The Owl: Haibun

It is my birthday. Now in the middle of December, it is cold outside, and darkness descends earlier each day. But the house is filled with light, warm and scented with the aroma of holiday baking. My husband, our two young daughters, and I are to meet my father at a restaurant north of us, in the Philadelphia suburbs to celebrate. It will be a highway trip through rush hour traffic, but the reward will be an excellent meal and the company of my family. I turn to a living room window to pull down the shade—and stop. A white owl with black and brown markings sits in the tree directly in front of me. I stare at her, and she stares at me, both unblinking. I am transfixed, knowing that this is a special moment, not knowing I will remember it in twenty years, still uncertain about its meaning.

 

The Owl dispenses

winter wisdom from oak trees–

time paused in passing

 

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Caspar David Friedrich, Owl on a Tree,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This is a Haibun for dVerse, where we asked to write about owls. I’ve combined it with this week’s prompt from Colleen Chesebro , using synonyms for the words, smell and cozy.

 

 

 

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I Close My Eyes and Dream

Monday Morning Musings:

“For myself, I declare I don’t know anything about it. But the sight of the stars always makes me dream.”

Vincent van Gogh, letter to his brother Theo, July 1888

“I think about our ancestors. Thousands of years, wondering if they were alone in the universe. Finally discovering they weren’t. You can’t blame them for wanting to reach out, see how many other species were out there, asking the same questions.”

–Captain Kathryn Janeway, Star Trek Voyager, Episode, “Friendship One”

 

At night

ghosts sail to stars

dazzling the universe

with wild poetry,

that thing there—

see it?

the liquid blush of desire

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Earth spins and orbits our Sun

but all is not right

(in day or night)

the heavens rage

the surface heaves

the forests burn

the oceans churn

(do you hear them sigh)

and creatures die

on the stars I make a wish

for planet, us, for birds and fish

and then under the glowing stream

I close my eyes and then I dream

 

I wake to see bright Venus,

high above

she sings of love

there in the eastern sky

she dances and she wonders why

(as do I, oh, as do I)

we are not swayed from the hate

and do not counter or negate

the dotard’s words of folly

but instead sink into a melancholy—

(as do I, oh, as do I)

under starlight’s beam

once again

I close my eyes and then I dream

 

We watch Star Trek Voyager

Earth’s greeting of friendship gone wrong

a civilization pushed headlong

into nuclear winter,

the next day—synchronicity

a radio story of the real Voyager

the golden record as it would sound to aliens

Simplicity? Specificity?

We want to reach out,

to know we’re not alone

the moon smiles and gleams

I close my eyes and then I dream

 

We have a holiday dinner

missing daughters, sister, and niece

still I present the soup and loaf

(a masterpiece!)

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with apples, honey, and some wine

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we drink and eat and we are fine

(we pour more wine)

talk of movies and van Gogh

(there’s a new movie out, you know)

wonder about Ben Franklin’s diet and life

then matter-of-factly my mother’s zinger

that he did not sleep alone

at ninety-five, she was so in the zone!

and with that, the laughter lingers

sweet

like the honeyed fingers

from the baklava and apple cake

she mangles the middle

and picks at the pieces

but sister laughter

follows after

and after

 

We drink more wine, again we’re fine

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under moonlight sky and starry stream

I close my eyes and then I dream. . .

 

of the universe’s wild poetry

of singing stars and humming moons

of spirits soaring and swaying to the tunes

before dawn’s blush of desire

turns the sky to fire

I wake and look up to the sky

to see Venus shining bright

I gaze and wish

for us, for cats, and fish

for dogs, and horses, and for birds

(and yes, even for the dotard)

for the planet, earth, and trees

and for the seas

under Venus’s beaming gleam

I close my eyes and wish and dream

 

So, we watched Star Trek Voyager and saw an episode about the result of a probe that was sent out from Earth that was very similar to the real Voyager and its golden record. Then the next day, I heard this story on NPR’s Weekend Morning Edition and the Oracle gave me that poem. Synchronicity?

 

Some of you may know because I’ve ranted about it   that I’ve been working on two reference books about rape. I am happy to report that both manuscripts have now been sent in. I also finished another project over the weekend, so I should now have time to answer e-mails and respond to comments and prompts. At least until, I receive copyedited manuscript (first one is coming next month).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweetness Restored

Monday Morning Musings:

 

“I know you feel it

The sweetness restored”

From Leonard Cohen, “Leaving the Table”

 

A ship sails across an ocean

crashes, in furious motion,

its treasures sink in the deep

as though asleep

while centuries creep

a chunk of bronze, fragment of the past

did it predict this future, forecast

another ship sailing through a sea of stars

carrying our past to the future

suturing time with invisible stitches?

Beings we will never know

blow forward and back

ghosts drift from stardust

near and far, they must

I think, walk beside us,

(that gust)

whispering in the wind

bringing horror or bringing joy,

bringing completeness

restoring the sweetness

of what has been lost

 

In the year of the dotard

when real is thought fake

(so much at stake)

when false is declared to be true

and people go about life

(without a clue)

when Mother Earth vents her fury on land and sea

and like a banshee

the winds wail and roar

and as the darkness gathers and soars

and millions sit without a light

in the dark, body and souls

between the poles

of north and south

they go without.

When all this takes place

here

in this space

we sit at the table

thankful we are able

with challah and wine

we dine

in honey dip our apple

watch the sun and shadows dapple

the walls,

as evening falls

here in this moment,

here in this place

the sweetness restored

 

We watch a movie about a dancer

a child who dances in the Russian snow

aglow with the joy of moving, doing, being

receiving the best training

(her parents work hard)

and she does, too

through pain of body and soul

is it worth it all?

and she struggles and questions—

technique or feeling?

finding it unappealing

tired of dancing others’ creations

sensations, ideation

she moves in a duet by the water

to find that child again,

form and feeling

to find the sweetness restored

 

My husband and I walk

we talk about the film we’ve seen

watch the street scenes

a pretty window and door

an urban street with more

we see nature’s destruction

turned to art

despite the ignorance and the hate

we humans love

we need to create

art, poetry, and stories

of the fantastic and the real–

we feel–

the family behind us

answering their son’s funny questions

wondering will they be troublemakers

and we are partakers in this bit

strangers meeting on the street

and then we go our separate ways,

stroll a while

but we smile

the family’s moment struck a chord

the sweetness restored.

 

Daughter and I go to a wine festival

the autumn day disguised as summer

We talk and taste wine

and we are feeling fine

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buy bracelets with literary themes

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of hopes and dreams

the sweetness of wine and books

of strangers looks

(okay, perhaps not all)

we people watch as we stand in line

behind the drunk couple

all entwined

the man with his roving hands

the woman who might fall as she stands

our eyes meet

standing there in the heat

no need to say out loud what we are thinking

mother-daughter interlinking thoughts

we talk of teaching

of The Color Purple and Langston Hughes

we talk of friends and we shmooze

if days could be like this

without dotards to lead

without a world full of greed

without hurricanes and earthquakes

without racism and hate—

is it too late?

if we could wrap up and hoard

all the love, the light, make the world bright

would we feel it,

the sweetness restored?

 

We saw the movie, Polina. Trailer here.

We went to the Heritage Vineyards Wine Festival.

I’m kind of fascinated by the antikythera mechanism.

Here is a beautiful video for Leonard Cohen’s “Leaving the Table.” This song is from his last album, made just before he died.

 

 

 

 

Exploring Other Roads

Monday Morning Musings:

“We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics. Nor all logic. But is somewhat beauty & poetry.

–Astronomer Maria Mitchell (1818-1889

“In the middle of the journey of our life

I found myself astray in a dark wood

where the straight road had been lost sight of.”

–Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Inferno, Canto I

 

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“This image of Saturn’s rings was taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on Sept. 13, 2017. It is among the last images Cassini sent back to Earth.”

 

This wild, verdant world

home, a pale blue dot

it travels,

we travel,

through time and space

never a straight road

explorers, we send you out

on a thirty-year mission

(here, bombs and missiles)

there, you meet your fiery death.

Did you have last thoughts, I wonder,

as you plunged

compelled by forces beyond your control

mission completed

no more floating tin can

our eyes and ears

seeing what we cannot see

 

what if you could speak your mind–

would you share our wonder, or

cry at the beauty of the rings of ice?

The eye of the beholder,

the hard problem and reality,

what do we actually perceive

(with our limited senses)

And yet

And yet

And yet–

we have music, art, poetry

the imagination to see beyond

to wonder if there are ghosts flitting around us

and what it is we cannot see

 

We, who are constantly seeking

asking who we are

and what is out there

(the truth?)

yet so limited by greed, ignorance, fear.

the artificial borders of nations

when the world dies,

will it matter that we are American, Russian, or Thai?

or that we believe in one god, many, or none?

that our skin is olive-tinged, milky-white, or the color of café au lait?

We follow straight roads to disaster

when perhaps we should try a different path—

a scenic route

create a new map

wonder

We eat pita and hummus

Vietnamese takeout

homemade pizza

multicultural dining

in a xenophobic world

admire the science and math—

dough that rises—a chemical reaction—

but the first time someone made bread—imagination!

Could a space alien creature appreciate the perfection–

melted cheese, tomatoes, basil, and crisp crust?

We drink wine,

admire the color, taste smell

created by another chemical reaction,

We watch science fiction

and imagine what could be,

perhaps better, perhaps not,

(oh, but we could use those Star Trek captains)

perhaps there are other timelines and dimensions,

worlds we cannot see,

Cassini has traveled—not a straight road—

to see rings and moons

a wonder of science and determination

But I see the beauty of those rings,

imagine how they might sing

 

I read and write

about the terrible things people do to one another

dominating bodies, looking for control

we watch a documentary about Vietnam

fights over territory

nations looking to control

the falling of dominos

in senseless violence

bombs, death, and destruction

time going backwards in film

filled in by imagination,

fast forward

and where does the road lead?

look at the science

look at the logic

look at the road

and check for a course correction–

But

look for the poetry and art

the beauty in the stars

listen for the humming of the moon

 

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The Muse: Haibun

I am dreaming. I stand on a beach in a wild and beautiful land. There is a woman there with burnished skin, like cherry wood, polished and glowing. She’s clothed in a gown of flowers–red, yellow, and white buds that seem to open and bloom before my eyes. As she walks, the air around her parts in song. I hear it, carried on a breeze scented by the sea and tropical blossoms. The sun shines above me, but casts no shadows. I think time has stopped, or perhaps it has no meaning in this place. The woman approaches a doorway at the edge of sand and jungle. Smiling, she turns and gestures for me to follow. I calmly take a step—then wake–but I remember.

infinite doorway

from dream-time the muse beckons

in vision of light

indigo night turns rosy

dawn trailing whispered secrets

 

512px-'Waikiki_Beach_in_Sunlight'_by_D._Howard_Hitchcock,_1896

D. Howard Hitchcock, “Waikiki Beach in Sunlight,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This is for Colleen Chesebro’s Poetry Challenge. The prompt words are calm and wild.

I wrote a poem in my dreams about a week ago. When I woke, I couldn’t remember it. All I remembered was one of my daughters writing about the poem, “OMG, OMG—that poem!” (My subconscious gives me pep talks.) And I had an image of a woman, Caribbean perhaps, dressed in a brightly flowered dress.

I am still crazy-busy writing a final entry for another one that didn’t come through from a contributor. I apologize for being so behind in reading so many wonderful posts and missing challenges and prompts. I’m trying to catch up as I can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Barricade, a Bear, and an Egg

We’re headed to my in-laws’ house, or perhaps the Jersey shore. A family road trip. My husband is at the wheel; our daughters in the back seat. They hold their beloved stuffed animals on their laps. There are no headphones or cell phones. In our future, when they’re older, there will be both. I’ll tune the radio to NPR. We’ll hear the election news or listen to an interview with actor Dev Patel. But here, now, I put a CD into the dashboard slot. The prologue begins, “Look down, look down, don’t look ‘em in the eye.” My husband would be happy never to hear Les Misérables again, but I don’t mind hearing it for the 200th time. Our daughters sing along. Correction. Humpty and Ahh Bear sing along. Aah Bear sings Éponine’s part and sobs with loud bear sobs when she dies. There is no barricade here in the car, but I see it nonetheless. Imagination is powerful, powerful enough to let me hear stuffed animals sing and make the tears of a teddy bear real.

 

Just one performance

life, replayed in memory,

paused and played again

 

 

 

I seem to be stuck on musicals, though that’s nothing new!  This is a haibun for dVerse. We were asked to write about singing along with music on a drive. You can listen to “A Little Fall of Rain” here. (Unfortunately, not the Humpty and Ahh Bear version.)

 

 

The Beauty Is: NaPoWriMo

 

Monday Morning Musings:

“Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night –William Shakespeare, Romeo, Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, Scene 5

“And the beauty is, when you realize, when you realize, Someone could be looking for a someone like you.” –Adam Guettel, “The Beauty Is” from the musical, The Light in the Piazza  Song here.

“At such moments I don’t think about all the misery, but about the beauty that still remains. This is where Mother and I differ greatly. Her advice in the face of melancholy is “Think about all the suffering in the world and be thankful you’re not part of it.” My advice is: “Go outside, to the country, enjoy the sun and all nature has to offer. Go outside and try to recapture the happiness within yourself; think of all the beauty in yourself and in everything around you and be happy. –Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl, March 7, 1944

It’s a rainy Earth day,

the grey skies swaddle pink and white blossoms

Spring, verdant, full of life, thirsty, greedily drinks like a baby,

unselfconscious and we the admiring parents watch her,

she is beautiful, even when she’s a dirty mess.

 

A mother-daughter outing to see Beauty and the Beast,

the theater has reserved seats that we recline in ready for the magic to begin

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My daughter is comfortable in the theater.

 

— the Disney version of the story,

though we’re both impressed by Gaston, more nuanced than his cartoon version,

possibly charming at first in an oafish way

until the true darkness of his soul is revealed,

the mob scenes remind me a bit too much of history and recent events,

mobs inflamed by ignorant narcissists,

it’s happened throughout the ages

it happens now,

but how can I not enjoy a story where the heroine loves books,

a movie that is a shout out to literacy,

and where lovers bond over reading,

Belle reads poetry to the Beast,

he knows a quotation from her favorite play, Romeo and Juliet,

there’s singing and dancing, people and objects,

I had forgotten Audra McDonald was in this movie–

until she sang,

and I didn’t know Dan Stevens had such a fine voice,

(remember that time he was in a little series called Downton Abbey?)

we get a backstory for the Beast (which we both like)

Belle’s backstory is inserted more awkwardly,

Still it is an enjoyable couple of hours of mother and daughter time

And there is more beauty in the day

the beauty is. ..

a bowl of lemons

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not exactly life giving them to us

as going to the store and buying six bags of them

and rather than lemonade, we mix them with vodka to make limoncello

aren’t grownup daughters fun!

(And beautiful?)

So, we grate lemon peel,

the kitchen becomes gloriously lemon-scented,

a Chopin polonaise plays softly in the background,

(her husband’s study music),

we talk, of her girlfriends, of work, of this and that,

my husband has been doing yard work

(it’s not raining that hard, he says),

he sits at the table with us,

their dog chews on his toy,

their cat ventures out to see if it’s dinner time

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Not pleased by the citrus scent

 

When we’re finished, we eat takeout Pakistani food,

my husband and my son-in-law learn

the kind and talkative restaurant owner was educated at Oxford

(perhaps he is a book lover, too?)

And what do I do the next day with leftover lemons?

Make lemon cake, of course!

 

 

It’s beautiful and delicious.

And though there are beasts all around, the beauty is. . .

spending time with people you love,

enjoying good food and wine,

beauty simple and sudden,

striking you, when you look up from your morning coffee

to see the sun dawning over the neighbor’s white dogwood tree

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The photo does not capture how beautiful it was

 

the profound beauty of birth, mixed with blood and pain,

the simple beauty of a smile,

the beauty that is there within the beast,

the beauty is

it surrounds us

the beauty is. . .

in yourself and in everything around you

 

Today is Day 24, NaPoWriMo. We’re asked to write a poem of ekphasis, a poem inspired by a work of art. We’re challenged to base a poem on marginalia of medieval manuscripts. I suppose you could very loosely say I’ve done this, as they are beautiful and filled with beasts. (Such as this one )

Huffington Post summarizes some previous versions of Beauty and the Beast here.

Today is Yom HaShoah ( This year, it’s Sunset, April 23- Sunset April 24), Holocaust Remembrance Day. I wonder what Anne Frank would be writing about now, and if she would still see beauty in the world.

Sweetness

Monday Morning Musings:

“I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”

–James Baldwin

 

Today is Rosh Hashanah,

the start of the High Holy Days.

We say “Shanah Tova,”

and wish people a sweet year.

The weekend began with

the anniversary of 9/11.

Never forget.

As if we could.

Then caring for our grandpets.

Doggy kisses

and kitty purrs.

A party.

People with different jobs,

beliefs

interests,

drinking and

playing volleyball.

No, not me.

I’ll just watch.

Having fun.

Enjoying

the beautiful evening.

Meanwhile—

The man with the hair

whips up hate.

Throughout history

demagogues have appeared.

He is merely the latest.

A little man

for all his wealth.

Seeking to rise by

finding a scapegoat–

as all demagogues do.

It is nothing new.

It’s their fault,

they declare.

You don’t have money,

goods,

or

power–

It’s because of them.

Migrants, Jews,

Women.

People with black skin,

or yellow skin.

Educated people.

Illiterate people.

Gay.

Trans.

It doesn’t matter.

They are Others,

not one of us.

Nativists, Know Nothings, and Exclusion Acts—

We don’t want your kind.

“Give me your tired, your poor.”

Lady Liberty cries,

But not too tired, not too poor.

the followers yell.

We don’t want people who

look different.

And

none of that foreign talk here.

Speak English.

Wave a flag,

like a true patriot.

A clerk in Kentucky claims religious freedom by

denying others their rights.

Doesn’t she know that liberty

is inclusive,

not exclusive?

Hate does not win.

Hate brings more hate.

Hate combusts and burns

like the brushfires out west,

consuming everything it touches.

Love,

Compassion,

Empathy,

Education

tame the flames,

to a warm glow,

enough to sit around,

enough to bake bread.

I baked challahs yesterday.

The kitchen smells

Of bread and memories.

And love, too.

“Bread and roses.”

Fuel for body

and soul.

Dip the apple in the honey.

Taste its sweetness.

It is everywhere.

Look.

It is all around you.

Can you see the sweetness

of life?

Stop.

Just look.

Do you see it?

Can you look past the hate?

Can you see how beautiful

Our Earth is?

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Wishing all of you peace and a sweet new year!

©Merril D. Smith