Windswept

Windswept by John William Waterhouse

Beauty beats with aching heart–
beneath the blue of summer sky
tender-veined leaves tremble
at the wuthering wind,

yet, if it moans—
recalling winter’s wayward sway
to black and grey–

let it take you through dream-time shadows
to the after—and again–
the languid bright of summer days,
red-berried and green,
bird-voiced harmony in the light.

I had to struggle to get a poem today from the Oracle. As usual though, she knows what’s going on. Even while it’s still hot and sticky, there are traces of autumn in the wind and in the shorter days.

How Would I Tell You?

Early morning light on the Delaware River. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

How would I tell you—
the beauty of the morning sky,
the bird-swept clouds, the hummed goodbye
of moon still high

there, my eyes
reflect the shine. To be or not,
is not my question–here I am, not angsty youth,
but rather longer in the tooth—

how would I explain,
how the colors fill me
with joy and light—
grey or bright, the taste, the sight
tawny gold, rose, and peach, the foamy white
of churning waves?
The winter river’s cool mint blue?
The delight

of it–me and you.

My thoughts—my mind’s eye–
how do I explain? There is no why—
only what is
the beauty of the sky, the light,
the birds in flight

winging, singing
star-breathed dreams, the colored streams
web-woven in my head, released someday to fly
in iridescent blues and greens—peacock-eyed—
around the sun, then seeded in the ground–

how would I tell you any of this–
thoughts, if not profound, yet unbound—the bliss.

This is the kind of stuff that goes through my head, so I guess it can be considered a soliloquy for Victoria’s prompt at dVerse.

To Every Season

Monday Morning Musings:

“For nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, it is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress.”
–Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby

Heron at dawn. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield.

I remember that spring, the winter of despair,
the flow of river into spring again

and again, the earth blooms,
and birds come and go, soaring into clouds

that move across the sky–
the constancy of sun and moon, the ephemerality of life,

insistent green sprigs emerging from driftwood,
bleached and beached.

Driftwood with new growth.

Each day the same and different,
each sunrise a threshold to the unknown.

Driftwood, Sunrise on the Delaware River

In dreams, my mother asks for chocolate–
she says there’s more for them that wants.

This is how it is—
this is who we who are, full of ifs and when

there is both laughter and the aches
of time and memory–

we are here. Now
I watch the bees,

and I remember too late,
to tell them my secrets and wishes–

but perhaps they already know,
telling their own dreams in buzz waltz,

remembering a day of endless sweet nectar,
and brilliant colors that we cannot see,

yet can imagine, reflected
in a sunrise yet to come.

Sunrise with Cloud Reflections. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield. August 2021

This week has been a strange and strangely beautiful week of clouds, rain, and sunshine. I suppose that’s how August is. We’re supposed to get a return of the high heat and humidity. Yesterday, some family members got together at my sister’s house for the first time since the pandemic. It wasn’t everyone, and even though it was right before my mom’s birthday, it wasn’t really a memorial, though we did have a Sunday brunch fish tray, with fruit, and my Mandelbrot and brownies for dessert. For those who don’t know, we used to have lox and other smoked fish with cream cheese and bagels–plus a whole lot more–fairly often when I was growing up. Every so often, my grandfather, my father’s father, would bring the delicatessen food, which also included herring, rye bread, and coffee cake, to my mom’s (even though my parents were divorced). My mom would supply the juice, coffee, boiled red potatoes, and sometimes I’d bake something. Then, it became a special family brunch occasion because it has become very expensive, plus more difficult to get together. Mindful of the Delta strain–even though we’re all vaccinated–we stayed masked indoors, except for when eating—and we tried to stay far apart then. Fortunately, the weather cleared up enough for us to go outside for dessert. My parents were there in spirit and ash.

When we got home, we took a brief walk, and pulling into the driveway were surprised by this.

Literal deer in the headlights.

In Harmony

Peder Severin Krøyer [Public domain] “Summer Evening at Skagen beach, the artist and his wife”

If I listen, lonely
in the long blanket of night—
the moon sings, murmuring secrets,
gathered deep in tree roots
to flow through green tendrils,
and flowering pink–
recalled by birds, and bee-danced along paths,
to the wind-rustled sea.
There, in after-breaths, the world walks on soft blue,
in harmony sky and water, for a moment,
sublime.

My poem from the Magnetic Poetry Oracle.

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.

Dreams on Blackbirds’ Wings

Monday Morning Musings:

“And when we die we say, we’ll
Catch some blackbirds wing
Then we will fly away to Heaven come
Some sweet blue bonnet spring”
–from Nanci Griffith, “Gulf Coast Highway”

Sunrise, the Delaware River and Driftwood

Once, we saw dragons that breathed fire—
now they only crawl or fly,
yet we see our fate in the constellations still—
and I know their ghost light sings

Dragonfly

echoing, even as earth erupts in wars,
and shakes from its very core,
wanting less or wanting more,
I watch the clouds and flying things–

Gull with Philadelphia Skyline ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

the aching beauty of the morning sky
as if it knows it cannot last
but it recalls the seasons past
and dreams that flew on blackbirds’ wings.

Heron, Egret, and Geese— Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

And in the night, I see the moon,
know her light, hear her tune
as she recalls the seasons past
and dreams that flew on blackbirds’ wings.

One day sun and one day shadow,
the spinning world moves through the clouds
babies born amidst the shrouds—
and yet, still the robin sings

for love, for family, or for warning
as summer turns to fall,
and we recall the seasons past
and dreams that flew on blackbirds’ wings—
and all the songs the world still sings.

Singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith died this past week. She was known for her songs, her lovely, clear voice, and apparently her generosity to other musicians. I’ve been seeing tributes from all over. This has been a sad week for the world—Covid, fires, earthquakes, war.

We’ve been very fortunate. Despite the days of heat and stormy weather, we managed to get out twice to local wineries, where we could sit outside and enjoy wine, food, and music.

I’ll be back later because I’m hosting dVerse today. Today is Prosery Monday—where I provide a line from a poem, and anyone who wants to, can write a short prose piece from it.

Withstanding

Great Blue Heron, Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

Tsunami waves of misunderstanding
surge from sea and overland,
destruction in their flow,
flotsam when they go.

But beneath blue sky,
the heron stands in pensive pose—
His thoughts? Who knows?
Warm-blooded, hollow-boned, his lungs
an ancient dinosaurs’ shifted gift, far-flung-DNA
stays. Life everlasting.

It’s quadrille Monday at dVerse. Lisa has asked us to use the word stand.

We Sing Their Songs in Flight

Monday Morning Musings:

Egret

Open a window to another universe–
there is always an after
and before

the bang and birth of stars,
the flutter-shift of vibrating strings
across dimensions, the light on stellar wings—

he sings, she laughs
the fever-dreams of future-past-
perfect brings

remembrance, she, and we see-saw
imperfectly and fractured–all
colored by mood and life-swings

in revolutions, the Earth spins,
love, laughter, tears, and fears—it begins
and ends

the stars sing, and we catch their light,
swallow to hold it within, and in our dreams,
or in some after, we sing their songs in flight.

Ospreys Flying over the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

Today my father would be 102. We’re going to have Chinese food and ice cream for dinner tonight–both of which he loved. My mom’s birthday is later this month, and she would have turned 99. My parents divorced (twice), but in my mom’s final years she believed my dad lived in the same building, and in her final months, she talked about him a lot, always with smiles and giggles. I think she was in love again. Of course, they were my stars.

The first set of photos were taken long before I was born. My brother is about twelve years my senior.

My mom’s first cousin, who was like her sister, turned 95 yesterday. There was a small party for her. My sister, husband, and I stayed masked in the house, but took our masks off outside. We got her a blanket that had a word cloud of English and Yiddish words we chose.

We ate homemade pizza and streamed a play this week: The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington by James Ijames performed as part of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, which looks like a beautiful place to see a play. In the play, Martha Washington is dying, and the enslaved people around her are waiting, as they will be freed when she dies. In her fever dreams she imagines them in various guises, as lawyers, Founding Fathers and Mothers, and King George and Queen Charlotte. The play is funny, sad, witty, and unique. Here’s the NY Times review.

Ships of Dreams

River flows to the sea
with chants on feathered winds
that in repeated rhythms sing

of now, or when–and if
in breath–almost held–
you hear the beat of ancient things,

the whispered sighs, like fiddle strings
played softly in the night–ask,

but don’t expect an answer
from moon’s hum or the finned-filled tide,

except in dream-song laughter,
when silver light meets rosy dawn

in rainbow-clouded slide

and beauty
sails on echoes of the osprey’s cry–

a lullaby to earth from sky.

Today’s collaborative poem with the Magnetic Poetry Oracle. She obviously knows how the river and river birds inspire me, even if she doesn’t have all the words in her tiles.

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.