Inconceivable, Unbelievable, and True

Geese in flight over the Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

Monday Morning Musings:

“It’s just that masks are terribly comfortable — I think everyone will be wearing them in the future,”
–Westley in The Princess Bride

Inconceivable and unbelievable
the world has become

plague-filled and fire-flashed
now, ashes fill the sky,

and sudden storms come surging,
while people plead, urging

the powers-that-be to see
what is and to agree

on what is needed. More than hope
and prayers, some care

must be taken if we’re to survive,
herd immunity and hive minds–

we seek solutions from concepts of animals and nature—but
I watch them, charmed,

admiring even the funny walks of birds,
a turkey, like a little dinosaur, and somewhat absurd,

yet most protect their young—and some
mate for life. Perhaps we should look to wildlife

for a portrait of true love. Difficult to see now
in this time of masks and isolation,

the frustration of privation and desolation,
the death of loved ones, the vexation over celebrations

that shouldn’t be, until we’re vaccinated or virus-free–
When will that be?

I sigh and bake, take long walks,
rake my fingers through my greying hair–

there, in front of me, a family of deer,
all clear, I think, as they dart across the street—

leaving me to admire their spirit and grace,
a trace of wonder stays within

to ease the stress of every single day.
I stand by the riverside watch a heron, stay

longer than I planned—but these moments of water and sky
and watching the birds spread wings and fly

it’s something I do, observe the colors of river and sand–
this I understand,

time flows at different speeds and rates,
fast in a dream, slow when we wait,

but either way, we’re specks
in a vast array. Time may be infinite, or

perhaps it loops, swooping future into past
or giving us another chance

Geese and Clouds, Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield.

to seek true love, or defy death with sweetened pill,
better than nevermore, is maybe it will.

A very late MMM because I’m trying to finish some work. And, I’ll be back in just a bit because I’m hosting dVerse today.

Sunrise over the Delaware River, West Deptford, NJ.

This past week was strange, the weather shifting from humid summer to clear autumn. Friday, as you all know, was the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack. It was a gloomy day, but the next day was bright, beautiful, gorgeous, which I will hope is an omen. I’ve been seeing a heron almost every morning at the river at the battlefield park. We watched The Princess Bride on Saturday night in preparation for the livestream reading with much of the original cast that took place last night. It was a fundraiser for Wisconsin Democrats in support of Joe Biden. The livestream drew of 100,000 viewers, and though there were a few technical problems, it was great fun. More importantly, it might help in November. It’s inconceivable how we will survive four more years with the current resident of the White House.

Watching The Princess Bride

I’m linking this to dVerse Open Link night, where Björn was hosting our live stream open mike even.t

Magic

 

I know the science of sun and rain

that wakes the world to spring–

 

brings a languorous glow,

that rings the day

 

and stays,

till the moon

 

hums it away.

 

But I believe in magic–

overnight blooms

 

and birds winging, singing

through morning dew.

 

 

A quadrille for dVerse, where Linda has asked us to use the word “magic.”

(A quadrille, besides being a dance, is a dVerse form. It’s a poem of 44 words—any type.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

They Sing and Dance Across the Sky

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Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night

 

The stars fill the sky

even when we can’t see them

they shine and sing—

 

a glowing, tumbling wing

of feathered sounds that swing

across their incandescent surfaces–

 

this sound, a lover’s soft sigh,

a parent’s croon,

a celestial lullaby

 

of wonder and why.

 

This is for dVerse,where De asked us to use the word fill in a quadrille, a poem of exactly 44 words. My first lines came from Jane wondering a few days ago what it would be like to see the stars during the day. I suspect Vincent could hear their songs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.