tea house

I imagine women in suffragist white,

ghosts flitting among the statues

I think they would echo

“When they go low, we go high,”

standing calm amidst storms of hate.

Women have always had to fend off and fight

the gropers and grabbers,

and some of them loved other women

though not out in the open.

I amuse myself by imaging Susan B. Anthony

reading grievances while drag queens in the audience cheer.

(This did not happen.)

 

But the past is a foreign country

we can’t impose our views on it.

Our own pasts, well, perhaps they change

with, in, our memories

which are imperfect.

merging and shifting,

taking on new tones and meanings.

On this Halloween

my memories of Halloween past

merge with the present.

I think about the future,

We are at the crossroads,

there are ghosts all around.

We must push back the hate and fear.

We dream.

A wise man once had a dream

of freedom for all

freedom for those of every color, of any religion.

He was killed by hate.

But still we dream.

I think about the future

with dread

with longing

with hope

with dreams.

 

*Hoagie is the Philadelphia name for a sandwich served on a long, tapered roll. Wawa is a convenience store chain that is much beloved in parts of Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

We saw The Legend of Georgia McBride by Matthew Lopez at the Arden Theatre.

Christ Church, Philadelphia

The Please Touch Museum/Memorial Hall

On suffragists on Independence Day 1876, see this.

Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream speech.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birds, Wine, and Life

Monday Morning Musings:

 “In all the universe nothing remains permanent and unchanged but the spirit.”

Anton Chekhov, The Seagull

“There is only one really serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Deciding whether or not life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question in philosophy. All other questions follow from that.”

–Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

“One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage If no one is thinking of firing it.”

Anton Chekhov, Letter to A. S. Lazarev-Gruzinsky, November 1, 1889.

“Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know.” John Keats, Letter to his sister, Fanny Keats, 28 August 1819

 

On a beautiful day in early fall

we go to see a play,

a play about love and loss.

of life and death and sorrow and hope,

a play that discusses not only whether

life is worth living,

but how,

and can one enjoy life

without actually being happy,

or happy, but not very happy,

a play that breaks the fourth wall

and invites the audience to participate

(Perhaps with a little prompting–

because that seagull does need to make an appearance)

with characters who know they are fictional,

but are nevertheless real.

For all its existential angst

the play is funny

though of course, a gun on the stage must be used,

or must it?

And balloons that appear

will be popped,

it’s a question of when,

I suppose that is like life, too.

(Though being me,

I wonder how many people hear “Chekhov”

and think of the Star Trek character

and how sad is it that Anton Yelchin who played

Chekhov in the movies died in such a freak accident?

It seems more Twilight Zone than Star Trek, doesn’t it?

In a Star Trek world, there would be a way to bring him

back. And so this has me pondering a whole different set of philosophical questions about life and death. But not during the play, you understand,

only after.)

(But really that whole killing a seagull thing. Isn’t that seriously psycho behavior?)

My husband and I have a lot to talk about after this play—

which we enjoyed, by the way, in case you couldn’t tell,

great acting, some funny songs, and a well-designed set.

It is a beautiful day,

and we sit outside drinking coffee,

a little cobble-stoned Philadelphia street.

People walk their dogs.

there is the man with three—

like Papa Bear, Momma Bear, and Baby Bear

They have smiling doggy faces amidst tufts of hair

that attract a gaggle of women.

We look at the buildings around us

and the birds hunting for crumbs,

we walk back to our car

observing the people,

the coffee crowd morphing into the Saturday

night drinking crowd

(two women talk about where to get moonshine

is that a thing now?)

and the police officers on their horses,

watch the people,

one horse, unconcerned, gives herself a bath

 

 

A character in the play asks what is the point of creating

and producing more stories and art

when so much exists already?

The answer, of course, is that we have a need to create.

Since prehistory, humans have created

cave paintings

multi-breasted earth mothers–

to go with the stories we create

to explain our existence.

Music, art, poetry,

to express and honor beauty.

We imitate and create

old and new

invented and inventive

plastic

ever changing

and static.

We are complex creatures,

but also simple

 

We go to a wine festival the next day,

wine also a human creation,

though perhaps its existence came about by accident,

grapes left to ferment,

and we eat cheese

perhaps also an accidental creation–

because we learn by experiment—

Eat it, drink it, and see what happens.

And I think of ancient humans discovering that food

can be cooked, spices added,

the appreciation of complex flavors and aromas

and that food and wine

become even more pleasurable when shared with loved ones.

And so we do just that at this wine festival.

 

I think of the stupid fucking bird,

the seagull

that stole my daughter’s sandwich right from her hand

at the beach this summer.

It is funny now, a story

I can share with you, Reader,

in verse here that I feel the need to create.

My spirit flies high like birds

though sometimes I may be stupid,

well, human.

I may stumble a bit

(well, there was that wine)

But still,

life is worth living,

life is good.

 

Thanks to Elusive Trope for the Camus quote. (And for the philosophical explanations.)

We saw Stupid F**king Bird by Aaron Posner at the Arden Theatre in Philadelphia.

We went to Old City Coffee

And the Heritage Wine Festival in Mullica Hill, NJ.