Saturday, July 31, 2010

MAGPIE/ Prompt #25

           photo/willow/magpie tales


The Havilland mansion was the place we kids were warned to stay away from.  No one had lived there for years.  No historic elegance remained.  It stood abandoned and was allowed to diminish at nature's whim.  The grey shingles, long ago torn off and tossed by the wind, gave the summer bats easy entry into the attic.  The front door, the lock long since missing, swung and creaked, holding on, hanging by one hinge.  No path lead to the door.  Tall grass and broken branches moved back and forth, dancing an old jig.

When I walked past the old house, I always tried to see over the stalks, believing that the three Havilland sisters were making their way up the rotting stairs.

I saw no one, but sometimes heard a music box chiming, "Three Blind Mice...", that wasn't anywhere to be seen.  I wanted to go closer.  Of course I was afraid, but this time prepared.  I clutched a handful of silver saints and angels to protect me.

The stories about Emma, Louise and Mary Havilland were still told in whispers.  If one girl could disappear, it was said, no matter the passage of years, another girl could vanish too.

The police eventually gave up finding a solution to Mary's disappearance.  Many years after the case became cold, a reporter from Life Magazine came to town to find a ghost story for the Halloween issue.  I'm posting the photo they featured on the cover.  They told the story of Mary going out for a walk on the eve of her wedding, taking the path behind the house, climbing the slight incline to the gazebo, leaving a pink silk ribbon with a drop of blood, twisted around a string of pearls, and never coming back.  Except in a legend, told over and over, as the grey girl on the stairs, signaling us to follow her.

I pushed the high grass aside, kept my head down as I made my way to the splintered door.  I tripped on the third step up, my foot went through the rot, and when I bent to rub the scrape, I saw, beneath the earth, a rusted lock.  I brushed the years of soil off it, tried to fit it to the front door, from which it must have tumbled.  Playing with it, I put my eye to the peephole and pushed the door in.

The hallway was buried in deep night.  A scurrying outline brushed against me, but I kept the lock pressed to my eye because I saw something through it.  Ascending the stairs was a shadowy figure, a floating gown, a grey girl, a pink ribbon in her hair, pearls unstrung cascading down her dress, smiling a dark smile, beckoning for me to follow.

I'd run so fast from Mary's wraith, never spoke a word of my encounter. 

I've found the lock after all these years.  I had tossed it into a box of broken dolls, forced my self to forget it.  Never held it again till now.

I wonder what I'd see through the peephole if I held it up to my eye?

Emma, Mary and Louise Havilland

Thanks again to Willow @ magpie tales for a terrific challenge..and don't forget to check the other responders!!

Thursday, July 29, 2010


" DEPARTURES", is the movie that won the Oscar for 2009, for best foreign film, directed by Yojiro Takita.  One might say this is a film about anticipation and ceremony, and how ceremony brings order to our lives.  Without ceremony, we are perhaps hardwired to veer in the direction of chaos.   Ceremony gives a shape to joyous situations and to grief.  We embellish the important moments with more than our religion, spirituality, or culture.  We give it a form, a pattern that is followed through the ages.  There are the ceremonies we look forward to, or the ones we seek to avoid.

A young man, Daigo, is a cellist in a symphony orchestra.  The movie begins with the triumphant sound of Beethoven's 9th.  Shortly after the final crescendo, the orchestra is assembled and notified that they are bankrupt and will be dissolved.

Daigo and his wife Mika, decide to move back to the town where his childhood home has been willed to him by his mother.  Not able to find work, he answers an ad that states, "departures", which he thinks is for a travel agency.  He is shocked to find out that the job entails the preparation of the dead for the final journey.  Through necessity but with revulsion, he takes the job of "encoffinment", but hides this fact from Mika.  It is considered to be a job of very low prestige. 

The movie finds great respect for the ritual of preparing the deceased for "encoffinment".  The preparation is done with tender ceremony and reverence, in front of the grieving relatives and friends.  The transition focuses on the dignity of the newly prepared and the acceptance by the relatives. The wonder of grace occurs before our eyes.

Daigo's need to support himself brings conflict to his marriage, and an old inner conflict haunts him also, anger for an early abandonment by his father when he was only six years old.  Loss and reconciliation become a large part of Daigo's journey.

The subtle acting of everyone in this film, which is sad and surprisingly humorous at times, takes us on a trip we are all naturally a part of.  Perhaps Japanese culture allows a film such as this to be made, whereas our own filmmakers don't really have the unifying background for a movie like this.  There is nothing frightening or sensational, nothing that would cause one to avert ones eyes.  Beautiful landscapes, and the music of the cello weave through the movie, maintaining a vivid balance between the living and the departing. 

I would definitely call this a celebration of life, and finding one's calling.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


IT'S BEEN A WHILE SINCE I POSTED a chocolate recipe.  I can't actually call this a recipe, but it does involve chocolate.  Perhaps you're familiar with this product..I must have had my head in the clouds for the last year, but I'm catching up. 

It turns out that Le Whif is a small tube of pure, organic chocolate powder that you breathe into your mouth.  Whiffing is happening all over the world.  A quick puff from the patented lipstick sized tube starts the taste experience.  Chocolate flies through the air from the end of the cylinder and sprinkles onto your tongue through small holes in the mouthpiece.  AAhhhh....

Invented by Harvard Professor David Edwards with the help of engineers, designers, and students, Le Whif was launched in April 2009 in Paris.  Le Whif contains hundreds of milligrams of tiny food particles.  Place the tube between your lips and breathe in gently.  The particles are picked up by the air stream, and they fall on your tongue.  You suddenly have the experience of flavor! 

Other inventions may have a slow road to popularity, but chocolate fills a universal need and the quicker we can have instant chocolate gratification, the better.  You can buy this all over in mixed packs of 3 or 18.  The flavors are raspberry chocolate, chocolate, and mint chocolate.  What's next for whiffing?  You can whif coffee, and get the kick of caffeine.  And no cup to wash.

I don't have one yet.  I can run down to Dylan's Candy Bar, (Dylan's daddy is Ralph Lauren, just saying), where they keep Le Whif in stock.  I think I'm a bit resistant.  Call me old fashioned.  I sort of like the sensation of dark chocolate melting on my tongue, calories and all.  I will lick my fingers if no one's looking. 

But there is something tempting about chocolate air.  I dream of a roomful of sexy, wafting chocolate.  No, make that a planet, where the atmosphere is serious bitter sweet.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

MAGPIE/ Prompt #24

                                      photo/willow/ magpie tales


Don't think I can't see you
under the rumple of the sheet.
You haven't become invisible
and any creative mystery
you're trying to compose,

locked doors,
sealed windows...

What, vanished?

Your disappearing act 
won't be played out with me.

There's your hand
peeking out from under
the white expanse
that I tenderly folded over you
last night.

Are you kidding?
Do you really think
that an unwelcoming bed
will send me scurrying?

Come out,
come out, wherever you are!
I'd know the curve
of your hip, anywhere.
Oh no, buddy boy, I'm here to stay.

Just read the fine print
at the bottom of our document
of eternal bliss.

@copyright/all rights reserved/ 2010

Thanks again to Willow at magpie tales for coming up with such a challenging photo..please check the contributions of the other bloggy participants...more fun!

* Just a word of thanks to my friend and fellow blogger, Derrick at Melrose Musings for having written a most amazing post, A Growing Acquaintance, about my little book of poetry, "Two Ghosts".  Quite a thrilling experience for me.  In the exchange of our books of poetry, I was fortunate to receive Derrick's excellent, recently published, "Mixed Emotions".  All encompassing and original, as his blog always is..a treasure to have.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Pantoum...

A PANTOUM is a poetic form that first appeared in the 15th century, in Malayan literature.  The Western version is a poem of indefinite length, made up of stanzas of four lines repeated in a pattern:  lines 2 and 4 are repeated as lines 1 and 3 of the next stanza, and on and on.

The final stanza has a twist: the 1st and 3rd lines are repeated as usual from the stanza above, the 2nd and 4th lines are the same as the 3rd and 1st lines of the 1st stanza.  Confusing enough?  I have to practically use a road map to get it straight.  But I do like the rhythm that starts to appear, and the results that couldn't happen unless the form was followed.  I find a ghostly theme to fit this form quite well.


Ghosts are more limited than we are.
You may think the opposite is true,
and consider walking through walls
to be a higher gift than dancing.

You may think the opposite is true,
that eternity adrift is a prize,
to be a higher gift than dancing,
as you float along a chilly wall.

That eternity adrift is a prize,
a bit of mischief and nothing more.
As you float along a chilly wall,
it seems a skill like the tango.

A bit of mischief and nothing more.
Hips swaying on the dance floor,
it seems a skill like the tango,
the illusion of walking on air.

Hips swaying on the dance floor,
they say to follow the light,
the illusion of walking on air,
tapping floors to send out a shiver.

They say to follow the light.
An itinerant gliding back,
tapping floors to send out a shiver.
Floating like grey silk up the mortal coil.

An itinerant gliding back,
and consider walking through walls,
floating like grey silk up the mortal coil.
Ghosts are more limited than we are.

@copyright/all rights reserved/ 2010

Sunday, July 18, 2010

MAGPIE/ Prompt #23

                          photo/willow/magpie tales

UNCLE BORIS, WHO WAS GRANDMA LENA'S youngest brother, ran away from home at the age of fourteen and joined the Moscow Circus, first as a sweeper and eventually to become "Fire Eater of the Universe".

He was able to extinguish 55 flaming torches with his mouth in one minute.  "No secret", he said.  No "cold flame", and no substance in his mouth.  Just a very high tolerance to pain.  Even though he "placed himself in an altered state", he still was forever tending to blisters on his lips, tongue and throat. 

He once brought a lawsuit against "The Great Flambino", for libel, when he was accused of lining his mouth with a secret substance that allowed him to endure keeping a lit torch in his mouth for 51 seconds.  Uncle Boris was incensed when the judge dismissed the case after his demonstration, when he tried to "Shoot the Moon", putting out one torch while making the flame jump to another torch. 

Unfortunately the flame jumped to the judges robe and quite a commotion ensued.  A #5 Extinguisher was produced to douse the flames.  It did.  But the case was thrown out.  Uncle Boris left the courtroom shouting that the "King of the Blow Out", didn't need an extinguisher.

Many years later, here in the U.S., I was lucky to have him perform at my Sweet Sixteen party.  Not only did Uncle Boris ignite all the candles at once, but he helped me with my big "Blow Out".

Thanks again to Willow for providing this intriguing magpie prompt..and please do check out the other bloggers responses!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Trick of the Light...



A torch seemed to shine from within,
appeared to erase her years at times
so that each turn of her head
was like a kaleidoscope
breaking into a new arrangement.

She was fond of saying,
"It's a trick of the light".

But it was a charlatan's game she played,
knowing how to change her face.
A rosy bloom appeared
upon her silken cheek,
yet a passing cloud pleated her skin
to a withered age.

She found another like herself,
a face in chiaroscuro.
A bogus youth,
a unicorn,
deceiving with intention,
forever young.

@copyright/all rights reserved/ 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

MAGPIE/ Prompt #22

photo/ willow/ magpie tales

WHAT A LIGHT BULB MOMENT that must have been when the bottle of vodka tipped over into the cocktail sauce. I am projecting that the following scenario ensued..

A young apprentice barman by the name of Fernand Petiot was working at The New York Bar, later to become Harry's New York Bar in Paris, one early afternoon, in 1921, chit chatting with Mr. Ernest Hemingway, a good and steady customer.   Trying to grab lunch on the sly, he started to pile some shrimp into a dish when the aforementioned vodka bottle tipped over and filled to overflowing the bowl holding the cocktail sauce.  Instinctively, after grabbing the bottle, he put lips to the dish, sipped the overflow, grabbed a piece of celery, stirred the shrimpless contents, and justifiably shrieked, Eureka!!

After tasting the contents that were passed to him, Mr. Hemingway agreed that this was a bloody good sort of a drink!  Bloody Mary came later, either as an homage to Queen Mary I of England, or to a waitress named Mary who worked at the Bucket of Blood in Chicago.


1 oz. vodka in a highball glass filled with ice.
Fill glass with tomato juice
1 dash celery salt
1 dash black pepper
1 dash Tabasco sauce
2-4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1/8 tsp. horseradish
Dash of lemon or lime

Shake vigorously (if you use a shaker) or stir lazily.  Garnish with celery stalk.

Bloody Fairy-  Absinthe replaces vodka.
Bloody Geisha-  Sake...
Bloody Margaret-  Gin...
Bloody Dane-  Akvavit...
Bloodless Mary-  Without tomato juice.

1/2 cup supplies 1/3 of daily dose of lycopene or 8 milligrams per serving.   

A toast to Willow at magpie tales for giving us the opportunity to participate in this Prompt!  Cheers!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010



I liked being beautiful.  I liked having people stare when I walked into a room.  I liked that men fell for me in feverish or stealthy ways.  I spent some time being sure that I knew where the exit was.

I got up one morning, sweat poking out of my pores, and threw the covers away forever.  I remembered, once, hearing my mother and grandmother hushing each other so I wouldn't hear them talk about the "change of life".  What would that be, I wondered.  Turning green?  Growing feathers?

My pheromones no longer woke the dead.  I alternated between a flamenco state of mind, castanets at the ready, as if I could still seduce.  And high diving into icy pools, seeking the cool ritual of renunciation as a holy ceremony.

I was set free.  My hormones jumped out of my body, never to return.  I was emancipated and found my tranquil self.  So glad to rest from cues.  Not being seen, not on view, I got used to it.  Without a bitter taste.

No dye or rouge can pinch my cheek back to its youth and here's a day at last when I put the covers back, make the bed that stays so neat, a hollow at my side filled by the cat.

No sorrow.  This long vacation from passion stirs memories, which may be mine or some I've seen in a movie or two, because I can't tell if that beauty up there is me or some other star. 

@copyright/all rights reserved/ 2010

Saturday, July 3, 2010

MAGPIE/ Prompt #21

                                                         photo/ willow/ magpie tales


What the hell was that?
Just a blast, don't worry...
Sounds like the big mushroom to me..
Then cover your eyes, don't look at the horizon.

The horizon just moved, it's up in the air right now...
There goes the rapture, some one's floating on by.

Stop saying that.
That's not me, it's eternity calling.
What if this is really the end?

Then I'll write an ode to departure...
What, poetry now?
Poetry looks good with everything...

Going out with a rhyme, but no reason?

Bombs bursting..
In air?
Yes, a roar or a whimper..
Fire or ice?

This is a duck and cover moment...

You're such a pessimist.

@copyright/all rights reserved/ 2010

Thanks again to Willow, at magpietales for thinking up this terrific Mag..a bit of a challenge, but that's what we're here for!  Please check out all the Blogs who jumped on board.


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