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.

Glancing Back

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, The Muse History, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Coy Clio,
with half-smile and backward glance,
her stance unsecured–
she balances time and chance.
Reflected in the glass,
her image wavers, not quite straight,
always moving, she knocks down Fate.
She leaves her scent in dusty tombs,
and book-filled rooms, and there within
a musty cell, a faded ledger in a bin.
There are cries from eras long forgotten,
she sighs through silk and ships of cotton,
whispers through graveyards and dockets, ill-gotten
gains and weathered remains of centuries, unexplained.
Ask her for enlightenment, not for glory,
still she replies there are many untold stories–
look at the monuments, partly erased, salted
and wind-kissed, the lines spaced
unevenly in past’s embrace.
And here, a doll, a letter, a locket
that falls from a red-splattered pocket—
love and connections, a mystery,
blood-drenched fields, the history.

This is in response to Ingrid’s dVerse prompt this week to write a poem invoking a muse. Some of you know I have a history book chapter that I need to finish writing (like now), so perhaps a poem about Clio, the muse of history will help. I’m posting this for today’s dVerse Live Open Link Night.

We Measure Time

Monday Morning Musings:

We measure time in sunglow and moon-sighs,
in the numbers of hellos, goodbyes–
and we do it again.

We measure time in heartbeats,
the food we eat,
the hours spent with friends,

our hair greying,
our shadows growing
as wine in summer glows, easygoing

like a lazy river flowing
the memories growing—
love, family, companions—

Kayaker seen from Martine’s. Delaware River at New Hope, Bucks County, PA

Do you remember? I say,
that time, this day?
We celebrate the decades gone

and hope that more remain,
though nothing stays the same.
Still, the sun glows, the moon sighs,

hello, goodbye. Love moves through phases,
so do I. Waxing, waning, silver, gold, while the sun blazes
I might seem cold,

but I’ll still shine while you grow old.
So, measure time in love you hold
folded gently, held within–every story told.

Schuylkill River near the Water Works.
By the Schuylkill River, June 2021

We celebrated our wedding anniversary by walking through Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve in Bucks County, PA, and then having a delightful lunch at Martine’s Riverhouse in New Hope. We walked through the town a bit, and then walked along the canal path. We couldn’t have ordered a more beautiful day. Earlier in the week, we enjoyed wine with dear friends at William Heritage Winery. On Saturday, we visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the first time since the pandemic, and then walked along the Schuylkill River. It rained, and then got steamy. For dinner that night, we opened some champagne and ate Indian food from Spice Affair Indian Cuisine in Swedesboro. Then ate leftovers the next night.

Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve
Canal Path, New Hope
Schuylkill River in the Rain, June 26, 2021

Schuylkill Timeline by Jonathan Laidacker— Mural Arts


Merril’s Movie Club: We re-watched the movie About Time (2013). It’s on Netflix. I’m not especially into romantic comedies, but this one is delightful. There’s time travel, family, and searching for love. I will watch almost anything with Bill Nighy, and the father-son scenes are especially touching and funny.

Is it?

Monday Morning Musings:

Early Morning Sun on the Delaware River, West Deptford, NJ. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

Is it in my blood
to see the color and the light?
To find delight in dappled ground,
cerulean sky, and honeyed beams
spread all around?

A beautiful spring morning, Delaware River. ©️Merril D. Smith

To take some of that and this,
and make a dish, a story, art—
to lose my heart in joy, or fear
being apart, and sail
aboard an anxious ship on
shadowed seas, yet sing the songs
of moon and stars?

I wish I could know—
the ones who came before—
when in living with the making do,
was there room for questioning and for beauty, too?

Did they sigh at rippled water, and see within
the upside-down,
and all around, the spirits, shadows, flowers, trees—
the families?

We gather bits of ours—in hummingbird hover
midway between here and there,
under a clouded-feather sky,
ask what if we did, ask what if we didn’t, and wonder why—
but there are no answers, no words for what might have been,
only recalling what was—her laugh, the words she said—
and what is–here, now, us–a thread,

connecting yesterday, today, tomorrow–joys and sorrow,

we wait to see what the future brings, heart-sung, our wishes fly, bird-winged on our sighs.

I consulted the Oracle, and she gave me the phrase, “It is in my blood,” so I went with that. I’ve been thinking of my ancestors lately. In my grandparents’ generation, I know of artists and musicians, but art and music were not considered things one should do as a career. Slowly, we’re emerging from our Covid cocoon. We saw our daughter on Friday, and my sisters yesterday. We forgot to get a picture to mark the occasion, so we’ll have to do it again. The photo of my mom showed-up in my FB memories.

Measuring

Monday Morning Musings:

Early Morning, Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

Measure by measure—

in hope and despair
from winter bare to sun-charged air

we smile through tears
with spirits brightened, but still the fears

of what comes next?
Another crisis, another text

of sorrow or disaster.
Can we master

moving from the passing of this year?
Too many lost, but we’re still here–

and so, we live as we’re able,
finally meet across a table

to eat and laugh, while those who’ve passed
remain within our memories, clasped

in synapsed snapshots, held fast,
until all is faded, at last,

everything balanced, a measure
of sadness, a finding of treasure

in the remembrance of what she said,
those words, like a thread

linking us, a connection
a form of resurrection

in “do you remember?” Phrases bright—
like the promise, with shadows, there’s light.

Ripples. One Year. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

April is a strange month all over, it seems—one day cold, one day warm, full of storms, and also flowers. A bunch of tulips that we didn’t plant have popped up in our garden.

Yesterday was the first anniversary of my mother’s death. Now that we’ve all been vaccinated, we went to our younger daughter and son-in-law’s house—and for the first time in over a year, hugged and ate inside. She made us a tapas feast, and I baked a chocolate cake in my mom’s memory.

My husband and I both got haircuts for the first time in over a year, too. Woo hoo! We celebrated with a date night at home and streamed the excellent production of the Lantern Theater’s production of Measure for Measure. It was a filmed production from a few years ago. The play is very timely. We watched the movie, Promising Young Woman, (rental from Amazon), which my husband and I both enjoyed and thought was very good—great acting, direction, and soundtrack. Both play and movie will inspire discussion.