Hope Rises and Falls, Like Us All: NaPoWriMo, Day 2

Monday Morning Musings:

“Remember only that I was innocent
and, just like you, mortal on that day,
I, too, had a face marked by rage, by pity and joy,
quite simply, a human face!”

From “Exodus,” by Benjamin Fondane, murdered at Auschwitz in 1944

“But where there’s hope, there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.”

Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl, June 6, 1944, written after Anne hears the news about D Day.

“I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty will end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.”

Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl, July 15, 1944

 

This Passover—at least at the start,

my husband and I dine alone–

we’re on our own

for this Seder

(apart from the cats,

who join us later).

IMG_8460 2

It’s been a strange week of that and this

things not quite right, a bit amiss–

the whole afternoon at the doctor for my mother’s hand

in a city office

(the building still grand)

 

I look at my hands

starting to look like my mom’s

when did this change begin of fingers and palms–

these strange hands turned from mine to others

how did they become so much like my mother’s?

 

The weather turns from cool to warm

but still I feel the coming thunder, the storm—

I read about a French woman who survived hate and the camps,

stabbed by her neighbor to whom she showed only kindness–

but he was caught up in blindness

(of the soul)

if that is how we can characterize it all—

this hatred or fear,

we should remember her

not him,

Mireille Knoll,

for whom the bell finally tolled.

 

This climate of fear

seems to grow daily

the president goes on another Twitter rant

and I just can’t–

listen to him (sniff sniff) speak or chant

transplant

fiction in his supporters’ brains

(enough of them still remain)–

where and when does it end,

will it ever stop,

the firing of the latest shot,

the hate, the finding of scapegoats to label

the fear of the intelligent and able?

There’s fear in the air,

but does fear rise above hope?

Which is denser, which one floats?

 

We see a performance, a play

people forced together, every day

having to live in close quarters

annoying each other, parents, strangers, daughters,

dependent upon friends for food—

for everything

never permitted to go out

or glance through a window—or shout–

forced to be silent all day—

even chatterbox Anne must sit still and stay,

but she finds a way,

observing and recording

in her diary she writes,

somehow hope rising above despair

as if she’s gathered it from the air

“Think of beauty,” she writes,

and

“I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

Her writing, an art,

though she’s doing her own part

for the war effort, for after, for when life re-starts,

revising her words for the novel she hopes will one day be—

when the war is over—when they’re all free—

We know watching, that it is not to be,

and yet, still, I hope for a different ending,

one that ends without sending

them off in cattle cars to the East

to be treated worse than beasts

to die hungry, filthy, covered with lice,

wonder why she and others had to pay such a price—

would she then have written what she did–

as she slid

as if down a well

from hiding into Hell?

 

We celebrate miracles, the Exodus,

I’m not religious, but the history of us

of pogroms and hate at this time—

the crimes—

make me honor those who came before me

and who were not free

to celebrate or see—

here now–

a day of sun and clouds,

voices talking out loud,

the daffodils in bloom,

IMG_8456 2

I hope they don’t disappear too soon.

Then a rainbow appears way up high

IMG_8465

It seems magical, and though I’m cynical,

perhaps it is a Passover miracle,

whatever, it’s beautiful, I think,

and so, we eat matzah and drink

(more wine)

IMG_8467

Passover Walnut Cake

and before desert, the full moon appears to hum in the sky–

filling me with wonder and whys

 

The human face,

if we could only see it

instead of looking at a space

feel—seek out!– the pity and the joy

but instead, we destroy.

Fifty years ago, this week, a man was killed

perhaps from him, some hope was spilled

“I have a dream,” he said,

but before long, he was dead.

He urged others onward in the fight

for justice, for light.

Anne Frank, a young girl, also died

her family, too, only her father survived.

she wanted to be remembered, a famous writer

and so, she is, with life gone and so much missed.

I don’t know that our future looks any brighter,

(Do you hear it? The wind carries their cries.)

and yet. . .when I look up at the sky

I still see the stars and moon, and then I sigh,

hoping their dreams will never die.

 

We saw, The Diary of Anne Frank at People’s Light in Malvern, PA. 

This is Na/GloPoWriMo, Day 2.  The prompt was to play with voice, but well, these are my musings.  🙂

 

 

Advertisements

Journey in Place: Beginning and End

Monday Morning Musings:

“It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
—Ursula K. LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969. Often misattributed to Hemingway.

 “To light a candle is to cast a shadow.”

–Ursula K. LeGuin, A Wizard of Earthsea

 “What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. . .

Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph.”

–T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

 

It’s a stressful week, we burrow in—

hunker down

in restful verbs and tasty nouns,

lighting candles in the night,

casting shadows against the bright

light and darkness

co-exist,

without one, is the other missed?

FullSizeRender 324

I journey in place

keeping pace

(I hope with grace)

flowing, risking with rhyme and meter,

thinking of a double feature–

perhaps tonight–

traveling without moving

wondering if I’m improving

no matter,

if it’s soothing. . .

 

to stay in my pajamas

listening to public radio,

interviews with Nathan Lane and Laura Marling,

unsnarling the day’s news with Michel Martin–

mostly disheartening–

I make dough and bake pizzas

enough for us and the shadow figures, too—

of course, wouldn’t you?

I mean, if they should they care to join us,

we’d have enough

and so, we dine,

drink some wine

watch a movie of two families, white and black

see, there’s no going back,

when time moves forward

we go onward,

even while people are wandering

out of place

lost in space–

well, you can take the boy from Mississippi,

but what happens when he returns a man?

People don’t understand

the legacy of poverty and hate,

and racists don’t want to debate

truth seen in a black and white–

it’s easier to fight.

 

So much to consider,

and some of it makes me bitter,

I think about the six million dead,

those who never got a chance, never fled

wonder if my family’s genes were among them—

hemmed in

forced to live in shadows, in nightmares

or rather, left in there

suffering and forced to die

their cries reverberate

(never abate)

we light a candle in their memory

holocaust_memorial_center_memorial_wall_of_victims_005-1

(never forget)

the sorrow of their journeys,

(remember me)

their souls shout out

but what do my words create–

 

and what good is an epitaph for them or us—

is what time was forever thus?

Perhaps to foist a new beginning,

or to change the end

when life circles round,

we can start again.

 

IMG_8045

Not watching the movie.

 

Holocaust Remembrance Day was on Saturday, January 27. We watched the movie, Mudbound, on Netflix.

 

 

 

 

 

Walk and Talk

“but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

–Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird

 

No harm was done

(just talk).

Walk and talk,

Tic Tac talk

(and looming walk),

no deep thought,

(just locker room talk),

boys will be boys talk,

(that’s what they say),

but they might stare,

and grab,

so best beware,

take some care,

(though it’s just talk).

Hate-filled words

(incite some action).

Obscene gestures

(from small hands)

Obscene thoughts

(from small minds),

Dog whistles and gas lighting,

talk’s just talk

(even if it’s frightening).

But if it prevails

(the repulsive talk,

the racist squawks

the bully stalk)

It’s all our loss,

(It’s not just talk.)

 

This poem is for Secret Keeper’s Writing Challenge.

The prompt words are: Harm/Deep/Act/Stare/Loss

And here’s the kind of “walk and talk” I like. With a president I like.  Vote!

 

Teach Your Children Well

Monday Morning Musings

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”

–Umberto Eco

“Peace is always beautiful,

The myth of heaven indicates peace and night.”

–Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Yesterday was Father’s Day. It was hot and steamy. The sun struggled to peek out from behind the clouds for much of the day that, despite the gloom, was also the summer solstice. I baked my husband’s favorite cookies, Welsh Cookies. One daughter called, and the other was here for our dinner of total pig-out killer nachos. My husband is retiring from teaching in a few days; our daughter is a new teacher. Father’s Day is different when you no longer have a father and your children are grown. Being a parent is different, too—not better or worse—just different.

Father's Day of the past.

Father’s Day of the past.

When my father was alive, he often treated us to dinner at a restaurant on holidays such as this. We frequently went to his favorite Chinese restaurant, but whenever he found a new favorite restaurant, we would go there. When he found a new restaurant he liked, he visited it all the time. He knew the names of the owner and the servers. He enjoyed the role of patriarch, treating us–and sometimes our friends, too. We would eat vast quantities of food, talk, and laugh.

Wedding dance with my dad.

Wedding dance with my dad.

Last night I did my best to follow the tradition of lots of food and conversation. It was not a big holiday meal, but really, those nachos were pretty amazing. As regular readers know, food and family are important themes in my life.

It’s well over a decade since my father died. My sisters and I sat vigil at his hospital bed, knowing it would be his last night. Death hovered in the background, understanding that we waited for the dawn, not wanting our father to die in the blackness of night. When Death finally came to carry my father away, my father fought him. Oh, how he fought! His death rattle was his final, terrible and terrifying battle cry, but he was vanquished by Death, as we all are.

I miss my father. Not in an every moment of every day type of sorrow, but at certain moments. Often it’s sudden and unexpected. I’ll think, “Dad would have liked this show or this restaurant.” I wonder if he would have finally bought a computer, and if he would have been on Facebook. I think he would have loved to stream Netflix–if he could figure it out. I wish he could have seen our daughters grow up. He would have been so proud to see them graduate from college. He would have attended all of their shows. He would have loved to have been at our older daughter’s wedding last year, my sister’s wedding last fall, and our younger daughter’s wedding soon-to-be. But it was time for him to go.

It is sad when someone dies of disease. We might say, “Why him? Why her? Why now?” But somehow we understand that the body can turn traitor, and we don’t have the answers.

When someone dies as an act of random, senseless violence—well, how do you cope? Who imagines that when their mother/father/daughter/son/friend goes to a prayer meeting they will not come home? Accidents happen, yes, but who would expect a loved one to be killed because someone decided he would murder people with their skin color that night?

I don’t know how I would have reacted.

The families of the 9 victims of the Charleston shooting have exhibited the values that many other professed Christians never display—chiefly forgiveness and love instead of hate. Even as they mourn, they, or at least some of them, have expressed the wish to forgive the shooter. Forgiving is not condoning. Forgiving is not forgetting, but according to research, it may help both individuals and communities heal. I hope it does.

Yesterday, the congregation of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, “Mother Emanuel,” welcomed strangers, black and white, into their church to begin the healing process. Racism exists in the US, a legacy of slavery, euphemistically called “the peculiar institution” in the 19th century. The very founding of this church has its roots in racism and slavery when black men and women, slave or free, were not welcomed by white congregations. It is the church attended by Denmark Vesey, an enslaved man who bought his own freedom after winning a lottery. Imagine having to buy your own freedom. In what world is this OK? Vesey planned a slave revolt in Charleston that was foiled by informants. As a result, Charleston passed and enforced stricter slave codes, and built a large fortified armory to guard the city. The Confederate flag still flies in Charleston, and throughout much of the South. Images of the Confederate flag appear on hats and bumper stickers—and not only in the South. Some people insist that the flag is a symbol of southern pride, but I suspect that few of them are black. This is a flag of racism.

America. Sweet land of liberty. Our nation was founded with the sound of those demanding freedom from tyranny and the cries of those who remained in shackles. We are a land of contradictions, but we are also a land of hope and change.

“Teach your children well.” What are the scraps of wisdom they will learn from you? “Feed them on your dreams.” Make them good ones.

My dad was not a perfect man. I’m sure the victims of this hate crime were not perfect either. His life ended too soon, but he died of natural causes. There is nothing natural about being gunned down in a church.

I don’t believe in Heaven, but if there is a heaven, I hope my dad is playing with our dog Zipper there. I hope he gets to eat huge sardine and onion sandwiches and big bowls of ice cream. I hope he has stacks of books at his feet with lots of little note cards sticking out of them, as he decides to learn about a new subject. I hope he gets to play pinochle with his friends, who argue loudly with him, tell jokes, and enjoy meals together.

If there is a heaven and the victims of the Charleston shooting are watching their families and our nation from it, I hope they will see healing. I hope that one day they will see an end to racism.

Hold your loved ones close. Cherish your memories. Dream of a better world.

“Teach your children well, their father’s hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams, the one they fix, the one you’ll know by.
Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.”

–Graham Nash, “Teach Your Children”