Whispers and Wishes (Part 3)

Edvard Munch, Forest in Snow

Whispers and Wishes (Part 3)

And so, we rested, away from the snow,
inside that hut by the fire’s glow,
but stories cannot be chewed with teeth
though they help assuage our terror and grief.

Where is Momma, I whimper, and wipe my eyes,
She’s looking for us, but my sister cries
though she hides her face, I see a tear
and realize she must also fear—

What do we do? Where do we go?
Back to the cold, leave our tracks in the snow?
It’s dark, Little One, let us sleep,
there’s a blizzard out there, the snow’s too deep,

for us to go or soldiers to come.
We’ll melt some ice and savor the crumbs–
wish and pretend we have a feast!
We’ll hear no shots from west or east.

And so, we wished, and then we dozed,
fire banked, door bolted, the windows closed–
but when we woke, there was more fresh bread,
a pitcher of milk, and another rose of red. . .

a golden feather glimmered on the floor.

I was looking at old posts this afternoon, and I discovered I had shared parts 1 and 2 of this poem with dVerse, so I decided to write a part 3 for Open Link Night. Scared children are on my mind, and I suppose I wish for them a happily ever after.

Bread and Roses

Monday Morning Musings:

Early morning in December, Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

Scarlet, russet, orange, green—
the colors bright against the sky
pewter, lead, as clouds fly

Color against the grey river and sky. Delaware River, Red Bank Battlefield. ©️Merril D. Smith 2021

one day bluster, one day calm
gulls and geese mind the storm
of swirling wind, cold and warm

opposites attract,
or do they simply fight
in thunderous rumbles, a response to flight.

In darkness, we seek light,
in longest night, the dawn
apricot and pink, shy sparkle then gone

but where do we go
when hate comes again
cycles of not if, but when

in endless journeys,
ships in the night, dreams
of a future— streams

of thought from the past,
ancestral visions caught or checked?
What happened, what comes next?

We need both bread and roses
to survive, to thrive
beyond existence, life and alive

to hope and beauty–
to plants seeds, then wait
for others to germinate

tender buds, well-nourished—
bread and roses, not
blood and lies, a nation fraught

with dangerous thoughts
bread and roses, not mobs and guns—
the ones

who shout loudest attract a crowd,
but circles and seasons, round and round
the sun rises, beams from sky to ground,

even if we’re not here, even if no one is around,
the star-birds twinkle and sing, wing light
into the future, red and blue shifts bright beyond our sight—

and perhaps—

some travelers in some time hence
may see not only relics of destruction and fear,
but traces of love sown and grown, still echoing here.

I found a heart.

The weather has been strange, and the news has been frightening.
We took a trip to Longwood Gardens last week just to get out of the house. We wore masks indoors, though some did not. We had a recent COVID scare, but fortunately my husband and I both tested negative. Yet some people still refuse to wear masks or get vaccines and believe the pseudo-science they hear.

My theme was also inspired by this Marginalian post about Rebecca Solnit on George Orwell’s Roses. Bread and Roses was a poem set to music and used as a union marching song.

Last night we watched an interactive streaming play called Witness by the Arlekin’s Zero Gravity (zero-G) Virtual Theater Lab. It shares the experiences of the Jewish refugees on the St. Louis, which left Germany in 1939, only to be turned away in Cuba, and then other countries, and combines them with stories from more recent Jewish immigrants from Russian and Ukraine, along with discussions of recent acts of anti-Semitism. It was interesting and thought provoking. My grandparents came from what is now Belarus and Ukraine.

This morning I saw so many vultures just down the street from where I live. I could hear their wings flapping. It was thrilling.

Dreams in Blue

Monday Morning Afternoon Musings:

Frosted River Blues ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

I dreamt my dad
was visiting Boston, as was I.
I knew it was a dream, but I was glad
to see him, to know he didn’t die

completely. Death takes,
but the mind recalls—
at least in dreams. We wake
to cry or sigh or laugh, but all

is part of life, like spring and fall—
the cycle of the seasons, the folds
of time–dream-me is not one age, clocks toll
differently there, controlled

by mind, the shadows and the light.

Now, beneath a canopy of crimson, gold,
and yellow-green
I gaze up at the blue-gowned sky, foretold
by orbit’s path and revolution, the unseen and the seen–

November Sunrise over a Frosted Field ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

the beauty of frosted November mornings,
despite the baring of the trees, the death of things,
the ignoring of all warnings—
see the gulls fly with scintillating wings

reflecting the glow, and letting it go?

Autumn Scene, ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

This the balance, life and death–
the cloth bag I took to my mother’s hangs on a chair waiting,
I take a breath,
hesitating

to make her death final and real.
Crow caws beauty, evil, life and death—all are true,
parts of a whole, a cycle, the real we feel,
a sigh within, a heart-soar reaching for the endless blue.

I have been amazed this week by the beauty of nature. The glorious light of this time of year, even the frost is beautiful. Soon, everything will look barren and grey, so I’m enjoying this while I can. I’ve also been dismayed by how willing people are to embrace the haters and those who spread misinformation. People I know who “don’t believe in” masks voted for the baby Trumpty-Dumpties, who have already been called out for racist slurs. UGHHHHH!
But on the bright side, I got to see friends this week—who definitely do NOT believe this nonsense.

And today, I went walking and talking with a friend. Then we had my homemade challah cinnamon toast and coffee and talked some more. Thus, the late post today. I will be back in a little while because I’m hosting Prosery on dVerse today.

Merril’s Movie/TV Club:

We watched and finished Maid (Netflix), inspired by Stephanie Land’s memoir. My husband and I both enjoyed it, although after the first episode, he looked at me and said something like, “well, that was uplifting.” But if you haven’t watched it, there are funny incidents, times of joy, and surreal moments—it’s not all bleak. I listened to an NPR interview with Stephanie Land that was done before the Netflix series. Here

We streamed a new movie, I Am Your Man (rental, Amazon Prime). It’s a German movie about an archeologist who agrees to evaluate an android who has been designed to be her perfect partner. It’s sort of a rom-com with a tiny touch of sci-fi, but also poignant– as it asks what we really want in a mate. Do we want perfection? And also, apparently Dan Stevens can do anything, even speak German. We both liked this movie a lot. Trailer here.

Things That Are Lost

Monday Morning Musings:

Sunrise Reflections, Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

Things that are lost—

buttons, keys, a pearl earring
summer leaves, the morning light
that fades as the sun rises to its height.

Sunrise over the Delaware River at West Deptford, NJ

Shadows that follow
then disappear,
like warm-weather fruits—till next year.

A battle, a war,
a way of life from before
when then was now, the shore

of future lay ahead,
the dead were living,
at least in your head.

Autumn puddle and reflections

Memories, a laugh, a song ,
the things you wished once to do
with loved ones you once knew–

husband, father, child, wife,
a beloved pet, a favorite toy—
all the sorrow and the joy,

things that are lost –and sometimes found,

air, love, happiness, roots, connected deep underground.

Sunrise with tree silhouette

October seems a month of both beauty and melancholy. The sun rises later and set earlier, but in-between there’s a beautiful glow. We’ve had fog, rain, amazing sunrises, warm days, cold days, and more and more falling colored leaves.

This week we took a brief trip to Hammonton, NJ to pick up some olive oil and balsamic vinegar I like. I also bought cannoli for myself and our daughter (my husband didn’t want one).


We attended a memorial service for my husband’s uncle in Mt. Holly. We went to the service, talked a bit to family members, but then left without eating, as we were not comfortable sitting in the basement room with a bunch of strangers who may or may not be vaccinated. One of the hymns sung was “Amazing Grace.”

Merril’s Movie Club: We streamed three movies this week, all very different, but perhaps sharing a common theme of loss: life, dreams, love, memory. Fever Dream (Netflix) is difficult to describe, as is the novel it’s based on that I read last year. But the title is an indication. I think I liked it more than my husband did. It has a dreamy and slightly unsettling air, with much of it a voice-over between a woman and a boy who is not her son. To give a lot of detail would spoil the movie. There’s a mystery and supernatural elements, and a magical realism feel. We watched The One I Love, a 2014 movie about a couple played by Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss go for a weekend getaway at the suggestion of their therapist (Ted Danson). What looks like a rom com movie slips into the surreal. Again, I won’t give any spoilers, but it was fun, unusual, and gives you something to talk about. Finally, we watched The Black Box, a scifi/horror movie from last year on Amazon. It’s about a father who has lost his memory after an accident. When he undergoes a new treatment, strange things happen. It’s a solid B movie—entertaining and enjoyable.

Not After, but In-Between

Monday Morning Musings:

Not after, but in-between–
the seasons fold gold into green,
the sun emerges, or stays unseen
between, behind, beyond, but true.

Can we linger here awhile?
Jackets on and off, a smile
at pumpkins and the deer—miles
to go, and much to fear

from demagogues and misinformation—
the destruction of our world and nation.
Yet, we don our masks and leave the station—
a celebration, we’re still here.

We plant flowers and bulbs—is it a trope
to say we’re planting hope?
That we’ll not slide from the slippery slope
because this is not after, but in-between—

still, even after winters of despair,
spring comes, with petrichor in the air
and robins’ song, searching and aware
of being between—here and there.

And we on our pale blue dot
look for light, our shot, our spot, our ifs–or not.

A Cloudy Sunrise

I feel like we really are in this in-between place. The pandemic is not over, and fanatics are still going strong. I’m beginning to feel like we’re in the late 1850s in the US or the 1930s in Germany—but with better technology.

Still–we went to the theater for the first time since the pandemic began. We saw Minor Character: Six Translations of Uncle Vanya at the Same Time, which was truly as the Wilma Theater blurb says: “a joyful and music-filled comedic kaleidoscope. A band of actors come together to perform a warm-hearted yet bittersweet look at love, longing, and the limitations of language.” The Wilma Theater required proof of vaccination, IDs, and masks. We had assigned seats with empty seats left around us, and the theater kept at half capacity. They also updated their HVAC system. So, we felt safe—at least as much as we can in these times. We also took Patco for the first time since the pandemic. It was OK, though some people did not wear masks despite the notices and announcements. Also this weekend, we pretended to be Derrick and Jackie Knight and visited a nursery to buy some plants.

Cranberries and Blue

Clouds and Blue Sky, First Day of Autumn at Red Bank Battlefield

And now, the sky is clearest blue,
gone summer’s haze, the color true
where eagles, herons, geese fly through

into tomorrow. Now the air
is crisp—soon crisper—and see there
the leaves are turning gold? Prepare
as now’s the time for harvests, too.

Grapes for wine, apples for the pies
and sauce, tossed in a pot—time flies—
between sun and moon, lows and highs.
Taste the tart and bittersweet, chew,

swallow, wallowed grief–holidays
she’ll never see. Cranberries stay
on my mind, and Thanksgiving Day
with the blue-squirrel mold—it’s hard to

say, the family tradition—
how she held it, the condition
of it unsure—no prediction
what cranberries will do. And you

cry, but it’s not the fruit. Life goes
on. Leaves turn, and the river flows
with secrets and ghosts undisclosed—
cranberries sauced, but you are blue.

Our precious squirrel mold for Thanksgiving cranberry sauce

This is Zéjel for Grace’s Meet the Bar prompt on dVerse, and also for Mish’s fruit prompt on Tuesday. I was thinking about Thanksgiving and our family’s cranberry squirrel the other day. We haven’t all been together since before my mom died.

At the Crossroads

Monday Morning Musings:

“Standin at the crossroad babe
eee eee eee, risin sun goin down
I believe to my soul now,
Poor Bob is sinkin down”
–from Robert Johnson, “Cross Road Blues”

Clouds over the river ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

Hawk flight in dim light, the trees still green–
summer clings, but autumn slings
a cool grey arm, and shadows fall across it all.

Now, the sun’s a sleepy golden ball

when I hear—something—sing
winged hope soars from that throat—to bring

Waiting for the Sun. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

comfort as the days go by, and dawn rises–
what will come—the future surprises.
The sky is cantaloupe and peach—

the eagles fly, high out of reach

Sunrise over the Delaware River ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

of those below
where time moves fast, then slow
in the beat of heron wings

a fish is gone. Do his fish brethren grieve?
Or do they notice? Do they believe
in monsters from above?

Do they love?

Or feel sorrow? What bargains would you make,
come tomorrow? For the sake
of family or self—for fame or fortune, or for glory?

Bargains with the devil–an age-old story.

But for some, the price they must pay,
to live a night, and into the next day

you stand at the crossroads to survive,
to see that cantaloupe sun arrive

then watch the harvest moon–revived
now humming, full and ripe–and you’re alive
in a world both glorious and banal–

rainfall and rainbows, fireballs

In the neighbor–sunlight, rainbows, and flowers. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

in the night. The moon has heard the call
of dinosaurs and seen the flight of pterodactyls–
and all of nature’s fractals,

patterns repeating, parallels, and lines that intersect
and here, we meet again and again—connect
the dots. We’re at the crossroads,

we rise and fall,
but the moon has seen it all.

We had warm sticky days last week, then the humidity dropped, and it’s starting to look and feel like autumn. Climate change means we will most likely continue to experience extreme weather. Right-wing fanatics are trying to overthrow our democracy, and anti-mask and anti-vax crazies are prolonging the pandemic. We know now that the “dark ages” were not as dark as they used to be portrayed, but it certainly seems like we’re heading into them.

And yet. . .there is still beauty, love, friendship, and people who speak the truth. And cats, food, and wine. Tonight is the September full moon, the Harvest Moon.

The Lantern Theater Company in Philadelphia is beginning this season with two digital plays. We streamed the first one, Me and the Devil, this past weekend. Tickets and information here.
There’s a legend that blues legend Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his extraordinary talent. It made me think about how throughout time, people have had to make bargains with evil in order to survive. In Johnson’s case there’s a mystery, and that he died young, adds to his mystique—he may have been poisoned by a jealous husband, as he was known as quite a ladies’ man.

At the Start of the Moment

Monday Morning Musings

“You are here, at the start of a moment,
On the edge of the world.
Where the river meets the sea.”
—“Welcome to the Rock,” from Come From Away

I am here, by the river
the sky is blue—or grey—
cloudy or clear, I am here
at the start of the day

Early Morning on the Delaware River, September.

watching the birds,
remembering the shadows
need the light, and thoughts
need words, to tell how time goes

Geese on the Delaware

Orange sun through the trees–Light and Shadows.

slow, then faster, people gone
before you know to say good-bye.
All the stories left untold,
and new ones born, the river sighs.

There a hawk cries,
There the sun rises, anew—
There a cat finds the light
There you find again the blue

that comes after storms and grey.
We celebrate the holidays—
you are there, and we are here
but we find some ways

to connect and remember.
We toast L’chaim, to life, with wine
and food we commemorate,
and for now, we’re fine

at the start of this moment—
and we soar into the next and the next

without a clue–what’s beyond the blue.

Goose photobombs egret’s big photo shoot.

This week started with Labor Day and Rosh Hashanah—it already seems so far away. We celebrated with our daughter and son-in-law. The next night, we had a Zoom dinner with both children and their spouses. Saturday was September 11. The sky that day was so blue, just as it was twenty years ago. In the afternoon, we went to Blue Cork Winery (where daughter now works) in Williamstown, NJ. It was a gorgeous day to sit outside. We’re going back to summer heat and humidity today.

Last night we watched Come From Away (Apple TV+). I have a couple months of Apple TV free, but Apple does not make it easy to watch on a not-smart TV. This is a filmed version of a live stage production of the musical—filmed recently in a newly opened theater before a masked audience. Although I did not feel it quite so much as when we saw it live in a theater, it is still a wonderful play based on the true events of 9/11—when 38 planes were diverted to the Newfoundland town of Gander. It is heartwarming without being treacly, and it shows people at their best. The play was also performed live on Saturday at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

If you’ve seen the show, I just found this article, and it made me happy.

How Would I Tell You?

Early morning light on the Delaware River. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

How would I tell you—
the beauty of the morning sky,
the bird-swept clouds, the hummed goodbye
of moon still high

there, my eyes
reflect the shine. To be or not,
is not my question–here I am, not angsty youth,
but rather longer in the tooth—

how would I explain,
how the colors fill me
with joy and light—
grey or bright, the taste, the sight
tawny gold, rose, and peach, the foamy white
of churning waves?
The winter river’s cool mint blue?
The delight

of it–me and you.

My thoughts—my mind’s eye–
how do I explain? There is no why—
only what is
the beauty of the sky, the light,
the birds in flight

winging, singing
star-breathed dreams, the colored streams
web-woven in my head, released someday to fly
in iridescent blues and greens—peacock-eyed—
around the sun, then seeded in the ground–

how would I tell you any of this–
thoughts, if not profound, yet unbound—the bliss.

This is the kind of stuff that goes through my head, so I guess it can be considered a soliloquy for Victoria’s prompt at dVerse.

Dreams on Blackbirds’ Wings

Monday Morning Musings:

“And when we die we say, we’ll
Catch some blackbirds wing
Then we will fly away to Heaven come
Some sweet blue bonnet spring”
–from Nanci Griffith, “Gulf Coast Highway”

Sunrise, the Delaware River and Driftwood

Once, we saw dragons that breathed fire—
now they only crawl or fly,
yet we see our fate in the constellations still—
and I know their ghost light sings

Dragonfly

echoing, even as earth erupts in wars,
and shakes from its very core,
wanting less or wanting more,
I watch the clouds and flying things–

Gull with Philadelphia Skyline ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

the aching beauty of the morning sky
as if it knows it cannot last
but it recalls the seasons past
and dreams that flew on blackbirds’ wings.

Heron, Egret, and Geese— Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

And in the night, I see the moon,
know her light, hear her tune
as she recalls the seasons past
and dreams that flew on blackbirds’ wings.

One day sun and one day shadow,
the spinning world moves through the clouds
babies born amidst the shrouds—
and yet, still the robin sings

for love, for family, or for warning
as summer turns to fall,
and we recall the seasons past
and dreams that flew on blackbirds’ wings—
and all the songs the world still sings.

Singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith died this past week. She was known for her songs, her lovely, clear voice, and apparently her generosity to other musicians. I’ve been seeing tributes from all over. This has been a sad week for the world—Covid, fires, earthquakes, war.

We’ve been very fortunate. Despite the days of heat and stormy weather, we managed to get out twice to local wineries, where we could sit outside and enjoy wine, food, and music.

I’ll be back later because I’m hosting dVerse today. Today is Prosery Monday—where I provide a line from a poem, and anyone who wants to, can write a short prose piece from it.