POEM: We are coming

They came to us with open hands, whip marks 

on their backs, broken shackles on their legs, 

and said, We are human beings. Treat us as such.

 

And some of us said, Yes, you are, and took their hands.

And some of us said, Shut up, nigger, and called for 

the tear gas, the fire hose, the dogs.

 

We came to you with open hands, with flowers 

in our hair, with the words of a preacher, and said, 

We are all human beings. Love is the only way.

 

And some of you said nothing. And some of you said 

tear gas, rubber bullets, Martin on the balcony, 

thirteen unarmed students at Kent State.

 

We come to you in numbers, tears in our eyes, 

signs in our hands, and say, Black Lives Matter, 

justice for Freddie Gray, no more police brutality, 

hands up don’t shoot

 

And some of you still said nothing. And others 

said riot gear, tear gas, rubber bullets, 4-wheel drive 

driving over resistant bodies, torches in the humid night, 

You will not replace us, some very fine people.

 

We come to you with masks on our faces, not 

to hide who we are, but to stave off disease, 

we come to you risking infection, risking 

a death of not being able to breathe, like 

Eric Garner, like George Floyd, we come 

in masses like never before because we have 

no jobs, no protection from the disease, no 

compensation for our losses, no comfort 

in our grief except a man who tear-gasses 

citizens so he can walk a few yards in triumph

and hold over his head before cameras a book 

he has never read, that does not say what 

he thinks it says, we come to you saying 

We the People, and those of you who are not 

still silent, hiding indoors, you say by your actions 

You are the Enemy. We, your neighbors.

 

We are coming for you. Not with weapons, but 

not with flowers, not with violence, neither with 

peace, not the peace you demand, which is order, 

which is death–we are coming for you as the wave 

comes for the shore, shaken by the movement 

of the ocean floor, the turning over in the deep– 

the tsunami wave that pulls back and pulls back 

before it unfolds, breaking down everything in its path.

 

We are coming.

POEM: The natural order of things

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

POEM: The natural order of things
is not a boot stamping on a human face
is not a white knee on a black neck
is not a division into good and bad
white and black, male and female
with white above black and
male above female and above all
rich above poor forever

It is a spiderweb woven
between the antlers of a forest god
who has the head and heart of a man
joined to the guts and groin of a deer
who walks upright on split hooves
through a forest of living beings
that he knows by their true names
while a summer rain falls quick
and hard and yet the spider never stirs
from the center
of her web

Prayers to Antinous in a time of crisis

A Litany for Antinous the Liberator

In the name of Antinous, the Liberator, the Savior, the Human-God, Victorious One, Emperor of Peace.

From all that oppresses us, Antinous, liberate us.

From all that inhibits us, Antinous, liberate us.

From all that constrains us, whether without or within, Antinous, liberate us.

From racism and all racial prejudice, Antinous, liberate us.

From sexism and all misogyny, Antinous, liberate us.

From disrespect for our elders, Antinous, liberate us.

From disrespect for our youth, Antinous, liberate us.

From homophobia and all hatred of sexual minorities, Antinous, liberate us.

From transphobia and all hatred of gender minorities, Antinous, liberate us.

From all contempt for women and girls and for effeminate men, Antinous, liberate us.

From all injustice, Antinous, liberate us.

From sexual violence, Antinous, liberate us.

From bullying and harassment, Antinous, liberate us.

From depression and melancholy, Antinous, liberate us.

From loneliness and despair, Antinous, liberate us.

From doubt of our own gifts, Antinous, liberate us.

From doubt of our ability to act, Antinous, liberate us.

From the wounds of the past, Antinous, liberate us.

From fear of the future, Antinous, liberate us.

From all our addictions and from contempt for the addicted, Antinous, liberate us.

From poverty and the shaming of the poor, Antinous, liberate us.

From hunger and from greed and grasping, Antinous, liberate us.

From all illness of body, mind, or soul, Antinous, liberate us.

From ignorance, especially willful ignorance, Antinous, liberate us.

From the tyranny of the wealthy and their greed, Antinous, liberate us.

From the tyranny of the bigoted and their fear, Antinous, liberate us.

From the tyranny of the lustful and their self-loathing, Antinous, liberate us.

From every kind of hatred and violence, Antinous, liberate us.

[Additional petitions may be inserted here. ]

Guard and defend us, Antinous, as we struggle to free ourselves; guard and defend us, Antinous, as we strive to liberate others; guard and defend us, Antinous, as we await the rising of your star.

Ave, ave, Antinoe!

Haec est unde vita venit!

 

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Hymn II: To Antinous the Liberator

Many are the burdens we bear, and high are the walls

that are built around us; many are the voices we answer

to and the eyes of the judges; many are the wounds

that never healed and the old pains that catch at

the spine, and we lower our eyes to the pavement

and feel that nothing will ever change.

But you, Antinous,

have defeated all the archons, and nothing can withstand

your power. You offer your hand to all those who are bound

up in their own knots; you lift your spear in defense of all

who live under tyranny. Where there is a march for justice,

you march with them; where there is a fire for freedom,

you bear the torch. Where truth is spoken to power,

you stand beside; where the truth of a soul is opened,

you listen in witness. You are the Liberator from all

that oppresses or inhibits; you hunt down the tyrant,

strike open the locks, trample down the doors.

O liberate me, Liberator, from all that oppresses

or inhibits, that I may have the freedom of your friendship

now and forever.

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Hymn IX: To Antinous-Dionysus, Liberator

As long as there’s music to dance to, he will come.

As long as there’s a bottle of wine or something else to share, he will come.

As long as lovers slip off and couple even when there’s no place or time for it,

he will come, Antinous Dionysus, Dionysus Lusios, Liberator.

As long as there’s sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll, he will come.

As long as people march in peace and break windows in fury, he will come.

As long as people sit home in the darkness, afraid to get up and step out

into the light, he will come, Antinous Dionysus, the breaker, the loosener.

He will come and break the bonds of tyranny and oppression.

He will come and loosen the knots we tie ourselves up in, inside.

He will throw open the windows and doors, turn stairs into ramps,

water into wine, sorrow into joy, depression into weeping,

tears into laughter, He will come, Antinous Dionysus, Lusios,

Liberator, deliverer, he will come, he will come, if we call:

Evohe! Evohe! Evohe!

 

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A prayer to Antinous in this time of crisis

O Antinous, Beautiful Boy, Osirantinous, Justified One,
I cry out to you in a time of many struggles.
My nation is an empire falling to its knees and falling apart.
There is no good emperor. There is no just rule.
I cry out to you as Liberator
on behalf of the immigrants imprisoned in camps:
Set them free.
I cry out to you as Liberator
on behalf of the protestors in our streets:
March with them. Protect them.
I cry out to you as Antinous Hermes:
May the images of resistance and brutality
be spread far and wide.
May wickedness be exposed.
May police and governments be held accountable.
I cry to you as Antinous Asklepios:
We still suffer from the plague of coronavirus.
Send us healing. Protect the healers.
I cry out to you as Lover:
May these armies of lovers not fail
who love one another more than their privilege,
who love justice more than order,
who love equality more than hierarchy.
And I cry out to you as Navigator:
Show us the way forward.
Turn the wheel of the ages.
Show us how to untie the knots
of hatred, hierarchy, bigotry, privilege,
how to pull on the threads that will
unravel the whole tapestry of
-isms that covers the world
so that we may unveil the true beauty
of the world, of one another, of ourselves.

Doing what I can, because I must

I am racist.

I am not a racist. I am not cheering when police commit murder on Black citizens. I am not even insisting that if protesters (especially Black protesters) just assembled peacefully and obeyed the cops, they wouldn’t be rounded up, tear-gassed, shot, arrested.

But I am a white person who grew up in a racist society, a society that was and is sexist and homophobic, transphobic, and generally xenophobic, as well. If I look at myself honestly, I have to acknowledge that. I have to acknowledge that as a white person, I have tremendous privilege, and that I have been socially conditioned to accept that as my due and regard Black people as not really people.

On the other hand, I am also an adult human being, over fifty, who has lived all her life in a racially and culturally diverse city, who has a mind and will of her own. Deep down my heart and my gut reject -isms and othering. I reject the programming that teaches me to regard Blacks as less than human. I choose to be anti-racist. I choose also to be anti-fascist and anti-sexist. I do this as a human being with a conscience, as a white person, as a genderqueer bisexual person, as an American. I choose this stance on the basis of my upbringing as an Episcopalian and on the basis of my values learned from polytheism, from Tibetan Buddhism, from magical practice.

Black lives matter. They matter because they are human lives. They matter in America because much of what is truly American culture, our music, in particular, is Black culture. They matter to me because I have lived near Black people, gone to school with Black people, ridden the bus with Black people, sung in choirs with Black people, waited on and been waited on by Black people, worked with Black people, my entire life. They are my neighbors, co-workers, friends. They are people. Black lives matter.

I am one person and not well known. I don’t have a huge platform. I walk with a cane and can’t stand up without pain for more than five or ten minutes and hate crowds, so I don’t go to protests. To say what I have said here means little, perhaps, but it seemed important to me to say it, as it has seemed important for me to signal boost Black voices on other platforms where I am active, like Facebook and Tumblr. As it has seemed important that I should pray in reponse to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has not conveniently gone away while our putative President waves a Bible in the air and threatens military action against his own citizens, and in response to the protests, the deaths, the brutality of police forces who claim “to serve and protect”, the chicanery of white supremacists infiltrating protests for their own aims, everything, it’s overwhelming, but I pray and I write, because that is what I can best do.

A brief word of wisdom

Today for the time I met with my therapist of three years’ standing via online video, aka “telehealth”. We had a couple of “glitches in the matrix”, as he said, but otherwise our session was pretty normal. I carried away from it, as Pooh Bear would carry a jar of honey into a corner to get properly acquainted with it, this small nugget which I now share with you:

It feels better when you do the thing.

It can be hard to do the thing, if you are oppressed and depressed by the current pandemic and all its ramifications. It can be even harder if you suffer from depression anyway and now have the current situation to cope with on top of that. But you will feel better when you do the thing.

The thing may be the hours at home you owe your job, or the exercise you’re not getting because you don’t have to go to work, or showering when nobody is around to see (or smell) you, or the meditation or yoga or spiritual practice you’ve been telling yourself you’d get to. Whatever it is, how big or little, how mundane or spiritual, if it’s your thing, you will feel better if you do the thing. wordpress-265132_640

I know I do. I’m doing one of the things right now.

In this world / we walk on the roof of hell / gazing at flowers

dogwoodinbloomI don’t know why, but the haiku I quoted in my title came to mind tonight. Of course it is obvious why: Issa might have written this poem yesterday, as everything is blooming while we are confined to our homes and people are dying and essential workers are at risk. The hell of it, to me, is not just the deaths of people around the world, but the selfish terrorists in my own country who are insisting that things re-open so they can go to bars, get haircuts, and see movies.

In this world, we walk on the roof of hell, gazing at flowers. But the flowers are no less real than the hell. In Buddhism, there are numerous hells full of suffering, punishment for evil deeds, but they are no more permanent than human life. There are also beautiful heavens that reward the good, but they, too, are impermanent. Karma is less a reward than a kind of fuel, and whether it’s good or bad, punishment or reward, it burns out eventually. Nirvana is the only way out.

It’s an ideal rather than a reality, but I lean toward the Vajrayana, Tantric idea that nirvana and samsara are the same thing. Samsara, the merry-go-round of karma created and then burned off, of rebirth in conditioned reality, is no different than nirvana, the fullness of freedom and enlightenment–if you are enlightened. Robert Thurman says, in his excellent book The Jewel Tree of Tibet (I am paraphrasing), that to a bodhisattva, the worst sufferings of this world seem no more real than a child’s insistence that there’s a monster under the bed; however, the bodhisattva still helps the suffering, even as a good parent still comforts the child and offers a defense against the imaginary monster.

The bodhisattva already knows that the ultimate reality is joy, is bliss. Julian of Norwich also says, more concisely, “Bliss is lasting, pain is passing.” I believe that, in the sense that I trust the saints, adepts, and bodhisattvas who tell me so, without yet fully experiencing it for myself. So what about walking on the roof of hell? Hell is real, just as the flowers are real, but hell is not all there is to the underworld, just as spring flowers are not all there is to this world. While we are shivering in ice storms and it seems winter will never end, the faery realm below the hills is still feasting in perpetual summer.

If I understand it correctly, the most basic message of Buddhism is that we suffer because we want things our way, and therefore our best practice is to stop wanting things our way and accept whatever happens. That is an extreme simplification of the first stages of Buddhist teaching, I know. But European religious and magical traditions tend to affirm that desire is legitimate and there is some chance of getting what we want, so it’s acceptable to pursue what we want within certain ethical guidelines (such as not murdering people, violating laws of kinship or hospitality or sexual fidelity, or hoarding wealth and resources to the detriment of others). 

There are hints in European folklore, especially in Celtic countries, that the Otherworld is a mirror of our own, rather like the north and south hemispheres of our planet. If it is summer here, it is winter there; if one dies in this world, one is born into the other. If we are walking on the roof of hell here, while the flowers bloom, perhaps in the Otherworld they are joyful and at peace even if the trees are bare. If we cannot venture very far afield in this world because of the coronavirus, we can still cross over into the Other and bring back something of hope and joy.

The end of the world as we know it

It really is, you know.

Because the world after this pandemic isn’t going to be the same as the world before it. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but I am certain it’s going to be different.

The word “apocalypse” literally means unveiling. In a way it should only be applied to a genre of literature, writing that, like the Revelations of St. John, reveals what is to come. Yet arguably, the author of Revelations didn’t see his text as a prediction of the future; he saw it as an unveiling, an expose, if you will, of the reality of the world he lived in. He was trying to say that that world belonged to God and the Lamb-who-was-slain, the victorious resurrected Christ, and not to Caesar. He was trying to tell his small, isolated congregations that their fearful house meetings for worship were participation in a celestial and cosmic liturgy that had no end.

Our current apocalypse is revealing a lot of things, some good, some ill. It is revealing how we really are all connected, via airplanes and other forms of transportation, via television and other forms of popular culture, via the internet and all its resources of information and news and social media. Those global interconnections mean someone can get on a plane in China and get off in the United States and bring a virus with them, yes; they also mean that I can communicate with friends who live in England or Italy, the Midwest or the West Coast, or even Australia. I think our global interconnectedness is good, on balance.

It’s also revealing just how much wealth, how many resources, are being selfishly hoarded by those who don’t need them, who are now reluctantly loosening their grip just a bit, now that the need is dire, and even if they are motivated less by genuine compassion and kindness than by the desire not to look like they actively desire people’s deaths. (Yes, I admit, I am thinking the worst of some people. Not going to apologize.) There are, of course, a few billionaires and world leaders who seem not to care if they do look like they want the poor and disenfranchised to die. I hope we remember who they are and what they did when this pandemic is over.

The pandemic is revealing that most people want to help their neighbors, that scientists want to solve problems and improve conditions, that artists want to share their work, that even introverts (like myself) need face-to-face, embodied human contact, that our animal companions are an even bigger blessing than we thought. The pandemic is revealing that a few, a very few people are genuinely selfish, caring only for themselves and what they can grasp–and they are outnumbered.

It’s the end of the world as we have known it. I am grieving the deaths, I am raging at the selfish bastards making it harder for the rest of us, but I am also tending and treasuring a tiny spark of hope because we can build a new world, and the hands that build it, the minds and hearts, will be numerous, more diverse, more creative than ever before.

What will you do?

I spent a lot of my time and energy this weekend worrying about this year’s Presidential election, here in the United States. Suffice to say I would like to see the incumbent out of office and replaced by a Democrat; I will support whoever the party nominates with a clear conscience. (And that’s all I’m going to say about politics.)

After fretting and feeling hopeless for most of Sunday, a question occurred to me as I was settling down to sleep for the night. What will you do, I asked myself, if the worst comes to pass? What will you do if the incumbent gets a second term? What will you do if the country is pushed further to the Right? What will you do, even, if your country becomes a dictatorship?

The answer was easy and immediate. I will keep on doing exactly what I’m doing now. I will work at my job until I can retire, which I hope will be next year. I will write fiction, poetry, and essays that portray positive, hopeful alternatives to the shortcomings of our culture, especially around issues of sexuality. I will do theurgic magical work. I will take care of my bird, listen to Hozier, watch an occasional movie or television show. And whoever may be in power, I will continue to do those things until my body gives out, or I get hit and killed by a careless driver, or the jackbooted thugs come and drag me away.

I have often heard it said that anyone who says they don’t care about politics must be speaking from a place of privilege. In general, I would agree with this; any human being living in community with other humans is involved in and affected by politics in some way. On the other hand, I think I need to stop caring so much about politics in the sense of current events, of “keeping up with the news”. Because whatever political party is in power, while it may affect me in various ways, it is not going to affect what I choose to do and how I choose to live. As I have also heard it said, survival is a form of resistance, if you are a person who doesn’t fit into the system, who isn’t privileged, whom the system seeks to exploit and discard. My survival is my resistance, and my work is here to be done regardless of who’s sitting in the White House.

In your worst-case scenario, what will you do?

Silence is a magical power

Sometimes there are topics where I know that no one cares what I think. And that’s okay.

Sometimes I find myself repeatedly about to say something on some political, or social, or pop culture topic… and I start hitting the backspace key. Because I realize that really, I have nothing else to say on the topics that someone else couldn’t say better, and someone probably has said it already.

Why keep a blog, then? my reader may wonder. Well, I think there are many topics on which I do have something to say, something that’s unique to me and potentially helpful to others. It’s the paradox of writing that one person’s unique take is exactly what’s most likely to read as universal and illuminate the reader’s unique experience. What books I read, and why those books, and what I got out of them, for example, writing about that is likely to be useful and entertaining to people who are, like myself, queer and/or bisexual and/or pagan and/or genderqueer. What I have to say about the Superbowl half-time show, as yet another white person who’s not a professional dancer, is probably neither entertaining nor useful.

Magicians and witches speak of four essential powers to their magic: To know, to will, to dare, and to keep silent. Sometimes, you just have to know when to shut up.

A prayer for people I care about

In the Name of Antinous, the Beautiful Boy, the beloved of Hadrian and lover of all queers, Star of the Eagle and heavenly Navigator, victor over the archons:
I call on Antinous, the Liberator, the protector, to bless, guide, and protect transgender people, nonbinary people, gender nonconforming people.
I call on Dionysus, cross-dresser, sexual transgressor, gender outlaw, to bless, guide, and protect these beloved people.
I call on Hermes, lover of males and females, guide of the dead, father of Hermaphroditus, to bless, guide, and protect my friends.
I call on Melinoe, the bright dark lady, half black and half white, daughter of Hades and Persephone, foster daughter of Hel and Loki, to bless, guide, and protect the people betwixt and between.
I call on Loki, the shapeshifter, mother of monsters, father of giants, who lies to the mighty and befriends the powerless, to bless, guide, and protect the shapeshifting people.
I call on Cybele, Attis, Agdistis, and the honored spirits of the galloi to bless, guide, and protect transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people.
I call on the spirits of the trans, intersex, two spirit people of North America; humbly I call on them although my ancestors wronged them, to bless, guide, and protect the trans and intersex and two spirit people who live on their land today.
I call on Jesus, who defended women, foreigners, and eunuchs, and on his disciple Philip the deacon, who baptized and taught the Ethiopian eunuch, to bless, guide and protect those whom they would have called eunuchs.
May the blessings and protection of all the gods, along with my own love and good will, stand between transgender people, nonbinary people, gender nonconforming people and all malice, hatred, bigotry, violence, and tyranny, until all such evils wither away. In Antinous’ name, may it be so.