Horror, Storms, Pass the Wine, and Look for Grace—Monday Morning Musings

Monday Morning Musings:

“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

–Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House

“(“Do not equate nationalism with patriotism,” Perry warned Juliet. “Nationalism is the first step on the road to Fascism.”)”

–Kate Atkinson, Transcription

A storm comes and roars,

in waves upon the shores

and tears through towns

with rains and winds—the sounds

of climate wars

where there were homes

there’s now a void–

so much destroyed.

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Here we have only some rain and wind

nothing unmoored, nothing unpinned

from where it should be

the only horror we see

comes on TV,

where things go bumping in the night–

though not as scary as reality

yet we wish and keep hope afloat

that we’ll live to see things be all right.

 

Once we had a president who sang “Amazing Grace,”*

now we have one without a trace

of empathy or wisdom,

separating families,

putting them in prisons

behind barbed wire—

and who does he admire?

Dictators!

(and those who feed his ego—

please all of you, just go!)

 

So, as the days get dreary

I try to be cheery,

find color in pumpkins and leaves

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that fall on ground and eaves.

I cook and bake

hope to shake—

if not the world—

then wake a few,

hope and wish,

the good and true

will outlast, outshine

redefine the new.

 

On a chilly day,

we brighten our spirits

with family, a dog, and wine

spend time conversing

about this and that

we chat about birth

(with a bit of mirth)

as my son-in-law is studying

to be a nurse–

(quite a path he’s traversed

to get there)

and we sit as children ask

to pet their cute pup—

until at last the time is up

and we must go

our separate ways—

well, it’s getting too chilly to stay.

 

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Clouds over William Heritage Winery

I wake to morning mist–and sigh

think, today, I’ll take my apples

and bake a pie.

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We’ll eat it as evening

darkens the room

perhaps to brighten

fall’s impending gloom.

The cats will sleep on cushions nearby,

and we will bid the day goodbye.

 

 

*I was reminded of this when I heard Joan Baez on the New Yorker Radio Hour. Here the song is illustrated in a lovely, moving short animated film.

We watched the first episode of Netflix’s sort of adaptation of the Haunting of Hill House.  The original movie terrified me. I thought the first episode of this version (if you can get over that it’s not actually an adaptation of the story) was OK, but not great. But we will watch the next episode.

But we also watched the movie Eighth Grade–which really was wonderful–even though we all know that age has its own horrors.

I’m reading Transcription by Kate Atkinson. It’s wonderful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once

Monday Morning Musings:

“Falling slowly, sing your melody

I’ll sing it loud”

From “Falling Slowly,” Once,

Music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová

Once. . . I woke in darkness. Then the sun rose golden through rose-tinged clouds. The air was cool but clear. The world shifted and tilted. Dreams rose from the misted woods.

morning moon whispered

softly, praise touched red-gold leaves

geese honked overhead

Morning Moon

If you look carefully, there’s the morning moon.

chevron rises up

earth cycles, river to land,

the tide ebbs and flows

Geese at Red Bank Battlefield Park, NJ

We take a train into the city. We walk over sun-bright cobblestones, passing tourists who stroll and chat in a variety of languages. We wait on corners as wide city buses try to turn onto narrow streets. We enter a theater. Seats surround a center stage area covered with Oriental rugs. Musicians are playing Irish songs of the past and present. I bop in my seat to “Brown Eyed Girl” and tap my feet to a jig. Last call for the bar. The lights go down, and magic begins.

man meets a woman

music flows, drifts from their souls,

they’re falling slowly

 

together in tune

Dublin days strummed in rhythm–

piano echoes

 

musicians rebound

music from aisles and walkways

crowd smiles and applauds

We walk and talk. Watch the lowering sun shine through cloud-dappled sky. Red bricks glow. In Washington Square, a young girl whispers her secrets to a tree. Does it answer?

music of nature

city sounds form the chorus

we dine al fresco

Again. . .

We dine al fresco

wine and pizza in sunshine

a dog rests in joy

Nightfall comes too soon,

moon rises to hum goodnight—

cats slumber and dream

 

Sleeping Cat

Once. . .September was full of rain. The world was full of anger and sorrow and lies. But once, September ended in a perfect weekend of sunny days and cooler nights–falling slowly into October.

 

We saw the  musical Once at the Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia. It was a performance full of warmth and spirit, wonderfully staged. Here they are rehearsing “Falling Slowly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look Around: Seen and Unseen

Monday Morning Musings:

KERNER: “The particle world is the dream world of the intelligence officer. An electron can be here or there at same moment. You can choose; it can go from here to there without going in between; it can pass through two doors at the same time, or from one door to another by a path which is there for all to see until someone looks, and then the act of looking has made it take a different path. Its movements cannot be anticipated because it has no reasons. It defeats surveillance because when you what it’s doing you can’t be certain where it is, and when you know where it is you can’t be certain what it’s doing. .”

–Tom Stoppard, Hapgood

 

“I cannot tell how Eternity seems. It sweeps around me like a sea. . .”

–Emily Dickinson, from a letter to her cousins, 1882

 

“the future and the maps

Hide something I was waiting for.”

–from Edward Thomas, “When First I Came Here”

 

The seen and the unseen

sleight of hand,

the extemporaneous, the planned

blink, you miss it,

not in shadow, in sun or fluorescent light

missing what is in plain sight,

nature, spies, bumps in the night

 

Look in front of you—there it is.

Raptors in the Park

Rainy Day Sight at Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ

 

How far is eternity,

how wide and how deep?

Does it stretch through

cloudy skies

glance and stretch its size

through shadowed ground

and then around

to reach the stars,

(falling, calling)

a metaphysical quasar,

whose ways and days are

hinted at, but unknown.

 

I walk, and there are wonders,

two deer, twins perhaps

(you could almost miss them as you pass,

but there they are, in the grass)

their future mapped

or unknown,

become full-grown,

or decline

or killed by a hunter’s gun—

but now they recline,

unphased, in the waning sun.

Resting in the Park
Red Bank Battlefield
National Park, NJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We see a play

of Cold War spies,

particle physics underlie

the everyday,

in lines it overlays,

a metaphor of surveillance

and life

assailants and strife—

the personal, the political

watch—it’s critical,

because we don’t always see–

there may be a twin,

or there may not be.

We can’t anticipate

what will come,

life is random—

the way a moth flits,

it darts and hits

this way and that

and you can’t be certain

what it’s doing

is it pursuing

or pursued?

This is how it should be viewed

(the scientist explains)

electrons are like that moth–

then so are our ideas

within our brains

unchained,

they fly,

and we can’t plan

where they’ll go

with the flow–

but, they might stop, sink, fly

no reason, no what, no why—

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and on this equinox

we go falling

headlong into the next season

yes, there is reason, it’s time,

but it seems without rhythm or rhyme

one minute it’s warm, the next it’s cool

there seems to be no rule.

So, we move on, walk and talk

about the play we’ve seen

(Look up and around)

 

Victory Apartment Building, Philadelphia

Quince Street, Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and

drink with cheer

our wine and beer

 

At Tria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and later the rain

comes again,

but we sleep soundly

to dream—un-profoundly–

while a cat softly snores,

and beyond our locked doors

and behind the clouded sky

the moon hums

to her own rhythm, and why

is unknown–just listen–

eternity in her lullaby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apparently, the Oracle has also seen Hapgood by Tom Stoppard. Of course, she knows everything.

We saw the Lantern Theater production.

 

To dark air

she could ask

dazzle the night.

Though she is fooled in the open

like this—

her heart

always listening,

only here you are–

and over there—

not magic,

but life

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.

 

Time and Timeless

Monday Morning Musings:

“There is a certain part of all of us that lives outside of time. Perhaps we become aware of our age only at exceptional moments and most of the time we are ageless.”

–Milan Kundera

Art and music travel through our genes, stopping at some destinations longer than at others, like the train our older daughter takes from Washington, D.C. after visiting archives at the Smithsonian. She takes hundreds of photos of sketch books, correspondence, diaries, and newspaper clippings of our artist ancestor, Abraham Hankins. She shows me newspaper articles—how his mapmaking skills saved his life in France during WWI because he was left behind to draw maps when the rest of his unit was sent into battle and killed. He also trained as a singer, until gassed during the war, and apparently, he wrote some poetry, too. But my daughter becomes even more fascinated by his French wife Estelle, called Esther by my family. After Abe’s death, Estelle makes it her mission to get her late husband’s work into major museums. There is still much to learn, and most of the people who lived then are gone. It is my mom’s ninety-sixth birthday.

 

skipping stones hit pond

concentric circles ripple

spring turns to summer

Abraham P. Hankins,
Pocket Full of Dreams,
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Bequest of Mrs. Abraham Peter Hankins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We celebrate my mom’s birthday in sunshine with shades

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

munch on snacks, laughter cascades

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

as we discuss pets and art and politics

with eyes rolling—intermixed–

as my niece describes her “other family,” with their alternate truth—

if only we could blame it on the folly of youth—

but salacious tales about the Clinton’s gleaned from right-wing memes,

treasure troves of garbage carried by the false fact streams

they insist it’s true,

what does one do?

We move on to sandwiches and cake

blow out the candles, make

each moment count, and we laugh, dance, and sing—

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

it’s in our genes, so let’s bring

it on in celebration of familial love

rock the ghosts from rafters above

and around, perhaps they watch from some place–

that shadow there, across your face.

 

The weekend is full with movies, puppies, and wine

we dance, laugh, eat, drink—feeling fine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My mom tells us that Abe asked her mother to sing with him at a family gathering. She says her mother had a beautiful voice, but that my uncle, my mom’s baby brother, cried when their mother sang, so she stopped singing. I had forgotten, she says, but now I remember some of those songs she taught me. Songs of the shtetl that crossed the ocean. We, the grandchildren never learned the songs. I like to think though that no song is ever lost. Each note rises. Birds carry some, and others float high into the sky filling the clouds. I think that is why I hear music in the rain, and why rainbows sing, and the moon hums. We are filled with star music, and it returns again and again to us. Music flits like spindrift from the waves of time.

 

Stars sail ink-black seas,

cat against me softly snores,

dreams dance to moon song

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shadows Cast

Monday Morning Musings:

“Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.”

–Fortune Cookie Wisdom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moon music whispers

a lust for life—and light

in the darkness.

Ask—does the sky ache above

seeing death below?

There, like the shadow

that lies black beneath the rose.

***

The power of her voice in song–

now only her shadow sings–

caught on video and audio, sing along–

to “A Natural Woman,” it brings—

memories of a president’s tears,

as now a nation fears

the future filled with tweeting jeers.

 

He and they try to destroy the press

but those of us who cherish thought

protest. We need the freedom to express

ourselves without duress.

Though the shadow ones know—some are bought—

some are complacent, some complicit–

elicit the illicit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We sit outside, it’s still summer hot

though autumn hovers in the shadows

and we begin to think ahead, no, perhaps not—

there’s still time to sip wine, dip our toes

into pools or walk a sandy beach

and reach. . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

for love. Seek time with friends

fight the shadows, that lurk around us

and yes, we can’t know how it ends

hate is around, and it’s been ever thus.

It’s a fine line we walk

but we must talk

 

about the hate we see, it’s been freed

no longer do they lurk in the dark

the white-robed shadows proclaim their creed

of white supremacy–they bark

and parade in the open to dog whistles from above

and we must spark the light, the dove–

 

she flies somewhere high, beyond this rainy sky

where we walk through puddles on cobblestones

the air scented with summer flowers, and all the whys

float through the air, and do we care about the bones

that lie beneath us

the souls that flit above us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

in the shadowed world, we cannot see

we shine a light, where is the door,

where is the key?

In the before,

we look for the after

and the in-between

is still to be seen.

 

There is no moral, this is no fable

but disaster can come suddenly, coffee spilled

across the table.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A recap of my week. Aretha Franklin died, the nation’s press fought back against 45’s attacks, we drank wine, and we saw the movie BlackkKlansman. Trailer here.

Baskets

Monday Morning Musings:

“Poetry isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that.”
–Mary Oliver, Georgia Review (Winter 1981), 733.

“There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.”

“I have a right to be angry, but not to spread it.”

–Hannah Gadsby’s, “Nanette”

 

Ask why an ancient wind

rose beneath a hot sun–

they never will

see souls rustle in soft shade.

So,

murmur harmony

to nature’s song

and feel life bloom

 

 

 

 

 

 

***

We listen to the woman, a masterful storyteller,

skilled at creating tension—and

relieving it with a punchline,

but in this set,

she lets the tension linger–

at least for a while

noting both her anger

and its reasons—

reasons that should anger us all.

I think of that,

as neo-Nazis gather in our nation’s capital.

Neo-Nazi? Why should there be new ones

after the defeat of the old ones?

I ponder the other labels–

shouldn’t we all be anti-fascist

and united against hate?

It should be the default mode, shouldn’t it?

 

The novel I’m reading is set in

the early 1930s in Berlin,

the female protagonist had a gay brother

who was murdered.

While they were growing up, she tried

to teach him what she called

“A Code of Masculinity,”

so, he could pass,

but he didn’t.

Hannah Gadsby

in the 1990s in Australia

was assaulted for not being

feminine enough,

she couldn’t pass either. But growing up,

in a culture where she was reviled, left its

legacy on her. She talks about the shame

she felt for being a lesbian, for being different.

 

I think about trying to explain

these weird and artificial binaries

to a visitor from another world,

But how could I,

when they make no sense to me?

You must be this color,

you must love this person,

you must be this religion. Why?

 

And where do I go with this? I seem to have

gone off on a tangent–because

I wanted to tell you about baskets.

Picture the basket itself,

woven together from strands of straw, reeds, or

even wire,

each one different.

And my life, also woven of many different strands.

I weave my basket, and sometimes I take it apart

and start over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, let me tell you how

we celebrated the anniversary of my father’s birth—

He would have been ninety-nine. He’s been dead for twenty years,

and I still miss him.

We toasted him with wine–

and ate ice cream afterward,

because he loved ice cream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We eat Pakistani food with our younger daughter and her husband,

enjoying samosas and other delights

as their dog and cat circle the table,

where there were no scraps tossed,

but love drips,

like melting ice cream,

because it can be messy,

but there is plenty to go around.

 

I could tell you about being with

dear friends over the weekend,

how we eat pizza,

and discuss that new normal, how

it is difficult not to discuss politics

but at the same time,

conversations are fraught

with hesitation—or anger.

How can one be friends with someone

who supports a racist?

 

The saying goes, “Don’t put all your eggs

in one basket.”

We should welcome those who think

differently or look different.

And isn’t part of the joy of having

a full basket

come in examining its contents?

 

There is so much we do not see.

We toss everything

in the basket of life, and pull out what we need

or what we want. But maybe sometimes

we need to look at the basket itself.

 

There is no punchline here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We watched “Nanette” on Netflix. Trailer here.

I’m reading the novel A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Awkward Fantasy and Ghosts

Monday Morning Musings:

“We have grown to trust blindly in our senses of balance and reason, and I can see where the mind might fight wildly to preserve its own familiar stable patterns against all evidence that it was leaning sideways.”

–Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House

The weather has been erratic. Storms followed by sunshine, but always hot, only the level of humidity changes. The volatile, vacillating moods are echoed in the movie we see about a woman with an abusive husband and their custody battle. Neither child wants to see the father, but the daughter, who is almost eighteen, doesn’t have to. It’s the ten-year-old son, Julian, who must submit to visiting his father in this movie that becomes an intense thriller, rather than a legal drama. After the movie, we walk through Old City, where ghosts still walk, flitting through gates to hover over flowers, and drift over the cobblestone streets.

 

Sun-chased charcoal clouds

tumble through the evening sky

bright blooms smile hello

Summer in Old City, Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We sip wine another night as the sky changes once again—blue turning grey. But we stay.

Wine glasses turn red,

echoes of the summer blooms

coloring the gloom

 

William Heritage Winery, NJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We travel to the New Jersey Fringe Festival in Hammonton, NJ—“Blueberry Capital of the World.” We see three short plays, funny, touching, strange. (It is fringe after all.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer festivals

walk through human emotion,

taste laughter and tears

We see a play about two fantasy worlds colliding,

sliding together

the man who lives in a porno world

meets a woman

then hurled

into her action hero world.

We thought the script could be tightened,

some excised, some enlightened,

but it was silly fun—and we’d only just begun

 

when off to the next one

about a man with two cartoon character names

and a most awkward life,

not so much filled with strife,

rather loneliness and seeking to connect

(even when his house is wrecked)

it’s whimsical, with ukulele and narration

and women who give him quite an education

in their multiple roles in his life, unlucky as it is

somehow, we see some hope at the end in his.

 

We pause to shop and eat gelato

 

NJ Fringe Festival,
Hammonton, NJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

walk through the flow, and then go

onto the next play

stay there in the small, hot basement room

listen to the man, the actor, speak,

we jump at every creak

we’ve seen him before

(someone opens the door

to cool the room a bit,

and still we sit).

Last year he performed here

serial murderer Jeffery Dahmer,

he is compelling, in this telling

of the ghosts and demons he has seen.

All the evidence leaning sideways,

We always

Try to make sense of what we see and fear

And here

With theater we sway a bit—wonder what is real

What did he see? What did he feel?

Is it all a metaphor for inner trauma,

Packaged as paranormal drama?

And does it matter if it is?

We take what he gives

entertainment and thoughtful reflection

we walk and talk in the direction

of our car. Then off to dinner, a day well spent

in this summer event.

The clouds fly by—

perhaps it’s my fantasy

to see ghosts and shadow figures in the sky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I decided to play with form a bit today–Haibun and rhyme.

We saw the French movie, Custody. Trailer here. We went to the NJ Fringe Festival and saw, Wildest Fantasy, The Most Awkward Love Life of Peabody Magoo, and Ghost Stories.

We ate dinner at Mera Khana in Berlin, NJ, where I finally got my vegetable samosas. (Everything they make is delicious.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Searching

Monday Morning Musings:

“The search for meaning, much like the search for pleasure, must be conducted obliquely. Meaning ensues from meaningful activity: the more we deliberately pursue it, the less likely are we to find it.”

–Irving D. Yalom quoted in Brainpickings here

 

My sister and I listen to the woman,

she is perfectly pleasant, if a bit harried–

it’s possible she’s double-booked her appointments.

We can only offer your mother six hours of care, she says

(that we may or may not pay for)

but we can’t let you know until you pick one of the providers.

(We stare blankly at the five-page list.)

No, I can’t recommend any of them–

can you imagine if it didn’t work out?

But you can call and ask them questions.

(That shouldn’t take much time, right?)

No, the caregivers are not permitted to give your mom medication

I guess you’ll have to work something else out.

Yes, we do offer some free meals, but only if you go with our program–

and your mother would have to pick up a week’s worth at the front desk

Well, yes, I can see she uses a walker and is nearly blind, but that’s how it’s done.

I hear these meals taste kind of nasty–

Now the dinners from that other program . . .

(the one your mother is ineligible for because her income from Social Security is slightly over the cutoff, though it’s not enough to pay her rent)

Yeah, those meals are delicious. . .Do you have any questions?

My sister and I look at each other—we have lots of questions,

but nothing she can help with.

She’s referred inexplicably a few times

to the process, program, situation

as “catch 52”—

perhaps it is all so ridiculous that “catch 22”

is no longer enough to describe it.

 

My sister goes home, my husband and I go home, too,

we feed the cats, and then visit a winery.

We drink wine, listen to music, and eat mac and cheese.

Decompress, not deconstruct.

Vino and Vibes,
William Heritage Winery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day I cook and bake,

the kitchen exorcism

being a well-known technique for

getting rid of any lingering demons.

Artisan Bread
Mandelbrot
Blueberry Peach Crumble

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our younger daughter is visiting a friend in Japan.

she sends us a photo

the two of them with a snake.

I think if anyone could charm a snake,

it would be her–

though she looks terrified.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think of my younger self–

once I held a snake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and had a head full of dreams,

not as practical as either of my daughters,

and not as charming either,

but in those days

my mother could see and walk

and was raising another child.

I raise a glass to wish,

only suddenly I’m

uncertain what to wish for.

 

We watch a mystery series

there’s murder, conspiracy, and violence

yet we know that at the end

the questions will be answered,

the mystery solved.

And if it’s not completely tidy,

it’s enough to satisfy.

Maybe the answer is 42, after all

though I’m not sure

of the question anymore.

I pour another glass of wine,

toast, “L’chaim.”

Perhaps “to life” is enough.

***

 

We watch the storm—

rain urges moon,

and she sings,

bares away language

to let live the cool whispers

of blue shadow light

on aching skin.

Life is wanted here—

trudge, run.

(If not, when?)

Together, we soar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Oracle gave me this coda of hope and action. I’m sure she knows that the expression is “bear away,” but she is clever, and no doubt she enjoyed the double meaning here.

 

 

 

 

Cloud Houses of Dreams

Monday Morning Musings:

“I would build a cloudy House
For my thoughts to live in;
When for earth too fancy-loose
And too low for Heaven!”

–Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “The House of Clouds”

“I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now

From up and down, and still somehow

It’s cloud illusions I recall

I really don’t know clouds at all.”

–Joni Mitchell, “Both Sides Now”

 

 

Striking in their billowing shapes, watch them drift, the clouds.

Somehow relaxing, to see them shift, the clouds.

***

 

On a beautiful afternoon in July,

we walk, a blue bed is the sky

for puffy clouds to lay upon

transient, seen, and then they’re gone—

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

like the inhabitants who once held sway

on these cobblestone streets, walked each day–

in daily life and times of strife they lived in these houses

with children, relatives, with their spouses,

Elfreth Alley, Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

do their spirits yet walk here under moonlit clouds

shy, hesitant, or fierce and proud?

I must ask my friends who once lived herein

if they ever encountered such ghostly denizens.

 

We watch a movie about a baker of cookies and cakes

who travels under a cloud, with a life that’s fake

but ghosts and memories bring new love–

sort of—

(The pasty looks delicious, but the story hard to convey

without giving too much away.)

 

We eat pizza and drink wine while the weather is fine—

against more green, blue, and white, we sip and dine

taking advantage of this unusual meteorological blip

before the storm clouds roll in and the forecast flips—

Auburn Road Winery,
Salem County, NJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

which it does, the skies turn grey

the white clouds drift away

and I build cloud houses from my thoughts

turn them away from should and oughts

Raining on the Ben Franklin Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

but I dream of houses with stairs to nowhere

or perhaps from here to there,

if only I can find the right paths (or footwear)—

a dream with goals and friends and cats,

and if there’s unfinished business—

well, I can live with that.

His work is done. Sweet Dreams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m sorry about the spacing here. I can’t quite figure out how to fix it.

People still live in the homes of Elfreth’s Alley. You can read about it here.

We saw the Israeli movie The Cakemaker. Trailer here.

We went to Auburn Road Vineyards.