This is What You See

NGXUvgUbQ6uG6FXpkbG5eA

 

By starlight, they fall asleep holding hands.

By moonlight, he frees one firefly caught between the glass door and the screen.

By lamplight, she reads while he holds her feet and asks, “What’s a four letter word for mixture?”

By candlelight, they heat water for washing on the gas stove.

By sunlight, they walk around the pond and stop to watch four goslings dozing.

By a red light, he says, “All clear on the right.”

By flashlight, she finds the missing puzzle piece under the couch.

By starlight, they fall asleep holding hands.

 

K.E.

Rearview

 

car side mirror

Photo by Shukhrat Umarov on Pexels.com

 

Hurry them out of the car,

one grumpy, the other sleepy,

both smelling of toothpaste.

Try to ignore the wistful eyes

of the little one.

She hates being stuck

at the sitter’s house

with three boys.

 

The prickling guilt

lasts until the ignition turns.

Already other children

sweep onstage.

Twenty-four shoving,

claiming the spotlight.

Who needs more phonics?

Whose parent called?

How to fit in fire safety

when we’re behind in math?

Mark workbooks at lunch.

A meeting takes up prep time.

 

Rush to collect the kids.

Dinner.

He doesn’t like eggs.

She hates tomatoes.

Nobody wants pasta.

Yelling.

 

Wait for the neighbor girl.

Should have left ten minutes ago.

The grad class prof takes attendance.

In the rearview mirror

see the three standing on the lawn.

He looks mournful.

She flips the finger.

 

Parenting at the speed of light.

Did we ever just rest in each other?

Listen?

 

Now I hold a photograph.

Two young children,

long grown.

Wishing I could step inside.

 

Prodigal Summer and Prothalamium

bloom blooming blossom blur

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

The poet Aaron Kramer first passed across my radar in the lyrics to a song, Prothalamium, sung by Judy Collins on her Whales and Nightingales album. I played  the record over and over while lying by the forced air register in a house on Balboa Island. It was 1971.

Decades later, the poem showed up as the epigraph in Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, Prodigal Summer.

prodigal summer cover

Prothalamium by Aaron Kramer

Come, all you who are not satisfied
as ruler in a lone, wallpapered room
full of mute birds, and flowers that falsely bloom,
and closets choked with dreams that long ago died!

Come, let us sweep out the old streets – like a bride:
sweep out dead leaves with a relentless broom;
prepare for Spring, as though he were our groom
for whose light footstep eagerly we bide.

We’ll sweep out shadows, where the rats long fed;
sweep out our shame – and in its place we’ll make
a bower for love, a splendid marriage-bed
fragrant with flowers aquiver for the Spring.
And when he comes, our murdered dreams shall wake;
and when he comes, all the mute birds shall sing.

 

Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer is a favorite of mine. I used to reread it every spring. I picked it up again just a day ago, and when I read the epigraph, I heard again the song in my head. This reading prompted me to investigate the poem.

 

My curiosity led me first to the poet Aaron Kramer, about whom I knew nothing. Kramer (1921-1997) was a busy guy. Besides producing several books of poetry, he translated works by Rilke and others, and he pioneered the use of poetry as therapy. For more information, check out his page at www.aaronkramer.com.

 

A “prothalamium” or “prothalamion” is a poem or song written to celebrate a betrothal. One of the oldest ,or possibly the oldest, example is the poem by Edmund Spenser, written in 1596 to celebrate the betrothals of two sisters. Spenser invented the name for the form, based on the “epithalamium,” a wedding song or poem.

Here are the first lines of Spenser’s poem:

Prothalamion

CALM was the day, and through the trembling air 

Sweet breathing Zephyrus did softly play, 

A gentle spirit, that lightly did delay 

Hot Titan’s beams, which then did glister fair; 

When I whose sullen care, 

Through discontent of my long fruitless stay 

In prince’s court, and expectation vain 

Of idle hopes, which still do fly away 

Like empty shadows, did afflict my brain, 

Walked forth to ease my pain 

Along the shore of silver streaming Thames, 

Whose rutty bank, the which his river hems, 

Was painted all with variable flowers, 

And all the meads adorned with dainty gems, 

Fit to deck maidens’ bowers, 

And crown their paramours, 

Against the bridal day, which is not long: 

Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.

Returning to Kramer’s poem, I find its words relevant for our current times. We in the U.S. and much of the world, seem to be experiencing a reordering and growth. The pandemic forces us to acknowledge our interdependency and connectedness. The upheaval over systemic racism pushes forth a truth that demands recognition and change.

Here is the Judy Collins version of Kramer’s Prothalamium, music by Michael Sahl.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dBaMCGsKWg

 

 

The Sixth Month

 

 

silhouttes of mountains

Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on Pexels.com

With each day’s light

comes the reckoning.

Lids closed, just rising from dream,

the heart lifts like a helium balloon

before eyes reveal

the empty morning,

unchanged,

the same color as yesterday

and the day before.

 

With each day’s counting,

hours wait like cups

to be filled.

But the liquid is mostly

salted tears

or bleach water,

for what is there to do

except weep or clean?

 

With each night’s closing,

calculate on fingers

the patches patched,

the words repeated,

the beans steamed,

the pots scoured.

Thus do the beads of days,

collected on time’s thin strand,

hang heavy as shackled steps

toward the inexorable tomorrow.

 

 

Greetings to new followers, and thank you to loyal readers. —K.

 

Until

shallow focus of clear hourglass

Photo by Jordan Benton on Pexels.com

 

Until she had nothing,

she thought she could go anywhere.

Kyoto beckoned on cobbled streets,

maiko hurrying to a party at twilight.

Lisbon unlocked the old quarter,

where Portuguese whistled on pursed lips.

Morocco, flat roofs under the stars,

sent the call of the muezzin on the desert wind.

 

Until she had nothing,

she thought she had the breath

to plan for a workshop in Italy,

to find a quaint B & B,

to choose which class,

collage or linocut?

 

Until she had nothing,

she imagined a villa on the Costa de la Luz,

a piso in Cadiz,

a condo in Las Colones

for a month, a season, a year.

 

Until she had nothing,

Until the doors closed,

Until the work of going

was greater than staying,

Until masks weren’t enough,

Until the asymptomatic were contagious,

Until the Ides of March turned viral,

she thought she had the time.

 

 

K.E.

Listen

animal animal photography barbaric big

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

 

Listen.

When the scalp prickles.

When the child speaks.

When the gut tightens.

Listen to the heart’s whisper.

 

Listen.

To the hiss, the words, the warning,

Of the wrong step, person, choice.

When the lonely days make you desperate,

When you long for a caress,

When the body shouts loud,

Listen to the heart’s whisper.

 

Listen.

It’s so easy to get caught,

Trapped by legal fishnets,

By a house, by a promise.

Listen to that whisper,

the soft, the soul,

the voice that knows.

 

And follow.

 

 

7-31-20

The Real Mary Poppins

 

mary poppins

 

My sister’s and my copy of Mary Poppins had a battered blue leather cover. It sat on a shelf with our other valued stories. However, it’s been years since I actually read the book.

Yesterday we had a longish drive ahead, so I borrowed the Mary Poppins audiobook from Libby (a useful app where I’ve done most of my reading since COVID March). And as I listened, I began to remember what a strange and somewhat frightening character she was.

Mary Poppins—the real Mary Poppins—is a severe, vain and mysterious personality who shows up at Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane. When she takes Jane and Michael on an outing, she denies their entire experience afterward, and acts insulted that they would ever suggest such goings on.

The real Mary Poppins seems to have superpowers and holds a lofty position in the book’s world. The animals at the zoo honor her birthday on the full moon. The reigning creature at the zoo is not the lion, but the hamadryad (king cobra) who tells the children that the trees, the animals, and the people “are all one.” Throughout the book there are similar echoes of P.L. Travers’ spiritual ideas.

Mary Poppins takes the children to a bakery where the creepy Mrs. Corey breaks off her fingers for the infant twins to suck like peppermint candy. Along with Mrs. Cory and her giantess daughters, Mary Poppins glues stars onto the sky. She translates Andrew’s dog talk to his owner, Mrs. Lark. She elevates the tea table and the landlady at Uncle Albert’s house. When the children dare to ask her questions about the afternoon’s events, Mary Poppins becomes quite irritated and insists that her uncle is a decent man who would never go bouncing around on the ceiling.

The imagined world of Mary Poppins is not sweet and musical like the Disney movies. In fact, P.L. Travers, the author, claimed she was not a children’s author. Travers sounds like she was similar to her famous character, opinionated and ornery and maybe a bit delusional.

As I listen to Mary Poppins, I hear it both as the child I was and the adult I am now. Like my childhood self, I find the magic of the book delightful and surprising. But I remember that, as a child, I found Mary Poppins’s actions and responses to be unpredictable and therefore somewhat frightening.

For those younger than I who have grown up with the Disney version, I encourage you to read the original.