Cabarets and Conviviality

Monday Morning Musings:

“Life is a cabaret, old chum

Come to the Cabaret!”

–John Kander and Fred Ebb, “Cabaret,” from Cabaret

 

“Which of all my important nothings shall I tell you first?”

–Jane Austen, Letter to her sister Cassandra, June 15, 1808

 

On a summery autumn day,

we left the sunlight

to enter the smoky den–

(the Cabaret, old friend)

Germany in the 1930s

but goose steppers are looming

the winds of war are moving

soon the guns will be booming

but for now, there is consuming

beer and goods,

here in the night,

the women are beautiful

the men are beautiful

they slink and glide

in barely-there wear

the Emcee, in heels and gowns

feather boa and garters,

looming

grooming the audience

flirting and diverting

we’re there, but here

then, but now

I’m surprised–

though why–

startled at my own emotion reaction

because it’s no longer an abstraction,

“Tomorrow Belongs to Me”

and Nazi insignia–

my throat constricts,

the body knows what the mind refuses to accept

(more goose steps)

I hear “some very fine people” gather

drivel and blather

echoes of then and now

the need to fight and disavow

what do politics have to do with us

the characters ask

We’re Germans,

(We’re Americans)

that can’t happen here,

our rights will never disappear

people standing tall and proud

arms held straight in devoted salute

They worship him

(no matter what he says)

small steps with profound consequences

(build a wall and many fences)

the slippery slope

and where’s the rope to pull us back

to ring the warning bell

to tell us now that all is well

So, what would you do

My brave young friend?

Would you pay the price?

What would you do?

What should we do?

What will you do?

 

 

We walk and talk

a wonderful production

the set well-designed,

the orchestra well-tuned and engaging

the voices delightful

the direction, insightful

altogether, quite a show

but—

(rightfully so)

a little too close to current events

(Maybe this time)

we’ll be lucky

maybe this time

he’ll go away

 

We wander some more

through old city streets

encounter wedding parties

one right after the other

brides, grooms, sisters, brothers

“the wedding stalker,” my husband says,

but it makes me happy to see love and joy

(where some want only to destroy)

affirmations of love and life

after the violence, hate, killing, and strife

 

We drink coffee

stroll across the cobblestones

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where men met to create a nation

to establish here a firm foundation

(remember the ladies, Abigail said)

but no, they simply went ahead

We’ve come a long way, baby

but still and all–

life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

flawed men with lofty ideals

feet of clay

and yet they found a way

it’s still the best we have

pledges made then and now

pledges these couples make in wedding vows

to love and cherish

to pursue life and happiness together

to do their best

we must do our best

(to join together)

 

After the play, we join our friends

friends of years

through love and tears

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kindred spirits

saying farewell to one couple’s house

not their first

but one where babies were born and nursed

here a family gathered

here we’ve shared many meals

often, like tonight Chinese food

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viewed one way

something we’ve done before

but there’s always something new and something old

moments to cherish and hold

close here to heart and mind

to bring out and remember

should we ever find the need to,

we say farewell to the house

but not the friendship,

remember that time, we say?

That day?

And then?

Remember when?

“What do you talk about? one friend’s daughter asked.

How do you describe the talk of old friends?

We talk of all our important nothings

and then we talk some more

of children, homes, work, and retirement

of travel, plays, movies, and books

of bats in our houses

and grandchildren in our beds

of catching mice

and stalking cats

of coffee cups and chocolate cake

of food and wine

and all the time

of then

and now

and all things fine

(and some things not so)

until finally it’s time to go.

We part with hugs effusive

despite the hour

and as the moon peeks from her cloudy bower

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we part–

Auf Wiedersehen,

but not goodbye

À bientôt

Enjoy life’s show–

it may be a cabaret

but if so, the set changes every day

and yet love, the light, true friends remain

and all our important nothings

in turns out

are really something

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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For Those Who Came Before, To Those Who Come After

She remembers–

flying,

rising above land and sea,

adrift in the misting clouds,

feeling the wind through her hair,

laughing,

looking below,

resisting gravity,

(the pull to bring her down).

It was all forbidden,

(girls were not meant to rise)

but she knew it was never wrong

to soar as high as she could,

And so,

this is what she taught her daughters–

and her sons–

and when she could no longer fly

or remember

they did so for her,

laughing in the misting clouds,

resisting the forces that sought to bring them down.

 

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Caspar David Friedrich, “Drifting Clouds” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This is for Secret Keeper’s Weekly Writing Prompt.  

The prompt words were:

| SOAR | WRONG | LAND | RESIST | BELOW

 

 

 

 

The Between Time

Monday Morning Musings:

“A Light exists in spring

Not present on the year

At any other period

When March is scarcely here.”

—Emily Dickinson, “A Light exists in spring,”Full Text Here

 

In the between-time, dinosaurs dreamt,

their breathe swirled in the misty air

floating to mingle with ours

their feathers bright

with gaping jaws and thunder cries

amidst the fern-like leaves,

always summer

 

we dreamt their dreams

and they dreamt ours

warm blood flowing through our veins

(uniting heart and mind)

we sat on their backs as they flew

large wings outspread

feeling their power and grace

and they listened to our stories

of love

of kings and queens

raptors enraptured,

always summer in our dreams

 

But now

in this between-time of winter-spring

the flowers bloomed, they danced and sang

(we heard their songs)

then felt their pain

(tears fell from the sky)

as winter touched them with cold fingers

covering them in an icy blanket

yet the days grow lighter

brighter

and yet still whiter

 

 

In this between-time world,

this in-between season,

forces of good and evil fight

but most of us, dinosaurs and humans,

remain in-between,

compliant, complacent,

lost in dreams,

thinking of summer

 

This weekend, we ate Hamantaschen

(a lot of Hamantaschen),

 

we drank wine,

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I read about Queen Esther,

who may or may not have existed,

(an in-between world)

she married King Ahasuerus

who ordered his first wife, Queen Vashti,

to stand naked before his male guests at a banquet,

displaying what he owned

(what he could touch with his small hands)

she refused,

and he banished her–

magnanimously did not executed her–

but made a new law—

men would have complete authority over their wives.

Esther, plucked from his harem,

became his new wife,

a new trophy.

This king ruled a vast empire,

but he was petty,

thin skinned

(orange tinted)

easily influenced,

as for Esther,

fourteen years old

did she have a choice?

She was Jewish,

a secret descendent of exiles,

in palace full of secrets and intrigue,

she and her uncle Mordecai foiled a plan to kill the king,

winning his trust,

but the eunuchs involved were killed,

collateral damage,

And Esther skillfully manipulated the king,

outwitted his prime minister Haman

(the evil man behind the throne

disseminator of alternative facts)

and prevented the mass slaughter of the Jews

(though they still had to fight)

She is honored now,

Haman is reviled,

but still I wonder,

she remained with the king,

bore him a son,

a woman caught between men,

and I wonder about her

what did she give up

what did she give in to

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Credit Line: Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, “Esther before Ahasuerus, (1738-1740)
Purchased with funds contributed by the Women’s Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in honor of their 100th anniversary, 1982

 

I wonder about being complicit,

collaborating with the enemy,

we watched a TV show about Earth after aliens have taken over

letting humans do the work of enforcing their decrees

those who work for the aliens get good homes and other perks

resisters are sent to work camps or to “the factory,”

from which they never return,

a spin on WWII and Nazi-occupied countries,

or any country under a dictator,

complicity

collaboration

(What would you do to save your family?)

though the air feels warm

sometimes, it’s always winter

 

But I know spring is coming

sense it from the light,

different from other times of the year,

brighter, losing the gloom of winter,

a signal,

a beacon of hope

I drink more wine,

eat some sweets,

ignore false honeyed words

take a break

deep breaths

relax

because

we value love

and art

and beauty

and joy

we tell stories

of dinosaurs and ghosts

of ancient worlds

and kings and queens

and believe in people

we hope, but resist

and do not become complacent

even as the days grow longer

and we are lulled by spring’s sweet siren song

and dream our dreams,

ours and the dinosaurs,

in the in-between time

 

My conceit about dreams mingling with that of dinosaurs was inspired by Kerfe and Jane’s discussion on this post. 

The recipe for Shakshuka Hamantaschen can be found here on What Jew Wanna Eat.  I used part whole wheat flour for the pita. The recipe for the Cannoli Hamantaschen can be found here.

We’re expecting a big snowstorm tomorrow. Sigh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women: Past, Present, Future

 

He never saw her / A hidden figure

though there she was / in plain sight

his property, to do his bidding /  a body, with a brain though

she smiled meekly, got his coffee before he asked / she could outthink him any day

he glared when she dared to speak or dream / she wanted to learn all she could

he told her to sit down and be quiet /  so she persisted

he put his hands up her skirt and laughed /  and she tried to resist

he beat her / she fought back when she could

he told her he was in charge / she tried to change the system

men were always at the top / she educated her daughters and her sons

the world depended on it /  they had to be bold for change

iwd2012

 

A cleave poem for International Women’s Day 2017. The theme for 2017 is “be bold for change.” A cleave poem is three poems in one–left side, right side, and the full lines.

Today’s Google Doodle was a slide show featuring women of diverse backgrounds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Murky Water

In murky waters, danger lurks

perhaps unseen

open minds,

connect the dots,

find the spots,

the rule of law

(withdrawal

recuse

resign)

 

In party hats,

they toe the line,

invertebrates, no spine

they conform,

(the new norm)

pats on the back,

time out of whack,

the truth twisted around a smile

(just wait a while)

don’t roil the water

don’t whine

and don’t resist,

but she persists,

defines a problem,

but only the tip,

the iceberg

drifts toward the ship

in a cold, dark sea

 

Or perhaps,

it’s the middle of the labyrinth,

craft your wings from sealing wax,

and fly high

fight the bull

and spoil the fun

don’t shed a bitter tear

 

Or perhaps,

a game of Clue,

Colonel Mustard with a candlestick–

who did what and when?–

find the bodies

dig them up

like a dog, take hold,

shake,

be bold,

persisting

resisting

till they’re gone,

the monsters,

resigned

 

And hope the water turns clear and blue

 

 

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Odilon Redon, “Swamp Flower,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Her Story

 

In a show of power,

he struck her down,

hoping she’d cower

from his bully shout–

you’ve been warned,

and must be punished,

this is what it’s all about,

you’ve violated the rule,

no, I’m not cruel,

you’ve been warned,

now take your seat,

(before I knock you down).

 

History’s age-old tale–

oh, she may flail–

but the shrew must be tamed,

and men are not to blame

if women do not listen–

(do not talk back,

you’ve been warned,

now I’ll teach you a lesson).

With words and whips,

with zippers unzipped,

with laws to subjugate

(it’s a mandate),

victors write the history,

how the story will be told,

but might is not always right,

so, sit tight–

though warned,

nevertheless, she persisted.

 

This is for Secret Keeper’s Writing Challenge.

This week’s prompt words were:

Power/Show/Thought/Love/Write

 

Surviving

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Fritz von Uhde [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“The newspaper stories were like dreams to us, bad dreams dreamt by others. How awful, we would say, and they were, but they were awful without being believable. They were too melodramatic, they had a dimension that was not the dimension of our lives. We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.”

—Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

 

She rose in frigid darkness,

hauled water from the well,

lit the fire, cooked the meal,

her work uninterrupted, invariable,

her duties clear,

no surprises, no light in her world,

(no lightness in her soul)

hours of toil,

before she could creep down the steps

to her cold, damp cell,

limbs stiff, ossified, a fossil of a woman

wearing her weariness like a shroud,

her life safe,

(as long as she could work)

well, safer than others,

who hid in fear,

she had a roof,

a bit of food,

she wished she could long for flowers

sunshine, love,

but the reality was

she only wished to survive.

 

This poem is for Secret Keeper’s Writing Challenge, using the words

Life/Work/Real/Safe/Clear.  I used reality instead of real.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March: Worlds Forgotten and Remembered

Monday Morning Musings:

“Once upon a time, when women were birds, there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk was to heal the world through joy. The birds still remember what we have forgotten, that the world is meant to be celebrated.”

–Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice

(I liked this quotation so much, I took it from Robin at Breezes at Dawn. Check out her blog, which is full of insight, warmth, and stunning photos. )

“In the quantum multiverse, every choice, every decision you’ve ever made and never made exists in an unimaginably vast ensemble of parallel universes.”

–Nick Payne, Constellations

 

March,

the word spreads in the mouth, then ends with decision,

like a boot hitting the soft, wet ground,

like us on Saturday,

thousands of women,

strolling more than marching—so many bodies, you know—

but determined,

love on display,

love emblazoned on signs, and in hearts,

no rigid parade lines

marking and separating us,

freeform designs

murmurations of emotion

dancing up into the sky,

singing like birds,

trying to heal the world,

(hoping it’s not too late)

realizing that some do not understand that love is love

and that hate is not the answer.

 

And so, we responded after

the day of doom,

a day of gloom,

a day we thought would never come,

a day in which we’re all a bit numb,

he gives a speech not of hope,

(the edge of the slippery slope?)

no appeals to the better angels of our natures,

no asking what you can do for your country,

no yes we can,

no.

He speaks in dog whistles

of American carnage,

and many feel discarded

no longer a part of the land of the free,

as the few,

(a very few)

cheer in glee.

And so, only fearing fear itself, we march,

we march for our children, our future, our world

woman power, unfurled

spurred to action,

my daughter and my new-found friend,

(my daughter’s second grade teacher),

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we leave New Jersey for Philadelphia,

the train is packed,

filled with solidarity,

filled with love,

cheers as marchers get on at each stop–

there are stories to be swapped–

 

an eighty-four-year-old woman

who began her career at age nineteen,

she taught in a one-room schoolhouse in southern Illinois.

We’ve come a long way, baby,

with miles to go.

 

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Exiting the Patco station at 16th and Locust

 

We walk to the rally.

Laugh overhearing the group in front of us,

“You know how I like to moon my mom?” a young woman says to her friends.

 

Marchers, as far as we can see,

(Marchers all over the world!)

But we find my sister, sister-niece, and my sister’s friend

who have come from other parts of Pennsylvania

(The wonders of modern technology.)

 

We laugh at clever, funny, uplifting signs.

 

“It’s amazing. You’re all amazing!” a woman says.

And we’re walking and talking,

Talking and walking

A speaker chants,

“Peace, Hope, and Joy!”

And there is hope in that multitude.

 

Back in New Jersey,

We head to a winery—

It’s been a long day,

though inspiring

but well, wine.

(And we may need it.)

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T-Shirt at Sharrott Winery

 

On Sunday, my husband and I see a play,

Constellations,

quantum mechanics, patterns, time, and bees,

(Is time tangled strings or floating seas?)

a couple may or may not meet,

may or may not greet

love and sorrow

or waltz to a beat.

And we all wonder about choices made in life, don’t we?

I wonder about history–

is there a timeline for a failed American Revolution?

Another for Hitler’s not being defeated?

A timeline where what we know now is deleted,

or was never completed?

Is there another world where I did not move from Dallas?

Perhaps one where I lived in a palace?

One in which I did not meet my husband?

A world where I did not have my darling daughters, my joy?

(No, too sad to contemplate.)

What is fated?

What answers lie in the stars?

Are we ruled by Jupiter or Mars?

Is there a timeline where I could ever have supported a misogynistic demagogue?

Perhaps in another timeline we have our first female president,

a world where we did not need to rant and vent.

Perhaps in another, parallel universe we have not elected a petulant, dangerous man-child,

wild

with power.

Perhaps there, the people understand what should be celebrated.

where we could,

where we have not forgotten,

where songs and hope blossom,

Perhaps there, humans are human,

and love is love.

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I highly recommend Constellations at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia.

We did a special wine tasting at Sharrott Winery that included red wine hot cocoa. We plan to go back when it is warmer to sit outside and enjoy their wine.

We marched at the Women’s March on Philadelphia, January 21, 2017.

And I will continue to be vigilant and to resist.