Of Lies and Better Things on the Way

Monday Morning Musings:

 

Men should be what they seem,

Or those that be not, would they might seem none!

–William Shakespeare, Othello, Act III, Scene iii

“ they are not men o’ their words: they told me I was everything; ’tis a lie…”

–William Shakespeare, King Lear, Act IV, Scene vi

“Here’s wishing you the bluest sky
And hoping something better comes tomorrow
Hoping all the verses rhyme,
And the very best of choruses to
Follow all the doubt and sadness
I know that better things are on their way.”
–from Dar Williams, “Better Things”

 

We walk through a living, mortal city

see buildings transformed

here an insurance building, now condominiums

a Starbucks at its base

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is the history erased

or still held there, a trace of perfume or smoke

left somewhere in a bit of old oak

and here, the cobblestones and bricks remain

some things, perhaps, stay the same

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We travel through space and time

in books, movies, theater, art

from my small town’s fall festival

to Philadelphia streets

then we enter the London theater

of centuries ago—a show,

the stage framed with the red velvet proscenium curtains

uncertain what we will see

amongst the esteemed company

there at Convent Garden

where a substitute actor

steps in to play the part of Othello, the Moor–

a black man? Well, that’s not been done before!

A character declares, “People come to the theater to get away from reality.”

The cast members of this well-known London troupe are divided,

some undecided about how they feel,

but willing to try some new techniques

or at least to somewhat tweak

their stylized manner and gestures

though scandalized at how Othello touches Desdemona

Do they understand the play and his persona?

We see a bit of the handkerchief scene

enough to glean how it might have been

the critics were vicious, in racist prose

derided Ira Aldridge’s performance in the show.

He is an anomaly upon the stage

We see there both passion and his rage

later hear him, as Lear in madness decry the lies

as fury builds and slowly dies,

around him, slavery still exists

(and even now)

though we can hope through sorrow

that better things come tomorrow

and better things are on their way

 

We discuss and dine

and drink some wine

(well, beer for him)

we’re both well pleased by the cheese

that we nibble sitting there as day turns to night

caressed by a breeze

perhaps it’s wandered round the world

unfurled and carried hope and sorrow

and we discuss the present and the lies

ignorance that triumphs over facts or the wise

but still we hope that tomorrow

better things are on their way

 

Younger daughter and I go to a concert

Dar Williams sang of the pagans and Christians

sitting at the table–

and just like them, we’re able to sit with different folk

but at least they were silent, and no one spoke

and I was more fascinated than annoyed

by the man touching the woman and the other woman stroking her hair

both unaware, I suppose, that we couldn’t help but stare

as we enjoyed the songs, the reading, our food and wine

so yes, we also came to dine

(a bit like the Gilmore Girls—

if they were vegetarians with curls)

and Dar sang of the babysitter, now urban planner

and “positive proximity”

(despite city’s life often anonymity)

she spoke of transformations she has seen

spaces empty and dark, now full of life, green

and when she sang “Iowa,” we all sang along

we all sang the chorus to the song

and despite lost hopes in November

our fears and sorrow

we left in hopes for better things tomorrow

that better things are on their way

 

In the blood

in the dreams

in the cities

and in the seams

and it seems

and it seems

that we wade through streams

against the current

things that are and things that weren’t

sometimes floating

ever light

drifting far and out of sight

journeys through space, time, day, and night

to ponder, to wonder

at art’s spell, we fall under

does it hide or amplify

the truth and the lies

and those who are afraid of women

and those who lie, quite unredeemed

or even worse

(notes on a theme)

they are exactly what they seem

but in our sorrow, we can dream of tomorrow

and let hope linger here, now stay

better things are on their way

 

We saw Red Velvet at the Lantern Theater Company.  The play is based on the life of the real actor, Ira Aldridge. We saw Dar Williams at World Cafe Live.

 

 

 

Voices and Memories

Monday Morning Musings

 

“I’ve never had a way with women, but the hills of Iowa make me wish that I could”

Dar Williams, “Iowa”

“We are not lost in the mortal city.”

–Dar Williams, “Mortal City”

“We both know what memories can bring

They bring diamonds and rust.”

–Joan Baez, “Diamonds and Rust”

“This shirt is just an old faded piece of cotton

Shining like the memories

Inside those silver buttons.”

–Mary Chapin Carpenter, “This Shirt”

 

I don’t go to concerts very often,

but this weekend, there were two.

strong women, with beautiful voices

their voices shined and stirred memories,

diamonds and rust.

 

My daughter and I went to see Dar Williams,

her husband drove us through the puddled night,

the city lights glowed through the mist,

reflected on the streets of the mortal city,

but we were not lost.

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And we ordered food and wine

sharing platters and talking

of friends, family

(her sister would have loved to have been with us)

of TV shows, of her house-to-be

a special momma-daughter night

 

 

I remember when I first heard Dar Williams,

I was driving home from teaching a night class,

listening to Philadelphia station, WXPN,

hearing “When I Was a Boy,”

and I thought,

Who is this woman?

I have to find this album

And I did

sharing with daughters

(young voices of strong girls)

who sang along, even not quite understanding the words

until they grew older,

And now here we are, one of them with me at a concert

in this mortal city

It is a wonderful concert

And she is generous to others

Sharing the time with local author, Liz Moore

Who reads from her latest novel, The Unseen World

And joins Dar on the chorus of “Iowa”

And for several hours we

forget about the candidate who never had a way with women

(Voices of women will be heard.)

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In between concerts

my husband and I get a visit from our daughters’ friend,

our older daughter’s friend since kindergarten,

younger daughter was the little sister she never had.

I watched them all grow up together.

(Diamond memories, comfortable like an old shirt)

 

She had messaged me,

she was coming home and had been dreaming of my cookies,

the cookies we call “Mommy Cookies” in my house,

she wondered if there might be some this weekend,

And I said I could make it happen.

How could I not?

So she stopped by and picked up the cookies,

enough for her boyfriend to try one.

She says she likes where they live,

a people’s republic in Maryland

the town will take in refugees

(voice of the people).

She’s a strong woman,

like my daughters

all working to make this world a better place.

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So then that night

(Sunday, if you’re keeping track)

my husband and I drive back into the mortal city

we see the rainbow flags and signs

of the Outfest celebration in the Gayborhood

(Voices of love, is love, is love, is love is love is love

is love is love)

And though the rain has finally stopped

it is cool and windy,

We eat at a bar–

my husband laughs when I say,

“It is a good night to eat in a dark bar.”

He picks a beer to drink

I order wine

We both have the Belgian frites

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And we sit and talk before walking to the Academy of Music

(I’ve never sung in such a beautiful hall before,” Mary Chapin Carpenter says.)

and it is beautiful

and she sings,

and her voice is beautiful and strong.

(I remember, diamond memories, of my daughters

singing along to “Passionate Kisses”)

She reveals a bit of hero worship for both Lucinda Williams

and Joan Baez

who then comes out on the stage,

elegant and strong at 75,

with that voice

that distinctive soprano vibrato

(Who doesn’t worship her?)

She begins with a folk song

“Pretty Peggy-O,”

alone on the stage

the way she probably sang at the start of her career,

and she sings her way through the years

(memories of diamonds and rust)

and she sings alone

and she sing with others

all strong, beautiful voices,

and despite claiming she is tired and her feet hurt,

she sings several encore songs

including “Imagine”

because we need this song,

and “The Boxer,”

another song of another mortal city

still timely,

as we hear what we want to hear

and disregard the rest.

She ends with “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”

wanting it to carry us all home,

she sings with a laugh and says “Good night.”

 

In the car

(traveling home from the mortal city)

I read the texts from my daughter

(a strong woman with the voice of an angel)

She has filled me in on the debate.

I turn on NPR,

I hear a strong woman

and I hear the other voice

that I hope will fade like rust

leaving only a slight orange stain

We know what memories can bring,

diamonds and rust.