POEM: Berlin, November 9, 1989

A number of blogs I follow on Tumblr posted images from this date: The destruction of the Berlin Wall. Those images gave me this poem.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.
Our poet said that, Robert Frost, the quintessential
Yank who was born in California
(and what could be more American than that?).
There is a groundswell, a shift in
the tectonics; there are roots, rocks
that freeze and swell and crack.
A wall is a human thing. It means nothing
to the flying crow, the crawling bug,
the leaping fox, to the nature spirit.

Yet the something that doesn’t love a wall
may also be the human spirit: the grandmother
who hasn’t seen her newest grandchild
because she cannot pass the wall; the lover
who has not embraced their beloved
because they cannot pass the wall;
the friends who no longer drink and talk
by night, laughing and discovering,
because the wall rises up between them.
The thing that doesn’t love a wall
may be human hands with shovels,
with sledgehammers, human hands
and human feet, human love and
human rage. The thing that doesn’t love a wall
is love itself, which crosses separations.

They learned that in Berlin, in 1989.
If we put a wall here, where nature only
put a river, if we put stone and steel
or concrete or barbed wire where only
water runs, if we try to build a wall
around the human heart and make it proof
against compassion, against love, against
justice, well, listen to our American poet,
listen to the quintessential Yank:
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.

Prayer and contemplation: Hozier’s “Moment’s Silence (Common Tongue)”

“Moment’s Silence (Common Tongue)” is an unabashedly raunchy song. (Do people still use the word “raunchy”? It’s the word that comes to mind when I think about these lyrics.) In case anyone missed it, Hozier himself has kindly informed us that it is, indeed, a song about oral sex (and you can watch this and treat yourselves to the sight and sound of Hozier saying “oral sex”). It is, specifically, a song sung by a man about receiving oral sex–to put it bluntly, it’s about getting a blowjob. It’s also an elaborately worded, punning plea to consider the possibility of equality in sexual dynamics.

Hozier begins with an oblique evocation of a world in turmoil:

When stunted hand earns place with man by mere monstrosity

Alarms are struck and shore is shook by sheer atrocity

(Is it stretching a point to think that the “stunted hand” refers to a certain American President and the mockery of his small and pudgy hands?) The next two lines detail the singer’s response to a world of monstrosity and atrocity:

A cure I know that soothes the soul, does so impossibly

A moment’s silence when my baby puts the mouth on

Hozier teasingly trails off here, letting his voice slide immediately into the next line, but the meaning is clear enough: When the world is too much with us, oral intimacy is the cure. Note that, yes, “the mouth” is what the official lyrics say (although he has clearly sung it as “their mouth” in concerts), and that the soothing of the soul comes through something that happens *to the body*.

So “my baby puts the mouth” on segues into:

Me and my babe relax and catch the manic rhapsody

All reason flown, as God looks on in abject apathy

“Manic rhapsody” is a delightful phrase just because of the internal rhyme; I am reminded of the line “electing strange perfections in any stranger I choose” from “Someone New” on his debut album. More important, however, is the declaration that “God looks on in abject apathy”. The singer and his baby are having sex, specifically non-reproductive sex, and God simply doesn’t care. In a Catholic culture like Ireland’s, sex that doesn’t lead to babies, even or perhaps especially between a man and a woman, is a definite no. Hozier carefully doesn’t specify his lover’s gender, but either way, they are defying churchly rules and God doesn’t care.

A squall, and all of me is a prayer in perfect piety

A moment’s silence when my baby puts the mouth on me

Hozier follows this utterly blasphemous statement with an unabashed blues wail that, heard live, will make your hair stand on end. (My hair remembers vividly.) His nonverbal outcry in response to receiving oral sex is called “a prayer in perfect piety”, which is also a “moment’s silence”. The silence, one supposes, is mutual: He’s nonverbal with “manic rhapsody”, and his baby can’t talk because their mouth is full. The lyrics hint that, as in his signature tune “Take Me to Church”, it is his lover he worships, no more, no less.

Internal rhymes and end-rhymes both veil the explicitness of these lyrics. The chorus offers us a deadpan pun:

When the meaning is gone

There is clarity

And the reason comes on the common tongue of your loving me

I am entirely certain that “common tongue” is a deliberate pun on “come on tongue”. Hozier did say the song was about oral sex, and I did warn my readers that it is raunchy. But it also evokes the act of oral sex as an act that all gender/sexuality combinations have in common. That brazen pun is coupled with a description of the act as love. Here’s where things begin to get really interesting. In a moment of silence that transcends meaning with clarity–which might be a description of contemplative prayer–the singer understands “the reason” through an act of sex that’s also an act of love. If “Take Me to Church” borrowed the imagery of formal worship for its lovers’ intimacy, “Moment’s Silence” is riffing on the idea of contemplation, of a silent kind of prayer motivated by adoration and love.

The second verse of the song is Hozier’s call out of people with a quite different approach to giving and receiving oral sex:

What yields the need for those who lead us oh so morally

Those that would view the same we do through their deformity

The moral leaders no doubt include politicians and other authority figures as well as authorities within the Church. What is the deformity to which he refers?

Who view the deed as power’s creed, as pure authority

This moment’s silence when my baby puts the mouth on me

Pardon me for being blunt here. Andrew Hozier-Byrne is a 29-year-old man living in the age of free porn on the Internet. It hardly seems possible to me that he has not seen oral sex scenes in porn, that he is not referring here to the kneeling woman servicing with her mouth the man looming over her, often gripping her hair or holding her head between his hands. And it hardly seems possible to conclude that the pleasure of receiving such sexual services is less in the physical sensations than in the emotional charge of using, even forcing another person to provide them, in a humiliating way.

These lyrics seem to me to be looking at that dynamic and rejecting it as a deformity, a distortion of what is a potentially loving and even contemplative act. The remainder of the lyrics reiterate the possibility of sex as an expression of love rather than power, while the music, a simple but powerful blues riff, increases in intensity. Hozier sings four couplets over the frenzied accompaniment:

Since it all begun

To its reckoning

There the reason comes on the common tongue of your loving me

First, he links reason to love: reason meaning the motivation or justification for the act of love.

Be thankful some know it lovingly

There the reason comes in the common tongue of your loving me

Here he insists the most forcefully and unambiguously that for some people, the act of oral sex is not about power but about love.

Like a heathen clung to the homily

Let the reason come on the common tongue of your loving me

At that point he shifts from the indicative “there” to the imperative “let”. In the simplest terms, he’s asking permission to orgasm, but I think there’s also a hint of “reason” as a synonym for “knowledge”. In Biblical Hebrew, “knowledge” is a synonym for sexual experience, and in Catholic theology, the fullness of knowledge can only be experienced through love.

So summon on the pearl rosary

Let the reason come on the common tongue of your loving me

Hozier ends with an image that is at once explicitly religious and explicitly erotic, even pornographic, as the pearls of the rosary are slang for drops of semen splashed on skin.

“Moment’s Silence (Common Tongue)” is a fusion of the erotic, the religious, and the blasphemous even more explicit and potent than “Take Me to Church”, with an irresistible blues melody that can make the tiredest feet get up and dance (if those feet are mine, at any rate). If he keeps writing music like this, I will assuredly keep listening, dancing, singing along when I’m alone, and writing elaborate analyses like this one.

My long career in fanfic

Over the years, the Open Doors project has imported works from numerous older fanfic archives, going back into the 1990s. These earlier archives were usually single-fandom collections, often created and maintained by one individual, albeit with some automation. Thanks to the OD project, I’ve just added over forty stories to my works at the Archive of Our Own, mostly from Down in the Basement, the great slash archive of X-Files fandom, with a handful of Harry Potter works that were once archived at Ink-Stained Fingers. Some of these stories… I hesitate to say it, because wow, do I feel old… but some of these stories are over twenty years old now.  Nevertheless, you can now survey two decades of my writing at AO3. Enjoy! (And if you do, buy me a cuppa?)

FIC: A new Forest God story

The Witch in the Woods (3124 words) by MToddWebster
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Andrew Hozier-Byrne (Musician)
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: Graphic Depictions Of Violence
Characters: the forest god, OFC
Additional Tags: forest god, Forests, Puritans, Witches, Witchcraft, Witch Hunts, Sacrifice, Human Sacrifice, Wendigo, European settlers misunderstanding indigenous American spirit lore
Series: Part 4 of Tales of the Forest God
Summary:

The witch must be sacrificed to the god she worships. So the Puritans think, but the Forest God has other ideas when he finds a helpless girl in his woods.

 

FIC: “The Poisoned Gift”

The Poisoned Gift (6492 words) by MToddWebster
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Andrew Hozier-Byrne (Musician), Schneewittchen | Snow White (Fairy Tale), Fairy Tales & Related Fandoms, Den lille Havfrue | The Little Mermaid – Hans Christian Andersen
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: Major Character Death
Relationships: OMC/OMC
Additional Tags: background M/M relationship, Poisoning, Attempted Murder, Magic, Dark Magic, Horror, Musicians, Academia, True Love’s Kiss, POV Outsider
Summary:

In which Hozier takes the role of the Evil Queen, so to speak. A shrewd bystander notices something wrong with the relationship between a teacher and a student at a music conservatory, and it’s not what you might think. Who has the fairest voice?

 

apple fruit healthy food
Photo by Bruno Scramgnon on Pexels.com

A tweet from Hozier inspired me and two friends of mine who are as mad about the Irish musician as I am to write three variations on the tale of Snow White, casting Hozier in the three principal roles: Snow White, her prince, and her evil stepmother the Queen. The lot of evil stepmother (?) Hozier fell to me, and this is what I made of it. I urge you to read not only my story but my collaborators’ (theirs are far more romantic).

POEM: Invocation of the Forest God

I invoke the forest god

In the midst of the city I invoke him

I invoke his deer hooves and his stag antlers

I invoke his bear pelt and his ivy crown

I invoke the forest god

In the middle of civilization I invoke him

I invoke the mushrooms growing in his beard

I invoke the blood beneath his nails

I invoke his voice

rising from a deep thunder in his belly 

to a cry like sunlight from his chest 

and the notes of bells from his brow

I invoke the forest god

where black citizens are gunned down by police

where small children are gunned down in their classrooms

where women are gunned down by the abusers they left

I invoke the forest god

I invoke his bear strength and his wolf teeth

I invoke his memory of the long winters 

and his running in the sun

I invoke his gentleness toward those who seek shelter

I invoke his ferocity toward those who kill without need

I invoke the forest god

to walk the city streets, impervious to bullets,

contemptuous of guns, larger and stronger 

than cars and SUVs, trampling over 

the monuments of war to gather flowers for a crown.

I invoke him, whatever his true name might be, 

whatever ancient language he speaks

I beseech him to bring his army:

oak and ivy, mushroom and lichen, 

wolf and bear, caribou and moose, 

fir, pine, and spruce, morning glory, 

kudzu, roots that dig deep, tendrils that tug, 

feet that run and prowl, antlers that smash windows, 

come, forest god, and bring the forest with you

I no longer desire the city 

I wish to be an animal again

We have failed–let us start over

bring back the ice and drive us to the caves

we will relearn how to paint in the dark

rediscover our voices in the echoes under stone

enter the underworld and climb the mountain to the sky

please, forest god, before the earth burns up 

in the fires of hubris, before the greed of the few

eats the lives of the many, forest god, 

show yourself and bring us home

 

8/17/2019

FIC: The Feast of Saint Hubert

The Feast of Saint Hubert (3695 words) by MToddWebster
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Andrew Hozier-Byrne (Musician)
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: OMC/OMC
Additional Tags: Forest Sex, gay forest sex, pansexual forest god, Bisexual Male Character, The Forest God – Freeform, Hunters & Hunting, Deer, Animal Death, Animal Transformation, Sacrifice, Self-Sacrifice
Series: Part 3 of Tales of the Forest God
Summary:

(The Forest God speaks) I have had one true bride over many centuries, yet I have also had many lovers, in different times and places. And I have lived many lives, and also died many deaths. Here is the tale of one of them….