Queen of the Universe

 In the morning,

a song slips,

slides suddenly into my head

“Shall We Dance,”

a mini-movie in my mind,

Anna and the King twirl

I see her gown swirl

just that,

just for a second

the way dreams  do,

encompassing entire lives

in a flash, flame, and then disappear,

and I wonder

what just happened?

I go about my day,

but later,

in my car,

I turn on the radio,

hear a clear soprano voice sing “Shall We Dance,”

it’s an actress touring in The King and I,

coincidence, synchronicity, cosmic joke?

I wonder

just for a second

(time expands and contracts

paths diverge)

just for a second,

I wonder—

how do these things happen?

Perhaps I really am,

Queen of the Universe,

I could bring world peace,

people would sing and dance,

we’d all have

a clear understanding,

this kind of thing can happen,

can’t it?

(another path perhaps,

another road)

a truck passes me,

I keep on driving

 

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Details of two dancers from the Tomb of the Triclinium in the Necropolis of Monterozzi
Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Dance, Don’t Fight

The radio interview was on Here and Now .

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shadow Portraits: NaPoWriMo

Monday Morning Musings:

“We kiss in a shadow

We hide from the moon

Our meetings are few

And over too soon”

From “We Kiss in a Shadow,” Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers, The King and I

“When you are old and grey and full of sleep,

And nodding by the fire, take down this book,

And slowly read, and dream of the soft look

Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep; “

–From William Butler Yeats, “When You are Old”

 

When our older daughter was young

she was afraid of shadows

perhaps she sensed that they were alive,

captured, like Peter Pan’s

when our porch windows were shut.

“Shadows hurting you,” she would say,

only “you” meant “me,”

her pronouns confused,

and so, we played in another room

where the shadows were benign.

those porch shadows are long gone

the girl is a woman,

her small, curly-haired shadow gone,

except in my heart,

now older, I take out these memories

like a book,

to read before the fire.

 

We go to a dance performance,

a fusion of dance and shadow puppet theater,

a full-length production

of athleticism, grace, and imagination,

we’re caught in traffic on the way there,

an entire block closed,

a large crane in its center, reaching to the sky,

casting a shadow over the street

where police officers chatted,

(ignoring the frustrated drivers).

We manage to get to the theater,

pick up our tickets,

get to our seats

(close enough to see the dancers’ muscles),

about a minute before the show starts–

it’s worth it.

The story opens with a girl getting ready for bed

her parents kiss her goodnight,

she goes to sleep on her bed made of dancers,

she begins to dream,

the walls spin,

and she becomes trapped in a land of shadows

where she goes on a voyage of discovery

turned into a dog-girl

experiences the joy of a dog riding in a truck,

the horror of being forced to perform in a circus,

controlled by a whip,

the ecstasy of first love,

the girl becoming a woman,

the shadow world is a magical, fantasy world,

the dancers’ bodies tumble, roll, fly

the hour and a half goes by quickly,

the dancers perform an epilogue,

a shadow tribute to New York City,

bodies creating the Statue of Liberty, the library lion, 42nd Street,

and other iconic spots,

and then to Philadelphia,

the Liberty Bell, the “Rocky Steps,” Pat’s and Geno’s Steaks,

at the final bow, the dog-girl dance leaps into the air,

seemingly still full of energy,

the shadows of the show behind her now–

until the next performance

 

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We leave smiling

into a day of sunlight and shadows

in a city where history has cast a long shadow,

shadows through history,

now and always,

shadow worlds

where people are forced to work,

living secret lives,

held in bondage

or living hidden,

an underground economy,

people who can only kiss

in shadows,

though love is love is love

there are shadowlands all around us

obscured by smiles and sunshine

 

 

We walk and talk,

see students celebrating Holi,

their faces and shirts bright with colors,

no shadows on their smiling faces,

on this spring day

the flowers smile and dance in the radiant light,

we drink coffee

discuss the show

later, we go out to dinner,

drink some wine and talk some more,

when we leave

the moon is shining brightly

though not quite full,

I look at her,

wonder what secrets she has seen

from her shadows deep,

hidden lovers and girlish fancies,

we head home,

I dream of shadows and the moon.

 

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This musing is for NaPoWriMo, Day 10. The prompt was portrait.

We saw Pilobolous at the Annenberg Center in Philadelphia.

You can see a brief clip of this show performed at another location here.

Follow Your Star

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“Be brave, young lovers, and follow your star,
Be brave and faithful and true,
Cling very close to each other tonight.
I’ve been in love like you. “

–Oscar Hammerstein II, “Hello Young Lovers,” from The King and I (1951)

Last month my husband and I celebrated our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. As I looked at our wedding photos (and cringe and laugh a little at the men in the 1970s era powder blue tuxedos. Oh those 70s fashions!), I thought of all the people who were there at our wedding, but who are no longer alive: my father, my husband’s father, my grandfathers, all of his grandparents, and some aunts, uncles, and friends. As I gazed at the photos, I also had an admittedly odd thought–it seemed strange to me that our daughters were not there to celebrate such an important event in our lives.

It was the first big wedding in either of our families, and it was such a day of laughter, tears, and merriment.

We still laugh at the memory of my reserved, non-dancing father-in-law being pulled and spun into the hora circle by an exuberant, dancing friend of my parents.

Our first daughter would not make her entrance for almost a decade after our wedding, and our second daughter three years after that. By that time, I had finished graduate school and published my first book.

I was a different person thirty-five years ago when we married, young and naïve. I had no idea then that my husband and I would have two such incredibly wonderful, talented daughters– young women who are truly good and kind, and who want to make the world a better place.

Parenting is not easy. Like marriage, there are ups and downs. But with my daughters, I can honestly say there have always been many, many more ups than downs.

Thirty-five years ago, I never imagined I would have one daughter about to enter graduate school and another about to begin her first “grown-up job,” even as she juggles what are sometimes competing interests in teaching and acting. I never imagined I would have daughters who were balancing love, careers, and all the issues of young adulthood.

I also never imagined thirty-five years ago at my own wedding that someday my older daughter would be planning her wedding to another woman. Nor how excited I would be about it, and how thrilled I am that she might be wearing my wedding gown. Love is love, and I am so happy that she and her fiancée have found each other.

Thirty-five years ago, “gay marriage” was not something I ever heard mentioned. But times change. My younger daughter recently had a discussion with her young cousins who enthusiastically supported it. (OK, the five-year-old could not quite wrap his mind around the concept, but the older two thought it was wonderful that their cousin was going to marry the woman she loves.)

My daughter’s “gay marriage” will not be legal throughout the United States. But laws change. When my husband and I got married thirty-five years ago in Pennsylvania, we were required to get blood tests proving that we did not have syphilis or other diseases before we could get a marriage license. That law no longer exists. In 1967, the Supreme Court overturned state bans on interracial marriages in Loving v. Virginia. Slowly, too slowly, laws are being written and bans are being overturned. I hope that some day there will not be a distinction between “gay” and “straight” marriage. I hope and believe that someday in the United States there will simply be marriage, marriage without a modifier in front of it, marriage for any two people who love each other. I hope that someday both my daughters and all lovers, young and old, will be able to follow their stars. I’ve been in love like you.

“Love doesn’t make the world go round, love is what makes the ride worthwhile.” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning