Ghosts of Guilt, NaPoWriMo, Day 30

Monday Morning Musings:

“Not only are selves conditional but they die. Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead.”

–John Updike, quoted here.

“Monsters are real. Ghosts are too. They live inside of us, and sometimes, they win.”

–Stephen King, The Shining

 

There are ghosts we see—or don’t

invoke, as though if left uncalled for

we’ll not provoke

those of the past,

who vanish–or won’t

go gentle into that good night,

the ghosts of guilt,

may waft or wilt

drift silently,

(seen just from the corner of your eye,

fly by)

but whether unexplainable

or declaimed

they are us

and soon, we’ll be them.

 

We see two movies,

walk in between,

to see the vibrant glow of spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first film set in Hungary in 1945,

a small town that seems not war-torn,

some have even thrived.

The town clerk owns a well-stocked drugstore,

more–he lives with his family in a large town house.

Others have also gained homes and wealth

obtained by stealth,

though it’s all legal, they explain

(show the papers,

for goods and property

no one left to claim).

But they are haunted by their complicity

no joy at an upcoming wedding,

where there should be felicity

secrets begin to seep—

they’re all around–

Look! Two Jews in town.

What do they want, these nearly silent men?

As they walk behind the cart,

like mourners to a grave site.

Dark, somber,

(the film shot in black and white)

Here, it’s always “God Bless,”

and the brandy seems ever handy.

There’s a Hungarian saying about this brandy–

“Palinka in small amounts is a medicine,

in large amounts a remedy.”

But there’s no remedy for what they’ve done.

What have they lost, and what have they won?

The Germans are out, the Russians are in–

A new dawn

when the Jews are gone?

But these two, why are they here,

and what is it the town folk fear?

Dark smoke billows from the train,

sun-filled day fills with thunder and rain.

The monsters are real. The ghosts are too.

They are us, and we are them.

 

We walk and chat

about the movie, this and that–

the susurration of sparrows,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the murmurings of spring

though the ghost of winter, touches

with icy fingers clings

as we turn from sun to shadow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

whispers–

you can’t flee me forever,

I’ll return in November or December,

when seeds then huddle underground,

sharing the cold comfort of the dead.

But now is for the living instead,

in blooms of green and pink and yellow and white

glowing, vibrant in the light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We walk, seeing weddings and brides in white

smiling groups, life in color and in light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We see a second film,

this one with ghosts up front

that an investigator will confront.

He’s a skeptic, he doesn’t believe,

but perhaps there are events he also grieves

There are scenes that makes us jump–

doors that rattle, and things that bump,

demons that are locked away,

but are released,

perhaps, to stay.

Three cases become woven together–

Will there be a happily ever after?

(Cue the nervous laughter).

 

We walk some more,

The Signer stands tall

The Signer,
Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

through many seasons–

he’s seen them all—

and thus,

though he represents freedom

he’s surrounded by ghosts

who flit over cobblestones,

manning their posts,

due diligence, remember the past—

remember us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My cat wakes me from a dream—

a ghost tells a character in a play

(stories within stories within my dream, it seems)

“we mourn the dead, but we move on.”

They are us,

and we are them.

Life moves on–

we begin again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final NaPoWriMo prompt asks us to “write a poem that engages with a strange and fascinating fact.” Well, I included some facts. They may or may not be strange or fascinating. For more on “odd facts” about Hungary, see here. And here is more on the Holocaust in Hungary  The Signer statue is in Philadelphia’s Old City.

We saw the movies 1945 and Ghost Stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daffodils and the Rebirth of Spring

“But as we went along there were more and yet more [daffodils] and at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing.”

–Dorothy Wordsworth, Grasmere Journal, April 15, 1802

Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth: The Alfoxden Journal 1798, The Grasmere Journals 1800-1803, ed. Mary Moorman (New York: Oxford UP, 1971), 109-110.

 ImageImage

I think winter has finally been banished from South Jersey. The snow and the sleet and the grey skies are gone. Just before dawn each day, I now hear a choir of birds. I don’t know what type of birds they are, but I know I did not hear them during the winter months, which seemed this year to last forever. But now daffodils are blooming everywhere. I love daffodils. At the start of spring, just after the shy crocuses and snowbells peek out from the still frost-tipped ground, the daffodils appear, beautiful and confident. They do seem to exude joy and laughter, or perhaps seeing them simply makes me happy. Dorothy Wordsworth’s wonderfully evocative passage above describes the “host” of “golden daffodils” that her more famous brother William later wrote of in his famous poem, “Daffodils.” She describes the daffodils as dancing; he expresses the pleasure of thinking about them later, a thought that makes his heart “dance”:

“And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.”

But Dorothy and William both express the way I feel: the daffodils dance, and they make my heart dance.

Tulips will begin to bloom soon. They were exotic flowers to the Europeans who encountered them in the sixteenth century. The Turks cultivated tulips as early as 1000 CE, but tulips spread throughout the Ottoman Empire over the centuries. As Europeans traveled and explored more widely in the sixteenth-century in the search for gold, knowledge, and adventure, they came across the exotic blooms. This period of European exploration also coincided with an interest in botany (and other sciences). Botanical drawings of tulips spread throughout Europe and sparked great interest. In Holland, Carolus Clusius, the head of the first botanical garden there, obtained some tulip bulbs from a connection to the Ottoman Empire. By 1594, he had tulips blooming in the Netherlands. Tulips began to be cultivated elsewhere in Holland, but they were still rare and exotic. Before long, they were being traded, and a financial tulip-trading market appeared. Traders and speculators went crazy. In 1624, one type of rare tulip bulb was selling for what would now be over $1000; some went for even more. The financial bubble became known as “Tulipomania,” and eventually the bubble burst in 1637.

            Tulips, though undeniably beautiful, seem a bit haughty to me. If tulips and daffodils were Downton Abbey characters, tulips would have the personality of Maggie Smith’s character, Violet Crawley the Dowager Countess of Grantham. Daffodils are more like the free-spirited Lady Sybil, who is also beautiful, kind, and loved by all.

Spring is the season of rebirth. Both Passover and Easter celebrate this theme. Birth and death; the cycles of nature, the cycles of life. The spring flowers that appear in bright shades of yellow, pink, blue, and red, chase the gray of winter cold and gloom away, and we can rejoice. And dance– especially after all that Passover Seder wine. By the time, my family gathers for our Passover Seder, the daffodils at our house probably will have faded and their blooms vanished. But that’s OK. Because I know that next year, along with the birds of spring, the daffodils will return to brighten my thoughts and my days after the long, cold winter.

Image