There is an ancient tree in a secret garden, white blossoms like pearls adorn her arms as she reaches to touch sun and moon.
Here bangs and booms become bird-trills, each day beats with a new rhythm green tendrils climb in harmony and the air is scented with promise.
Ask if I am here, and I may answer, this is a place of dreams caught between bee-breaths and the falling of a rose petal, the last echo of violin, a tremolo in the night. The place where time is both a wing-flap and endless flight.
The Oracle made me work for this one. I used tiles from two sets, merged, revised, revised again. . .But I guess she approves—because I found the Redon painting above to go with my poem.
He saw the last, one butterfly, a flutter of gold, gone again like hope. Here it died, and blue sky was a tale—once upon, the end.
Yet still, his soul demanded write– witness, record despair, the whys and soul-sighs, but also brief light a flash in ash-filled air– goodbyes.
For dVerse, a very difficult form called the memento. You can read about it here. Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and I felt I needed to mark it, especially now as authoritarian regimes are rising–and there are people in the US government who support them. There is a famous poem “The Butterfly” written by Pavel Friedman in Terezin. He was a young man born in Prague, January 7, 1921, and murdered in Auschwitz on September 29, 1944.
All my grandparents immigrated to the US from Belarus and Ukraine before WWI. I know my mother’s father had half-sisters in what became the USSR. They survived WWII (he didn’t know till afterwards). They immigrated to Israel in 1990.
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.
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. 😏
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,