Simmering the Stories

Monday Morning Musings:

“We order our lives with barely held stories.”

“I know how to fill in a story from a grain of sand or a fragment of discovered truth. In retrospect the grains of sand had always been there. . .”

–Michael Ondaatje, Warlight: A Novel

“A poet once said, ‘The whole universe is in a glass of wine.’ We will probably never know in what sense he said that, for poets do not write to be understood. But it is true that if we look in glass of wine closely enough we see the entire universe. There are the things of physics: the twisting liquid which evaporates depending on the wind and weather, the reflections in the glass, and our imagination adds the atoms. . .”

–Richard Feynman, Lectures on Physics, quoted in Brainpickings.

 

 

 

We hold memories, winter to summer

try to put them in sequence in order,

but there are no real boundaries, no border,

all and everything colored by the moment—

and by every second after.

They pile together, memories,

more than accessories, the clothes

tumbled in a heap on the floor,

stories that flow one from the other,

cooked together and through

into a stew–

What is desire? What is true?

Pick out the potato,

a childhood experience here,

the job carrots there,

find the herbs of love. . .

all of the above,

blended together,

each stew different,

though the same in name,

constantly changing

while it simmers over a flame,

new ingredients added,

not expanded so much, as made richer,

a broader picture.

But one day the flame goes out,

the stew gets tossed, buried, old news,

but the aroma lingers—to flavor other stews.

Summer Color
Ratatouille

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now summertime, the days still long

though getting shorter, the sunshine bright,

when not clouded,

parks and beaches crowded

and summertime bounty is everywhere

on tables, and farm stands, and fairs

where people display their colorful wares

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And peaches are fragrant and full of juice

that drips down by chin—oh sing a hymn

to summertime produce,

eat it raw or cooked, baked into crumble or pie.

Mixed-berry Crumble

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I talk to a friend at a festival to celebrate the butterfly.

There are bees and plants and flowers in bloom

through which insects flitter and above birds zoom,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a little girl dresses the part,

her heart dances as the butterflies dart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then there’s wine, made from the fruit

now growing on vines, waiting for harvest

rooted, grapes well-suited

to the clime

to make a beverage sublime.

We sit and sip our wine

dine on paella,

enjoying the weather

sitting together

in summertime.

William Heritage Vineyards
“Vino and Vibes”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We learn about wine in barrels

so much more than shells,

containers to hold the wine,

aging and flavoring it–

we learn to swirl and sniff and taste—admit

we enjoy it. We’ve done this tour before.

Still we learn more, then step out the door

to sit with glass and food—

the mood?

Call it relaxed and at ease

in a summertime breeze.

Sharrott Winery
Barrel Tasting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so—

I hold moments, tiny, grains of sand

let them trickle from my hand

watch them expand

till there’s a beach

where I can walk and leave a mark,

in the darkness, stark upon the sand

as the sun rises, and the tide

slides over them again and again,

and then

they become part of the sea–

the memories, the fruit, the wine, and the bee–

all connected,

all what was and what will be,

as summer turns to fall and then winter,

time may splinter

into paths that wander back

elusive, barely there–

the traces of a footfall

or a scent still in the air.

Red Bank Battlefield

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Mockingbird Dawn–Haibun

Just before dawn, the mockingbird sings, an extensive string of melodies. Does he advertise his riches, or is he protecting his nest? I listen, captivated by his song. I take a mental snapshot of this moment to hold it tight within my cache of memories. Marked for now, but memories do not stay fixed on a map. The maple tree in which the mockingbird sits is ravaged by disease, and soon it will be cut, leaving only a stump. The birds will have to move on, flying into the air–soon gone like a thought.

 

dawn beguiles with song–

with bells of trills and warbling,

summer mornings ring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Haibun is for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday, using synonyms for bewitch and treasure.

Stardust and Blood

Monday Morning Musings:

 “How close people could be to us when they had gone as far away as possible, to the edges of the map. How unforgettable.”

–Paula McLain, Circling the Sun

“I have perceiv’d that to be with those I like is enough,

To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,”

-Walt Whitman, “I Sing the Body Electric”

 

In the quiet morning breeze

I gaze at the sky, the pink-tinged frieze

of clouds, a line then brushed

by sun and wind, its blush

faded to white, in the diffusing sunlight.

I breathe in the ancient longing

belonging to us all—for affection,

to find connections

(despite an election)

After all, we’re all made of stardust,

and we’ve emerged from the sea,

to inhale the air made by our trees–

all related, far enough back, we share the same genes.

I don’t know what it means,

But we’re all people, not infestations,

no matter our color, religion, or nation.

 

My cousin comes to visit–

his father was the brother of my mother,

we share this blood-bond

but I don’t think we’ve ever talked

so much, so one-on-one

of this and that

(we pause to watch and pet the cat).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I display some family genealogy

and we try to parse a chronology

of those from our past,

discuss and compare

the connections we share,

different views of relatives we know

(bring out more photos to show),

My grandfather as a young man. The photo is undated, but taken in Philadelphia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stories of growing up

an old joke about the Penn Fruit store,

which is no more–

residing now only in our youthful before,

part of the memory,

a moss of summer dreams

that stick, it seems

even in the frost,

when autumn leaves fall,

still they call.

 

We visit the battlefield park,

watch the geese swim in formation

the same way they fly in the sky

(all the whys)

and wonder at their destination,

Red Bank Battlefield
National Park, NJ

National Park, NJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

watch the planes, look at the Philadelphia skyline—

this day is more than fine—

we walk and talk

amidst the ghosts of a battle past

after the guns fired and the cannons blast,

the Hessian soldiers here that died.

But they are quiet, and if they tried

to communicate, perhaps it was too late,

we didn’t hear them today

as we walked the pathway

in and out of yesterday.

 

We go on to our daughter’s,

whose soul glows bright,

sit with family by firelight,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

laugh and talk

and pet their dog,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

content to be in the moment here

multi-generations, with faces dear,

and if you were perhaps to overhear

amidst the jokes and banter,

you might find fear

of the future,

but it would be mostly love, you’d hear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thunder and Light: Haibun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wake to thunder. Lightning flashes in silver zig zags across the sky, and then the rain comes—first pelting, then plothering, then fading to a fine mist. Branches fall, weighted by their burdens. Flowers smile as they drink. If only summer storms could wash the world clean, ensorcelling all its inhabitants. I sip my coffee and gaze outside, dreaming of today and tomorrow, wondering at hearts that cannot be enchanted.

 

Verdure of summer,

nourished with morning rainfall

finch sings good morning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This haibun is for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday, using synonyms for magic and green.

 

 

Friendship Blooms–Haibun

We have the restaurant patio to ourselves. Though it’s a hot day, it’s pleasant here in the shade. We’re surrounded by hanging baskets of red, pink, and white flowers that block the outside world. We chair dance to the 80’s music playing in the background. One of my friends says she has few female friends, as she treats us to dinner. She and I tell our friend, who has recently had surgery, how people miss her at the gym. We had her the card that so many people have signed. This has been a bad week for our country, for the world. Not everyone has the luxury to forget the evil around us—because they are experiencing it. We’re fortunate to be able to do so–and I celebrate and cherish this gift of friendship.

 

Summer evening comes–

breezes brush blossoms with joy,

blooms of laughter fall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Haibun is for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday—using synonyms for the words give and receive.

 

 

Echoes of Sounds and Silence, Haibun

I hear a poet on the radio today and learn that one definition of clamor is silence. It’s a word with opposite meanings—meaning loud, insistent noise and silence both. My mind, too, seems full of opposing thoughts, but it’s never truly silent, even in my sleep. Ideas, voices, songs, bits of this and that spin around non-stop within my brain, clamoring for attention, moving at high speed like race cars speeding around a track. Or, like meandering streams or comets that leave a fiery trail before vanishing in space–the poems that die unborn. They are all the birds in the dawn chorus and the night’s humming moon. They ebb and flow like the tide. I can stop and focus on one or more, if I choose. Sometimes I don’t choose.

 

birdsong wakes the day

growing with summer sunlight,

echoing in dreams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is for dVerse, where Frank has asked us to write a Haibun Monday poem on “silent sounds,” “all those thoughts and chatter that go through our minds. . .”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry in a Storm: Magnetic Poetry

 

 

Storm Clouds Rolling In, National Park, NJ

Above aches

a black storm,

a live delirious show,

the wind heaves sea spray,

and less frantic, sleeps

 

Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 6.27.31 AM

 

Summer blossoms bright

after rain, vivid color

poetry grows wild

like love shining through the night,

rooted here, behold Eden

 

Screen Shot 2017-08-18 at 9.06.05 PM

Rainbow, National Park, NJ

Yesterday was such a weird day–work, political stuff,  and the world generally. Then late in the day, we watched the storm clouds roll in, followed by a weird golden sky–and a rainbow. I decided to consult the Oracle, who told it like it was, and even gave me a tanka.

 

© Merril D. Smith, 2017

Summer with a Fringe

Monday Morning Musings:

“August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.”

―Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

“Don’t you wish you’d go on forever

Don’t you wish you’d go on forever

Don’t you wish you’d go on forever

And you’d never stop?

In that shiny little surrey with the fringe on the top”

–from Oscar Hammerstein, “The Surrey With The Fringe on the Top,” Oklahoma!

 

“The poetry of earth is never dead’

–From John Keats,  “On the Grasshopper and Cricket”

 

When the universe asks,

fill it with music from the stars

sit in joy and laugh

so that flowers bloom in colorful bunches

dropping petals in charming disarray

like garments before a bath

weave clouds of language

into a rainbow of thought and desire

thank the sun

hum with the moon

***

In August, night storms rage

dazzling sleeping eyes awaken

then cloudy skies part

with freshly washed breezes

and summer sings a song

IMG_6477

In the heat and rain

fruit and vegetables grow and thrive

freshly picked,

they sit waiting at farm stands

bursting with flavor,

ripe juices flow in warm sweetness

filling my mouth with the taste of summer

and I hear its song

 

We go to a fringe festival

fringe–an ornamental border,

or something peripheral, extreme, edgy–

I think of the surrey

and of the suede vest my husband wore in high school

(he thought it was so cool)

I think of Fringe, the TV show,

which really was cool

(unlike the vest)

my husband didn’t believe me

but then he watched the entire series on Netflix with me,

and he knew I was right

 

But this festival is none of those things

not suede or surrey or TV

it’s a festival of theater and music

we see three plays in one afternoon,

the first about a boy in school,

there’s a child like that in every class

he can’t sit still

his mind is racing, too.

You’ve known this kid,

or have taught him,

or maybe you were him,

bright, but unable to focus,

excited, eager, but needing to move.

What happens to him?

It’s a one-man show,

the actor fidgets, jumps, somersaults across on the stage

dances with his school desk

We laugh, sympathize, and then we’re stunned.

 

After the play, we eat lunch,

Mexican food

(delicious)

listen to live music

watch the crowds,

the couple with their little dog,

the woman clapping to the tune,

the sun plays hide-and-seek

still, it’s a beautiful day

a bit odd, uneven

yet filled with poetry

and summer’s song

 

 

We see play about Jeffrey Dahmer

another one-man show

I think the actor must be exhausted–

each performance living in the mind of a serial killer–

I hadn’t planned to see this show

(because it’s a play about Jeffrey Dahmer)

but I overhear a man saying how good it was

and he was right,

not exploitive or sensationalistic,

but thought-provoking,

a man who lived on the fringe

battling his demons and desires

 

The third play had an interesting premise

about faith and what it means

famous women from history–

though Eve might be a stretch–

and Mary Tudor?

somehow the threads didn’t all come together

and some did not seem to fit at all,

the whole Islamic subplot,

still it was promising,

a work in progress from a young writer-director

just out of school

still on the fringe, no longer student

but still early in his career

 

We walk around town a bit

as people begin packing up

time is passing,

Sunday evening, the end of the weekend

summer is passing, too

the days a bit shorter

the sun not as high for as long–

the odd uneven time–

still, we wish sometimes it would go on forever

and never stop,

wouldn’t it be nice to sway in that surrey at a slow clip clop?

Passing Time

Passing the Time or Time Passing, Hammonton, NJ

 

At night, we sleep beneath diamond ships

sailing, glittering in an indigo sea

summer drifts, lingering for a while,

we are on the fringe,

autumn is coming

but for now, it’s another storm

another summer song

I hear the birds sing–

The poetry of earth is never dead

 

We went to the New Jersey Fringe Festival in Hammonton, NJ

 

Summer Storm: Haibun

From a dream world I’m summoned back, awakened by a boom and a crash. A flash of light illuminates the room through the window shades. My cat rises, ears up, but he remains by my side. Seeking comfort or giving it? Lovely petrichor drifts in through the windows left open from the summer day. Then boom, crash, flash, and the rain comes down in a rushing torrent, like a waterfall from the sky. I listen to it, feeling like the world below me might flood, and my bed become a ship that sails me, not into dreams, but into a murky river. I lie there in the dark, counting “one Mississippi, two Mississippi” each time the thunder roars. Finally, it is over, and I sleep, dreaming of oceans and sandy beaches. I wake to the mockingbird’s song, and a day that is washed clean. Hope sparkles in the morning sun.

 

Spirits rage at night

crash and bang till washed away

in wonder, joy reigns

 

Nikolay_Dubovskoy_Raduga

Nikolay Nikanorovich Dubovskoy [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This is late entry for for dVerse. 

I guess it’s a summer memory now, since it happened a couple of days ago. 🙂

 

A Day at the Beach, with a Side of Guilt

Monday Morning Musings:

IMG_4147.JPG

“Like as waves make towards the pebbled shore,

so do our minutes, hasten to their end.”

William Shakespeare, “Sonnet 60”

 

“The idea was fantastically, wildly improbable. But like most fantastically, wildly improbable ideas it was at least as worthy of consideration as a more mundane one to which the facts had been strenuously bent to fit.”

–Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

 

Fantastically, wildly improbable,

but worthy of consideration,

a plan to get my mom to the beach for the day.

A notion hatched by H.

on Saturday afternoon, for the next day.

Younger daughter and I already had plans

because we like things set in advance,

definite, not tentative,

BUT

we decide to go along with this wildly improbable,

but worthy of consideration idea,

despite the weather forecast.

Isn’t it supposed to thunderstorm?

(My first question to H.)

Texts and phone calls back and forth.

 “Jewish guilt will always force a change in plans.”

(Daughter says to me.)

So plans evolve.

We’ll travel in the morning,

have lunch there

and return home early to avoid the traffic.

Husband and I will still get together

with daughter and her husband later for dinner.

A horrible, wonderful, wildly improbable idea,

a beach day for my mom.

 

Three cars from three destinations travel to Ocean City, NJ.

It’s a Seinfeld episode,

or any sitcom,

the human comedy,

the comedy of errors

What could possibly go wrong?

IMG_4146

 

My husband and I are the first to arrive in Ocean City.

We drive around, looking for a place to park the car.

We park.

The downpour begins.

I text the others

We’re here.

We’re sitting in the car

Waiting for the rain to stop.

Trying to be optimistic.

Oh, I hear thunder now.

Daughter replies

There’s a flood watch in effect.

All day.

But the skies clear,

the sun comes out

and my husband and I walk to the beach.

The sun is shining.

The beach looks washed and clean.

It is beautiful.

Daughter and her husband arrive.

They have met

H., her family, and my mom,

who have decided to walk on the boardwalk.

They will have lunch there.

We have packed our lunch,

but I expect we’ll see them soon.

Daughter and I walk on the beach,

walk and talk,

gazing at the ocean

looking at the gulls,

IMG_4150

watching people,

the little boy who wanders in circles,

shovel in hand,

smile on face,

I keep expecting H. to text me

so we can help them

get my mom onto the beach.

I don’t want them to miss this beautiful day.

But no text.

We return to our beach chairs.

Daughter sits down with half a PB&J sandwich,

she takes one bite,

I hear a scream,

a gull has snatched the sandwich from her hand.

Scary, but kind of amazing.

We wait for H.,

and watch dark clouds moving in.

We wonder where they are,

she hasn’t answered the texts.

It’s getting close to when we planned to leave.

A beach checker comes by.

Do you have beach tags?

We don’t.

We decide to pack up,

and wait for H and family on the boardwalk.

Daughter sees them then–of course.

H. has paid for a special wheelchair contraption to get my mom onto the beach.

My mom can’t get into it.

So my mom holds H’s arm on one side

mine on the other, and

we begin a slow walk over sand,

a few feet that seem like miles.

H’s husband sets up their umbrella and chairs,

and it begins to rain.

My husband and daughter have packed up our things.

We leave my mom with H’s family on the beach,

feeling guilty,

but it stops raining.

at least for a time.

 

In the evening, after showers and rest

my husband and I eat pizza and drink wine

with our daughter and her husband,

dog and cat sitting with us companionably.

We watch an old Star Trek movie,

it also involves fantastically, wildly impossible ideas,

but we know Captain Picard and his crew will triumph over

the creepy Borg Queen,

love, friendship, kindness, and creativity

trump evil,

humanity will be saved

once again,

a comforting thought.

I haven’t heard yet what happened

with H., her family, and my mom.

I hope they had a great time on the beach.

It’s a fantastically, improbable idea

but one worthy of consideration.