POEM: For Ryōkan

This full moon? Old man Ryōkan
gave it to me; he said a thief left it behind.
I was having tea with him one day in early spring,
before the cherries had blossomed out,
and after the rain passed over, he took it down
and said he didn’t need it any more.
Do you need it? I have enough light to read his poems by.

(Ryōkan, Zen monk, hermit, poet and calligrapher, died on this date in 1831.)

POEM: For Pixie

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All the world’s a stage, and all the Tarot merely scenery,
a painted backdrop for an amateur display.
All the world’s a stage, and all our comedies and dramas
re-enactment of the myths, rehearsal of a few enduring plots.
All the world’s a journey, and Pixie’s Fool goes tripping through it,
feet light as feathers, eyes raised to the sky.
Only the Fool’s dog knows what’s in that bag of tricks,
the wanderer’s bindlestaff over one shoulder,
its humble length an axis round which all the worlds revolve.

(For Pamela Colman Smith, Pixie to her friends, born on this date in 1878, illustrator of the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot)

(Image by Daniel Albany from Pixabay)

POEM: Wolf Boys

The wolves tear apart the dog and the goat
and come into the house with bloodied muzzles.
Wipe their faces with wool dipped in milk
and they turn into young men, laughing
instead of panting. They run the streets
hitting women, but only the women who
step forward, hands outstretched, asking
for the ritual blow. A smack from the wolf boy
is good luck, helps you get pregnant.
What rituals do we have to turn our wolves
back into boys? When they come home
with bloodied muzzles, bloodied hands,
broken hearts, do we wash them clean
and give them work to do, or do we
lock them up, chain them down,
throw them out of the house until
they lie down and die on the street?

(For my friend Dwight, who died in January)

POEM: Theogamia

(For the marriage of Hera and Zeus, celebrated around this time in ancient Greece)

Cuckoo in the storm, poor bedraggled thing,

come here, trust me, and I will warm you.

Lady, your hands are gentle, and your bosom is soft.

I will rest here while my feathers dry.

 

Cuckoo on my breast, are you hungry, are you thirsty?

Water from my cup, golden crumbs from my plate I offer.

Lady, your cup is deep, and your food is sweet.

I will eat and drink from your hand.

 

Cuckoo on my hand, what a silly song you sing!

Yet it amuses me to hear you say your name.

Lady, your laugh is lovely, and your breath is sweet.

No other mate I have, so I will sing my song for you.

 

Cuckoo in my home, how you brighten my shining palace!

Your blue-grey wings, your striped breast, your jaunty tail delight me.

Lady, your halls are fair, your home is spacious,

yet I will always come back to roost near you at night.

 

Cuckoo on my bed, rest here upon my pillow.

Rest only lightly, that I may not crush you in the night.

Lady, to be near you, I would dare death and more.

I will even dare your wrath when we awaken in the morning.

 

Stranger in my bed, where has my cuckoo gone?

Whose arm is this, whose leg, whose rampant prick I feel?

Lady, it is I, your cuckoo and your brother,

Zeus son of Kronos, lord of sky and storm.

 

Cuckoo in my nest, how strangely you have wooed me!

Yet I am still charmed by your antics, nonetheless.

Cow-eyed Hera, lady of sky and cloud,

Will you not marry me? Let us rule together.

 

Cuckoo of my heart, yes, I will marry you,

but you must be faithful, for I am always true.

Lady of my heart, if you marry me,

you will be the queen of heaven and earth, the noblest goddess.

 

Cuckoo of my heart, that will do for now.

Come, let us marry, let us tarry together in love.

Lady of my heart, the spring is here, the birds are mating.

Our love shall be the rain that quickens the soft earth.

 

Oh, oh, oh, cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo!

Ah, ah, ah, cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo!

POEM: Devotion

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I want to set my heart on fire
and offer it like incense. I hope
it smells like frankincense
and myrrh. I want to throw
myself at a god’s feet, not
in subjugation, but in
adoration–because my knees
are too weak for this beauty.
I want to be gathered up
in arms that are stronger
than any mortal man’s could
ever be and cherished.
I want to bask in the sunshine
of unconditional positive regard.

I can stand up again and walk
on my own two feet. The heart
is a self-renewing organ,
the original phoenix, sweetly
burning till it’s consumed,
then rising from its own ash.
I can give it away again and again
and still have all the heart that I need.
I am neither a prisoner nor a slave.
When I offer myself, I know I am offering
what I have that is of highest value,
and what I receive in return is equal,
and greater, coming from the god.

Take my heart, divine one, this
renewable resource, this well of
mystery, the inner altar, the place
where everything is gathered and
distilled–eat me, drink me, burn me,
taste me, all that I am is yours
that I might live for you, from you.

(Image by Colin Behrens from Pixabay)

POEM: The source of all your power

At its longest your hair
covers your shoulders,
the curls of it over your bones
like sea-foam over the rocks.
When you gather it up–
“Why is it a man-bun?” you ask.
“Why not just a bun?”–
it exposes the bones of you
and how fine the skin is
stretched over them; for an instant,
seen from the back, you might
be mistaken for a woman.
But loose and unbridled, half-
blended with your beard
(which has grown in ginger),
it makes you all man, Samson
or Hercules, its length and
thickness and heaviness
the very proof of your virility.
You smile as you undo your bun.
“Well, yes, it is the source of all my power.”

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.

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

POEM: The curious incident of the dog in the night-time

molossian_hound2c_british_museumIt is always a curious incident when the dog does nothing,
when the dog that should waken sleeps,
when the hound that should bark lies silent,
when the watch-dog fails of its watch.
In the toilsome heat of August, the Romans punished the dogs
that failed to do anything in the night-time,
or the day-time, whichever it was,
when the Gauls came to scale the city walls
and carry away all that made Rome superior.
Piteous dog crucifixions baking in the heat alongside the road!
Juno’s geese strutting and honking nearby,
pleased with their own superiority: *They* gave the warning
when the dogs failed! Pathetic. Geese are large, loud,
aggressive, and not known to be trusting.

O Hermanubis, temper the ferocity of Sirius!
Hounds of the Dog Star, chase away the roaring Lion
burning up our skies! Gracious gods, protect the harvest,
send us rain and sun in due measure: The dog days
are over, the descent into autumn has begun.

(With thanks to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

(Originally posted to Antinous for Everybody, 8/3/2016)

POEM: Beer and Bread

August. The fields outside of town
(where I haven’t driven, for I don’t drive)
are ready for harvest, wheat and corn
(and I eat barley, rice, and oats).
Lugus with his long arm, his clever hand
is ready to sweep the fields,
bring in the harvest. Time
to make beer and bread.

I feel my skin prickle.
I see a red leaf on a green tree,
a brown feather from a sparrow’s wing
on the grey sidewalk. Autumn.
The days are hotter, one by one,
but the sun rises later, lower,
day by day; one by one
the trees slow down, the birds,
the bugs, the flowers, slow down
toward their rest. A stop. I stop.
August. Lughnasad. Autumn.
Across the months, across the equator,
Lugus holds out to Brigantia his hand.
She hands him the knife that she forged
throughout the long summer,
quenched in the sun’s blood.
It’s time to bring it all home.

 

POEM: The apple (for Alan Turing)

The apple lies in your hand, round and sweet. It is all

the forbidden fruit that you have ever tasted: The loves,

the pleasures, the stolen joys. There is no hiding from

the one who walks in the garden in the cool of the evening.

There is no offering you can make to your god, your

country, to atone for what you are.

 

The apple lies in your hand, the bitter apple of

self-knowledge. In another time, another place,

it might be the apple of Iduna, whose fruit gives

life to the gods. It might be an apple from

the Hesperides, the gift of Hera to Zeus, or

that apple which Eris tossed, designated for

the fairest. You have known your fairest and

lost him. You have lost all the immortality

in your veins. It might be the apple that was

given to True Thomas, or was that bread

and wine? He lay with the Faerie Queen and

gained the gift of prophecy. You have taken

the fruit unbidden and it will give you only death.

 

The apple lies in your hand, heavy as all your

memories. With a last gesture of defiance,

you put it to your teeth and bite.

 

(For Alan Turing, computer scientist, homosexual, who died on this day in 1954, possibly of suicide. His codebreaking skills helped the Allies win World War II; after the war, he was arrested and chemically castrated for being a homosexual. Written in 2015.)

 

POEM: Lemuria III

The dead children are walking
I hear their scuffling footsteps
The dead children are walking
Victims of the father
Victims of the mother
The dead children are walking
Infants and toddlers shaken to death
Babies and children starved and beaten
The dead children are walking
The gay and trans children bullied to suicide
The girls raped by their fathers
The dead children are walking
The boys sent off to war
The black boys dead in a war at home
Shot by the father’s police
The dead children are walking
Those who died in concentration camps
In Germany, Austria, Poland
In Texas USA
The dead children are walking
I spit beans at them
Go home, children
There is peace for you
in the realm of the dead
There is no peace here

POEM: Lemuria II

There’s someone crying in the kitchen
I have heard that voice before
Someone shouting in the kitchen,
banging the pots and pans, brooding
over the lighted burners, the boiling pots.
Someone, something is in the kitchen
the ghosts of dead mothers, mother martyrs,
martyred mothers, the mothers who expect help
without asking for it, the mothers who smoke cigarettes
in their children’s faces, the mothers who flirt with
their daughter’s boyfriends. Someone is crying
in the living room, hunched in the corner of the sofa,
on the phone with a friend saying how awful
everything is, unfaithful husband, ungrateful child,
no money for jewelry, no time for herself.
Someone, something is clutching at me,
a cigarette in one ghostly hand. I spit beans at you!
Let the ghosts of unloving mothers be forever gone,
silent in Asphodel. Shut up, mother, you’re dead.