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

46E2F506-AFA4-4A1E-8F05-86521F34537A

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

IMG_3149

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

On the Fringe

Monday Morning Musings:

“The fringed curtains of thine eye advance, And say what thou seest yond.”

–William Shakespeare, The Tempest

“We all move on the fringes of eternity and are sometimes granted vistas through fabric of illusion.”

–Ansel Adams, Ansel Adams: An Autobiography

Once a star devoured a universe

long haunted by dark clouds

then breathed to wake a new one

 

~with laughing kisses~

 

we awoke

though we hadn’t known we slept

or how close we’d been to the edge

 

~of time, an illusion~

 

that we cherished then

but now the blue horses prance

and caramel breezes drift from the sea

 

~carrying past and future~

 

through the window of time

and beyond. Remembering

what we forget, carrying our dreams.

***

Twenty-nine dead in thirteen hours

the headlines say, we

offer thoughts and prayers, and flowers

 

of blood bloom on streets and malls.

How tragic, we say

and go about our day

 

and the death bell tolls

again, and again

and we wonder when

 

it all will end.

When will we wake

and find a way to send

 

away the men who profit from hate–

who stoke the fear—

and say what people want to hear,

 

the lies that trip from poisoned tongues

and damage life, and old and young–

the fringe chorus becomes the loudest sung.

A macrocosm of death surrounds me,

but sheltered in my smaller world

I want to see, to flee, to be

 

What? I’m not sure,

though there is some allure

to buried heads when all around

 

is death and dying.

And we laughing, sighing, and crying

as my mother weakens

 

speaking clearly, or not–

each day different, caught

adrift, she smiles, sleeps

 

but keeps

on going. Through shallowing deeps

of ocean-mind

 

that flows in and out,

sweeping the beach to turn about

and leave treasures on the sand.

 

But fleeing this land

we visit friends,

who offer helping hands

 

and open hearts

to listen, as we talk

and we eat, then walk

 

on a summer night,

there’s music and friendship–

sometimes things are right,

sometimes there is light

in the darkness–

the stars twinkle diamond-bright

 

against the sapphire sea,

and the sun rises, and I see

promise in a day.

IMG_3675

We go on our way

to the fringe

and back, we see a play–

OK, perhaps we see six–

(One even had magic tricks)

in this blueberry town,

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

we walk up and down

the streets, find food to eat,

and clap from our seats

 

for actors and singers

and our smiles linger

from some.

 

We avoid the tempest

from our seats inside,

on stories sail and ride.

But it’s fringe,

some need a tinge

more polish, perhaps.

 

We’ll see what happens

next year–

if, when, we’re here–

 

as time laps,

racing to the edge

of eternity, with no pledge

 

of what will be,

there on the fringe

of eternity.

 

On Saturday and Sunday we went to the New Jersey Fringe Festival in Hammonton, NJ, “The Blueberry Capital of the World.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ghost Connections

Monday Morning Musings:

“Why lay yourself on the torturer’s rack

of the past and future?

The mind that tries to shape tomorrow beyond

its capacities will find no rest?

–Rumi from “That Lives in Us” 

“I’ve got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen.”

–Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

 

The moon sails through time

over and over

through the purple sky.

We sit in the dark

and watch it

together

in a universe of only

and always

dazzled

to wake from dreams . . .

feeling the ghosts

in the breezes,

lingering.

***

On the day of the storm

the sun blazed,

and animals were dazed

 

by the glare as his chariot rose

higher and higher.

But the gods conspired

 

and sent the wind

and rain to shower

the flowers, but taking our power

IMG_3578

The storm rolling in

away for a day.

So, we sat in the twilight,

then read by flashlight

F1164976-480E-45F4-BCFF-A8498EE7783C

Making the best of the situation when the power went out.

 

and fortunately,

the air had cooled—

but we weren’t fooled,

 

we knew

it was only a temporary stay

from heat and humidity, but hey,

IMG_3597

Carpenter’s Hall all a-flower

we’ll enjoy it while we can

walk in the city, eat ice cream–

talk and dream.

In the movie we see

the family lies

Is it wise?

IMG_3600

Who knows?

Done to be kind

though they’re in a bind

 

about how

to carry out the hoax.

There are tears and jokes–

 

a crowd-pleasing film

of cultural clashes

and flashes

 

of tenderness

in family gatherings and meals–

and the deals

 

we make

as we scatter

world-weary, what matters

 

still are our connections,

the invisible ties,

the love and lies,

 

that bind

generating power and loss,

crisscrossing

 

synaptic bursts

through wires and minds

creating dreams and incredible finds.

 

But the loss

when there’s a faulty connection

the hesitation and misdirection.

 

In my mom’s mind

dream and reality blur—

sometimes–and I’m not sure

 

how it works at all.

Past, present, future circle round

intertwine–wiring unsound?

 

Perhaps. Or do ghosts come to visit?

That shadow almost seen?

What is it? Where has it been?

 

I don’t know tomorrow

I can’t shape the past

or make fine weather last.

3DD28BE0-18D3-46ED-8C7A-43F6FD7D1698

A beautiful summer night at William Heritage Winery, New Jersey

 

but I enjoy the moment

of summer fruits, the flavors

bursting, bits of sunshine savored

before the next storm. . .

and sometimes magic just appears.

 

We got free tickets to a preview of The Farewell. Trailer here. We enjoyed it very much, and it seems like the rest of the audience did, too. Lulu Wang also told the story of the movie—her real life story on an episode of This American Life

We’re watching a series on Netflix now called Typewriter. It’s marketed as a sort of Indian Stranger Things, mainly because it involves four kids. They’re middle school age. It’s not very scary (yet), but I’m enjoying it. Trailer here.

I also heard a recent episode of This American Life about a young woman held as a prisoner by her biological parents in Pakistan. She only had one book to read—that she kept hidden—and read over and over again hundreds of times.  It was Little Women.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinnamon and Snow: Haibun

 

Valerius_De_Saedeleer_-_Winter_landscape

It snowed, and the earth was devoid of color. The wind howled and shook the house, knocking to get in. Robins, sparrows, tufted titmice, and cardinals huddled in their nests. Wise squirrels had gathered acorns from the old oak tree, but now they, too, sought shelter. The roads were unplowed, and the schools were closed for days. I baked an endless supply of cookies, bread, cakes, and donuts. My comfort for the storm. The house was scented with cinnamon and love.

 

frosted white-veiled world

sighs drifting from cloud-draped moon–

from home warmth beckons

 

It’s midsummer, so to be contrary I thought I’d write about a blizzard. When my children were young—perhaps in kindergarten and third grade—there was a blizzard that left two feet of snow, and more in the drifts. I know that some of you live in areas that have more snow, but I think it wasn’t only the amount, but the intensity of the storm and the drifting afterwards. It might have been this one. 

 

 

 

 

The Color of Dreams

Monday Morning Musings:

“All that we see or seem

Is but a dream within a dream.”

–Edgar Allan Poe, “A Dream Within a Dream”

“Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.”

–T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton” (No. 1, of “Four Quartets”)

 

 

What is the color of eternity?

All the fires of star bursts

and rainbows

in shades of never-seen, a sheen

scented with petriochor

caramel, and wisps of ozone—more–

perhaps a dream.

IMG_3131

Summer Color at Whitall House, National Park, NJ

I am bemused, delighted

by the brilliant colors of the sky sighted

between storms,

the verdant green of almost-summer

and trees that call,

“Look at me now!”

and I’m enthralled,

with leafy boughs

that wave and wow,

Dock Creek, Philadelphia

Dock Creek, Old City, Philadelphia

but time is flowing in syncopated rhythms

with unexpected accents,

changing in split seconds

ascent, descend–dissent–

confused

from waltz to unsquare dance,

and I’m bemused,

how do grey storm clouds change to blue sky,

how does asleep move to wide awake,

so quickly

and we cannot stay still–

IMG_3144

Ominous sky over Ben Franklin Bridge

over the hill

we go–

my mother goes from weak and incoherent

to mobile and lucid overnight

and back again, delight and fright,

I scarcely think of my dead father

on Father’s Day

 

when I see baby fawns,

twins napping in the sun,

their mother gone

somewhere,

Seeing them is nature’s gift to me.

I accept it gratefully.

 

I dream my mother’s apartment

has been turned into a hospital

I wake up annoyed

(Okay, Dr. Freud)

that I was not informed

of how it was transformed.

My mother tells me she has

another apartment upstairs—

it’s much nicer she says.

Perhaps it is, I think. I can’t compare.

I wonder about time,

and is it ever lost or gone?

The past exists in our memories—

like a rhyme

heard long ago–

the child me, my alive father,

my young mother

I think all still exist somewhere

like love

never gone,

but stretching back

like an endless series of mirror reflections

colors into black.

Reflections

 

I watch the baby geese grow,

a new generation shows

walking by the river–

no music like its symphony

whispering of birth and earth,

singing of life, joy and strife,

keening at death in the currents

that flow to the sea

to be

again and again.

I watch past and future

flow and merge

like that river to the sea

dreaming of time,

dreams within dreams.  . .and then

still the sun sets and rises again.

IMG_3153

We haven’t gone to any movies, shows, or events recently—life and work have been a bit crazy–but we did watch Everybody Knows on Netflix (good but not as good as his previous films), and we’ve been enjoying Good Omens on Amazon Prime.  It’s a lot of fun. And here’s Dave Brubeck’s Unsquare Dance. I have no idea why I thought of this today, but you’re welcome. We’ve had some beautiful days, but also a tornado warning on Thursday night, with tornados that touched down in nearby towns, and now stormy weather forecast for the next several days. I hope that’s not a life-metaphor.

 

 

 

 

The Show Goes On

Monday Morning Musings:

“Life is a theatre set in which there are but few practicable entrances.”

― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

“We do on stage things that are supposed to happen off. Which is a kind of integrity, if you look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.”

― Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

 “Some birds sing when the sun is bright/my praise is not for them/but the one who sings in the dead of night/I raise my cup to him.” (“I Raise My Cup”).

–Anaïs Mitchell, Hadestown

Linger here,

in the never-always

remembering

one thing,

two,

three–

remembering

only this,

who, if not when,

the sunshine dazzling,

as laughter

the bluest sky,

and dreams rising

to dance in the clouds.

IMG_3080

***

Long days

in the approach of summer solstice

long weeks of dread

and anticipation,

of entrances and exits,

of missed cues

and dropped lines.

 

We cherish intermissions

to drink wine in the golden glow

sunsets all the backdrop needed

a show in itself

A Girl and Her Puppy, William Heritage Winery

as the show goes on

as daughters comfort me,

and I try to comfort my mother,

life circles around and around

and around and around–

We talk of pets

and medicine and Pride,

and love is love is love is love is love–

walls come up,

walls are torn down,

sometimes Mother is wrong,

sometimes Mother is right. . .

 

The mockingbird sings

in the dead of night,

a solo turn

in nature’s theater,

I raise my glass to him,

the show goes on.

 

 

It has been a long week. My mom is out of rehab and back in her apartment, but she needs a lot of care. There have been visits, and endless phone calls, texts, and emails. We had glorious weather this past weekend–cool nights, sunshine-filled days. It’s raining today.

We haven’t been to the movies lately, but I take my Merril’s movie club seriously, so I can recommend  I Am Mother on Netflix.  My husband and I both liked it, and it kept me interested after a long, exhausting day with my mom. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic world where Mother, a robot, is raising her human Daughter. I watched the Tony awards last night. (To be honest, I watched most of it, but I couldn’t stay awake to the end.) Hadestown—which looks like such a Merril play—won best musical and seven other awards. Here’s the Broadway trailer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering

Monday Morning Musings:

“The purpose of theatre is to bring into public that which is kept offstage. . .”

Paula Vogel, The New Yorker, May 12, 2017.

“We have a story we want to tell you . . .About a play. A play that changed my life. Every night we tell this story—but somehow I can never remember the end. … No matter. I can remember how it begins. It all starts with this moment—”

From Paula Vogel, Indecent

 

About that breeze

carrying the scent of flowers

in the rain—

now rust-tinged with blood–

does it haunt you?

Listen–

the sound of ghosts walking

through ashes, whispering, whispering

the sound of pain

the sound of love and desire

carried through time

***

 

We walk

(through, around, over

ghosts)

steps echoing

a city filled

with art and history

there a bridge

named for a poet

(who lived in Camden)

who celebrated history

and nature

IMG_2969

human bodies and love

(he spoke of that

which was not spoken)

indecent, some said

unnamed the fear

of love

is love is love is love is love

F2EF3C6A-76F9-49CE-8007-BDA65F8081DE

Celebrating Walt Whitman’s 200th with homemade pizza and Auburn Road’s Eidolon wine

 

We walk after

seeing my mother

her body dimmed,

no longer so electric

but still pulsing light

 

generates the warmth

the air, the sky

on a beautiful spring

we eat outside

where souls once gathered

celebrating god and man

and new beginnings

(blinks of time)

 

the ghosts gather

telling the story

over and over

knowing how it begins,

never knowing how it ends

 

the play begins with ashes

that later return

but remember the rain scene

(that rain scene!)

that glorious love

passionate and innocent

that shocked—

indecent they said,

that play, and this play

about it–

this love song to Yiddish theater,

to theater,

to the light within us

to memory

to time

 

so relevant the themes again

immigrants demonized,

and we more polarized

and there is fear

all around

(like ghosts)

 

twelve more dead,

we shake our heads,

go on with life

(with thoughts and prayers)

but the dead stay dead

and the ghosts whisper,

remember. . .

 

Yet, we create

and generate

(our bodies electric)

music,

art, and poetry

channeling muses

and spirits

remembering

(the rain scene)

the scent of rain

the light through the trees

Sylvia Schreiber, Giverny Sketches

and love–

there is love

all around

 

and friendships

that stay true

through births and deaths

generating

regenerating

remembering

this moment

to the next

IMG_2997

always how it begins,

but never how it ends–

the lights go down,

the lights come again,

the ashes fall,

the ghosts whisper,

remember this moment,

remember this

 

It was a busy weekend: another mass shooting, a celebration, visiting my mom, seeing Indecent at the Arden (I love this play), walks, a bridal shower. We also saw Book of Mormon, the Broadway touring company, but I couldn’t fit that in. We’ve seen it before, and it enjoyed seeing it again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ghost Hearts

IMG_2782

Monday Morning Musings:

“My heart is a shadow,

a light and a guide.

Closed or open…

I get to decide.”

From Corinna Luyker, My Heart

“The people you love become ghosts inside of you, and like this you keep them alive.”

–Robert Montgomery   See a photo of his text installation here. 

 

Yet who whispers

in the summer-sweet night,

where the smell of storms lurk?

There beneath the diamond sky

shadows dance

to the music of life

and death

pants just beyond the light

in the wind-spray of time.

***

I walk by the river park

baby geese and vultures

side-by-side, stark

 

reminders of life and death

cycles like after harsh

winter, spring’s soft breath

caresses mind and soul

and somehow—

we want it all,

 

all the magic of water and air

the delight of light—

time to spare

 

to savor the young

remember the laughter

and all the songs sung

 

and the ones unsung

if we could go back—

trip words from tongue,

 

forgiveness, remembrance

lost gestures and moments

rearranged in order, some semblance

 

of what could be

if or when

or what will it be, see

 

how life circles, the mom me

and she the one needing help

and she doesn’t see

 

well at all,

her vision diminished

unsteady, the mighty fall.

 

Once my daughter said to me

“remember when I hiccupped

inside your belly and you laughed?” See—

 

how do you explain these things?

Circles of life and death

and all it brings.

 

We try to stop time for a bit

eat pizza, drink wine

time to talk—and just sit

 

(doing nothing)

We watch a movie of ghosts and art,

a vulnerable woman

she opens her soul, her heart

 

is shadow-filled, she grieves

sees ghosts,

though she’s not sure she believes

 

but to create

one has to be open–

the muse, a mysterious state

 

of being,

perhaps there are spirits

or some other way of seeing

 

(of being)

 

There is a place in my heart

where my father lives

and all my ancestors, too, a part

 

of my what? My essence, my soul,

the me-ness of me

the all-ness of all?

 

My mother grows old,

but somewhere in time

she is young, in a fold,

 

a pleat, a wrinkled web

where time-space

flows and ebbs,

 

and perhaps ghosts call,

walk in shadowed paths

through my heart, they rise and fall–

 

hear them sigh

as up to the stars

they carry you, me—we fly.

Morning Moon Does Her High Wire Act

Morning Moon Does Her High Wire Aerial Routine

 

We watched the movie, Personal Shopper on Netflix. Kristen Stewart is a personal shopper/medium grieving her dead twin brother–there are ghosts and references to the artist Hilma af Klint. I liked it. Watch it with someone because you will want to discuss it. I may have to watch it again. . .

And here is a bonus, if you haven’t heard this version of Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird” translated and sung in Mik Maq. I thought of this last night when I was thinking of birds and ghosts (and not quite dead languages).

 

 

 

 

Flowers and Bombs, NaPoWriMo

IMG_2249

Monday Morning Musings:

“Forever—is composed of Nows—”

–Emily Dickinson,  Full Poem here. 

“N. A. Sumanapala, a shopkeeper near St. Anthony’s Shrine who said he had run inside to help, said: “It was a river of blood. Ash was falling like snow.” New York Times, April 21, 2019.

A week of explosions

flowers, storms, shots, and lies

bombs belie the façade

of Easter calm and Passover why

(is this night different from all other nights?)

 

Rivers of blood

with no miracle to part

falling of ash

unresurrected, fighting stops, starts–

A plague upon both your houses

IMG_2257

 

Of indecision and more lies

as the First Citizen cries

in confusion,

“No collusion!”

 

His followers cheer

not caring, or unclear

that he would destroy

all that they hold dear,

so they support and worship

their false idol. Rejoice

in the new normal, hate

the latest whipping boy.

 

I cook, wrapping myself

in almonds, dates, and honey.

The house is sunny,

scented with cinnamon

like the cat, who slumbers sun-sided

5CCCF579-C8EF-4A80-8FEF-44632BA7F76F

Passover Almond Cake

The pink moon rises

we drink the first glass of wine, recline.

We are free, but refugees detained

chained, their children abused–

and we all lose–

Let all who are hungry come

 

We watch movies of

women hiding secrets

sometimes in plain sight

in poetry and stories,

sometimes driving in the night

to obligations, demands

and longing

for uncharted territories.

 

Certain women

holding together

waiting, still in a man’s world.

often unrecognized–

we place

an orange on the Seder plate,

to recognize, no longer erased.

 

We talk,

walk through city streets,

footsteps, heartbeats,

statues and stories,

petrichor replaced

with the scent of blooms

filling the air with their perfume, a trace

lingers in my mind.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A week of explosions

flowers, storms, shots, and lies—

all the endless ifs and whys–

and yet, my heart thrills

at the sight of the spring tide

with waves of flowers,

creating bowers

while the robin’s trills—

and we remember

forever is composed of nows.

2FB74B18-B245-40A5-9851-74E0B63A6953

Red Bank Battlefield Park, April 2019

 

Day 22, NaPoWriMo  challenges us “to write a poem that engages with another art form.” My Monday musings always engage with the world around me through photos, and often movies or shows we’ve seen–so to an extent–I’ve met the challenge.

We watched the movie Certain Women on Netflix. We watched Becoming Astrid (about Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, the author of Pippi Longstocking and other books) on Amazon Prime, once I figured out how to turn on the subtitles. We saw the new movie, Wild Nights with Emily about Emily Dickinson in the theater. I liked all three movies.

 

 

 

 

The In-Between, NaPoWriMo

Whitall House, Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ  Merril D. Smith 2019

I’ve wandered here

two hundred years, or more?

Long ago I lay wounded—

becalmed for seconds?

Hours? Days?

Other men, babble-tongued

around me,

the same red blood

flowing from us all.

 

I thought—

what did I think?

An adventure? A duty?

I’d return to marry my sweetheart.

I had one once.

 

The living don’t see me

as I drift past–

though once a child stared

bowl-eyed in my direction.

The vixen cocks her ears

and shields her pups

when I pass,

while the crow calls a greeting.

 

There are others here,

more ancient that I,

they seem a part of earth

and trees–

but I cry silent tears

as the owl hoots,

rising moon-driven.

 

Day 17, NaPoWriMo asks us “to write a poem that similarly presents a scene from an unusual point of view.”  The park in my town was the location of the Battle of Red Bank on October 22, 1777. I’m not certain I believe in ghosts, but I also don’t not believe. If anyplace is haunted, it would be a battlefield, I think. If you want more info, I found this article by the historian who now oversees the house and park.