The Visitor: Quadrille


Under the midnight moon

creatures shuffle, scurry,

slither in a flurry

from the shadowed form.

A sharp cry, silence punched

by dead leaves crunched

under booted foot

stepping through the old back door

over creaking floor,

the Visitor walks in–

smiles his malignant grin.



I used two dVerse prompts.  De Jackson (aka WhimsyGizmo) asked us to write a quadrille using the word “crunch.” Lillian asked us to write a poem using a form of the word, “visit.” Sorry, this wasn’t exactly a holiday-themed poem.  I should probably stop reading the news.






Secrets and Shadows: Musings and Shadorma

Monday Morning Musings:

“Secrets, silent, stony sit in the dark palaces of both our hearts: secrets weary of their tyranny: tyrants willing to be dethroned.”

James Joyce, Ulysses

“It’s a triumph of art and friendship over time. And it’s also very important, I think, to hang on to the things that mean something to you. And they transcend time.”

–Judy Collins, “Love, Friendship and Music: Stephen Stills and Judy Collins Collaborate on New Album,” All Things Considered with Michele Martin, November 11, 2017

“There is regret, almost remorse,
For Time long past.
‘Tis like a child’s belovèd corse
A father watches, till at last
Beauty is like remembrance, cast
From Time long past.”

–Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Time Long Past”


Secret lives

buried deep in walls

or within

chambered hearts,

echoing the beats, flowing,

waiting for release


The garage

old, unstable, and so

down it comes

over the years

it’s housed tools and junk,

a chipmunk or two, amidst the rakes

perhaps a snake.

We were told the wall at the back

was bumped out a bit to fit

a Model T–

But honestly, I don’t know,

and it’s all so long ago.

The roof was shingled many times

and covered with leaves, pollen, and snow

beside it children have played,

and a wandering doe has grazed.

The yard is littered

adorned with its pieces–

fragments of a secret life

forlorn in autumn’s fading light,

a building built to last,

but now

shadows cast, from time long past.


The weather now has turned much colder

as the year journeys to its end,

no more harkening back, it seems to say

though time winds round again

through falling leaves and winter snow

to springtime bud and summer flowers,

and in the buildings here on city streets

there’s blending of the old and new

where cobblestones meet asphalt streets

and on concrete pavements,

shadows cast, from time long past

We see a musical about phone sex and love

set in the 1990s,

just before

(it opens a door)

the Internet really became a thing

and here a young man and woman

don golden chastity rings,

and vow to remain chaste till wed.

But now with their upcoming marriage,

they realize they do not really know each other.

They learn in song

(Well, it’s a musical, so we go along.)

we all have secrets lives and secret selves–

shadows cast, from time long past

FullSizeRender 251

It’s a funny, enjoyable show

a quirky romantic comedy

if not profound

it covers some familiar ground,

but still we talk of how it’s set

in a changing time.

a time now past

when our children were young.

And as day becomes night,

in autumn’s fading light

We see a bride and groom

and should we assume

they have lives kept private and

shadows cast, from time long past?


In the car, we listen to NPR

hear an interview with Judy Collins and Stephen Stills,

old lovers, now still friends,

hanging on to important things

and illustrated with their songs

throughout time

things that last,

shadows cast, from time long past.


I think of my mom and dad

meeting in time long before technology

of cell phones and Internet

and they connected,

once they were young and in love

then they weren’t either

keeping secrets from each other

yet still, I think the love was always there

and she to him said a final goodbye

the night before he died

shadows cast over time, long past


We take my mom to a winery–

“Cross a wine tasting off your bucket list,”

I say.


Here we can sit at a table

order our selections

of white and red



served with cheese and bread

and the atmosphere is convivial,

the conversation, mostly trivial,

but as we move to pizza and more wine,

we’re feeling pretty fine,

we talk of Thanksgiving

and of ancestry

I tell her about my poetry,

she tells me things she remembers–

sitting in her grandfather’s lap

though she doesn’t remember much about him,

and after that he died,

from an injury to his skull,

difficult times from them all

immigrants from another land

speaking a language I don’t understand,

I learned there was a baby brother born

after her mother and her aunts

he died young, seldom spoken of.

In the conversation here

ghosts of ancestors now appear–

shadow cast, of time long past


Then to home

the weekend ended,

secrets shared

journeys taken,

sunshine and shadows, blended,

cast in a circle


through time and

space our souls wander

sharing love

fearing death

casting shadows of time past

long ago and now


We saw TouchTones at the Arden Theatre. We went to Auburn Road Vineyard.

I’ve begun and ended my musing with Shadorma for my somewhat sporadic participation in Eliot of Along the Interstice’s November Shadorma Challenge.







Shadows of the Almost-There: Yeats Challenge, Day 2

A late second day of Jane Dougherty’s Yeats Challenge. I probably won’t be doing every day, but I do  love these quotations. Here is today’s:

“… the dark folk who live in souls
Of passionate men, like bats in the dead trees;” —W.B. Yeats

For this second Yeats’ challenge, I’ve used Jane’s poetic form, but added a rhyme and borrowed her regret. I seem stuck on shadows lately.


In the darkening of the day

spirits linger, not far away

in the shadow of almost-there

joy and despair


Beyond the trees, perhaps within

the tortured souls, the denizens

like bats they wait for dark of night

fearing the light


Perhaps you wonder who they be

perhaps they’re you, perhaps they’re me

within our passion, dwells the dark

a drop, a spark


of evil lurks within, we hold

good, but some are poisoned and fold,

lured by passion, fear, doubt, and hate

goodness in their souls, they negate–

regret too late

Shadows: November Shadorma Challenge, 1 and 2

Eliot of Along the Interstice is doing a November Shadorma Challenge.  You can read about it here.

“The Shadorma is a Spanish poetic form made up of a stanza of six lines. (sestet) with no set rhyme scheme. It is a syllabic poem with a meter of 3/5/3/3/7/5. It can have many stanzas, as long as each follows the meter.”

Here is my Day 1, inspired by a fortune cookie, and Day 2, a bit of fun inspired by the foggy morning.


Light shining

through the shadowed world,


battling fears

luminous rills, glowing streams

where hope ever grows




Misty morn

where night creatures lurk


half-seen. Blink

and they will be gone—but no,

watch, they linger still.






Storm Music

I’m awakened by the rain hitting the window, the barker for the upcoming show. Step right up, folks! This one’s a dazzler of light and sound. The lightning takes center stage as it illuminates the sky, followed by the chorus of thundering kettle drums. One cat leaps off the bed; the other snuggles closer to my side. My husband sleeps, but I’m held captive, an unwitting, unwilling audience for this production. Do hours pass, or does it just seem that way? The endless percussion, the strobing encores? The fortissimo storm music finally ends, drifting off, pianissimo, until it’s gone. I dream then of shadows and golden light, of distant seas and far off worlds, until at last, the sun rises, waking me again, with a gentle song.

whirling midnight storms

shadows flit through worlds and minds

in dawn’s light, vanish




Embed from Getty Images


This Haibun is for Colleen Chesebro’s Weekly Poetry Challenge.

The prompt words were shadow and light.

I’m also linking to dVerse, where Gayle is hosting an open link night.



Garden Shadows

Monday Morning Musings:

“’I am half sick of shadows,’ said

The Lady of Shalott”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “The Lady of Shalott”


“We’re neither pure, nor wise, nor good

We’ll do the best we know,

We’ll build our house and chop our wood

And make our garden grow. . .

And our garden grow.”

From Leonard Bernstein, “Make Our Garden Grow,” Candide



All week the sun plays hide and seek

perhaps preparing for the eclipse

my soul also wanders

in and out of shadows

I think about life

blooming in the late summer plants about me

at a make-your-own-terrarium night,



we each make one,

the open kind—succulents–

though the closed kind would be more interesting to me–

and less so to the cats–

I think,

as we drink wine

and visit with our friends’ daughter who had also showed up


I wonder how long our plants will live,

we, who are good at bringing up children and cats,

are not so adept at raising plants,

though the weeds seem to thrive,

still we put them in the sun

(but where there is sun, there are shadows)

and try to make our garden grow


As the sun plays in the August sky,

we go to the movies

(shadows turn to light and life upon a screen)

the film is about life and death

and making choices

telling the truth

confronting traditions

rejecting what does not work for you

embracing differences

seeing people as people,

not as members of different groups,

it’s kind of a comedy

and a romance

the comedy of life

the tragedies

funny family dinners


and a coma,

existence in a shadow world,

while life goes on about you


Afterwards, we sit upstairs

in an open-air part of a restaurant

flowers planted, blooming in boxes outside the railing

and street performers serenade us from below

it’s noisy,

but, hey, summer in the city

a beautiful evening

we watch buses and tourists below us

and pedicycle drinking groups,

laughing and singing

we eat tater tots and pizza

because it’s that kind of night


and we’re not at war yet,

we walk around

Do these creatures protect the house?


just a bit

because there’s work to be done

and an early day tomorrow

the shadows deepen


FullSizeRender 179

The sun dances through clouds

casting shadows large and small

on the eighth, Barbara Cook and Glen Campbell both die

glorious soprano and beautiful tenor

perhaps they sing duets in some other world

(do gardens grow there?)

the next day is the anniversary of my father’s birth

he would have been ninety-eight this week

and I think of my mother,

who will soon turn ninety-five

the seasons turning, sun and shadows

Auburn Road Vineyard

The sun comes and goes



gone for a woman in Charlottesville

gone for her family

gone for people killed in mosques and churches

gone for women taken as spoils of war

call evil by its name

the darkness of the soul

never brightened by the sun

hidden beneath shadows


I watch the sun rise and set

watch the shadows lengthen

as summer turns to fall

I hold on

seeking light


giving it to the terrarium plants

because they are still holding on, too

despite all odds

we’ve made our gardens grow


I wrote about my father here.

We went to Plant Nite at Auburn Road Vineyards.

We saw The Big Sick, official trailer here. We ate at Revolution House.

You can hear Barbara Cook in “Make Our Garden Grow” the original Broadway cast recording of Candide.











The Books Left Behind


By Remi Mathis (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

“When she came to write her story, she would wonder when the books and the words started to mean not just something, but everything.”

–Markus Zusak, The Book Thief


I am haunted by ghosts I have not seen

Some departed quickly, others not fast enough

They left the things they could not carry

They left the past behind


Some departed quickly, others not fast enough

They lost their loved ones, and in flame, their desires were castaway

They left the past behind

Scarred by war, they traveled far from home


They lost loved ones, and in flame, their desires were castaway

Stories written in many voices, stories left unread

Scarred by war, they traveled far from home

Journeying to unknown futures and uncertain fates


Stories written in many voices, stories left unread

I hear them calling to me

Journeying to unknown futures and uncertain fates

They shout and cry, do not forget


I hear them calling to me

The cast-off shoes, the abandoned books, the photos

They shout and cry, do not forget

These spirits of the past


The cast-off shoes, the abandoned books, the photos

Objects of the departed

These spirits of the past

The echoes of destruction, the abandonment of hope


Objects of the departed

Held here by shadows and memories

The echoes of destruction, the abandonment of hope

I am haunted by ghosts I have not seen


Never forget


I was inspired by this article about a Czech schoolhouse still filled with the books of Jewish families forced to leave in 1942—most of them killed in Auschwitz. Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) was May 5.  I thought of the rise in hate crimes, genocide, and all of the refugees who now are forced to leave their homes because of war and hate. Then I read this story about Syrian refugees in Canada who are helping the people who have had to evacuate their homes because of the massive fires in Alberta, and I realize that there are still good people and people who believe in doing good.

©Merril D. Smith, 2016











The Long Walk

NOR Måneskinn, ENG Moonlight

Jane Dougherty’s challenge this week was to write a poem using this painting as a prompt and some or all of these words:

winding – moonlight – follow – heavily – path


She stood in the moonlight

sensing his presence behind her

waiting did not bother him

he was patient

as was she

knowing, but not yet ready,

not quite ready to follow him.

He stood still, behind her

a shadow image


not unkind

simply there.

Then it was time.

Death took her hand,

and they walked together

through the moonlight

down the winding path







Shadows and Sight

Shadows in the late afternoon.

Shadows in the late afternoon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“…there are shadows because there are hills.”

E.M. Forster, A Room with a View
When our older daughter was a little over a year old, she was afraid to go into the enclosed porch of house at night. “Shadows hurting you,” she would say, meaning herself. Looming from the old glider sofa and other odd pieces of furniture, the shadows were indeed a bit frightening, especially, I imagine to one so tiny.

It is strange how our brains translate what our eyes see. I remember once waking in the middle of night, my husband sleeping beside me, and being totally convinced that a robe hanging on the door was really a person. Why did I think a person would stand in the door without moving for a long time, and why didn’t I do or say anything? I don’t know. I was too afraid to move. Things don’t make a whole lot of sense at 3 AM.

I look out my kitchen window, and I think a creature, a deer perhaps, is lying by my neighbor’s fence. It is a tree stump, but it surprises me every single day—sometimes several times each day. I know it’s not an animal, and yet every time I go to wash a dish or get a drink of water and casually glance out that window, I think an animal is there. (In my defense, I have seen real deer there in the yard and by that fence.)

How many times—especially while driving at night—do you think you see something in the shadows?

            Shadows are an important element in paintings and photographs. They provide contrast and definition. But how an artist actually sees and then interprets the world is also important. Physical handicaps can lead to new styles and new interpretations, but often artists’ memories and how they translate these visual memories into artistic creations remains intact. For example, Claude Monet’s style changed as his eyesight worsened because of cataracts. He told an interviewer that he was painting from memory and “trusting solely to the labels on the tubes of paint and to the force of habit.” (Quoted from the New York Times article about artists and sight here.)

We all see and remember things differently. Four different people are likely to give four different interpretations—Rashomon-style–of any event they all have witnessed. Sometimes I wonder how imagination and perception has changed history. All interpretation of the past is subject to the biases and perceptions of the writer. For how long was the history of women, ordinary people, and minorities ignored because those writing history simply did not see them? It is said that the victors write history, but perhaps more accurately it is those in power who transmit or censor history. And sometimes it is sheer chance that affects what is preserved. For example, a city buried under volcanic dust and debris. What if all we knew of ancient Roman civilization was what was rediscovered in Pompeii or Herculaneum?

But imagination also affects the future. How many among the uneducated, downtrodden, and abused throughout the ages have not been able to envision a world beyond the limited one that surrounds them? How many never have the time, energy, or education to dream or create? How many have had to hide their real lives and dreams in the shadows because society would not accept whom they love or who they are—the wrong sex, the wrong color, the wrong class?

“We kiss in a shadow,
We hide from the moon,
Our meetings are few,
And over too soon.”
–Rodgers and Hammerstein, The King and I (1951)

 Sometimes shadows prevent us from venturing into new worlds or seeking new ideas.  We are held back by the shadows of those we have lost. We stand in the shadows of goals unachieved, or the memories of unrequited love. We hide in the shadow of those who have attained fame, afraid to venture out on our own. Sometimes we fear the shadows will hurt us and we become paralyzed. But contrast is important. We need to see—and feel–degrees of darkness and light. As Peter Pan reminds us, shadows can be lost, but they can be re-attached. Sometimes shadows inspire us to see the world in a new way.