My Grandmothers

My Grandmothers

They left shtetl and city,
crossed an ocean,
one as a child, one as a teen,
I know them only from stories—
she witnessed a pogrom,
she later eloped. The bed her spiteful mother-in-law
gave her and my grandfather gave way
on their wedding night. From their passion,
I like to think.
She taught my mother how to cook
“American food.”
She died from a then inoperable brain tumor.

She had five sisters, like Tevye’s daughters,
without the matchmaker. Or cow. They all sewed,
a skill not passed along to my mother or me.
She had a beautiful voice,
and more than one miscarriage.
She died in car crash. Seatbelts her legacy.

I carry these tidbits
like notes scrawled on scraps of paper,
tucked into a pocket and found later
when looking for something else.

But I have only one memory,
one short clip played on a loop,
generations of curly-haired women, my baby sister
and me–
a bathroom mirror in a Philadelphia apartment
reflecting their—our—images.
Me taking it in. This is what we do—talk, laugh, love.
I remember.

This is for Sarah’s dVerse prompt on grandmothers. The prompt got me thinking–a first draft.

Winter Blues

Claude Monet, Floating Ice at Bennecourt

Winter Blues

This landscape sings the blues, tones
absorbed, scattered
in meadows of frost flowers–

but in the staunch fragility of ice, shattered
fragments form prisms
for unexpected rainbows arcs
that sparkle

diamond-sharp,
like the features of the Winter Queen,
beauty without heart, frozen and deadly.

A quadrille for dVerse. The link is still open, if you want to join in the poetry fun. The prompt word is ice.

A Week in January

Monday Morning Musings:

A Week in January

Some days begin grey and turn greyer,
there are mouse droppings in your pantry,
the rodents have partied while your cat sleeps,
the rain like a purple sweater, soft,
and you want to sleep, too.

Another day, the sun tries
to open its eyes,
as the wind whispers, try again—
and flaps rainbow wings. Look.

Another day, in this endless week,
the sky is the blue of cornflowers and hyacinths,
the river sparkles,
shadows dance and play
as a squirrel pipes a melody–

It’s all connected, the trees’
murmuring roots and the river’s answer,
the geese that rise
and the wind that sighs,

bang the drum, cross the bridge,
awaken and inform—
as the sun bestows majesty
ringing puddles in gold
take ideas from cloistered recesses–

It’s a heartbreaking spell
it’s a wishing well
it’s the dock at goodbye
and those left, asking why,

and you can’t explain,
but it comes again—
fear, regret—love,
beauty,
a day in January. A week.

I used some of the random words I generated. It’s been another strange week within years full of strangeness. Lots of grey rainy days with a few patches of blue. No ice or snow—that may come later this week. The GOP is still awful, and I pity anyone trying to teach or learn in Florida. Our children and their spouses—are sick. Older child and their wife have COVID. We have not seen any of them recently, but parents worry. Our refrigerator was terminally ill, and we got a new one last week. Then a couple of days ago, I heard some rustling, and we discovered mouse droppings in a large cabinet under the kitchen counter. A lot. It was a major cleanup. I think perhaps the bird feeder attached to the kitchen window may have lured them with its scattered seeds on the ground. So, though I’ve been enjoying seeing the variety of birds there, I think we should not fill this feeder again.

We’ve caught up on British mysteries this week, sort of comfort shows, not bleak mysteries.
Annika, which we started in October, so re-watched the first episode again and finished the series. My husband was put off by Nicola Walker’s breaking the fourth wall when he first saw it. But this time, we both enjoyed the show. Nicola Walker can do anything. I had listened to the original radio/podcast version of the show, too, which is also voiced by Walker.

Miss Scarlett and the Duke (Season 3)—it’s a light-weight mystery series, but fun, with good acting. I’m surprised how caught up my husband got in it.

We started the latest season of All Creatures Great and Small. It’s another “comfort series,” but it’s hard not to love it. It’s based on the books about a rural veterinarian in Yorkshire in the1930s. The books are also good, and so was the series done several decades ago.

Then we started something totally different, The Devil’s Hour (on Amazon). It’s about a woman who wakes every single day at 3:33 A.M. after a strange dream. This show should come with lots of trigger warnings. It’s unsettling, but we were both intrigued and want to see what happens. We have eclectic tastes. 😏

Warm and colorful food for cold, grey days.

Review: Rooted and Winged by Luanne Castle

Review: Rooted and Winged: Poems by Luanne Castle (Finishing Line Press, 2022)

This review is a WAY overdue. I follow Luanne Castle’s blog, and I liked her previous books of poetry, especially Kin Types. I think I was so afraid I wouldn’t do a good job that I kept putting off writing this review. I’m a master of procrastination sometimes.

Anyway, here goes.

(Full disclosure, I won the Rooted and Winged Writing Contest.)

Luanne Castle’s Rooted and Winged maps the terrain of memory and family. Castle takes us on a journey from Magpie Grill to Grandma’s lap; family myths take root, then fly with birds and get trapped in the darkness. Among the poems about family, “For an Adopted Child” stood out to me, as the mother while enjoying the present knows that one day the child will understand about “the missing.”

Readers are not given a map key. Castle’s poems are not the direct light of the noonday sun. Rather, they come at the reader like the light between slats and the shadows they cast, inviting us to take another look and wonder “where did that come from? Where is it going?”

I thought this light analogy sprang from my own mind, but then I went back to the poems and re-read them. In “The Freeze,” Castle writes, “My first memory of a poem was when a sunbeam angled just so.” And the first poem in the collection, “Tuesday Afternoon at Magpie’s Grill,” begins with the line, “Flickering afternoon light slatted and parsed.” Even the light questions and explores.

This a terrain I have often traveled in my own mind and work, which is why “I Started to Write a Poem about Packing” probably speaks to me so strongly, as it states, “A question isn’t for answering, but for asking.”

“No other question comes close to giving me a reason to go to work or run away.
How to handle a question that insinuates
Itself in every second of our lives?
Is beauty here? There? . . .”

In “Tuesday Afternoon at Magpie’s Grill,” Castle writes,
“No matter what I notice,
no matter what I record, I will never
capture the ease of wind-filled wings. . .”

However, in the book’s final poem, “After Darkness,” Castle writes, “We bring our efforts to the task.”

And really, what more can anyone ask for? I highly recommend this collection.

Between Beats

Between Beats

Time’s ship sails—
a gorgeous lie

of shifting light and horizons,
but you might ask the wind how it blows

or why? Does the moon stop the storm
when it appears? Behold

the circling of seconds, the remembering
of before becomes after,

in the fast cry of spring—
if could be

the music that soars
above

us. Life-murmuring
in the dark beneath.

My early-morning poem from the Oracle. I used the “new” tiles, which are now located below the original tiles. I guess I haven’t use them for a while. The words seemed somewhat different, and she gave me some interesting phrases, but as usual, this is a collaboration between us. I’m stating that because I saw a post that seemed to equate using words generated online with AI generated-poems. I take some of the words and phrases and write my own poem–the same as using any other word prompt! And even if I took every word from the tiles, I’d still be arranging them into my own poem.

“Letter from My Mom” (with a reading)

I’m sharing this poem again, this time with a reading and photo. I’m linking it to dVerse’s Open Link Night Live.

Thank you to editor James Diaz for publishing another of my poems in Anti-Heroin Chic. This one, “Letter from My Mom,” is especially important to me. Not too long ago, a cousin who we have not seen in decades discovered a letter my mom had written to her long ago. She sent a photo of it to my sister. My mother was not a letter writer, and to read her words written when she still thought clearly–and when she also could see well enough to write–this was such a special gift. You can read my poem here.

Advance Review: Archery in the UK

I’m very pleased to share my advance review of Archery in the UK: New Lyrical Ballads and Other Poems by Nick Reeves and Ingrid Wilson. You can find more information at Ingrid’s site: Experiments in Fiction.

Archery in the UK: New Lyrical Ballads and Other Poems by Nick Reeves and Ingrid Wilson (EIF Publishing, 2023)

Reviewed by Merril D. Smith

The initial goal of the full-length poetry collection that became Archery in the UK: New Lyrical Ballads and Other Poems by Nick Reeves and Ingrid Wilson (EIF Publishing, 2023) was “to write a contemporary homage to Lyrical Ballads.” However, as the opening statement notes: “the poems had their own ideas, and told our story.”  And what a story it is! Readers of this collection will find themselves immersed in courtship and partings, despair and joy. The poems explore nature, art, and music, traverse the countryside and towns of England, and a lover’s body. It is birdcalls and bedclothes.

            Arrows and archery form a motif throughout the book with nods to ancient warfare and history, Cupid, and as we’re told in an aside in “The Archer’s Postcard,” “Saint Nicholas (‘ . . .archers and repentant thieves’)”.  Some pages even carry an arrow symbol (a lovely touch), as if to direct the reader onwards.

            There are many lyrical poems, contemporary versions of the Romantics, beloved by Wilson, “Winter Love,” for example. There are also poems in other forms and styles, such as the short imagist lines of “Beach of Dubious Pleasures.” All contribute to the overarching narrative, a love story. As readers we are privileged to experience their “secret sonneteering, music of two poets after dark” (“Two Poets in the Park.)

            Archery in the UK is a true delight. It is a joy to read. We journey with these lovers, feel their sorrow and happiness—and witness the growth of their love. We experience both fairy tale moments and harsh realities. Ultimately, we experience,

“Their hearts, their art: two arcs across the sky

 inscribed within this book of poetry.

–“The Wintered Queen”

You can read “The Wintered Queen” here.

Ingrid is reading some of the poems from the collection on her blog. Here’s “A Thimble of Poetry.”

Prosery: The Pink Rose

It’s not Marie.

This young man was twice her size, a walking geometry problem composed of long parallel lines and spare angles. Well-worn hiking boots encased his large feet, and a dusty pack perched on his back.

Flight or fight? I wondered, as he approached.

“Excuse me,” he said. His French carried an American accent. “Does this old place have a name?”

Perhaps he was what he seemed, a backpacker seeing France. “I don’t know,” I said, while staring at his backpack.

“Everyone comments on the rose,” he laughed. “It looks like the one embroidered on my blanket when I was found as a baby. It’s the shade of first dawn, a promise. I want to hope everything I do is stitched with its color.”

I smiled politely, but a warning bell clamored in my brain.
The pink rose had been our network’s symbol.

For dVerse Prosery. I’m continuing my series, beginning again with the last line of the previous episode. The prompt line is “Everything I do is stitched with its color” by
W.S. Merwin.
from his poem “Separation.” Lisa has chosen such a beautiful line.

Frosted fields with Van Gogh sun

But still, the Light

Monday Morning Musings:

But still, the Light

“But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.”
–from Martin Luther King, Jr., Final Speech: “I’ve been to the mountaintop”

In bleak January,
the unclothed trees shiver,
and the sun has cast herself
into the ice,
but still, she rises.

Sun reflected in icy stream

The fields are rimed with frost,
and all paths seem slippery,
a time for caution, not over-confidence,
yet, through shadows,
some rise–

Frosted fields with Van Gogh sun

Shadow across painted road crossing lines

there’s a crossroad, a moment
when the tipping point comes
and a heart so engraved by
the acid of hate implodes–
or heals–scared with gold,

kintsugi hearts, with their own beauty
like winter landscapes—
and you watch as the geese soar up
past the morning moon, working together
to find the blue

Three geese in flight

that you saw in dreams,
that you see now,
and you think of ancient dead stars,
ghost-broadcasting faint photons,
not infinite, but as close as we can imagine,

the luminous beacons of time,
guiding us, appearing like heroes
that glow with incandescent fire,
not eternal, but with voices that continue
to transmit, like pulsars, blinking, spinning.

tilting toward tomorrow.

Geese and gulls, low tide at Delaware River

I used some of Jane’s Random Words for the poem. And yes, Jane, more stars. They slipped in while I was writing, and I couldn’t ignore their twinkling, or Dr. King.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I’m not a big fan of holidays such as this where people pay lip-service to someone while ignoring what he or she stood for the rest of the year. (Example, anyone lauding MLK who also seeks to suppress voting access.) However, I was moved by Heather Cox Richardson’s letter today on heroes.

Between the weather and work, I didn’t go anywhere this week, except to get a shingles vaccine. My husband and I both went. We know how to have an exciting date.😏 I got a few walks in though.

It was a good week for soup and bread.

We finished Season 2 of the wonderful spy series Slow Horses on Apple TV. Imagine if George Smiley and his circle were mostly inept, but sometimes stumbled into something that they solved. Then we watched Black Bird, also good but disturbing, as it involves a serial killer. The disturbing part comes with the serial killer’s recounting things that viewers do not see, but can imagine. Excellent performances.

On Saturday night we watched Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (Netflix), which was thoroughly enjoyable. I think this one is better than the first. Since it seemed like “a popcorn movie,” I made some! And we ate it with a finger-food dinner.