Day and Night, Hope 2017: NaPoWriMo

Monday Morning Musings:

“They lived in narrow streets and lanes obscure,

Ghetto and Judenstrass, in mirk and mire;

Taught in the school of patience to endure

The life of anguish and the death of fire.


All their lives long, with the unleavened bread

And bitter herbs of exile and its fears,

The wasting famine of the heart they fed,

And slaked its thirst with marah of their tears.”

From, “The Jewish Cemetery at Newport,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, full text with annotations here.


By the rude bridge that arched the flood,

Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,

Here once the embattled farmers stood

And fired the shot heard round the world.

–from “Concord Hymn” by Ralph Waldo Emerson


April came in with showers, dreary and cold

seemingly, spring was stopped, would not unfold

with flowers and green

then, suddenly, it took hold.


We took my mother out to lunch

sat on the porch to enjoy the air

watched dogs pull the owners, sniff,

noses in the air, aware

of scents in the air, of food, and treats

of magic there


It was a day she thanked us for

to enjoy the sights

(what she can still see)

to have the food

(not her typical fare)

to feel the air

and hear the ducks quack

and the geese honk,

in her ninety-fourth spring,

another voyage around the sun.



Passover began that night

but in our crazy way,

the family celebration,

(our celebration of family)

was not until five nights later.

Was it just me thinking about freedom

and how Passover seems more relevant this year?


My family arrived,

we missed a few,

sisters, a daughter and her wife,

we hug and kissed,

poured the wine, and began,

taking turns reading from a Haggadah

I put together several years ago,

it probably needs to be updated,

but still, one grand-nephew laughed at the jokes,

“Tonight we drink of four glasses of wine—unless you’re driving”

and all took part in the reading of the Passover Play,



rewritten every Passover,

one daughter’s work this year,

with Trump jokes, Hamilton references, and lines about family quirks and neuroses,



We said,“Dayenu,” and attempted to sing “Go Down Moses”

(not very successfully)

then we ate,

and ate,

and ate some more,



my great-niece, played her ukulele,

and my daughter sang

(I miss hearing that voice)

and then it was time for dessert,

we took pictures,


wrapped up leftovers,

and forgot the Afikomen,

after everyone left,

the cats came out to sniff

noses in the air,

aware of scents in the air,

on the tables

and through the windows,

Was Elijah there?


The next morning,

I saw the moon,

her dark half

not quite hidden

darkness and light


black and white

good and evil,

April’s changeable moods

IMG_5818 2

Moon at dawn

In the newspaper,

I read about the new Museum of the American Revolution

to open on April 19th,

the anniversary of the Battles at Lexington and Concord

the shots heard round the world,

it’s the anniversary, too, of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising,


lasting for almost a month

captive Jews,


fighting for their lives

fighting for freedom


The first American president,

a slaveholder,

led an army,

fighting for freedom,

he met with the enslaved poet

while he was still a general,

after she had written poetry in his honor,

as president, he met with leaders of the Touro synagogue

in Rhode Island, championing the Bill of Rights

and freedom of religion


Another poet would visit that same synagogue in the next century,

he’d write strangely prescient lines of ghettos, starving, and fire,

would write of the Passover meal with its bitter herbs and salty tears

in the twenty-first century,

we would still think of that time,

of all those times,

we thought war would be over

dip spring greens into salty water,

oh brave, new world—


We laugh, eat, drink, and sing at Passover,

holding evil at bay,

the table,

charmed circle,

is filled with more non-Jews than Jews,

and more non-believers

than believers,


Around us

(Do you hear them?

Do you see them in the shadows?)

ghosts from the past,


ghosts of memories,

memories held like ghosts,

flitting at the edge of consciousness

dancing in a ring,

(they all fall down)

ancestors, known and unknown,

the blood of slaves,

the blood of the lamb,

the blood of men, women, and children who cry

who die,

even now


My family,

crazy like the April weather,

how I love you,

and love is love is love is love is love

and so, we love,

even as the ghosts hover,

just beyond us


the dark side of the moon,

and we laugh,

and we eat,

and we hope



This is Day 17 of NaPoWriMo. Today’s prompt is to write a nocturne. Perhaps I’ve written half a nocturne.

I am honored to be today’s featured poet for the poem I posted yesterday, “If Only.”



33 thoughts on “Day and Night, Hope 2017: NaPoWriMo

  1. This reads likes a beautiful oration, a comment on who we are and where we’ve come from and yet, you read the lines, and feel like a member of the family at the table; brother, mother, sister, wife. So warm and welcome are your words, even when touched with shadows of where we’ve been. Thanks you so much for sharing as always x

  2. Family, memories, food, history…. things that touch the heart, soul, stomach, and mind. Your poetry always satisfies pieces of me.

    Reading your words, Merril, always has been a comfort. Approximately 20 minutes ago, I lost my mother-in-law who lingered for days from cancer. Just yesterday, I was by her side. Thank you for your posts. xo

  3. You keep your mother 94 years young. Maybe because “April hath put a spirit of youth in everything” (Shakespeare in one of his sonnets). You’ve written a nocturne but it reads well in the daylight too, Merril.

  4. Merril, kudos for your poem being recognized. 🙂
    Your day’s passing in fun, loving and meaningful moments was a great celebration of family. The photos and thoughts were supporting “stems” for beautiful flowers of the strong women found in your family.
    Details stood out to me like wishing you heard your daughter’s singing voice more often and how your grand nephew found humor in the program. 🙂

  5. My thoughts are similar to Damien’s (in a comment way above). I always feel as though I’ve been drawn into your celebrations and your family, or into whatever you did over the weekend, when I read your Monday musings, and it’s a warm and wonderful place to be.

    Congratulations on having your poem chosen. 🙂

  6. Dearest Merril, I am overwhelmed by this. Not just because we share the same Jewish blood but … the sense of love and defiance here. I do not have a large family and for a Jew that is unusual and ‘wrong’ somehow. To see that people continue in the way of their ancestors, defying the hate around them, brings me a really deep joy, your words here reminding me of everything important, everything that matters. I feel … wordless, it’s a good thing it means you have said it all and nothing more need be said, this is just – perfect.

    • Oh my! Thank you very much for this wonderful compliment.
      I’m not religious, but on Passover especially, I always feel like I’m honoring all those who were not allowed to celebrate.

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