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 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
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
fighting for their lives
fighting for freedom
The first American president,
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,
is filled with more non-Jews than Jews,
and more non-believers
(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
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.”
Marvellous reflections, Merril. And congratulations on ‘If Only’
Thank you very much, Derrick!
It seems that your mother has good company in her voyage around the sun.
Congratulations on the feature, Merril.
Thanks so much, Ken!
Almost everywhere we are going into the dark. Good nocturne, Merril. At least you see daylight.
Thank you very much, Jane. I try to find some light. 🙂
And I’m glad you find it 🙂
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
Thank you so much, Damien. What a lovely comment!
(I forgot to get a good photo of the flourless chocolate cake. 🙂 )
I imagine the cake disappeared too quickly!!
No, we still have some left–because my daughter made a cheesecake with a macaroon crust, and I made three types of cookies, and my niece made some Easter chocolates. Oh, and we had stewed fruit, too. 🙂
I hope you all found time to walk today then xx
Bootcamp class Saturday morning and spin class today. 🙂
Thank you for sharing your holiday and your thoughts, and ending with “hope.” 🙂 and congrats on the NaPoWriMo feature!
Thank you very much, Jennifer. 🙂
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
Oh my, Rose! I’m so sorry for your loss.
I’m glad my words brought you a bit of comfort. Sending you hugs, dear Rose.
so much love shown, and shown. congratulations, too ~
Thanks so much!
Another beautiful meditation on family and life. You always make me consider my own place in this crazy world. Thanks Merril. (K)
Thank you so much, Kerfe. How kind!
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.
Thank you very much, Marian. 🙂
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. 🙂
Thank you very much for your very kind words, Robin. We do have fun getting together.
My daughter does have a beautiful singing voice–years of voice training–and I thought she might go on with it. I was a treat to hear her sing, even though it was just a little bit. 🙂
I am pleased she did sing for the family, brightening everyone’s day. 🙂
💐 To team Merril, family and love! 💞
Thank you, Robin! ❤
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. 🙂
Thank you, Robin. That is so kind, and your comment makes me feel warm and wonderful. 🙂
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.