Ghost Hearts


Monday Morning Musings:

“My heart is a shadow,

a light and a guide.

Closed or open…

I get to decide.”

From Corinna Luyker, My Heart

“The people you love become ghosts inside of you, and like this you keep them alive.”

–Robert Montgomery   See a photo of his text installation here. 


Yet who whispers

in the summer-sweet night,

where the smell of storms lurk?

There beneath the diamond sky

shadows dance

to the music of life

and death

pants just beyond the light

in the wind-spray of time.


I walk by the river park

baby geese and vultures

side-by-side, stark


reminders of life and death

cycles like after harsh

winter, spring’s soft breath

caresses mind and soul

and somehow—

we want it all,


all the magic of water and air

the delight of light—

time to spare


to savor the young

remember the laughter

and all the songs sung


and the ones unsung

if we could go back—

trip words from tongue,


forgiveness, remembrance

lost gestures and moments

rearranged in order, some semblance


of what could be

if or when

or what will it be, see


how life circles, the mom me

and she the one needing help

and she doesn’t see


well at all,

her vision diminished

unsteady, the mighty fall.


Once my daughter said to me

“remember when I hiccupped

inside your belly and you laughed?” See—


how do you explain these things?

Circles of life and death

and all it brings.


We try to stop time for a bit

eat pizza, drink wine

time to talk—and just sit


(doing nothing)

We watch a movie of ghosts and art,

a vulnerable woman

she opens her soul, her heart


is shadow-filled, she grieves

sees ghosts,

though she’s not sure she believes


but to create

one has to be open–

the muse, a mysterious state


of being,

perhaps there are spirits

or some other way of seeing


(of being)


There is a place in my heart

where my father lives

and all my ancestors, too, a part


of my what? My essence, my soul,

the me-ness of me

the all-ness of all?


My mother grows old,

but somewhere in time

she is young, in a fold,


a pleat, a wrinkled web

where time-space

flows and ebbs,


and perhaps ghosts call,

walk in shadowed paths

through my heart, they rise and fall–


hear them sigh

as up to the stars

they carry you, me—we fly.

Morning Moon Does Her High Wire Act

Morning Moon Does Her High Wire Aerial Routine


We watched the movie, Personal Shopper on Netflix. Kristen Stewart is a personal shopper/medium grieving her dead twin brother–there are ghosts and references to the artist Hilma af Klint. I liked it. Watch it with someone because you will want to discuss it. I may have to watch it again. . .

And here is a bonus, if you haven’t heard this version of Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird” translated and sung in Mik Maq. I thought of this last night when I was thinking of birds and ghosts (and not quite dead languages).






'Richard III' by William Shakespeare

‘Richard III’ by William Shakespeare (Photo credit: Huntington Theatre Company)

Do you want to know a secret?,
Do you promise not to tell?, whoa oh, oh.”

–John Lennon-Paul McCartney

We all have secrets. They can be wonderful, horrible, or something in-between.  They can be big—the WWII invasion of Normandy, or small–a friend’s surprise party.  Sometimes a secret makes us so happy that we want to hold it close to our hearts for a while before sharing it; for example, a new love, a desired pregnancy, or some career success. A secret can also be something so awful that we’re too afraid to share it—sexual abuse, war crimes, and other horrors.

As a historian, I am a professional reader of secrets. I have read the words of people long dead, the private words they wrote to their loved ones in letters, and the thoughts they confided in their diaries.  “I love you.” “I have become resigned to my fate.” “Tell me what to do.”

Two recent news stories have made me think about secrets and history.  First, the death of 87-year-old Essie Mae Washington-Williams, the daughter that former South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond never publicly acknowledged. It was long rumored that the champion of segregation had a “mixed-race” child.  Washington-Williams was the daughter of Thurmond and the teenaged black maid who worked for his family.  It was only after he died that she finally stated for the record that Thurmond was her father.  For most of her life, she and others, kept this secret.  I can’t imagine not being able to say aloud the name of my father. Thurmond gave Washington-Williams financial support, and perhaps he cared for her—but not enough to risk his career.

The second news story is the finding and positive identification of the bones of Richard III. Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. By this time, most everybody has probably heard how the monarch’s bones were discovered beneath a car park.  The striking curvature of his spine was evident, and scientific inspection has revealed both the death wound and the “humiliation” wounds inflicted on his body after death.  Further analysis of the bones indicates that the 32-year-old king ate a high protein diet of meat and fish, consistent with what a member of the royal family of that period would eat. Additional proof of identify came from a match of DNA taken from the bones with a sample taken from a descendant of the king’s sister, Anne of York. It is fascinating.

Richard III was the last Plantagenet king of England. The victor at Bosworth became Henry VII, the first Tudor king. The Tudors and their supporters portrayed Richard as an evil, deformed tyrant. The most notable depiction, of course, is in William Shakespeare’s famous play, “The Tragedy of King Richard the Third.” Richard has long been accused of murdering his nephews who he held prisoner in the Tower of London, but despite the best analyses of bones and dirt, the secret of what really happened to the princes will probably never be known.

It is impossible to really know what secrets are held in the heads and hearts of those around us, whether they are famous politicians, kings, or ordinary people. There are those whose lives—and the lives of others—depend on their ability to keep secrets. I mean, for example, spies and those in resistance movements. Then there is that person we thought we knew well who suddenly acts in a way so radically different that we wonder if we ever truly knew him or her.  “I never thought he [or she] could act that way,” we say. We all have secrets. Come closer, I’ll tell you mine. Do you promise not to tell?