December Comes with Cold and Light

Monday Morning Musings:

“Thus having prepared their buds

against a sure winter

the wise trees

stand sleeping in the cold.”

–From William Carlos Williams, “Winter Trees”

The first of December is mostly grey,

but not so cold—winter held at bay

 

for a while, but we smile to see the glow–

the sun on remaining leaves of trees slow

Philadelphia Parkway, December 2018

to sleep in winter’s arms,

and we walk to see the city’s charms

 

even in the bleakness of late fall—

almost winter—some magic calls

 

there, Diana shines atop the stairs

gilded anew, she seems aware

Diana, Philadelphia Museum of Art

of her strength, though she charms–

with arrow frozen in her arms

 

goddess of the hunt,

a moment, centered, upfront

 

there, I greet her like a friend

each time I visit, happy to see her send

 

(not the arrow), no never,

but she seems much too clever

 

to harm–such determination in her face–

perhaps she could send us hope and grace

 

we see dolls reflecting the passion

for both play and fashion

 

the bisque baby catches my eye

or the phrase captures my ear, why?

it sounds funny to me,

and so, we wander and see

 

a sibyl and monuments and Eve

through museum and streets, we weave

our way, and see the sights,

some Christmas lights,

 

drink mulled wine

feeling fine—then laugh to see that sign

we walk back and down the hill

where no joggers jog, all is still

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except the duck, who with quack and flap

jumps into the river—a slight slap—

 

against the surface, he swims

the sound, a chorus, a winter hymn

 

before the start of winter rain

with sun gone, shadows come again

 

bringing a misty afternoon twilight,

yes, this is December’s light.

 

Then Hanukkah comes with candle light

to bring us wonder and delight

 

I fry latkes in a pan

listening to a man

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discuss his life

some of the strife

 

escaping the Holocaust

in Kindertransport, crossed

 

to Sweden, his stuffed monkey with him*

the object now brings some joy, an era dimmed

 

by tragedy and time—family reunited

evil not forgotten or righted

 

exactly, but comforting to know

that helpers were there, not so long ago

 

and still, that there are people who did good

and do it still, do what they can, should and could

 

and so, we light the candles on this first night

eat latkes and smile at the sight

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Latkes!

of them burning till the flames die,

watch them belie

 

the darkness of night and soul

as believing in miracles makes us whole

 

more perhaps than what we seem–

the sum of what we hope and dream.

 

First Night of Hanukkah, December 2018

 

Hanukkah seems both more poignant and more important to celebrate this year.

I think I shared this story before from a previous All Things Considered segment, but Michel Martin interviewed Uri and Gert Beliner again last night.

We visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art during the members’ weekend and the Christmas Village.

Nature’s Songs: Haibun Quadrille

This is for the dVerse Monday Quadrille. Victoria has asked us to use the word poem, or some form of the word in a poem of 44 words. Yesterday I heard a robin; today it snowed.

 

Snowy winter mornings are quiet dreamscape poems written on grey and white velvet. But the sun laughs out loud in June–warm, golden verses–and birds sing harmony from yellow-green branches.

 

Trees dusted with snow

hawk hovers, but robin sings

spring will come again

 

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The Moon’s Smile: Haibun

Another moon poem. This time for dVerse, where Victoria writes, “For our Haibun prompt today, I have chosen the Japanese Kigo, Fuyu No Tsuki—winter moon.”

 

On New Year’s Eve, I’m feeling stressed, tired, and soul-weary. From my kitchen window, I see the moon rising in the east. It’s almost as brilliant as the pale winter sun, and the sky around it also glows, sapphire blue. I stop to gaze at her–and spellbound, there’s a pause between worlds. For a brief moment, it’s just the moon and me.

In the glimmer of Christmas lights, we eat homemade pizza, drink ruby-red wine, and binge watch a Netflix show. When I wake on New Year’s Day, the day is bitterly cold and diamond-hard, but there is the moon, now lighting the western sky. She smiles at me, and I understand her presence is a New Year’s gift.

 

Ensorcelling moon–

glowing winter light is grace

smiling in the dark

 

In the Quietness of Everything

This is for dVerse. Björn asked us to be conscious of how we punctuate the silence in this poem. I normally do use commas and dashes and sometimes periods for full stops, but I did try to be extra aware of pauses here.

 

in the blue-white of a snowy morning

silence reigns. . .

 

winds brush all with feathered wings,

but hush the birds, who do not sing

as they huddle in their nests and wait. . .

 

and I, with cup in hand, sit still,

wonder if it ever will

get warm again. . .

 

by window side, there I bide,

I look outside on winter white,

the whipping flakes diffusing light,

I gaze, listening to the out and in,

and the quietness of everything

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Solstice: Tanka

This is a tanka for Frank Tassone’s Haiku Challenge. The prompt is winter solstice, which takes place this Thursday. Though we had snow on Friday, it’s now actually unseasonably warm here in south Jersey.

 

 

Violet skies roost

over white snow shadow-kissed–

this, the longest night

 

buries colors like secrets

rediscovered in the spring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Candles

Monday Morning Musings:

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”

—Attributed to Anne Frank all over the Internet, but without any source that I can find

 

A single candle

(for miracles)

flickers in the night

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joined by others

till eight in a row

they burn, and then they go

leaving only melted wax behind

and yet, perhaps I find

something, a sense of peace

in watching them increase

and we remember how our daughters

bet on which candle would stand last

one that burned not quite as fast—

lovely memories from the past.

 

 

A single candle

(for wishes)

flickers on a cupcake

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baked with love

and so sweet, delivered as surprise treat.

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It’s a strange birthday,

things don’t quite go my way

I lose a filling, and due to the snow

we stay and home, and don’t go

to dinner and a show,

but we eat pizza and drink some wine

and it’s fine, I say,

we’ll do something another day.

 

Everything a bit off this week,

small victories tinged with apprehension

tension over what might come, or be

a tax bill to help the rich–

oh, if only I could flip a switch

to eradicate ignorance and greed

wish on candles and stars that people would read

would help those in need

and instead of hindering, would keep freed

thought and scientific inquiry.

 

The CDC, an agency, supposed to be science-based

is not supposed to use the word

it’s not to the taste

of the current administration

who would like to see a nation

without education based on facts

but the monster simply reacts

without nuance or tact, but snaps,

just twitter taps and taps and taps

 

We fry latkes

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and when we’re through

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we eat them–and donuts, too

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because it’s a holiday of oil and sweets

and it’s a treat to share them with love

we eat the food and laugh and talk of–

oh this and that–

we watch their dog and see their cat

climb in search of treasure—food!

Yes, we’re in a holiday mood

as candles flicker and lights glow

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but soon it’s time to go.

 

I spend the next day working

(cats around me lurking)

I have too much work to do

I sit at my computer

in a bit of stupor

but as night falls

we light the candles

and watch the shadows on the walls

from the flickering glow

I think of miracles past

(wonder if our country will last)

but let those thoughts slide

subside for a more festive mood

as we eat our Chinese food

and watch the Christmas shows

I might doze. . .

 

 

In the morning, before the dawn

I yawn and look up at the sky

and know that hope like a feather flies

and though the clouds block the stars

I know exactly where they are

I close my eyes and make a wish

I hope it flies and travels far.

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The Visitor: Quadrille

 

Under the midnight moon

creatures shuffle, scurry,

slither in a flurry

from the shadowed form.

A sharp cry, silence punched

by dead leaves crunched

under booted foot

stepping through the old back door

over creaking floor,

the Visitor walks in–

smiles his malignant grin.

 

 

I used two dVerse prompts.  De Jackson (aka WhimsyGizmo) asked us to write a quadrille using the word “crunch.” Lillian asked us to write a poem using a form of the word, “visit.” Sorry, this wasn’t exactly a holiday-themed poem.  I should probably stop reading the news.

 

 

 

 

Skeleton Trees: Tanka Tuesday

This is for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday Poetry Challenge. We were supposed to use synonyms for stark and trap. We’ve had several unseasonable warm days, but now it’s getting colder, and the wind is howling.

 

Skeleton trees loom

against skies of violet

owl whistles secrets

caught in winter’s gloomy night

I will seek them in spring’s blooms

 

Georges_Daubner-Paysage_d'hiver_(1921)

Georges Daubner, “Paysage d’hiver,”  via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Owl: Haibun

It is my birthday. Now in the middle of December, it is cold outside, and darkness descends earlier each day. But the house is filled with light, warm and scented with the aroma of holiday baking. My husband, our two young daughters, and I are to meet my father at a restaurant north of us, in the Philadelphia suburbs to celebrate. It will be a highway trip through rush hour traffic, but the reward will be an excellent meal and the company of my family. I turn to a living room window to pull down the shade—and stop. A white owl with black and brown markings sits in the tree directly in front of me. I stare at her, and she stares at me, both unblinking. I am transfixed, knowing that this is a special moment, not knowing I will remember it in twenty years, still uncertain about its meaning.

 

The Owl dispenses

winter wisdom from oak trees–

time paused in passing

 

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Caspar David Friedrich, Owl on a Tree,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This is a Haibun for dVerse, where we asked to write about owls. I’ve combined it with this week’s prompt from Colleen Chesebro , using synonyms for the words, smell and cozy.

 

 

 

I’ll Make Borscht Today: A Quadrille

I’ll make borscht today,

let it simmer in the pot

comforting and hot,

red like blood,

or flowers that might bloom

if ever spring returns,

ice now covers branches, leaves, and souls

twisted with cold,

memories of warmth faded

till ladled in a bowl

 

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This is a quadrille for dVerse. The prompt word was spring.

We got some snow yesterday, but then we got rain and sleet. Everything is coated in ice.