It Was Something But Not Enough

“I feel my failure intensely
as if it were a vital organ”

–Jim Harrison, “Vows”

 

I couldn’t save them

all the children,

but I did what I could

hiding them under blankets,

sneaking them away in coffins

beneath the dead

who didn’t complain,

perhaps grateful for companionship.

I couldn’t save them–

all the children–

and those who lived,

but without parents,

family history erased

save for the ghosts

and the dirge they sing–

survivor’s guilt

they say now,

this feeling

that part of my heart is gone forever.

 

 

This is for Jilly’s 28 Days of Unreason, Day 3, basing poetry on quotations from Jim Harrison’s poetry.

 

 

 

 

 

With Shards and Shatters, Magic Comes

Monday Morning Musings:

Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing. Everything is made out of magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us. In this garden – in all the places.”

–Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden 

“When you look at a piece of delicately spun glass you think of two things: how beautiful it is and how easily it can be broken.”

–Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie

I dream about time

and death

and mothers mad with a thousand aches

whose cries shatter the skies

like glass

yet never disturb the shadow figures

or the thunder clouds of war and destruction.

The manufacturers of death never go out of business

and the rain only washes the surface blood away

 

We go searching for magic

in the break between storms

when the sky is blue

May in Old City Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and the world around us is green

on what were abandoned lots

filled with trash,

we find magic, human made

from glass and stone,

Philadelphia Magic Gardens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sparkling, glittering, honed

with skill, passion, artistic vision–

whimsy combined with social justice

and a creative spirit

 

We walk down South Street

(“Where do all the hippies meet?”)

“You must know where all the bodies are buried,”

says one man to another at a café table.

He agrees he does,

and while I want to know more,

we keep walking, till

a police officer stops us,

on the sidewalk,

not to ask us about bodies,

but instead, to talk up a restaurant,

“They make the best gyros, full of meat.

I eat there all the time.”

Do we look hungry, I wonder?

We thank him,

keep walking,

observing magic all around,

sometimes you just have to look up.

South Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We wander through shady green–

Hoping these souls are at rest—

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and seeing magic all around us,

in the sparrows flitting and chirping in the bushes

and in the flowers glowing in the sunlight.

Christ Church Garden, Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In between storms,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

when lightning flashes

and rain, first pounds

then tinkles delicately—

like glass chimes–

we look for Earth’s magic

reborn

in plants and vegetables,

strawberries,

tasting of sunlight and summer heat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so, we recall,

that life is luscious still

look through glass darkly

see what is half empty,

half full,

mend the broken shatters

into a thing of beauty.

And on this cloudy day

while people mourn and celebrate

the fragility of life

I will think of magic,

baking a pie that tastes

of sunlight and summer heat

and life, tart and sweet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today is Memorial Day in the U.S.

We visited Philadelphia Magic Gardens a few days ago and then walked around Old City.

We went to Joan’s Farm Stand, in Mickleton, NJ.

 

 

Past, Future, and When

Monday Morning Musings:

“Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.”

–T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton,”

You can hear him read the poem here. 

“Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.”

–Justice Hugo Black, New York Times Company v. United States (1971)

 

“Wouldn’t it be fun if all the castles in the air which we make could come true and we could live in them?”

–Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

 

The present passes, becomes the past

the future now, and now is then.

We ask how did this happen and when?

Too fast for us to learn,

to slow for us to train

the grasping hands

the lizard brains?

 

In May 1933, they burned the books–

but that was there and then

now here, and again,

a leader tried to censor the news

suppress the press

(What are the choices? Choose.)

“I am not a crook,” he said

before he fled

his seat of power

(looking ever more dour)

But that was then

and it is now,

though there are echoes of before

(his followers ignore)

hate and fear

always in the air

like war’s harsh glare—

sow discord, let others bleed,

while those in the lead, feed their greed.

 

Bright days turn to stormy nights

we gather inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and hold our fears at bay

waiting for a stay

from thunder and lightning flashes–

the zigs and zags across the sky–

but in the morning,

the birds still sing and fly

this is the present,

the past, the future whys

converge,

the past, present, future merge

as it’s beginning to do within my mother’s head

confusing the threads of history and time

sometimes—no reason, no rhyme—

but just the way it is

a bridge to what is, or could be

if only we can see—

somehow—

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We celebrate Mother’s Day

a made-up holiday

from what was a protest against war

to one of flowers and treats—

for some, for us, it can also be sweet—

Flourless Chocolate Cake and Cannoli Dip

and we’ve done all this before,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

but still—

my mother has a great laugh—

and it would not be so bad

if that became her epitaph–

gathering with love around a table

as long as we are able

is wonderful and something we need.

No, that is not greed

to desire love and peace.

Perhaps I sometimes long for castles in the air

wish that was here or something there,

want the best for my own little women

as my mother wished for hers

and her mother for her children

in the past, which is now, which was then—

I wonder when?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Does the Story End?

Like a ghost,

a man already dead–

the dread

of knowing others bled

and he was complicit

in acts morally,

if not legally,

illicit.

Would he be called enabler,

or traitor?

The victors tell the story,

when truth is denied,

then histories lie.

But his eyes betrayed–

me too, they said,

a clue

to what he was thinking–

that he was lost, sinking

lower and lower,

flowing out with the tide

(conquer, divide)–

he tried to divert the course

of fate—

perhaps too late.

And now he only watches

wondering how and why he was chosen.

Like his ancestors there

against the plaster

on the wall—

frozen–

in the famed paint of dead masters.

 

For dVerse, Amaya asked us to take two quotes from different sources and use one for the first sentence on a poem, and the other for the last sentence. I used Munich, a new novel by Robert Harris, which is about the Munich Agreement of 1938. Despite knowing the outcome, it was still a bit of a thriller.  I also used a phrase from Maya Angelou’s, “California Prodigal.”

“In the shadows, at the back of the study Hartmann watched it all without seeing, his long face blank and ashy with exhaustion—like a ghost, though Legat, like a man already dead.”

–Robert Harris, Munich, Knopf: New York, 2018, p. 251

 

“Under the gaze of his exquisite

Sires, frozen in the famed paint

Of dead masters. Audacious

Sunlight cast defiance

At their feet.”

Maya Angelou, “California Prodigal

 

 

 

 

The Cruelest Month: Tanka, NaPoWriMo, Day 4

To Persephone

daffodils pay bright homage,

echoing the sun,

the golden rays breed passion,

love and hate rise up

 

white buds burst open,

spring no longer a maiden

swells with fruitfulness

till her petals wilt and fall

covering the blood-soaked ground.

 

IMG_8456 2

 

napo2018button2.pngThis double tanka is for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday, using synonyms for grow and honor. This is also for NaNoWriMo. This may or may not fit the prompt.

 

 

 

Waking Dreams

Monday Morning Musings:

“Something nameless
Hums us into sleep,
Withdraws, and leaves us in
A place that seems
Always vaguely familiar.”

–Mark Strand, “Dreams”

“All that we see or seem

Is but a dream within a dream.”

Edgar Allen Poe, “A Dream Within a Dream”

 

My daughter and I talk–

sleep paralysis

she says,

waking to plunge into the terror again

not being able to move, or scream

in the terror of the dream.

 

And I think of the young people caught in a school

and those elsewhere—the whirlpool,

the vortex of contradictions,

fight or flight,

rehearsing what to do if caught,

a nightmare over and over again

until some finally scream, “Enough! Be seen!”

we need to flee the terror of this dream.

 

I was child,

practicing the duck and cover drills

ridiculous, tilting at windmills,

but I remember being terrified,

petrified that my parents would not come for me

before whatever we had to flee–

a world ending with both bangs and whimpers—

no tears,

just fear,

and no way to wake

from the terror of the dream.

 

And so, how can anyone say these young people are tools,

they have seen the violence in their schools,

they have been forced to practice,

to dance with fear,

to hold it near,

and should their dreams die

before they’ve had a chance to fly?

 

We see a movie

about grief and guilt

from wars, built

stronger, lasting, flowing through generations,

the absurdity of life–

the solitary camel ambling to the checkpoint gate–

the soldier who dances the foxtrot with his gun

fun arising from boredom with surrealism fused-fate

that keeps us dancing and returning to the same spot—

caught–

as if in a dream.

And though the movie is set in Israel

where “the fallen” fall so often

that those who bring the news are prepared

to deal with the grieving and the scared–

they come with drugs and instructions,

attuned to this production,

the result of the war machine,

the resulting grief and tears it brings–

still what happens there,

could happen anywhere

where there is war

and where dreams are launched

with guns and bombs

prayed over with psalms,

and where they fall from the sky

to die.

 

We walk and talk

the day is still cool,

but the seasons are cycling

through the year—

and spring is near.

We see a wedding, groom and bride

attendants by their sides.

FullSizeRender 378

Though the fear is in abeyance here

the nightmare lasts,

we must lift our voices to put it past.

to see the light,

to see the sun,

the hopeful dreams, caught and spun,

FullSizeRender 380

Can we celebrate our fate,

move towards love, not to hate,

unparalyzed, with dreams awake,

wear hope like a perfume?

We arrive home–

to find some daffodils have bloomed.

FullSizeRender 379

We saw the Israeli movie Foxtrot. Trailer here.

 

 

 

Lost at Sea: Yeats Challenge, Day 28

 

For Day 28 of Jane’s A Month with Yeats Poetry Challenge.  Today’s quotation:

“I would that the Boar without bristles had come from the West

And had rooted the sun and moon and stars out of the sky”—W.B. Yeats

 

 On storm-tossed seas with blackened skies

he traveled lost, and so afraid

longing for the siren’s call

to forget he was now ostracized.

Once at the top, a renegade

who chose to obliterate with his cabal,

brought war, destruction, the children’s cries

and wakened monsters from the shade,

all vaporized, and so, the ashes fall

on ruined lands, on Earth’s demise

Ayvazovskiy_-_A_storm_begins_to_whip_up_in_the_Black_Sea_(heliography)

Ivan Aivazovsky [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

 

Berenice’s Hair: Yeats Challenge, Days 23 and Day 24

This is for Jane’s Yeats Challenge, Day 23 and Day 24.

“…your hair was bound and wound

About the stars and moon and sun::—W.B. Yeats

 

“We know their dream; enough

To know they dreamed and are dead;” —W.B. Yeats 

 

He was away at war, another one

it seemed to happen again and again.

Was it glory, she wondered, or was it fun?

Would he return from battle, if so, when?

And what would happen when it was all done?

Though common worries, this time she’d had a dream

that he was wounded, or no, that he was killed

she woke with a scream, so true it seemed

for all their hopes dashed, left now unfulfilled.

She begged the goddess to spare his life,

and swore in return she’d cut her hair–

for her husband, as his wife,

she’d shear the strands that shone golden in the sunlit air

that flowed like waves of honeyed wheat

a glory recalled by all who saw it there

tumbling to her feet.

Then when her husband returned unharmed and well,

she kept her vow and left her hair at Aphrodite’s altar,

her husband pondered the story she had to tell

and that she never had faltered

and both were first bewildered, then enthralled

to find up in the sky

installed in a constellation

(though unsure why)

her hair swirled and flowed, unbound and wound

in glittering strands of riotous celebration

there far above the smiling moon, a shining crown

a tribute to her sacrifice, done without any hesitation–

though that was not the end of course

of war or force, nor of remorse

for pain and dying

yet still the stars keep flying,

and we, marvel at their beauty, keep sighing.

 

 

NGC_4565

By ESO [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons. “The galaxy pictured here is NGC 4565, which for obvious reasons is also called the Needle Galaxy. First spotted in 1785 by Uranus’ discoverer, Sir William Herschel (1738-1822), this is one of the most famous example of an edge-on spiral galaxy and is located some 30 million light-years away in the constellation Coma Berenices (Berenice’s Hair). It displays a bright yellowish central bulge that juts out above most impressive dust lanes.”

 

 

Love and Glory: Yeats Challenge, Day Fourteen

This is for Jane’s A Month with Yeats Challenge. Today’s quotation is:

“That you, in the dim coming times,
May know how my heart went with them
After the red-rose-bordered hem.” —W.B. Yeats

 

As a boy he saw them there,

she in white, with flowers in her hair,

he a soldier, a handsome young man,

he saw them thus, and so it began.

 

He held this image through his life,

he’d go to war, and have a wife,

who’d say farewell in sunlight gold

and they’d continue, till they were old.

 

He never saw the bloodstained shirt,

the man lying wounded in the dirt,

the woman who traded her white for black,

on lifelong dreams she turned her back.

 

The boy envisioned a life of glory,

King and country, the same old story,

but finally there with gun in hand,

at last he came to understand.

 

Camille_Clere_Verwundet

Camille Clère (1825-1918) (Düsseldorfer Auktionshaus) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

From the Ashes: A Month with Yeats, Day Nine

 This is for Jane Dougherty’s November Month with Yeats, Day Nine. The quotation is: 

“Troy passed away in one high funeral gleam,

And Usna’s children died.”

—W.B. Yeats

I was also inspired, or perhaps haunted, by this article that I saw last night about a girl’s pendant found at Sobihor.

 

Once she played and laughed upon a hill,

once there were families, hope, delight

before darkness came and all was still

in a nightmare world of constant night

monster-filled with hate and fear

and all that once was cherished and held dear

lost forever, or perhaps entombed

within the ruins, amidst the gloom.

 

Years passed in revolutions round the sun,

and grass sprouted in ashes cooled of fired hate

buried there, searchers found that she was one

in rubble raked beyond the gate

found there, a victim of the slaughter,

someone’s child, once a daughter,

found her broach, inscribed, a sign, a trace

that she existed once, now not entirely erased.

 

But does this finding some closure bring

to those who are left or suffering?

The ashes of the dead once rained like sordid snow

fertilizing now the ground where flowers grow

light’s restored, but mutable

and darkness still falls, indisputable,

hope the feather that softly flies

from wings of knowledge and wistful sighs.