On Saturday, I participated in a poetry event on Zoom. It was put together by Elizabeth (Liz) Gauffreau and Luanne Castle, and Liz served as host and moderator. I enjoyed this event so much–such wonderful poetry and people. Here’s the video recording. (I’m the last poet to read.)
Monday Morning Musings:
We wrap our hearts in fleecy blankets,
Valentine red, while the cold Snow Moon
sings her song, in silver notes falling,
we don’t feel the movement
only the argent pull—magnetic attraction,
the flow of tides and blood
creating life, rising, and falling, falling
in revolutions around the sun,
in tilted rotations, come
the ebb and flow of existence
from star explosion, falling, falling, falling
and gravity caught and kept,
swept aside, buried to thrive,
the fruits of our earth consumed and reborn,
as falling, falling, falling
species die, yet birds survive.
Now the crows are calling
from trees deep-rooted,
but falling, falling, falling
leaves and seeds fly
as squirrels scamper and scold,
waving their tails, yet never
falling, falling, falling
only climbing higher to see
the deep ancient course
of water as it finds its way
the sea, rising, and falling, falling,
now rain and snow on
withered gardens that grow sun-bright–
and bee breath threaded gold
with pollen, falling, falling, falling
on flowers as they dance–
but even our simple eyes
can see the ghosts around us
falling, falling, falling
held in mind and heart, released
to join the stars, rising, falling, rising.
February was birthday month for us—children earlier in the month, and my husband and his mother’s this past week. We splurged and did a virtual Valentine wine and cheese tasting with wine and cheese we picked up at Tria in Philadelphia. It was so much fun—all French wine and cheese, except for one Vermont cheese. We saved the crémant to have with Indian food on my husband’s birthday.
This week we finished watching Inventing Anna (Netflix)—which I mentioned last week, and which definitely held our interest—and watched the first two episodes of the new season of Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime).
We wait to see if there will be war abroad and if our democracy will be toppled by right-wing authoritarians. But still, the moon shines, the days are getting longer, birds are beginning to sing, and spring is coming.
Know if lives in nature’s song—
thick on spring’s rustle
between every breath that comes
verdant and sublime, there was
a moon-rose, eggshell fragile—
but ask, ask, ask, she says–
a dance on a long bee-path,
soft blooms of dusk,
like a lullaby as night’s blanket rests.
Watch, as frost-lichens bloom,
and then color, stone to berry-warm
reflections in ancient rivers–
a murmur, a laugh,
the embrace of sky,
rippling secrets, there and gone.
The Oracle really wanted me to ask today. Every set I looked at gave me that word. Then these lines came, and the poem fell into place.
Grief Songs: Poems of Love & Remembrance
Elizabeth Gauffeau’s Grief Songs is a short book that leaves a long, lingering presence. The book is a collection of personal photographs paired with mostly tanka poems. (A tanka is a 5-line poem typically written as syllabic lines of 5-7-5-7-7). This means that each poem is a sharp distillation of a moment, an event, or even the history of a relationship between parents, between her and her parents, or between her and her brother.
Because the poems are brief, the book can be read very quickly. However, a reader who lingers over words and photos will be rewarded. The poems and the feelings behind them grow with repeated readings. I must say that sometimes I was left wondering what happened. This is not a criticism of the poems, but rather, my own curiosity about people. “Youth Group Picnic,” for example, gives us a glimpse of the day—two children waiting in the car, giggling and honking the horn. Liz fills in the rest of the story here on her blog.
“For a Crooked Smile,” however, needs no additional context.
“He was my little brother.”
That poem brought me to tears (as did several others):
Grief Song III
I held her hand
as she lay dying
in my throat.
This is a book of poetry that is highly accessible, but with poems that resonate. It is a memoir in bite-size pieces. Each poem is a snapshot, a memory experienced in the way we are all hit by a sudden remembrance of a time, a place, or a person.
In “Sixty Years of Katherine,” Liz writes:
“minutes tucked into envelopes
decades left in dresser drawers”
These lines feel both personal and universal. Those of us who have helped a parent move or who have cleared a home after they’ve passed, understand the complex emotions behind these beautiful, succinct phrases.
Elizabeth Gauffreau is wonderfully supportive friend of other writers. I follow her blog and follow her on social media, and you may want to, as well. But– this review is unsolicited. I did not tell her I was writing or posting it. She may respond to comments here though.
Congratulations, Liz, on this lovely, poignant book!
From her website:
Elizabeth Gauffreau writes fiction and poetry with a strong connection to family and place. She holds a BA in English/Writing from Old Dominion University and an MA in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. Her fiction publications include short stories in Woven Tale Press, The Long Story, Soundings East, Ad Hoc Monadnock, Rio Grande Review, Blueline, Slow Trains, Hospital Drive, and Serving House Journal, among others. Her poetry has appeared in North of Oxford, The Writing On The Wall, The Larcom Review, and Natural Bridge. Her debut novel Telling Sonny was published by Adelaide Books, New York in 2018.
Find Grief Songs here on Amazon.
You can find Liz here:
Monday Morning Musings:
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
—Mary Oliver, “When I am Among the Trees”
And now—the winter darkness comes,
the sun a sleepy golden cat, who rises on arthritic limbs
to sight the birds on leafless boughs
and make the holly berries gleam,
before he settles back to nap
in grey blankets glimmered-glowed.
And now—we see the nests above,
the treasures hidden by summer’s green,
and birds chitter-chat, and squirrels flitter past
gathering nuts for their cold repast,
while vultures soar, then bide their time
in silent committees in meetings of time
that flows like the river, light to darkness
to light again,
we touch match to candles, watch them burn–
the miracle is, we’ve endured,
we drink and eat and love, let out a sigh, a cry–
the shadows gather—
but so does the light. Bird-chased,
we follow after. There, the trees in cinnamon gowns,
and the glitter of snow on evergreen—there, a flame
brightens, while the sleepy cat says goodnight—
knowing he will wake to love,
while in the darkness we toast, “to life!”
Last night was the last night of Hanukkah. We bought another wine tasting kit, and we tasted a white (German Riesling) and a red (Australian Pinot Noir) while watching the candles burn.
The winter solstice approaches, and there is a lot of darkness in the world–and it’s growing. Don’t let it. Don’t let the anti-democratic forces or the anti-science crazies win. Shine the light wherever you can.
First the clouds gather, a bevy of soft doves,
transformed, reborn as wolves, who black and roaring
pounce with boom and crash, then with a flash,
the shrouded sky shines with strands of woven light,
a multitude of shape, color, hues. Here, a strand of azure,
there, emerald-green, glistening with diamond sparkle, threaded
over, under–and again
embroidered with the vibrant wishes of children—blue horses, red deer,
twinkling golden stars, a spotted purple dog, a striped-orange cat—
a collection, a connection of
smiling faces brighter than the sun,
with dreams of a rainbow future–
after the storm is spent and done.
I’ve revised this poem written for Paul Brooks’ January Ekphrastic Challenge last year. Here’s the link to the first version. You can see Kerfe Roig’s art, which inspired the poem. A couple of weeks ago, I saw rainbows on two different days. Here’s
Monday Morning Musings:
Ineffable the moon and light,
the rainbow sky, the morning delight,
the shadows where the deer skitter,
and ghostly shapes drift and flitter,
the world around me an emitter
for hope and fear, desire and cheer
emotions swirl in collected glow, and we’re
receivers—if only we know
when and how to feel the dead around us,
in the susurrus , and the prickling air—are they there?
We celebrate their lives
by remembering a laugh, a phrase, the favorite food on holidays—
her hands and eyes, his hair and songs,
things we hold inside, that belong
a part of us, carried in traditions and blood,
might never know, but somehow recognize—
like those grey or green eyes
or ability to paint, or sing, or write–
to gaze up as stars ignite
and feel the colors twirl and spin. To see without and within
the cycle of all beginnings and all ends—to think of ifs
and remember when.
This has been a strange week. Nothing terrible, just things that didn’t work out as expected, and some mornings in the twilight I felt like this really was a time when the veil between worlds was thinning . . . In between storms and wind, the sky has been so beautiful, and the morning light has a special quality.
We got our Covid boosters on Saturday night. We voted that day, too. Who says we don’t know how to have fun on a weekend? My arm was a little sore, and so was my husband’s, but no other reactions. I had long phone calls yesterday (Halloween) with my sister, sister-in-law, and older child. It was great to catch up! As I walked around the house while on the phone, I got over 25,000 steps in yesterday!
Merril’s Movies, Shows, and Books:
We watched a cool show on Netflix called Tabula Rasa. It’s Belgian. It’s a mystery with some supernatural overtones. It’s about a woman with amnesia, and a missing man. It’s best not to know too much–we were very surprised by the twists and things we didn’t see coming. We’re watching a Japanese show called Midnight Diner, also on Netflix. We watch an episode every once in a while, because I feel like I want to savor them. They’re only half hour episodes about a restaurant in Japan that is open midnight to 7 AM, and the people who come there. My husband was saying he doesn’t know why he loves the show so much. It’s a simple idea, but somehow, it’s just very gentle and satisfying. (Don’t watch it while you’re hungry.) We watched two horror movies over the weekend: The Omen (1976) and The Hole in the Ground (2019). We saw The Omen way back when in a theater with friends, and it was terrifying. Now watching it on TV, it seems a bit dated, not to mention the questions I have now about a husband who would just decide to substitute a baby and not tell his wife? Wifey is too fragile to know the truth. UGH! But it still has some very scary scenes. The Hole in the Ground is an Irish-Finnish production about a woman whose son seems to have been replaced by something else. It had some great and scary moments, and overall was very well done.
I read The Rose Code by Kate Quinn. It’s a novel about three very different women who meet and bond during the time they all work at Bletchey Park during WWII. It seems to be very well-researched. I really had a hard time putting this one down. I highly recommend it, if you like historical novels.
Happy Halloween, Everyone! Ingrid Wilson at Experiments in Fiction is hosting a special Halloween Sonnet Sunday. Here is the link to my sonnet, but be sure to check out all the rest for a spooky poetic treat!
I discovered Fairport Convention and first heard “Tam Lin” when I was in high school. That’s where the Fairy Queen in my poem comes from. My favorite Halloween song sung by the late Sandy Denny:
Full and bright, the night alight
with skittering scatters and chitter-chat
of sated rat. The vixen barks to her mate,
and beneath the walls, creatures slither and crawl,
while mice and voles in the shadows hide
as feathered wings outstretched glide–and bide.
And shall I call it owl moon?
A moment in time, perhaps not real—
Imagined flights, unseen sights, but
the planets spin, the stars glow and go
about what they do, and the owl does, too,
with a hoot to the world, he dives,
survives—though it’s fate—not feud,
the hunters and the pursued.
All the questions, unanswered, still are asked—
the moments gone, past to future and to past–
the fade of argent song, the hummed goodnight,
as trills and twitters awaken dawn’s light.
This was originally written for Paul Brookes’ Special January Ekphrastic Challenge. Kerfe Roig supplied the beautiful artwork. I’ve added this recording of the poem to go with it, and I’m linking it to dVerse Open Link Night.
Cross the forest threshold
covered in squirrel-scattered leaves.
Acorns, chestnuts, cones, and seeds
buried amidst ancient, tangled roots,
Three cats—curled, colored knots
white, tortoiseshell, and grey-striped.
Descendants of tigers, purrs with sharp claws,
gone–save the shadow
pressed against my warmth.
Driftwood, weathered and bleached white,
a venerable creature beached
waiting for the tide.
What stories could it tell of its journeys–
of time and beyond?
Red flowers rise to a rosy sky
Hello, they cry, and wave.
From wooded umbra,
white striped tail rises, too, leaving his scent—
not a perfumed calling card, but a warning.
The clouds grumble,
their secrets burst out and light the sky
Your arm across me in the night, I reach to catch
a glittering fragment before it vanishes—I laugh
and hear an echo from the in-between.
A cadralor for dVerse. I hope I’ve done this correctly. To me, the form seems like a dream, in which you understand it as it goes along, and when you wake you feel something’s been resolved, though you can’t explain how or why. You can read about the form here, but briefly from the journal Gleam:
“the cadralor consists of five short, unrelated, highly-visual stanzas. The fifth stanza acts as the crucible, illuminating the gleaming thread that runs through all the stanzas and bringing them together into a love poem. By “love poem,” we mean that the fifth stanzaic image answers the question: “For what do you yearn?” Please see sample poems and editor statements on the cadralor to get a feel for this new form.”