Macrocosmic Marvels, Madness, Musical Monologues

Holly and The Mean Reds

I wonder what would Holly have said
About this year of mean, mean reds
About the needless, senseless dead
All of this pervasive dread

In this year of mean, mean reds
Even the sparkle of Tiffany’s has fled

Would Holly stay in bed?
Knitting her fragile thread?
Singing to her cat on the ledge
Dreaming of her lost Fred.

In this year of mean, mean reds
Even the sparkle of Tiffany’s has fled.

Would even Holly’s joy stall?
Or would she steal
another dime store mask
In the rain, leave the feels
Of the reds in the past
And lightly, rightly fall
In mad movie love
With her dear Varjak, Paul

April 7, 2021
Manderley Swain

I suppose this is my covid poem. It is a reflection of that first year of this madness, told through the lens of Miss Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I think Holly’s story and her response to her own traumas and triumphs form an excellent metaphor for the kind of dramatic, traumatic change we’ve all been experiences these last two years. It’s one of my favorite movies and this is one of my favorite poems. I hope you liked it.

Memoir, Menagerie, Musical Monologues

Ever Underfoot

Always there
Ever underfoot
In my hair
Always there
His voice
Constant sounds in my ear
Talking, singing, random noise

Lost in my own hell
I lashed out with fire
Wrapped up in myself
I held my selfish world tighter
A wounded wild thing, confused
Tried to scare him away
Unwilling to see the truth

Always there
Ever underfoot
And in my hair
Always there
His voice
Constant sounds in my ear
Talking, singing, random noise

My world
Upside down
Turned around
His outstretched hand
Direction found
Light glimmered in the dark
Followed the sound
His voice, sweet sparks

Always there
Ever underfoot
And in my hair
Always there
His voice
Constant sounds in my ear
Talking, singing, random noise

Unflinching steady
Friendship’s light
Helping hands ready
Soothing, restoring my sight
Seeing him with new eyes
Perspective shifts
Heart opens, passions rise
Love stirs, closes the rift

Always there
Ever underfoot
And in my hair
Always there
His voice
Constant sounds in my ear
Talking, singing, random noise

How did I miss him there before?
His fierce loyalty and love
He was always there, giving more
Too busy hiding in my fortress
Trying to stay above
When I should have listened
Should have loved

Always there
Ever underfoot
And in my hair
Always there
His voice
Constant sounds in my ear
Talking, singing, random noise

Sparks play across his eyes
His voice, singing softly in my ear
Our passions rise
His hands tangled in my hair
Our duet of heated cries
Growling clawing biting kissing
Love and lust in fevered pitch
Coming down, blissful sighs

Always there
His voice
Constant sounds in my ear
Talking, singing, random noise
Ever underfoot
And in my hair
I’m forever thankful
He is always there

Manderley Swain
July 23, 2018

This is a poem about my partner Zen. Before we fell in love (realized we were in love with each other), we found each other irritating for a time. We were each suffering in our own silent darknesses. When the tide turned, I found I was so profoundly grateful he’d remained underfoot and in my heart no matter how hard I pushed him away. This poem is our love story.

Madness, Memoir, Musical Monologues

Grief Poem

I look out at her things
Her dishes, her quilts, her earrings
They don’t belong here, I scream

Put them back!
Put her back!
Turn the clocks back!

More than five years gone
Their bones rest beneath their stone
Oh, how I still yearn for home!

Written 8/23/21
Manderley Swain

I still miss my Grandmother fiercely. I have many mementos of her life and of my life with her. She is still a thread woven through all that I am and do. Those dark moments when I need comfort are when I miss her the most. This poem is about that.

Madness, Muse, Musical Monologues

Deeper Stillness

My dear friend Mare The Human wrote a poem called Under Covers in 2018 and challenged friends to write something inspired by it. This is my answer to the challenge.

Morning calls me out to play
Lost in the depths of my pillow
I lose my way
Deeper stillness comforting darkness
My nest of blankets hiding my sorrow

Persistent morning calls my name
Come on out! Sieze the day!
One more hour, please, I pray.
Soft, snuggly cover quietly whispers
The world outside is too loud
Tomorrow is another day

As I burrow deeper still
Drifting, dreams and memories sifting
Sands shifting in my shuttered eyes
Your ghost, your voice
Restoring my will
I follow your flight from Neverland
Greeting the morning, I rise

Written January 2018
Based on Mare Martell’s poem ‘Under Covers’ 2018

Madness, Musical Monologues

Are You Afraid?

Are you ever afraid…
Of your own voice?
Your own words?
Your own thoughts?
Your anger?

I’ve been taught
To be afraid…
Of my anger
Of my thoughts
Of my words
Of my voice

Are you afraid…
To go outside
To see the stars
To hear the crickets
To feast on the moonlight?

I’ve been taught to fear….
The cool night
And the moon
And the stars
And wind in my hair

I’ve been taught
To close my ears
To the call
Of my dreams

Instead, I stay inside
In the dark
In the quiet
In the humid heat
Under cover

To be small

Do you dream…
Of the words
And the voice
And your angry screams
On the wind
And the call of moonlight?

Written October 15, 2018

Memoir, Uncategorized

Stories in Her Face

The last days of Grandmother’s life were hard, though at times she was herself again–you could see the familiar sparkle in her eyes. But mostly she was confused, existing, waiting, lost somewhere inside herself. We kept her as comfortable as we could, hoping to see any sign of her old self. She gave us that for a brief moment, when her brother, Buddy, came to visit. She knew him instantly and was so excited to see him. It was such a joyful surprise for all of us to see her so happy. 

She soon lapsed back into confusion, trying to tell us things but the words would no longer connect in her brain and came out all mixed up. She fought sleep like a small child would, not wanting to miss anything. Eventually rest came, if only for a little while.

 As I sat with her, watching her sleep, I noticed patterns in the fine lines and crinkles in her face. The wrinkes seemed to flow in paths and patterns all down her face and around her features. Like the glowing spirals and brush marks around the stars in Van Gogh’s most beloved painting, those lines in her sweet face told her story. I thought about the many stories she lived and told over the years. I wonder how many stories remained untold.

Although she didn’t live a life of high adventure and epic tales from far away lands, her stories, her moments of joy and sorrow were as meaningful and compelling as anything Hollywood has ever adapted to film. Grandmother’s stories were often about the little things in her life. Simple things that became building blocks of a long life filled with happiness and hardships, love and loss. She lived through decades, observing some of the most incredible moments of history.

Reflecting on the lyrical, swirling stories in her face, I find that I am not quite as dismayed by the inevitability of the lines that will, all too soon, appear on my own face. I will try to wear them with the contentment I saw in her. Now I see echoes of stories in the faces of everyone I meet. I find myself wondering more and more about all the untold little stories that built those lives so far….

Memoir, Uncategorized

The Colors of Easter

Mom, Grandmother and Aunt Lib

As a  little girl, fond of frilly, pretty things, I loved Easter most of all the holidays we celebrated. From the time my mother and her sister were small, a new Easter dress and shiny shoes with lace-trimmed anklets were a firm family tradition. Every year we’d get dressed up and ready for church and take pictures, usually with Grandmother’s flower beds as a backdrop. I always felt so pretty in my new dress, no matter how awkward I may have felt the rest of the week. Easter was special and filled with joy, within and without.

After breakfast and photos we’d go to church and sing all my favorite hymns. Easter hymns were all so joyful ad colorful like the flowers and the blue sky. I don’t think I ever sang as loud or with as much feeling any other time of the year. Even the sermons given at Easter seemed to always be filled with love and joy.  On those Easter mornings I always felt filled with  a sense of God’s love and a feeling of being part  of something so much greater than myself or even my small church congregation. I floated out of church and home on those Sundays, inspired to be more and to love more, happy just to be alive. Though many things in my spiritual life have evolved and changed since then, that deep sense of renewal in the Easter season remains. I remain thankful for this.

After church we’d go home to baskets filled with eggs we’d dyed a few days before, plastic eggs, jellybeans, small toys, a stuffed animal-usually a bunny or baby chick, and always a chocolate bunny to enjoy. The chocolate bunny kept coming to me for as long as my mother lived. The candy and toys were lovely but what I remember most now is how colorful everything was. From the brightly painted baskets to the soft, green, plastic grass to all the bright wrappers and ribbon. And let’s not forget Grandmothers endless array of holiday decorations throughout the house. All of Easter was saturated with vibrant, happy color.

While waiting for dinner, as family gathered, we’d hide the eggs. Not only plastic ones, sometimes candy filled, but also the real eggs would get hidden. They still smelled of vinegar and Paas egg dye tablets. As I found and held each egg I could relive the process of coloring them. From the clickety clack echoing sounds of the eggs in Grandmother’s white and red enamel pan as they were boiled and drained. White on white, soon to be gently dipped or dropped into the coffee cups full of dyes. Sometimes I wanted them to be smooth  pure pastel colors, sometimes I dipped and dipped until my eggs were as dark and saturated as they could get.  I just loved playing with the colors and the process. Just like in coloring the eggs, the joy of the egg hunt was in choosing the hiding places for them and later in the search to find the ones hidden for me. The joy was in the process.

Finally, dinner was served. There was always a ham, scored criss cross, studded with cloves, and glazed with a mixture of orange juice and brown sugar. Putting in the cloves was my job. Along with ham there were always sweet potatoes, sometimes mashed, but always covered with marshmallows and browned on top. Green beans that had been grown in her garden and canned or frozen the previous summer, corn, macaroni and cheese and brown and serve rolls were always served as well. Dessert was often a basic cake made special with white icing and colored coconut or sugar sprinkles to decorate it.  Sometimes there was pie. Pineapple or butterscotch, with lightly browned meringue peaks, Grandad’s favorites.

Life seems to move too fast for me to make it like that for my family now. It is difficult to slow down enough. But whatever I manage to do or not do to celebrate it, Easter will always be my favorite time of the year. If you are reading this, I wish you joy and a colorful springtime, filled with love and family-no matter how you celebrate the season.

My Mother, Paula, Grandmother, and Aunt Lib

Madness, Memoir, Uncategorized

The Stuff of Memories…


The memories that come while grieving can cut like knives-no matter their beauty or how deeply cherished they are. Dividing up her life, their lives, their own memories among us is both loving and painful. They live on through the stories attached to these mementos. But each new item I pick up to sort out renews the realization that she is gone, that my childhood home is going to be gone and in someone else’s hands, making some other family’s history and memories.

It’s strange to think of other people living there, repainting, remodeling, refurnishing and changing it. Loving this home that I have loved. Knowing that they cannot see or experience it through the same lens. Those daffodils by the creek, the clover and violets and strawberries. That tree whose roots made a perfect seat that placed me right in the middle of the creek but not yet in the water so I could have the perfect vantage point to watch the tiny little fish dart in and out of the shadows underneath. And there is that play of light on the rain-washed driveway at night, not to mention the particular scent of the fresh rain on new grass–it won’t smell that way anywhere else.

For now, for me, memories and stories are intertwined with objects and places. I truly believed, going into this process of sorting through and cleaning out my grandparents’ house with my family, that I wanted no more than ten or twelve special items. Now, I cannot believe how many odds and ends I have picked up and been unable to put down. None of it really would have much, if any value to anyone else. But all of it is priceless to me, at least for the time being. These simple and ordinary things hold dozens, maybe hundreds of memories and stories. Some of them I don’t remember until I touch or hold the item. Many come rushing back to me just standing in a given room or outside in the yard. I fear forgetting even one of them when I can no longer visit my childhood home. I am afraid of losing them, like losing old friends.

The joys and sorrows alike are all parts of how I became me, of how we all grew as a family. Leaving home now feels like cutting away a safety net that has always given me the courage and confidence to run across tight ropes and fly on the trapeze in my life’s strange little creative circus. It’s terrifying in many ways. A new adventure in other ways. I hope to hold each object up to the light like a little crystal ball and write down the visions I see there. Perhaps in this way, I will preserve the memories so I can let go of the ‘stuff’.  Most of the stuff. Some of the stuff.