And You, Too, Have Come to This Still Point

November at Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ

Monday Morning Musings:

“Around me the trees stir in their leaves

and call out, “Stay awhile.”

The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,

“and you too have come

into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled

with light, and to shine.”

–fromMary Oliver “When I Am Among the Trees”

“After the kingfisher’s wing

Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still

At the still point of the turning world.”

T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton”  Four Quartets

 

I walk among the trees

watch the light golden-streaming,

and feel the wind river-breezing

listen to the crows caw and go

then all is still, in the glow,

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Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ.–November

 

though now it’s blanket season

when the wind blows, teasing

the clouds that alternate grey and bright

while I seek some warmth, some light

and find delight in sunrise pink rising high

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I look to the sky

the flocking of birds in flight.

We gather with family

hope there’s no drama

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or not too much.

Some come from lunch

to share our dinner

and so, we talk and laugh,

and most definitely eat (repeat)

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(not forgetting the sweets)

till it is time for them to go–

and you think you know

how life will be

but suddenly, you see

 

all the moments—

the traditional breaking of stuffing bread

under Capt. Janeway’s gaze, her cool head

once again guiding her crew

–and for them so much to do–

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and you, too, so much done,

all the times before—

and after–the squirrels, the sisters and daughters,

the laughter and traditions, the people come and gone—

babies grown, moving on

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we watch a movie of love and longing

of trying to find a better life, men migrating

women left behind, waiting

for escape, for weddings, for revenge—

gritty life and magic realism, avenging

 

ghosts among us

life not ending, but flowing like the sea—

what happens when we cease to be,

does love carry on through time and space?

Is there a still point, full of grace

 

and light, golden

like the emblazoned leaves

shining. . .

beauty to remember when it snows

to recall it will return

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even as the darkness grows

and the world turns, day to night

and all is still–

but beyond the clouds—

stars and moon still burn bright.

 

We celebrated Thanksgiving. Some of my sibling saw my mom that day, and we saw her the next day.

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched Atlantics on Netflix. This film from Senegal won the Grand Prix at Cannes. It moves from social realism of life in Dakar—forced marriages, laborers who don’t get paid, migration—to a sort of magic realism based on folk tales. I imagine it was a beautiful movie to see on a large screen.We both liked it very much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sound, the Sight, the Magic, the Light

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Monday Morning Musings:

“Can you fly

I heard you can! Can you fly

Like an eagle doin’ your hunting from the sky”

–Joni Mitchell, “That Song about the Midway” Listen Here.

 

“No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted

out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.”

–Billy Collins, “Forgetfulness” 

 

In these days of gloom

dimmed dreary days

of November blues

while in the news, the hints of doom

constant, unrelenting–

 

but then comes the sound

and sight

hundreds of birds, in flight

this murmuration, a delight,

their orienting

 

so breathtaking

shaking me, awaking

all the wonder,

this magic, a gift

drifting from the sky

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flying low and high,

they call in their ancient tongue

(we the earthbound

can’t understand)

and then they go–

but birds seem everywhere,

even in the show we watch–

where the crows are what?

Harbingers of fortune or fate?

Or perhaps they come too late

 

for our planet,

pale dot of blue,

so, I delight

in nature’s gifts

and sights

 

the morning sun,

the moon of silver-white

smiling in benediction

even when we forget

it’s there.

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I cook and bake,

as the days in constant gloaming

take their toll, I want to snuggle

not go roaming

through rain-filled streets

 

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Puddle Reflections on a Rainy November Day , Philadelphia Parkway

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Crossing the Ben Franklin Bridge into Philadelphia, from Patco Train

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Rainy Day Reflections, Philadelphia

yet, we do what we must

and so, I write poems with my mother

who only thinks of summer coming

her thoughts drifting through time—

like birds in murmuration flight–

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Writing poems with my mother

and her eyesight

diminished, like the day’s light

her memories uncertain

confused, a twilight zone

of fact and fiction

 

but still we make her laugh

and try to remember what was—

hold mental photographs

of before, then walk through the door

to our other life,

 

husband and wife

we drink some wine

and I remember what I can

hold everything that’s fine

within my mind

 

and see the magic of moon and birds

and the old oak tree

glowing in the autumn gloom

remember how

it holds hundreds of memories

 

listen–

hear it murmur, murmur, murmur

as the acorns fall

in the rustling leaves of brown

covering cold ground

 

where secrets lie

waiting, waiting

for the warming sky–

and I dream

(I heard you can)

we fly.

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Dance

Monday Morning Musings:

“And may the spirit of this song

May it rise up pure and free

May it be a shield for you

A shield against the enemy”

–Leonard Cohen, “Lover, Lover, Lover”

 

“Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on

Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long

We’re both of us beneath our love, we’re both of us above

Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the end of love”

–Leonard Cohen, “Dance Me to the End of Love”

 

My absent daughter

draws the golden peacock

but forgets the fallen feather

can also be a quill

to write the words that dance

upon the page of time,

and from love and grief

and longing

the phrases soar in endless flight–

to bear witness of love and loss

in song to spread the light

***

In this week

of lies and revelation

we go about our lives

without hesitation

because there are deadlines

and care

for those we love

and responsibility

to share—

but oh, the sky,

the clouds

the air

that shimmers

and glimmers

on dew drops

in the morning light

that sight–

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and the honk of geese

in victory flight

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and so,

we take a break

forget the cake

I still must bake

 

reflect

upon each passing sight

on this autumn day

the sun is bright

and summer-like

but inside cooler

as the lights dim

and the show begins

the dancers strong

and full of grace

without a trace

of doubt, fluid lines

muscle and bone

move together, alone

upon the stage

they dance

homage to poetic phrase

in each turn or raise

of arm and leg

and yes, I say

it was worth it to pay

though now

I’m even more

behind

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I see love–

coming and going

and isn’t that always the way?

spring to summer and fall

and before long

winter will come

and will we dance then at all?

Yes, I think

we will add layers

to layers

and though our hair

will turn greyer

still we’ll laugh

and dance, press

on

 

my sister-niece says

I love mom’s belly laugh,

and we all agree

a bright spot

in a gloomy sea

that seems endless–

a beacon, a buoy

we embrace,

when she and the world is screwy.

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And though there are fewer

at our holiday table

and we miss those unable

to be with us,

we laugh and talk

and drink our wine

dip apples in honey–

that boy is so funny

the way he loves my challah—

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we eat the meal

and here’s the deal—

time moves on

but our traditions remain

so, there’s brisket and kugel

for the year to be sweet, not dull–

bright gold of pumpkin soup

and before long, dessert—

 

in and endless loop

the seasons pass

and years dance on

from dusk to dawn

in saraband or waltz

sorrow, love–

with just a bit of schmaltz

 

we say our goodbyes

and sigh

(though the men roll their eyes)

we need that family compound

so we can all come around

whenever need be.

That could be

easier for all of us, you see

 

time will tell

somehow, dwell

on the here and now,

we have each other

and sleepy cats—

there is that.

 

We clean up,

put away each dish

I pause, wish

to dance to the end

of light

as it bends

refracts

and twirls

to begin again.

 

Dream–

the spirit of this song.

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Last night was the start of Rosh Hashanah. Wishing all of you a very sweet year!

One of my daughters posted her drawing of a golden peacock from Jewish tradition and a message about what it means to her. You can see her Instagram post here. 

We saw Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal perform Dance Me, “an exclusive creation inspired by the rich and profound work of Montreal-based poet, artist, and songwriter, Leonard Cohen” (from the program notes). You can see some excerpts here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections

Merril D. Smith, 2019, Philadelphia, William Penn and City Hall Reflected

Monday Morning Musings:

“Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.”

–From Sylvia Plath, “Mirror”

“Did you ever wonder if the person in the puddle is real, and you’re just a reflection of him?”

–Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes

 

In the window

the world is reflected

prismed into colors bright

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the blue of sky

and clouds of white

refracted sites

 

ripple and sway

changing as you walk

then fading away

 

unlike skyscrapers

that here still stand

monuments to technology

 

in reflections,

magic,

a slight of hand.

 

Now in the puddle

the world is upside down

in shades of beige and grey

Building in a puddle, Philadelphia

diffused light

scattered over slate

and rippling away

 

carried to the river

then onwards

to the sea

 

but here

are windows closed

as eyes asleep

 

and minds imprisoned

in worlds of fancy

and dreams

 

of children

go unheeded

unheard, unseen

 

in cages

they perish

swept away

 

by the latest news

of violence

and thoughts and prayers

 

go out

to remove the games

and images

 

but not the guns

they remain–

see, they’re not to blame

 

and cash

wills out

with slaps on the back

 

for the boys

are boys

who grow to be men

 

and abuse

again

and again.

 

And what do they see

in their reflections?

Do they stop to reflect

 

on the people

they harm?

I read of survivors

 

who try to forgive

when they

can never forget–

 

we must never forget

 

the sights refracted

in sunshine and rain,

and here we sit

 

holding time still

for a moment,

if we could with will

 

in vino veritas,

and truth there is

that there is beauty

 

and light

and days when things

are just right,

moments granted

even when

the world is slanted

 

cock-eyed, the mother

becomes the child,

but when she laughs

 

you wonder what’s real

and see your reflection

there she and you

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and she will never go

to the river again

but here a bird calls–

 

Hear it?

Listen and wonder

what does it see?

 

There its reflection

in the water

it looks at me.

 

Delaware River, Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ

The Ghosts Linger, a Legacy

Monday Morning Musings:

“Legacy, what is a legacy?

It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see”

From Lin-Manuel Miranda, “The World Was Wide Enough,” Hamilton

 

All ghosts linger–

they sail on secret rhythms,

brilliant in the joy

they celebrate

floating beyond

the melancholy twilight,

blushing in time’s embrace,

they laugh the poetry of morning

and cry midnight’s anguished tears.

***

Legend says—

at Yorktown, the British played

“The World Turned Upside Down”

 

But now

let’s sound the truth–

 

(facts unknown back in our youth)

 

of the airports there

and the rockets’ red glare

 

over forts that didn’t yet exist

 

People believe, they twist

facts to follow ignorance

 

a delightful dance

enhanced

 

by putting down others

smothering new thought

we say, we ought

 

to do this or that

 

and debate

ideas reborn, the hate

 

lingers, like ghosts

 

unfurl the blue, white, and red

we eat, well fed

 

find comfort and ease

with old friends,

 

no worries to please

 

they accept me

as I dance, don’t flee,

 

smile to see another side

of me (I sometimes hide)

 

well maybe it’s the drink

(very pink)

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but doubtful, I think

 

since I danced around my kitchen

making ratatouille, listening

We’ll tell the story of tonight. . .

or we’ll forget

no regrets

 

in memories fragmented

by time segmented

 

the ghosts linger

like dreams

 

my mom tells, unreal,

but she feels

somehow, they appeal

 

false stories

in strange categories

 

one day weak

the next lucid, painting

no straining, no waning

her truth, her art

 

from her heart

that her eyes can’t see

 

she’s free in creating,

though it’s frustrating

 

for her and us

the ghosts linger, discuss

 

in whispers

we sisters fret

 

regrets,

but let’s

 

just do this

 

on another day, we’re fine

homemade pizza and wine

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Stranger Things

the Upside Down brings

 

relief, as believable

not inconceivable

 

in this crazy world,

where conspiracies unfurled

 

believed as fact

impossible to retract

 

swirling in tornado winds

we wait to see what sunshine brings

a new day

a new way

 

yet the ghosts linger in

 

morning laughter

midnight’s tears

 

all the ever afters

of joy and fears

 

future on past climbs–

we see the light

 

of stars long dead,

still traveling through time

 

in sparkling trains go, come

and still, a legacy

 

(enduring beyond)

 

the moon, she hums.

Full Moon over Woodcrest Station

 

Another strange week with presidential lunacy amidst his narcissistic parade, storms alternating with sunshine–and some quality time spent in the basement during a tornado warning! My mom is perfectly fine one minute, and totally not the next. We watch the new season of Stranger Things (still a couple episodes to go) on Netflix, but sometimes feel like we’re already living in the Upside Down.

 

 

 

 

 

Memories in Major and Minor

Monday Morning Musings:

“Music, when soft voices die,

Vibrates in the memory—”

Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Music When Soft Voices Die.” Full poem and analysis here

“When the dawn comes, tonight will be a memory too

And a new day will begin”

From Andrew Lloyd Webber, Trevor Nunn, “Memory,” Cats

 

 

We who were

are ghosts,

are almost not

lingering

 

here a slow smile,

there a kiss of fire—

this rhythmed dance

of remembering

 

ask her about the laugh,

wake him with the used-to-be

 

all now born away

by clouds and time.

***

A week that seems

both timeless and harried

behind us and carried—onwards

we go

 

from anniversary meal

the feel of fresh air

and laughter

people watching

and city-walking

talking of this and that

as texts fly

from sisters

all the sighs, the whys

of life

and strife

in the play

(on words)

mines underground

young lives destroyed

some never rebound

from unsound decisions

and derision

a corrupt system

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a week of memories

and old friends

who remember what

once was

comfortable pauses

and laughter

remembering

who we were

cherishing who we are—

 

there a wish

upon a star

as stormy skies clear

for sunset rays—

a stay

of hope

that beauty lasts.

We watch a movie

of ghosts

memories of things

unseen—and seen

pretty things that live

in the wall–

they call

from time

and books–

she looks on

staring

the women

sharing, imprisoned

by this house

 

We eat and drink

stop and think

laugh and talk

then take a walk

 

And then there are cats

onstage they prance

but at home, they entrance

with acrobatics

and sleepy glances

share our space

(caress that face)

 

we drift. . .

 

in dreams, memories come

and done

are things that never happened—

but seem so real

we feel

joy, terror, hope

beyond the scope

of everyday

 

wake to find the dawn

new day

the past a memory

the future looms

blooming like a flower

sweetly scented–

and thorned—

dropping seeds

and withering

to be reborn.

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We celebrated our wedding anniversary this week. We saw a play Minors, watched a Netflix movie, I am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House. It’s the kind of horror movie I like, a ghost tale where you are not sure of what’s real (like Hill House)—not a full-of-blood slasher movie. Also, it has Ruth Wilson and Paula Prentiss.  We also saw Cats, which we only saw because it was part of a theater package—but I did enjoy it. All of the actors/dancers/singers were excellent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tree

High above me, golden streaming

through its leaves unfolded

growing, teeming

with creatures,

big and smaller–leaning

climbing, flying

living, dying

in its greenery gleaming

all the wishes—seeming

there, seeds of the past

rise in the air.

And later,

under lambent moon

dreaming, beaming,

the promise of the future, greening.

 

Poem for dVerse, where Mish is hosting Open Link night.  I took these photos a few days ago in Philadelphia when we were walking around on our wedding anniversary after a very late lunch or very early dinner.

 

 

Art and Craft

Monday Morning Musings:

“It will be as if we never existed if our history cannot be read.”

― Minette Walters, The Last Hours

Ask about time–

or the night–

the woman of then

the woman of now

listen and remember

the voice of the universe calls.

***

 

In the book,

many people die.

They wonder why–

what they’ve done,

so many gone

from this new plague.

They question

their narrow existence,

wonder about resistance

and the distance

between people

and place.

And then the rats–

so many, except

where there are cats.

 

It’s a new world,

the crash of the feudal,

for rebuilding, crucial

to have the art and craft

survival skills and more–

and even serfs may leave

the manor, to soar

 

like the clouds that come

with thunder and rain

then blow away again

to reveal blue skies

and days that surprise

one with their beauty.

We visit the fountain,

the water spouting

in wind-blown sprays,

and children laughing

in all the ways

they can,

making sculptures

and eating free ice cream

(like a dream!).

A man tells me

about the turtle

he holds

over fifty years old,

he says,

points to her shell

and what it tells

of her age.

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Not as old as the fountain,

dedicated nearly one hundred years ago,

public art and public show,

the craft and skill creating

a place for people

for waiting, hesitating,

lingering, as the water gleams

over allegories of history and streams,

and water showers,

but we walk on

admire the colorful bowers

of flowers.

 

We visit my mother

sit outside, the air

is pleasant with a breeze

and birds sing in bushes

and trees.

We go inside to see some art

a show and reception–

she has some connection

to the club, if not the artists,

and she can’t see their art

but still she charts

a course around the room.

Later we talk about the paintings

she’s painted

the work she’s created,

and when she and my father dated,

the clothes she wore

in that time before.

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Painting by Sylvia Schreiber

One of my mom’s paintings

 

We leave her before dinner

to walk some more

this glorious day

stop to say

hello to Rodin, and stay

for a drink in the statue garden,

the view a delight,

and we linger

but leave before night.

I see my daughters and their friend

almost like when they spent

all their time together

–birds of a feather—

all creative,

two artists, two who also write,

all who see the darkness and the light.

Soon all will be married

with husbands and wife.

These three—I wish them all

a happy life.

We binge on Netflix

eat nachos, and dream

of what the world might bring,

and I delight

to hear the birds sing

in morning chorus and in the night.

Sweet Potato Nachos with Mango Salsa

Sleepy cats lie

in peace, as I wish we could all–

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the art and craft of living

and dying,

history told in statues and stories

past, present, future fold

the moon hums and sighs

while time flies by.

Morning Moon, June 2019, Merril D. Smith

Here is some history on the Swann Memorial Fountain.

I read  The Last Hours by Minette Walters. She is known for her crime fiction. This is her first historical novel. It’s set during the “Black Death” plague of the fourteenth-century. The lady of the manor seems somewhat too enlightened, but nevertheless, I enjoyed it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, To Love, NaPoWriMo

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Well, to love

in that time of year

when spring fancy turns to summer heat

and to love well and sweet

that which is young and sleek,

simmering with fire-passion, consume

the green with new-sprung bloom.

Yet, autumn’s color also bursts

in fiery hues,

and glows diffused

in russet-gold glimmer, behold–

till twilight turns it dark and midnight tolled.

Still, there’s no wrong in loving strong

and right in loving well and loving long.

 

Day 27 of NaPoWriMo asks us “to ‘remix’ a Shakespearean sonnet.” Busy day for me,  so this is a quick fourteen line, non-sonnet, riffing on Sonnet LXXIII.

 

Butterfly Effect: A Variation, NaPoWriMo

Pond beside Multiplex, Voorhees, NJ--Merril D. Smith 2019

“’Cat’s paw’ is the weather term of the day. It is a light breeze affecting a small area, such as would cause a patch of ripples on the surface of a still water surface.”

–US National Weather Service, Nashville, TN, Feb. 5, 2014

Cat’s paw breeze tickles

the water ripples,

sighs in a reflective purr.

 

The goose quivers in delight

on the water ripples

honks to her mate, in flight

 

he answers from above

the water ripples,

then settles by his love.

 

Crow hears their squawks

from the water ripples,

caws from his perch on the rocks.

 

The sound carries for miles

beyond the water ripples

to where the mockingbird smiles,

 

and from up in a tree

far beyond the water ripples

he sings of hearts soaring free

 

in cat paw tickles

water ripples trickling

sighs, caws, purrs, and cries

 

And I open the window–

on a catercorner breeze

to listen to his reprise.

 

The NaPoWriMo, Day 10 prompt is to write “a poem that starts from a regional phrase, particularly one to describe a weather phenomenon.” I don’t know what region “cat’s paw breeze” comes from, but I love it. The poem evolved because yesterday afternoon, I listened to a mockingbird put on a long concert that included the calls of other birds.