To Drive the Dark Away


Monday Morning Musings:

“Stars, in your multitudes

Scarce to be counted

Filling the darkness with order and light. . .”

–“Stars” from Les Misérables

“So the shortest day came, and the year died,

And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world

Came people singing, dancing,

To drive the dark away.”

Susan Cooper, “The Shortest Day”

“Even if all life on our planet is destroyed, there must be other life somewhere which we know nothing of. It is impossible that ours is the only world; there must be world after world unseen by us, in some region or dimension that we simply do not perceive.”

–Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle


The shortest day approaches,

we celebrate with tales and light

in centuries-old traditions,

we gather, talk, and drink

to drive the dark away

to drive the dark away

we count the stars

on the shortest day,

they fill the sky

with order and light.


With order and light

soon we’ll celebrate

eight nights of Hanukkah

to drive the dark away,



remembering, my mother says

girls were not sent to school,

but her mom knew where everything was

in their store, she could find the peas

the cans had pictures


the cans had pictures

and she knew the prices

she could add the figures quickly–

order in this world

like stars in the sky


like stars in the sky

we make patterns in our brains

memories form

and we fill in the gaps

stories of might and if


stories of might and if–

is the movie a cautionary tale?

What happens when we mess with nature?

Or is it tale of mothers and children,

variations on madness and guilt?


Variation on madness and guilt,

describe a host of myth and legends

along with greed, anger, and lust,

in animating stars, clouds, and trees

we try to make order of our world.


We try to make order of our world

in patterns and statues and stories.

In art and poetry and song, we transform

and celebrate the light within

and without

and without this ability

what would we be?

Worlds unseen, other dimensions

beyond the stars, but here now,

we drive the darkness way


we drive the darkness away

with love and light and food

with sisters and sister-friends

with children and mothers and kin

we let the light in.

It’s been a busy, crazy week, and I apologize for being so behind in visiting and reading other blogs. I’m finishing reviewing my copyedited book manuscript. There have been many calls and text with my sisters about my mom’s care. We had to suddenly go to my mom’s when an aide called out sick. While there, we discovered that PBS was showing the 25th anniversary concert version of Les Misérables, which my mom and I both enjoyed. We did a “Nightmare Before Christmas” tour for my early birthday celebration with younger daughter—it turned out to be a fun evening of talking and drinking. We visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Christmas Village.

Merril’s Movie Club: We saw Little Joe. It’s a quirky film about a woman who develops a new plant that she names for her son Joe. But perhaps there are unintended consequences. It’s filmed in bright colors and with a percussive soundtrack. Emily Beecham won best actress at the Cannes Film Festival. We liked it, but I may not sniff a flower for a while.

We’re on the penultimate episode of The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime. It’s so good—and kind of frightening to think of what could be, what might have been, and where we’re headed with the present administration.


From “Designs for Different Futures” Philadelphia Museum of Art

And a more peaceful image to leave you with


Winter trees form a bower outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art–Merril D. Smith, December 2019










29 thoughts on “To Drive the Dark Away

  1. The last photograph could be of the back of the Bordeaux art college 🙂
    Making order of the world. I wonder how many men and women have tried to organise the night sky into a picture that makes sense to them?

  2. You two are simply adorable. Such a beautiful thing you share with us, Merril. The love you have for each other and for spending time together just oozes across the blogosphere.
    Thanks for the movie tip!

  3. I really enjoyed the circular form of the poem…things repeat and change while they are repeating.
    And I enjoyed your exchange with Jane about animal languages.
    I read “The Man in the High Castle” long ago, but I remember I found it riveting. I did have a Philip K Dick phase in my 20s. I should revisit some of them. (K)

    • Thank you, Kerfe. 🙂
      I haven’t read The Man in the High Castle, but my husband and I enjoyed the show. It was four seasons, so I suspect it diverges from the book. We watched the final episode last night–and we were riveted!

  4. “We try to make order of our world” … indeed, we do whether it’s something as mundane as ordering our books on shelves or trying to understand the logic of particular political events (sadly, we often fail to find the logic). I also enjoy the repetition in your poem, the circularity. Love your photos. You and your family always seem so happy and, before you say anything, I know people are likely to look happy when they know their picture is being taken, but it’s obvious you guys aren’t faking it for the camera 😉

    • Thank you very much, Marie. We did have fun–the night out with our younger daughter and then our day at the museum/Christmas village. It’s kind of our new tradition to do that walk, so I’m glad the weather cooperated. 🙂

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