Work, Wine, and Wonder

Monday Morning Musings:

“Seven to eleven is a huge chunk of life, full of dulling and forgetting. It is fabled that we slowly lose the gift of speech with animals, that birds no longer visit our windowsills to converse. As our eyes grow accustomed to sight they armor themselves against wonder.”

–Leonard Cohen, The Favorite Game (1963)

 

“Wine comes in at the mouth

And love comes in at the eye;

That’s all we shall know for truth

Before we grow old and die.

I lift the glass to my mouth

I look at you, and I sigh.”

William Butler Yeats, “A Drinking Song”

 

I spend days writing,

then sighting and fighting

others’ dreadful prose,

I dream then,

want again,

wonder and poetry–

a moonship sleeps through time

dreaming of a glowing goddess

cool, with diamond eyes,

from her starry throne,

she lets a storm moan

and I,

seeing lights from the sky.

watch as mist sprays

plays melodies on garden stones

dances in the light,

a thousand fairies

diamond-eyed.

 

I spend days writing,

then sighting and fighting

more dreadful prose,

I watch a morning sparkle and gleam

and dream of conversing with the birds,

how it would be to sing their songs,

flowing thoughts and soaring words?

I wonder of what my slumbering cats dream

(perhaps nothing is what it seems).

Do cats and dogs, do cows

as they graze under the boughs

understand the birds’ songs

moo in harmony, sing along?

 

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I spend days writing,

then sighting and fighting–

again, that dreadful prose!

And I wonder

why is there such hate

that negates

joy, hope, and reason

that seasons

life with tears and fears?

Why men would rape out of boredom

(Boredom!)

and why a woman,

or a man,

need to be taught a lesson

stressing

what?

What lesson has been taught?

That someone has been caught or bought?

that life is fraught,

so do not dream of what you could be, or brought

about with books and words and second thoughts?

I wonder who could hurt a child,

can their minds ever be reconciled—

the dreadful deeds and daily doings,

the demons in their souls?

no controls, no goals

lives brutal and bleak

do, die, never speak.

Do they never dream of a goddess glowing

her tresses silver and flowing,

or wonder how to converse with a bird?

heard their songs in morning air

happy to be alive, aware?

Where does the wonder go?

Does anybody know?

 

I spend days writing,

then sighting and fighting–

yes, more of that dreadful prose,

correct the errors, insert a phrase

(my eyes glaze)

then I wonder—

isn’t it time for some wine?

so we go, sit near grapes in the sunshine,

enjoy the beauty of the day

stay

as chatter and music play

in waves around us.

We drink wine,

red and luscious

(no, don’t rush this)

loving it,

loving you

I lift the glass to my mouth

I look at you, and I sigh.

wonder how and why we found each other

created two astonishing daughters

enjoyed days of blues skies and laughing waters,

realize I have found the music and the poetry

in life, in you, in birds, and trees

And though I cannot sing with birds,

I can wonder, dream, and write these words.

 

 

Freed Minds and Imprisoned Bodies

Monday Morning Musings

“And as imagination bodies forth

The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen

Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing

A local habitation and a name.”

–William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 5, Scene 1

“The system here is rigid, strict, and hopeless solitary confinement. I believe it, in its effects, to be cruel and wrong. I hold this slow, and daily, tampering with the mysteries of the brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body.”

–Charles Dickens, 1842

A prison taint was on everything there. The imprisoned air, the imprisoned light, the imprisoned damps, the imprisoned men, were all deteriorated by confinement. As the captive men were faded and haggard, so the iron was rusty, the stone was slimy, the wood was rotten, the air was faint, the light was dim. Like a well, like a vault, like a tomb, the prison had no knowledge of the brightness outside, and would have kept its polluted atmosphere intact in one of the spice islands of the Indian ocean.

–Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit

 

In the deep soft blue of night,

a full bright moon murmurs

which path would you stroll

always night

or beautiful dawn?

Would you breath the sweet air of ancient breezes?

 

I ponder mysteries of life and time,

the paths we choose, the where and when

the roads that make us who we are

the journeys that lead to discoveries,

do the words I write,

the forms of things unknown,

take flight across the world,

in a poetry chaos theory

to effect change?

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One of my writer workout shirts.

 

I’m at a book fair,

I don’t sell many books,

my profits come from knowledge gained

or reaffirmed,

books have power,

the reason why slaves are not taught to read,

they release the minds of those bound by ignorance

they free those imprisoned by walls of stone

or by barricades of bigotry,

they build bridges of enlightenment,

people are drawn to them

in excitement, wonder, and surprise

I watch the boy’s eyes

open wide at the thought of reading magical adventures

then disappointment,

“My mom doesn’t have any money.”

“Today is your lucky day, says the author,

“I have something special,

a free book for you–

see, the cover is slightly damaged.”

 

He signs the book for the boy

who takes it,

holds it reverently,

a treasure.

I hope he remembers this moment.

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West Deptford Township Book Festival. Yes, I did bake cookies, too.

 

My husband and I visit the art museum

not for any particular exhibition,

“Sunday at the museum,” someone says,

people there from all over the world

(even though the “Rocky Steps”  are closed)

I hear many languages: French, Chinese, Russian.

We walk through the Impressionists,

see the real and surreal,

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View from the Duchamp Gallery, Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

look at art and people,

adults and children,

viewed and viewers.

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Reading at the Museum—Mary Cassatt, Family Group Reading (c. 1901) Philadelphia Museum of Art

We walk from the museum

 

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across the Parkway to Fairmount

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and on to Eastern State Penitentiary,

 

 

the world’s first penitentiary,

conceived with a purpose–

to induce penitence in its prisoners,

the original building completed in 1836,

though the process began earlier

with efforts to relieve the conditions of the Walnut Street Jail,

in 1787, Dr. Benjamin Rush founded a group to reform prisons,

The Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons,

an organization that still exists,

the new penitentiary is thought to be humane,

a wonder of technology and innovation,

a central hub with spokes,

cells with plumbing and heat

designed by architect John Haviland,

but prisoners were cut off from human contact

and sometimes went insane.

Charles Dickens wrote of the torture of solitary confinement

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and later the prison became too crowded for the concept to continue,

a second tier of cells was built

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and prisoners shared cells.

We listen to actor Steve Buscemi

tell us about it in the audio tour,

we’ve been here before,

but it is good to be reminded,

and there are new exhibits we haven’t seen

there are other visitors and tour groups,

but when it is quiet, without other visitors around,

I feel the ghosts around me

there amidst the rubble

 

Prisoners

in dark fevered air

decayed concrete and old secrets,

a dirt home

listen to who was

they live not

but almost open,

in time

 

It is a reminder

of good intentions gone wrong,

yet there are traces of beauty and goodness,

even here,

the tales of good and humane guards

the art created by inmates,

the synagogue

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The original synagogue door. (For my blogger friend, Robin.)

 

but still there are ghosts,

the imprisoned,

some died here,

and I have no answers for those who are imprisoned still

but I hope they have books and art

and that their minds can roam, even if their bodies cannot

do they wonder about the paths of their lives?

Which path would you stroll

always night

or beautiful dawn?

Would you breath the sweet air of ancient breezes?

 

Tonight I dream of wide-eyed boys

of beauty and art

amidst decayed walls

a cat purrs softly in my ear,

I am home, but my mind roams free.

 

The kind author was Ben Anderson, who shared a table with me at the West Deptford Township Book Festival at Riverwinds Community Center. His books are chronicles of Irish fantasy, targeted for middle grade readers, but suitable for “eight to eighty-eight” he says. You can read about them here .

We joke about the Magnetic Poetry Oracle, but she gave me this poem (incorporated above) the morning of the day we went to visit Eastern State Penitentiary. She also came me part of the opening.

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You can find out more about Eastern State Penitentiary here.   Here is an article on programs for prison literacy.   And a list of additional resources here.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is always worth visiting, even with construction going on.

 

 

 

Imagination: NaPoWriMo

 

From my chair, I watch the sun rise rosy-pink,

in stillness, I blink, think,

drink coffee black,

listen to birds twitter-clack,

cats nap,

I map

adventures from this place

oceans, stars, outer space,

I wonder, how far thoughts travel, go,

then smile—I know

 

Today is Day 25 of NaPoWriMo. The prompt was to write about a space that is meaningful to you. I usually sit at the kitchen table and write, and I am very much a morning person.  This is a quadrille for dVerse, the prompt was some form of the word “still.”

 

 

Patterns

 

 

It was a gloomy November day. JFK had just been elected to a second term. Ed sat at his usual table at the diner and thought about the war going on in a faraway place called Vietnam. He wished he could stop it. Stop all wars.

Ed wasn’t the president though. He wasn’t a world leader. He was just an ordinary guy with a knack for working with numbers. He often saw patterns that no one else noticed. He had a steady, if boring job, as an accountant, and business was booming. Still, he sensed there was something more, something that he could do—maybe something he was destined to do. If only he could find the right combination of numbers.

So there he was at the diner, where he ate almost every day. Most of the staff knew him. They let him sit there and work, writing on pads of paper—or paper napkins when he ran out of paper–refilling his coffee cup as needed.

There were napkins and papers strewn about the table. He looked at the calculations. There. That was it. Yes! He had found the equations that could change the course of history. He sat back, savoring the moment.

A waitress came by, someone new. “Can I fill your cup, Hon?” she asked. Coffee streamed from the full carafe, some of it missed his cup and spread like hot lava across the table. “Ooops, sorry,” she said, as she gathered up the brown, sopping pile of papers. “I’ll get you some fresh napkins,” she added as she walked away from the table.

Bob lit a cigarette. Tomorrow’s another day, he thought.

 

Do you make up stories about people you see?  Marian Beaman’s post  on her blog “Plain and Fancy Girl” that featured some of her husband’s art inspired this story. I was thinking of the restaurant portraits she included, and in particular this one.  I hope Cliff Beaman doesn’t mind.

 

Freedom: Microfiction

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Ilya Repin. “What Freedom!” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Sergei took Vera’s hand and pulled her toward the sea. Vera had never before seen him looking so relaxed in his uniform. As though he was wearing a costume for fun, she thought. Similarly, she felt loose, unconfined—and free–in her elegant midnight blue traveling gown.

They stood encircled by the swirling water. Waves of blue and white crashed over and about them. Foam and mist dotted the air, but not a drop of water dampened their clothing.

“Where are we?” Vera asked in delight, and accidentally dropped the fur muff she had carried. It stopped mid-air, then began to dance to the rhythm of the waves. It jumped back into her arms. Vera laughed. She could hear the sea singing—and felt its song throughout her body.

“We’re in our place,” Sergei answered. “Where we can be together always. Don’t worry. It will all be clear soon.”

Vera woke, disoriented.  She was sitting in a chair in her parlor, holding the telegram telling her of Sergei’s death at the front. A blue fur muff lay on her lap. She stared at it and wondered. She had always trusted Sergei. Perhaps it would all become clear in time.

 

This story is for Jane Dougherty’s microfiction challenge, using the above painting by Ilya Repin as a prompt.

Dawn is Waking: A Ghazal

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John La Farge, “The Dawn,” 1899, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Public Domain, Wikipedia

 

 

From the sea, in golden robes, from dark night, dawn is waking

Rubbing sleep from rosy cheek, from moonlight, dawn is waking.

 

Robin sings a morning trill, acolyte, as light is breaking

Cats yawn and stretch, then bathe, with bird in sight, as dawn is waking

 

Tides flow and ebb, leave crabs and water sprite, along the beaches

Gulls swoop to capture them, in raucous flight, as dawn is waking

 

And the woman and the man, what of them when light first rises

Seeking warmth, seeking love, embracing tight, when dawn is waking?

 

Smiths of words, with pen in hand, come to light, in morning’s quiet

Waiting for inspiration, for love, write, as dawn is waking.

 

Jane gave us quite a challenge this week in her poetry challenge.  This is my first attempt at a ghazal. You can read how to write one here. Or more here.

The prompt was the painting above, “The Dawn,” by John La Farge.

 

 

 

Left with the Poplars: Microfiction

 

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Vincent van Gogh, “Poplars in Autumn,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

As Agata hurried down the dirt road, the autumn sun was already sinking lower in the sky. Sunlight streamed between the poplars lining either side of the path, casting shadows that lay over her small, determined figure like a shroud. It would be dark by the time she arrived at the meeting place. Past curfew. She shivered and wrapped her cloak tighter around her body. She wondered how the children would survive the winter, if she couldn’t get them out.

She had some money—and her body. She would bargain with both if necessary to buy enough food and the necessary papers for the children. She had given up her theater career for a life of religious contemplation, but now she contemplated whether life was a tragedy or a farce.

She left the path and walked into the woods. Feliks—she was certain that was not his real name—was there waiting. Silently, he took Agata’s money and handed over the papers, along with some potatoes. No bargaining.

“I can’t meet you again. It’s too dangerous,” he said to her. “Go quickly now.”

But it was already too late. Hearing men and dogs, Agata thrust the papers into a hole behind a giant poplar root, hoping Maria would find them there tomorrow. Seconds later, the soldiers’ flashlights illuminated her like an actress on a stage. She stared at their boots, then looked up at their faces and thought, “This may be my final performance.”

 

This story is in response to Jane Dougherty’s Writing Challenge. The prompt was Van Gogh’s painting above.

I thought the figure looked like a nun, and it made me think of two recent Polish movies I’ve seen. Ida, the Oscar-winning Best Foreign Film (2015) is about a young woman raised in a convent since WWII, who is about to take final vows. The Mother Superior tells her she must first meet her aunt. The two take a road trip, and Ida discovers her parents were Jewish.

The Innocents (2016) is about nuns in a Polish convent. It is December 1945.  One nun leaves the convent to find a French doctor. It seems there are several pregnant nuns—the result of Soviet soldiers invading the convent and raping the women there. The doctor, Mathilde, and the sisters form a bond, despite their differences.

 

 

Bridges and Puzzles

Monday Morning Musings:

“Then we got into a labyrinth, and, when we thought we were at the end,
came out again at the beginning, having still to see as much as ever.”
–Plato

“From women’s eyes this doctrine I derive:
They sparkle still the right Promethean fire;
They are the books, the arts, the academes,
That show, contain, and nourish all the world.”
—William Shakespeare,  Love’s Labor’s Lost, Act V, scene iii

 

There are bridges that carry us across rivers

And there are bridges that close gaps in time or understanding

But life is a labyrinth

There are no direct routes

It twists and turns

Until it finally ends

Unsolved

 

We took a bridge to my sister’s house,

Our annual Mother’s Day ritual,

Lunch prepared by my sister and her wife

Stuffed shells, meatballs and sausage for the meat eaters,

A great salad brought by my niece

(ten minutes of agonizing about it over

the phone the day before)

because that’s what we do

The women in my family can make

Not simply mountains out of mole hills,

We can make Mt. Everest out of speck on the ground

But oh, we can spin stories, too–

Best done with food and wine,

Enough food for twice the number at the table

Also part of the tradition–

So we sit at my sister’s table

We talk about our pets

The size of our cats

(big and small)

The time my daughter’s dog

“sprint peed” around her apartment

We talk about family

The “art genes” we carry

The ability to write and a love of chocolate

(Must be carried on dominant genes)

Perhaps a love of spicy food, too,

As no one thought the “hot” salsa was particularly hot

And daughter and I had

a little pizza with our hot peppers the night before

My niece discussing family craziness

“If our husbands die do you want to live together

 and we can drink and be crazy together?”

She might have said this to my daughter

That’s perfectly normal, right?

And then it was off to Macy’s

How many women does it take to shop with my mom?

We have our assigned roles,

Dresser

Assistant dressers

Clothing hangers

Hunter and Gatherer of new items

But sometimes it takes a village

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And this year, we also have

The bra hunter

And dressing room bouncer

Do you wonder what it must be like

Or why we laugh?

You hook the bra, and I’ll put the boobs in

And later a whispered aside:

Just put the pillow over my head if I start wearing bras like that

She has great boobs– you have good boob genes

(Is this carried along with the writing and chocolate gene?)

To the dressing room bouncer,

How about if you close the door– I’m sitting here in all my glory.

Finally, the shopping is complete

My mom has quite a haul– dress, pants, shirts—no new bra

What $40? Forget it?

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

We head back to my sister’s,

where my husband, brother, and sister’s wife

have been watching the Phillies

They won!

Time for dessert,

My brownies and daughter’s cannoli dip

We like our chocolate

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Not much left here!

And coffee

What? You don’t make coffee at home?

Back in the car, driving my mom home

We talk of family history

We learn that some of her family lived in a refugee tent city

In England

Caught there between Belarus and the U.S.

Early in the twentieth century

Perhaps during WWI?

My mom doesn’t know

She said her cousin, then a young child

Thought it was fun—the children got to run around and play–

Their mothers probably did not enjoy it as much–

We arrive at my mom’s, but

Just before she gets out of the car

She leaves us with one more family puzzle

Her father left family in Russia who vanished during

“the war,”

That would be WWII.

I have no idea what to make of this.

What people?

How did they vanish?

Life is full of such puzzles

We can never solve all of them

But there’s a quest to try

To work our way through the labyrinth

Not right now though

It’s late

And so we head back over the bridge,

East with the sun at our backs

To home

Where there is more chocolate waiting for me.

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Musing on My Muse

There’s a test I should be writing

but I sigh, it’s more inviting

when my muse sings, “write poetry.”

I say my work, it must prevail,

coffee, my potion, will not fail

me, but, she, my own, can foresee–

no sexy, fierce Venus in fur,

she gently coos, and I concur

a sign, I see, of what will be.

 

I wrote a nove otto for my first time using the Secret Keeper’s weekly writing prompt.

This week, the words, test/potion/muse/own/sign,  seemed too perfect to pass on. So I didn’t.

 

 

Reflections on an Assateague Beach

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And so the branch lies there bleached white

Its leaves no longer court the light,

Torn by wind, weathered by spindrift,

Like Ozymandias it stands

A reminder, beached on the sands.

Time’s horses fly, colors redshift,

Yet we remain through words and art,

Cover distances though apart

We’re born, we love, our journey’s swift.

 

This is for Jane’s Poetry Challenge 23: Nove Otto  9 lines, 8 syllables, aabccbddb