From My Garden: Twenty Camellias in Haiku

Last spring I planted camellias in our front flowerbeds, not fully appreciating what a blessing I was giving myself. My husband and I worked the soil, adding amendments to create the acidity needed for the new camellias and azaleas. We went to Maas Nursery, the best place in the Houston area to get camellias, and purchased one Royal Velvet (deep red), one Purple Dawn (purplish pink) and a variety I had never heard of before, Sadaharu Oh (pink and white) named after a baseball player. The Royal Velvet has opened three glorious blooms so far, the Purple Dawn is a week from blooming  for the first time, but the Sadaharu Oh has proved unexpectedly prolific. Eighteen blooms have come and gone over the past month and it shows no sign of slowing down. Every time I tried to count the buds I would lose track somewhere between sixty and seventy.

I have been battling a respiratory infection this winter and without the joy my camellias have brought I don’t know how I would have made it through. But there is something about the fleeting nature of the camellia flower that makes one think of mortality and the beauty of life anyway.

These photos were taken in my garden and in my home and inspired the camellia theme for the week. In turn, I was inspired by the haikus of Matsuo Bashō and decided to try my hand at haikus. Staying traditional by keeping the 5-7-5 syllable count in three lines, I also tried to keep a sense of the jarring, unexpected nature of the content. I don’t know how successful I was, but the enjoyment I received from the mental exercise was well worth the time spent. I hope you will love them.

 

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a bowl of petals

this fierce corolla looks up

to contain the sun

 

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a pink and white bloom

adorns the glossy green leaves

crowned by threads of light

 

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a bee drinks deeply

ensconced in choice filaments

briefly imprisoned

 

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 the bee roaming freely

high on nectar among petals

is distinctly small

 

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the waxy flower

incapable of flying

makes the bee her slave

 

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in the flower’s bell

a bee hangs like a clapper

that will never ring

 

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after winter rain

shining with damp radiance

blooms have not fallen

 

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a fragile wax bloom

pours out its captured water

cup overflowing

 

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flower petals moist

textured like a infant’s skin

lasting only days

 

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in winter’s darkness

the camellia flowers

bring back the sunlight

 

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blossom beneath leaves

out of reach of wind and rain

afraid of falling

 

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a fallen flower

vibrant colors bathed in tears

is already dead

 

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cradled on pine straw

the flower’s lifeless body

collects dewy tears

 

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like a fallen star

gracing my simple table

bringing nature home

 

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remaining lovely

in a dish splashed with water

bloom cut off from life

 

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like a frilly dress

layers exposed for all eyes

she remains empty

 

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moisture is fickle

too much and the bloom will rot

too little she wilts

 

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each bloom so unique

drops in her time from the plant

nature is wasteful

 

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a fleeting flower

dropping helplessly to earth

evokes our own death

 

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a flower lingers

uncoupled from life and dead

may we do the same

 

Resilience Does Not Forget: June 4, 1989 by Sherry Cheng

Years after a catastrophe, resilience continues to express itself. Memory lets us relive and reinterpret past events, unpacking things that overwhelmed us and growing our response over time. It is not an easy process. The approach of a date, a particular smell, image, or snippet of music can send us back to a deeply fearful place. Some try to forget, but the things we hide from the daylight have a way of resurfacing in our dreams. Unexpressed emotions can be powerful poisons. A world that suppresses history is a world in which violence simmers continually just beneath the collective consciousness. Resilience grows in the soil of our stories, informing the people we become, passing through us into our relationships and communities. We must share with one another if we want to survive.

This prose poem is the work of my friend, Sherry Cheng, a vibrant, warm and intelligent Chinese American woman who came to the United States in her teenage years. In it, she relates how the catastrophic events that happened in Tiananmen Square on a fateful day in 1989 impacted her, her family and her future husband. Her raw honesty speaks volumes, simple and clear. There cannot be many things more terrifying than a government that kills, imprisons and intimidates people with impunity.

Let me set the stage. On June 4, 1989, a peaceful, student-led protest is violently suppressed by the Chinese government, as the military, armed with rifles and tanks, kills at least several hundred unarmed people in Tiananmen Square. The images of tanks plowing down students shocks the world. Wei, Sherry’s future husband, is at the Central Conservatory, where he studies viola. Almost a decade before he will meet his wife, he steps out of the conservatory into a war zone. Sherry is sixteen and sits in front of a television set in an apartment in Starkville, MS, as horrific reports of the violence in her homeland flood the screen. Sherry’s aunt, a student at the University of Chicago who had taken donations from Americans to the student protesters at Tiananmen Square, boards a plane back to Chicago with her three year old son. She is also pregnant. Plain clothes police waiting on the plane meet her and take her and her son to prison. They will be missing for nearly two weeks, while her family uses every connection they have to find them. It will take a couple of months and a promise that she will never again be politically active for the family to secure their release.

Violence is not an anonymous phenomenon. The aggressors, the injured, the killed, the witnesses: they all have faces.

 

June 4, 1989

29 years ago today the tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square,
bullets flew overhead while a young man lay prostrate on the ground right outside the Central Conservatory gates.
He saw a little girl shot down,
an innocent bystander,
her Mother wailing.

A 16 year old girl across the ocean sat transfixed,
as events transpired on her TV screen.
She could not control her tears as images passed by of bloodied bodies piled on makeshift carts.

Hope turned to fear that day and for months after.
Innocent deaths, interrogations, terror, arrests…
The girl’s aunt, who had helped distribute funds to the peaceful protesters,
disappeared from the airport on route to Chicago,
her whereabouts unknown for weeks.
She had her 3 year old son with her, as well as another one on the way.

Fast forward 29 years…
I mark this day every year because forgetting is easy,
even for those who experienced the terror first hand,
like my husband.
even for those who believed so strongly in an ideal that they would’ve given their lives for it,
like my aunt.
Because life does go on.
We move forward.

So many have forgotten.
For each new generation the memory grows dimmer.
History is reevaluated and reinterpreted.
Black and white, right and wrong, everything is blurred.
Amnesia sets in. Ideals are lost.

But I’m still here, so is Wei.
We carry that history with us.
We will tell our stories every year,
even when no one is listening.

 

Buried Memories: The Other Immigrants by Saba Husain

There are moments in which events in our past connect powerfully to our present. How do we express such synchronicity?

 

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Grand Central Terminal, 1929 © Recuerdos de Pandora with CCLicense

As human beings we move from one reality to another, crossing so many bridges that we become bridges ourselves: between countries, between cultures, between periods of time, between our own memories.

Most of the time we simply keep moving.

Sometimes synchronicity, the meaningful connection between seemingly unrelated events, stops us in our tracks and asks us to reevaluate and reinterpret how we see our lives and their connection to others around us. The Other Immigrants by Saba Husain is a revealing expression of one of those moments.

Passing through the soaring architecture of Grand Central Terminal in New York City, in the footsteps of travelers and immigrants from many lands, Saba is transported back to her home in Lahore, Pakistan. It was a whisper carried across the famed Whispering Gallery that took her back to childhood under the lemon trees. She hints with an eloquent simplicity at a sense of continuity between her younger self and the self that now makes a home in this distant land. It seems, almost, that she could step across time and into the streets of Lahore, taking us with her.

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Saba Husain, published in Natural Bridge Journal #34, Fall 2015

 

Note the path that winds its way through Saba’s words. How exhilarating and humbling to experience a moment in which the pattern of your life reveals itself!

 

 

 

Here Comes the Rain Again: Dripping Diamonds by Ofelia Adame Williams

Synkroniciti is ecstatic to present an original work created for our Open Mic last month by Ofelia Adame Williams. While sitting in her car between her day job and her night/weekend job as a chorister at Houston Grand Opera, she snapped this spectacular photo of rain drops collecting on her windshield. Isn’t it terrific how beauty surprises us? She then wrote a moving poem which connects this image with the profound stress of modern life.

I hope you are enchanted and encouraged by this thoughtful and beautiful combination of words and image. It is the mission of Synkroniciti  to provide a safe place where people can explore their creativity. You are always welcome to our community of sharing.

Let’s contemplate some diamonds together!

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Dripping Diamonds

by Ofelia Adame Williams

Above their covered eyes the sky is shimmering with fairy dust,
breaking through the fog on the silver wings of dragonflies,
glittering as they capture every precious bit of light that has escaped the gray.

These diamonds are forming, not from the pressure of rock and coal,
But the pressures of the life around them,
Anxious and constricting like the breath of those cowering below them.

Oh but the diamonds, they sparkle and shine and form into tears,
Tears falling from the clouds that reflect those emotions,
Responding to the world. Then…release

With flashes of magic they dive to the earth,
Eagerly seeking to soothe her children,
to quench their thirst for beauty.

But alas, they’re ignored…they’re shunned.
The masses hide from the twinkle of stardust that each diamond possesses,
Hurrying to find shelter from the light.

Except a few that dare to gaze up,
The ones that see the pixie’s trail out the corner of their eyes.
Quickly turning to catch the sight, but just out of it.

And those that turn are treated with a spell.
They see the light that even the gloom cannot swallow.
There is no sun yet there is this glow!

“Ahh, but there is a sun, the darkness wants to hide it
Much like you hide from our presence.”
-Exclaim the dripping gems.

“See how we sparkle despite the gloom,
The sun lives in us
And we bring a bit of her to remind you she’s still there.”

The diamonds shine and tremble with excitement,

Finally seen, finally heard, finally fulfilled.

Finally.

*Drip*

A Brave and Startling Truth from Maya Angelou

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Maya Angelou, 1928-2014. May she rest in peace. Image © Adria Richards with CCLicense

A Brave and Startling Truth

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.