Walls, Again and Again

Monday Morning Musings:

From a window I watch the birds flocked together to find food, to feed, fueling before the chilly winter rain begins again, following each other ground to sky and back again. I watch a couple of black birds—starlings perhaps–pecking at an old light fixture hanging below the eaves of my house. We think they don’t think or love or dream. Perhaps they think the same of us?

Species to species,

is there communication?

Walls between us all

 

I watch my cat dreaming and wonder what he sees. I wake from my own dream. It fades to mist. I remember only my sister. Her hair is styled in coils on each side of head—a 1940s hairstyle. She slowly morphs into my grandmother, my mother’s mother–

dream walls dissolving

past, present, future merging

an uncertain message

 

On a chilly day, we see a production of Romeo and Juliet. The cast wears modern street clothes, Mercutio raps. There is a band and a “Greek chorus” of local college students. There are curtains of shimmering golden strands; the actors part and walk through them. They also wheel these golden strand curtains into place to form walls on the otherwise mostly bare stage. There is another wall at the end of the play, where the singer and band sing about love being “a waste” if it is only “a wall to keep the truth away.” Some of the beauty of Shakespeare’s play has been lost, yet we enjoy this imaginative production. We talk as we walk through city streets. Then within walls, where it is warm and dry, we sip some wine, and eat some cheese.

enemies fated,

or find love notwithstanding—

what is in a name?

 

We walk past garden gates and walls to see another play. Ripped from too many headlines—the far too common killings of black people by white law enforcement officers—the play is set in the jury room where the jury is deadlocked. They decide to try to react the circumstances of the case giving all those involved a backstory, which leads to the final, surprising, and powerful conclusion. The play is not perfect and some it is a bit contrived, but it seems designed to help tear down some walls. Every performance has a talk back session. Some people say they like how the characters are made human. No one here is evil, even if we do not agree with their opinions. There are walls of human misunderstanding and conflict in both plays.

conversations help

break down walls of distrust

challenge our notions

And yet—we finish watching the third season of The Man in the High Castle. I am chilled by the vision of smiling youths tearing down monuments and burning the New York Public Library. This is a fictional world, but lately there are too many similarities to the real world. The petulant baby foments hate. We should all be behind a slogan to Make America Better, not to the one he champions that looks back to world where racism, sexism, and homophobia flourished. I see too many posts railing against “illegals,” the ignorance astounds me. And on Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorating when Auschwitz was liberated, too many do not believe it happened, while there are some who would like it to happen again. I watch Rent, and I think of the Parkland students singing “Seasons of Love” at the Tony Awards last year.

“It’s time now to sing out,

though the story never ends”

still walls of hate here

Every family has its secrets, its walls. Every family has its tragedies and comedies, a play in several acts. We live out our stories within the walls of homes, schools, workplaces, or in confinement somewhere. My mom rarely ventures outside the walls of her building now because she can’t go out by herself. We drive her to our daughter’s house for brunch. We talk, eat, and watch the dogs play. We laugh. We love. Sometimes that is enough.

Walls can shelter us

from bad weather, and from life

but love helps us grow

The moon hums a lullaby for birds, cats, and me. Walls dissolve, and we share a dream.

 

I guess this is more prose and verse rather than a series of haibun. And also, sorry, WP won’t let me delete the video below.

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Inventions from Chaos Comes

Monday Morning Musings:

“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos,”

–Mary Shelley, introduction to Frankenstein (1831)

“We should not be held back from pursuing our full talents, from contributing what we could contribute to the society, because we fit into a certain mold ― because we belong to a group that historically has been the object of discrimination.”

–Ruth Bader Ginsburg, from an interview with journalist Lynn Sherr

 

It is the night before Rosh Hashanah, but even so, we gather together at the table, old and young, to celebrate the holiday. We miss sisters and others who are not with us, but we also enjoy the extra room to spread out. And isn’t that the way life goes—filled with small moments of joy and sadness? We toast L’Chaim! We wish for a sweet year,and hope for the best, as we eat slices of the round challah and dip apples into amber pools of local honey.

Golden honey streams,

sweetness graces our table–

a wish for the year

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I’ve made enough food for the neighborhood (because what if there isn’t enough?). We have pumpkin soup, salad, brisket, turkey, and noodle kugel. Yes. more wine, please. My great niece and nephew tell us about the start of their school year. Our younger daughter talks about her new students. We discuss truckers, nursing (my son-in-law’s future career), long hours, unions, and pay. My husband and I have recently watched the documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and we all share our admiration for her, Notorious RBG. We all wish her a long, healthy life and sweet year. Please stay on the court. We pass plates around, then clear the table. I pack up food for everyone to take home. (Yes, I have more challah in the freezer. I baked six loaves.)  It is time for dessert!

 

Another year comes

harvest moon follows bright sun

green leaves change overnight

 

We walk through wet city streets. Rain and more rain. But still, I find rainbows.

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Thirteenth and Locust, Philadelphia

 

We see a play. Four black men in—where? An afterlife of some sort. The bardo, perhaps. The set is a white space with an incline. There’s a trap door from which they emerge. They need to remember. They need to help one another. They need to make this place a home, a safe space. The playwright says his “guiding principles as a writer” are to “be wild and precise.” The play is both. It is full of physical movement—demanding of the actors who run, tumble, and even dance. There is humor and despair, but this play could only be about black men. “I was eight, when I learned I was scary,” says one. “I can’t breathe,” says another. There’s a toy gun. Games reflect the truth. We watch, as though behind a police interrogation mirror. They see us, but we only watch, never do anything.

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rhythmic breaths, out, in,

times’ losses and gains balanced–

some truths heal, or not

 

It is still raining. We walk and talk. A mural depicts people of many races gathered together–eating and drinking.

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Philadephia Murals, Spruce Street

 

It is hopeful. We go inside, sip wine and beer. Discuss the play.

Our Italian cheese arrives with local honey. Somehow, that seems a fortuitous sign. There is sweetness in the world; there is sweetness sitting here. The sun will come out again. There is no void. The building blocks are all around us. We harbor stardust in our DNA. We can invent new lives and new worlds in our imaginations. We can create beauty and truth from chaos. Behind the clouds, the moon still hums. I fall asleep to the sound of soft cat snores beside me–and we both dream. Past and future merge.

L’shana tova,

a wish extended to all

more laughter than tears

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I’m linking this week’s musing to Frank Tassone’s Haikai Challenge, since he asked us to write about autumn wind, spring wind, or Rosh Hashanah.

If you like Haiku competitions, there is still time to post your haiku and comment on others on this Vita Brevis post.

Pure Haiku is also looking for submissions by September 21. More info here.

We saw Kill Move Paradise by James Ijames at the Wilma Theater.

 

Exits and Entrances, NaPoWriMo, Day 23

Monday Morning Musings:

“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

 “Were there words beyond which they could never touch, or did all that is possible enter their consciousness? They could not tell. .

E.M. Forster, A Passage to India

“This train doesn’t stop at City Hall”

(the conductor says)

as the world streams by

the rushing tracks,

clackety, clackety, clackety clack,

the engine hums, it’s zhhhumy zhumms,

my reflection in the window sways

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am traveling there

but does part of me stay

(a train beat away)

entering here

exiting there?

 

We walk–and

spring is a promise whispered over a wall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Please silence your cell phones and other devices.”

(the announcer says)

before the start of the play,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a somewhat dated farce,

act two and three are clever

better than the first

the play within a play from backstage, reversed

the stage rearranged, the set turned around

so, front is back

a player tumbles and falls,

and we see it all–

again, as the troupe performs months later–

each actor then has two roles,

and the timing and action is right

but as a whole,

well. . . it was OK

we both say

and the tickets were free—

something to see

with excellent seats

in America’s oldest theater,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

so now it’s later

and we walk and talk

see spring a-springing,

the birds still singing,

eat a giant bowl of fries

(in a very noisy bar room)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

then wander back to cats and home,

to see the daffodils still in bloom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day–

another play.

(still no stops at City Hall)

“The kitchen is small,”

says one man to another,

“But the apartment looks out at the rocks, and

the water is right there.”

“Maybe Rehoboth would be better,”

The other man murmurs

he has to stay in New Jersey.

We exit, a bit early,

before finding out if they make a plan.

“A little shifty,” that man,

(my husband says)

as we walk out into the day—

where now spring is more than whispering,

and we say, yes, this weather, please stay.

 

We walk through Washington Square Park

I insist some roots look like feet

though they’d find it hard to tap a beat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trees are blooming in pink and white

Washington Square Park, Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and people are out to see the sight

of them, feel the gentle heat,

sun on their faces,

filling the outdoor spaces

and even the walls shout of spring

Mural by David Guinn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

while the birds trill and sing—

(“Phoebe Phoebe, sings the chickadee,

“Peter Peter” the tufted titmouse calls,

and the mockingbird repeats them all.)

Spring fever all around

Penn’s green country town.

Pennsylvania Hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please silence your cells phones—again,

the play is about to begin,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and thought-provoking it is,

the playwright’s words are his,

but “a fantasia inspired” from Forster’s book

though people and countries are never named

other than with letters,

Country X and Country Y, could be any nation

the characters not assigned by the writer to any gender, race,

or sexual orientation,

F, R, H, M, D, Q, J, B

plus, a mosquito and a gecko–

and, of course, there are those echoes. . .

we hear them, reverberating through now, the ages,

all around us–

and on stage, thus–

F speaks of the people in the darkness,

Dr. B is arrested for a crime he did not commit,

and G breaks the fourth wall to talk to us

questioning,

and yes, it’s a bit uncomfortable–

Are we supposed to answer her out loud?

I wonder, and are we different from another crowd?

 

Later, I say,

“I’d like to see that play all over again with another cast.”

How different would it be to see people of a different race,

or gender, play the roles we just saw?

Because, I think, we must draw

pictures in our minds—leap to conclusions—

have preconceptions that we cannot help but make,

and would it break them–

somewhat–

if what we saw was not,

well, exactly the same.

I imagine this part of the writer’s aim.

(I learn there is a hashtag, #ChenMindFuck)

but my mind is rather more struck

than fucked I think,

and we have much to discuss over food and drink.

Can one be friends with one’s oppressor?

The idea leads to variations and degrees of power

not only of gender and race, but

CEO and factory worker, student and professor,

Black Lives Matter and #MeToo,

seeing things from another’s view. . .

The server brings more bread,

I wonder what lies ahead.

At Tria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We walk and talk back to the train,

ideas swirling in my brain.

“This train doesn’t stop at City Hall.”

but time flows through spaces and goes to places

unknown,

calls–

Every exit is an entrance somewhere else.

 

 

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt to use sound. “The poem, for example, could incorporate overheard language. Perhaps it could incorporate a song lyric in some way, or language from something often heard spoken aloud (a prayer, a pledge, the Girl Scout motto). Or you could use a regional or local phrase from your hometown that you don’t hear elsewhere, e.g. “that boy won’t amount to a pinch.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blood and Fate

Monday Morning Musings:

“They were deceiving themselves, but the blood couldn’t be denied.”

–Federico Garcia Lorca, Blood Wedding

 “The duende is a momentary burst of inspiration, the blush of all this is truly alive. . .it manifests itself principally among musicians and poets of the spoken word. . .for it needs the trembling of the moment and then a long silence.”

Federico Garcia Lorca, “Play and Theory of Duende,” quoted by Blood Wedding dramaturg, Walter Bilderback

 

On this weekend before Halloween

we watch Stranger Things

cocooned in our living room

food on the table

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cats besides us

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we become immersed–

the Upside Down and the Shadow Monster–

we tremble in the moment,

the deliciousness of a scary story,

this is the new normal in their town

but it echoes the world around us

where monsters climb from the shadows.

Perhaps we need to listen the children

before we face a long, perhaps forever, silence

 

The skies have turned dark and dreary

and we walk through damp streets to see a play.

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Transported to a society that is bound by strict rules,

and though all try to abide by them,

they cannot escape fate

and the blood that can’t be denied,

flowing through generations,

blood and fate,

knives, like Macbeth’s dagger

foreshadowing what’s to come

inevitable, despite all they do

the actors tell the story with percussive rhythms

of feet, hands, and voices

Hungarian folk dances and flamenco.

The characters sing

with and without instruments,

an actor portrays the horse,

that he is always racing,

the players climb on each other

pull up the floor mats to form barriers–

and shrouds–

The Bride and Groom are dressed in red

the color of passion, desire, and blood,

she wears the crown of orange blossoms

he gives her

the flowers of purity, chastity, and fertility

but they are made of wax, not real

and their marriage will not result in children,

no blood of deflowering or childbirth

but a blood wedding all the same,

we tremble in the moment

as the figures on the stage end in silence

 

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We walk again through wet city streetsIMG_7263

discuss the play over wine, beer, and cheese

 

I think of the idea of blood throughout history

“bad blood” running through families and generations

the ideas slave owners and white supremacists

one drop of black blood, one drop of Jewish blood

dooms you in their minds

when we know—that blood is blood

and all who are pricked will bleed

despite the beliefs of the shadow monsters

we all tremble before the long silence

 

I am called for jury duty.

I wonder if it is my fate to serve

and whether the fate of someone accused is already predetermined

I don’t believe this,

not really

. . .and yet. . .

the sky is dark

I wait for the dawn

the branches tremble in the wind

that breaks the silence with a moan.