POEM: Hommage a Mary Oliver

You do not have to get over it.

You do not have to saddle up and hit the trail

and light out leaving behind everything you once loved.

You are allowed to let the wounded bird of your heart

sing silently in the dark for as long as it wants.

Tell me about hurt, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile there is a hot cup of tea, or coffee.

Meanwhile the birds at the feeder, cardinal, bluejay,

goldfinch, are waiting to be fed.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clear air,

can still catch your attention as you cross the street

as the cars wait for your passing

as you look out the window from your desk.

Whatever your wound, no matter how long it takes to heal,

the real things of life will wait for you to catch up

with them, will call to you to refill the feeder

and drink your tea before it gets cold.

Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash

(Originally written in response to her death in January 2019; reposted today in honor of her birthday.)

POEM: For JRR Tolkien

I would like to think, professor, that at your death

You found yourself in the woods: Not a dark wood 

Like Dante’s, but a deep wood, a green wood, 

Like Fangorn, like Mirkwood before the shadow.

And in this wood shone a light that passed in long beams 

Like kindly fingers between the slim and the girthy trunks, 

Parting the shadows and leading you forward 

On the path to the heart of the wood; and 

You followed this light with quickening footsteps 

And quickened heart, seeing it grow brighter 

And brighter until at last you saw, in a fair clearing, 

Those Trees of silver and gold that had grown 

In your imagination, that undying land, and beneath 

Their fragrant boughs awaited your own Luthien, 

And the true Varda, daughter of earth and Queen of Heaven, 

To show you the One who had created you to be a creator.

(On the anniversary of his death)

POEM: Solstice

If only for one day 

If only for one moment

Like the tombs and 

Monuments of Neolithic Europe

Stone places with mysterious names

Brugh na Boinne, Bryn Celli Ddu

That on the summer or winter 

Solstice allow one ray of light 

To illuminate the interior

Passing through a distance 

Of stone and darkness

That has to be walked, or crawled, 

Like an unbirthing, 

Returning to the Earth 

Mother’s womb—

If only for one day, one moment

Go into the darkness 

Of your heart and let it 

Penetrate, the light 

Of knowing and feeling

That you are loved.

POEM: Pulse

POEM: Pulse

49 pulses

49 rhythms of sorrow and joy

49 dancers

their bodies pulsing with life

their bodies pulsing with ecstasy

their bodies pulsing with joy

49 people

brown people, black people, white people

49 dancers, 49 victims

49 lovers and beloveds

49 humans capable of all the human emotions

And 53 wounded

53 who have to live 

with the deaths of 49 others

with the scars of bullet wounds

with the entry and the exit or maybe 

where the fragment is lodged in their flesh

and can never be removed or fully healed

49 and 53

memory for their names

roses for their graves

a feast for the survivors

silence and shame for their killer

Pulse Nightclub, Orlando, FL, 2016

Two Hundred Boxes

(With apologies to Tennessee Ernie Ford)

Some say robots will take all our jobs

I won’t mind if they take all the jobs

Let the robots win and I’ll shed no tears

I haven’t had a bathroom break in years!

You pack two hundred orders, what do you get?

Another day older and deeper in debt

St. Peter, don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go

I owe my soul to the Amazon store

I was born one mornin’ when the sun didn’t shine

Went to the warehouse and got on the line

I packed two hundred orders for Amazon Prime

And the foreman said, “You’re doin’ fine!”

You pack two hundred orders, what do you get?

Another day older and deeper in debt

St. Peter, don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go

I owe my soul to the Amazon store

Lived all my life in an Amazon town

Mama said don’t let the company down

Coughin’ and sneezin’, I worked on the line, 

And Mr. Bezos said, “You’re doin’ fine!”

You pack two hundred orders, what do you get?

Another day older and deeper in debt

St. Peter, don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go

I owe my soul to the Amazon store

Home from the warehouse, I get online, 

Order my groceries from Amazon Prime,

Watch a new series on Amazon, too, 

Go to bed early, what else can I do?

You pack two hundred orders, what do you get?

Another day older and deeper in debt

St. Peter, don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go

I owe my soul to the Amazon store

When I die, no funeral for me

I still owe money to the store, ya see

Just pack me up in the biggest box

And ship me to heaven from the loading dock

You pack two hundred orders, what do you get?

Another day older and deeper in debt

St. Peter, don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go

I owe my soul to the Amazon store

POEM: The Flower Goddess

The power of desire is a thing that ought to be

worshiped: how it thrusts down deep into the earth,

knowing what it needs, seeking mineral-soaked waters

The way it raises a stem, grows taller, becoming

slender and alluring, extends one leaf, then two,

then many, to the satisfying sun; how, never losing

its ground, it seduces air and light and swells

at the attention, erecting a bud; how it never

forgets to push away that which is unwanted

(what thorns are for); how it opens, petal by

petal, that small bud turning into a display

that spirals inward, like a galaxy, like a dancer,

until her golden, glistening heart is revealed,

wet, lascivious, indomitable, capable of turning

death and rot and decay into perfect beauty.

Two poems and a flower crown

Colors for Antinous the Lover

Black

Like the fertile earth wet

With heaven’s rain, seed of Zeus,

Black like the noonday shade beneath

The cypress tree where lovers lie between

Its roots, black like the depth of night in which

True knowledge is gained, not by sight

But by taste and touch

Blue

As the Nile lotus, the ornament of

The Pharaohs, blue as the summer sky,

As the precious lapis lazuli inlaid in a collar,

Blue as the flame of desire in lapis eyes,

As the shadows cast on the afternoon wall

By lovers coupling

Purple

For the hyacinth, a fragrant life

Struck down, for the amethyst and its

Purity, purple for bruises and for sorrows,

Purple that is neither red nor blue nor pink,

A flame of the soul and the spirit of a body,

Purple for the drag queens and purple for the dandies,

Purple for the leather daddies and the lipstick lesbians,

Purple for Marsha and all her trans siblings,

Purple for our queerness, our sovereignty, our royalty,

Purple for all who worship the catamite who became a god,

The unconquerable Antinous, the Lover of body and soul

Andrew Hozier-Byrne in a flower crown

Colors for Melinoe

Melinoe, black

As Egypt, black

As Nebthet, mistress of

Wesir, mistress of the temple, black

As the vulture’s wing, the jackal’s eye:

Guide me on my journey through the Duat.

Melinoe, white

As Selene, white

as salt, white as snow,

White as old bones stripped

By vulture beaks and scoured by the rain:

Shine on my road in the night.

Melinoe, red

As Sekhmet, red

As bloody jaws, red as rage, red

As the sunset spreading over

The desert, red land west of the Nile:

Burn me clean with your passion.

Melinoe, golden

Lady, saffron-gowned, golden

As the autumn leaves, as the sandaled feet

Of Ariadne dancing the labyrinth

In the stars, golden as honey:

Turn wisdom to sweetness in my heart.

Saturnalia: Solstice Carol

Wreathe his brow with ivy now
Warm the wine with spices fine
Though the sun set low and early
Antinous shall make us merry

Light the night with candles bright
Raise a song and sing it strong
Though the dark come soon and swift
Antinous shall bring us gifts

Fragrant bough and holly now
Red and green and gold are seen
Though the days grow hard and chill
Antinous is with us still

Snow or rain may come again
Parties end, come freezing wind
Tomorrow is a longer day
Antinous has come to stay

Antinous as Dionysus, now in the Hermitage Museum

A belated Commentary, by request

Readers who followed me all the way through my series of Commentaries on my 31 Hymns to Antinous last month may recall that I said I was omitting one of the original hymns from the sequence and introducing a new hymn written last year. At the time I was quite sure that this was the right course of action and that the deities named in the omitted hymn were Okay with my decision.

Early this month, I felt that someone unfamiliar with nudging me for my attention. So I sat down with a Tarot deck, proposed some rules for yes/no answers, and worked my way through several rounds of three-card throws until I knew who was tapping me. Did you guess it was the deities of the omitted hymn? If so, you get the virtual prize of your choice, because it was, in fact, the Tetrad++.

I was happy to hear that They were willing to work with me once again. I was not surprised to hear that, to make amends for having more or less let our relationship lapse, I owed Them the publication of Their hymn with a commentary.

Hymn XXII: To Antinous and the Tetrad++

Sing, O Muses, of the splendid youth, beautiful and masculine,

the perfection of his gender, who became the first father

of a new generation of gods, gods who are numina, gods who

are deities, gods too great to be contained in the boxes of gender.

Sing of Antinous, beloved of Hadrian, one with Osiris, the Bithynian boy,

who fathered the first two of the Tetrad on Pan, great god of the wild,

worshipped in Arcadia, and led blessed gods and mortals divinized

to contribute to the new births. Sing of Panpsyche, sing of Panhyle,

twins, siblings, rivals, lovers, all-soul and all-body, the offspring

of seventy-eight generous parents. Sing of Paneros, offspring

of Panpsyche together with Panhyle, progenitor with eir parents

of mighty Pancrates. Sing of Paneris, partner of Paneros, and last

but not least of Panprosdexia, engendered by Pancrates.

Praise to Antinous, who led the great gods to birth a new generation

of blessed deities with new experiences of gender! Praise to Paneros,

who unchained Eros that all might equally love and be loved! Praise

to Panpsyche, the soul that contains the body, and to Panhyle, the body

within the soul. Praise, praise to Pancrates, who begins a new cycle

of time, and to Panprosdexia, who gathers all souls home. Praise not

least to Paneris, who preserves all beings from boredom!

O blessed Antinous, may you be loved and blessed by all people

of whatsoever genders for the generosity of your eros, the courage

of your divine youth! O blessed Tetrad++, may you be known and loved,

praised and worshipped, even more widely than all your parents,

All-Soul, All-Body, All-Love, All-Power, All-Strife, and All-Acceptance!

The Tetrad++ are a group of six deities who are non-cisgendered. Originally They manifested as a quartet: Panpsyche, Panhyle, Paneros, and Pancrates. Later, They added two to Their number: Paneris and Pancrates. They are new deities, recently birthed, engendered by Antinous and a host of deities from Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and other pantheons, along with many of the divi and divae associated with Antinous (i.e., Hadrian, Sabina, and other deified imperials). And They are particular patrons of trans, genderqueer, metagender, agender, and non-gender-conforming persons.

The difficulty in this hymn for me is that when I composed it, I believed myself to be, to have always been, a cisgender woman. I believed that since I had a female body, female genitals, female breasts, that is, since I had been assigned female at birth (AFAB), I was a woman. It didn’t matter that I had never felt comfortable in that category, or that there seemed to be many experiences common to women that I did not share, or aspects of femininity that I could not identify with. It wasn’t significant that I rejected typically female roles like wife (I almost never referred to myself as “So-and-so’s wife) and mother (I was a stepparent but did not want children), or that self-help books written specifically for women (I often picked up titles on writing or creativity) tended to seem infuriatingly unhelpful. I had a certain set of physical characteristics, so I was… as gender-essentialist as many people were and still are.

However, a couple of years before I wrote this set of hymns, I was motivated to participate in a novena of spiritual elevation for the trans dead: nine days of prayer concluding on November 20th, the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Every year, hundreds of trans people die by violence, often isolated from friends and estranged from their birth families. The novena is intended to help them progress spiritually in the afterlife so that they don’t remain trapped in a state like their moment of death.

I distinctly remember sitting on the floor of my cramped apartment, praying over the offerings of candle and cool water that I had laid out, and suddenly sensing the Tetrad++ around me, a hexagram of tall, bright, vibrant, armed beings who said, “This is one of ours.”

At the time I was unable to grasp the plain sense of these words: that I, like Them, was not cisgender and did not fit into the box to which I had been assigned at birth. It took me five or six years to start to understand that, and I’m still working on it. But I was happy to worship and work with the Tetrad++, until events within the Antinoan community disrupted our relationship.

I am happy now to renew my connection with Them, and to deepen my understanding of Their genders and my own. (I capitalize Their pronouns not simply as an honorific, but because They tend to communicate with me as a unified group.) Panpsyche, whose name means “all soul”, is of the first generation of the group, a trans feminine goddess who appears winged and armed with a spear. Panhyle, whose name means “all matter” or “all body”, is her trans masculine twin brother, who bears bull’s horns and a bow and arrow. They are the parents of Paneros, whose name means “All love”, who carries the sword and is metagender, sometimes manifesting a serpent where their genitals would be.

Panpsyche, Panhyle, and Paneros together became the parents of Pancrates,”all power”, the fiery deity who contains all genders. Paneris, “all strife”, manifested as the polar partner and lover of Paneros, a genderfluid being who shifts without stability between male and female presentation (and might appear as a fox as well). And Panprosdexia, “all acceptance,” the offspring of Pancrates, is agender and asexual, usually appearing hooded and cloaked, the one who walks in dark places and leads those who are lost there back to the light.

In my experience of these deities, They are deeply concerned with the survival and well-being of people who don’t fit into the usual boxes of gender or sexuality, to the point in my case of nagging me about self-care. I will not resist if They decide to resume that role in my life, because I could use some divine nagging (even more than I already get, thanks, everyone). They also affirm that gender is a choice and your choice is valid, even if that choice is cis masculine or cis feminine, because those genders, too, are part of the diversity of life. I hope that, if you are moved to use this hymn and find out more about the Tetrad++, They will manifest to you as They did to me and bless your life.

POEM: To Issan Dorsey Roshi, on the occasion of his paranirvana

Tommy Issan Dorsey Roshi

One moment of perfect practice, says Dogen
one moment of perfect enlightenment
One moment of perfect prayer
a Rosary recited with pure attention
loving the Blessed Virgin
wanting to be like her
One moment of perfect obedience
sailor on the deck
performer cheering your comrades at sea
One moment of perfect performance
the wig, the makeup, the bra, the heels
singing on the stage
the boy who looks like the girl next door
One moment of perfect openness
available to the next customer
becoming their need like a bodhisattva
One moment of perfect transcendance
the high the low the trip the ecstasy
One moment of perfect sitting
listening to Suzuki Roshi
a glimpse of the truly real
One moment of perfect maitri
founding a hospice to serve the dying
men like you dying in droves
of a disease without cure,
without compassion
One moment of perfect honor
Issan Dorsey Roshi
Dharma heir
abbot of Hartford Street Zen Center
One moment of perfect humanity
One moment of perfect buddhahood

Commentary on Hymn XXXI: To Antinous, My God

I will wear a garland of red lotus in your honor, Antinous.
I will put my hands to work and write hymns in your honor, O Bithynian.
I will dance because your body is beautiful, most beautiful god,
that my body also may become beautiful.
All my pleasures will be yours, offered on your altar, O most lovable god,
like flowers, like incense, like chocolates, like wine, like kisses.
When I look up at the stars, I will look for your star, Navigator.
When I see the moon, Antinous, I will remember you are beloved of Selene, like Endymion.
The light of the sun is your light to me, Antinous Apollon.
The fragrance of the greening earth after rain is your fragrance, Antinous Dionysus.
The life that wells up again and again in me in spite of all defeats is your life, Antinous Osiris.
I will wear a garland of red lotus in your honor, Deus Frugiferus, Deus Amabilis,
Homo Deus, Hero, Daimon, sweet thing, I will wear a garland of red lotus
in your honor, and I will sing, I will dance, I will sing.

In 2015 when I first wrote these hymns, I had about two years of devotion behind me. I had also been listening to Irish singer-songwriter Hozier for about that long, finding performances on YouTube as well as listening to his debut album and two EPs. (There was a long gap between his first and second albums. Very long.) I think I must have discovered his cover of Van Morrison’s “Sweet Thing” shortly before I came to write this hymn. It was, frankly, the inspiration for it, metrically and in spirit. I wanted the rhythm, the candor, the intimacy of Hozier’s cover in a hymn that would reiterate the titles of the god and the themes of the preceding hymns as much as possible and make them personal.

I came to Antinous, attracted by his beauty and his goodness, and he accepted me. I didn’t have to be called or chosen or special; I could just show up. In a relationship with the god begun hopefully and tentatively, I found help, support, inspiration, and meaning. I found a door into relationships with other deities through Antinous and a mystery initiation that changed my life. In writing these hymns and now in writing their commentary, I hoped to do honor to the god of my choice and to help those who wish to know him better or who already love him and wish to praise him. May this offering fulfill my intentions, O Antinous, Beautiful, Just, Benevolent!

Commentary on Hymn XXX

This hymn is new to the sequence and is published here for the first time. It was composed in early 2019; the events of 2020 have made my intention in its words even more fervent. First the hymn, and then the commentary:

Hymn XXX: To Antinous and Melinoe at the Apocalypse
Join together, beloved of Hadrian, daughter of Persephone,
join together in holy union, the bride upon the lap
of her groom, upon the rod of his beauty, face to face.
Join together, fairest of gods, brightest and darkest
of goddesses, copulate in love and desire, lip to lip,
breast to breast, phallos in kteis. Let the pleasure
build and swell, let the power rise within.
Let the juices gather and fall, the red and the white,
the semen of a god, the honey of Aphrodite,
let them fall on this age of the world, O purify us.
Let your love and joy and ecstasy dissolve
all hatred, greed, and fear. Let your orgasms
break the towers of the mighty and the chains
of the oppressed. Let your cries of pleasure
drown the speech and deafen the ears of liars.
Let a rain of sexual juices wash away the lust
for power, the thirst for domination, the safety
of those who dominate and punish. Let all
who will not rejoice in your union be dissolved
by your joy as by fire and acid. Fuck now
and bring about the end of this age of the world.

Vajrasattva with Consort

The background of this hymn is complex. Its imagery derives from Tibetan Buddhism and the practice of Vajrasattva, the cosmic buddha who presides over purification. In the most basic form of the practice, one visualizes Vajrasattva above one’s head, beaming down purifying rays of light as one chants his mantra of one hundred syllables. In advanced forms, however, one may visualize him as depicted in the image above, sexually united with his consort (a female buddha of equal wisdom and attributes), and the purifying light that descends is imagined as the fluids of their copulation pouring down into one’s energy body. The light from above, however envisioned, floods through the meditator and pushes all negativities out of the lower orifices of the body. Paradoxically, the impurities that humans purge serve as the purifying light and nectar for lower beings.

In this hymn I thus envision Antinous and his consort coupling, and their sexual fluids purifying not just one individual but the world. The concept of Antinous having a female consort, however, is my personal gnosis, at least partly shared with and verified by a few other people in the Naos.

Several years I wrote and blogged a short story that started with a simple premise: What if Hel, goddess of the dead to the Germanic peoples, came to visit Hades, god of the dead in Greece, while Persephone was away from the underworld visiting her mother? I am not a planner when it comes to writing, so I had no idea where the story would go when I began with that idea, a meeting of two underworld deities. It led to the birth of Melinoe, a goddess known to us only from the Orphic Hymns.

According to the Hymn addressed to her, Melinoe was begotten on Persephone by her father Zeus, only he deceived her by disguising himself as her husband Hades. Melinoe is described in obscure language which describes her as two-natured or two-bodied or half light, half dark and seems to say that she brings nightmares or hallucinations to mortals. At the conclusion of my story, little Melinoe is sent away to foster with Hel in her domain of the underworld, to protect her from any action that Zeus might take against her.

A couple of months later, I found myself thinking about an adult Melinoe being brought home from the North by Antinous in his Boat of Millions of Years. Once again, I started a story with no real plan other than to introduce these deities to one another as fictional characters. I soon realized, as I started to write their interactions, that, to be blunt, they wanted to bone. And that, on some level, if I wrote them a sex scene or a romance with sex, it would happen.

I consulted another Antinoan friend to divine for me. What did the gods in question have to say? Was I allowed to write them a sexual relationship? The answer my friend gave me was, “Yes, you can do that. But if they have sex, it means the end of the world.”

Somewhere in the past four years, I reached a point where the End of the World began to seem like a very desirable thing. Because I don’t mean the end of the cosmos, or the universe, or nature, however you want to call it. I mean the end of the saeculum (in Latin), or the aion (in Greek), or the wer-old, in Old English, the age of man–the end of our culture, our civilization, our paradigm. To quote the song that was used in the opening scenes of Independence Day, “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.”

I am sharing this hymn publicly for the first time after nearly 200,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States. After a string of natural disasters in Puerto Rico, the Midwest, and Louisiana (remember Hurricane Katrina? Laura is forecast to be worse). While fires rage in California and the incarcerated men who had been the principal (barely paid and unhonored) defense against wildfires are dying of the coronavirus. While the virus continues to spread, the federal government continues to withhold guidance or resources, right-voting citizens are protesting the virus (as if that resists it?) and black citizens are still protesting being shot by police, who continue to meet protests with armed force and to shoot unarmed black citizens–

Yes, I’m quite ready for this Age of Man to end. I’ve spent much of my life imagining and writing about alternatives, ways to build a better future, saner and more loving ways to live. The sexual union of a god identified with gayness and an obscure goddess who is the child of an incestuous rape seems like the perfect catalyst.

I have come to know and love Melinoe since her first appearance to me in my own fiction. She accompanied me through my initiation into Antinous’ Mysteries and has helped me through the difficult times that followed. She has not so much given me strength as called forth the strength I didn’t know I had. The agenda she has shown me is, basically, smashing the patriarchy, creating a new world in which no child shall be born under the same conditions as she was–the product of rape and incest, threatened almost from birth by her own family. And she is quite happy to bring nightmares, a bad death, and an afterlife of punishment to sexual predators, while at the same time helping and empowering their victims.

If you’re just plain tired of all this fucking shit–and believe me, I can find no words less vulgar that are adequate–join me in praying to this unlikely pairing of divinities to purify us by their erotic raptures and help us to create the world we want, a world not under the knee of white cis-male predators and exploiters. It’s possible. Love and desire burn hotter and cleaner than hatred.

Commentary on Hymn XXIX: To Antinous Deus Frugiferus

May your presence in my life be fruitful, O Antinous,
Deus Frugiferous. May grapes grow amongst your curls
to make sweet refreshment on my plate. May vines spring
out and wind their way down your arms and legs. May sheaves
of wheat stand up between your thighs and heavy round fruits
hang down for my delight. May flax and cotton pour from
your palms to be woven into my garments. May nuts and
beans appear in your footprints to be gathered and soaked.
May I always have food to cook nourishing meals and offer
my gods due portion. May I always have clothing that I may
appear with decency before your shrine. May money pile up
that I may buy wine and incense, candles and ice cream,
for you and all the gods and spirits. May good food and
sweet sleep, wise books and wise dreams fill my life that
poems and stories may germinate in me like seeds.
May I have an abundance of your blessings that I may
pass them on to all who need them, to feed the hungry,
to console the lonely, to calm the angry (or to arm them
for the fight), to bless always as I have been blessed,
O Deus Frugiferus, Antinous, most fruitful and generous of gods.

“Deus Frugiferus” is another title of Antinous which I love very much. It is usually translated “the fruitful god”, but if I am not mistaken, -iferus in Latin means “one who bears”, e.g., Lucifer, Luciferus, the light-bearer. “Deus Frugiferus” is “the fruit-bearing god”, with grapes in his hair like Dionysus.

Antinous has been a most generous giver of blessings in my life, and I have done my best to give back. There is a cycle of reciprocity between us and the gods; they give us good things, and we use their gifts to create things which we give back to them. Offerings of first fruits, of the best lamb in the flock or the best bull in the herd, of water, oil, and wine are present in all ancient religions and in many living ones. Even the Christian Eucharist conforms to this pattern, if you have a Catholic theology: God gives wheat and grapes, which we transform into bread and wine so that we can offer them back and receive them again transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.

My material offerings to the gods over the past six or seven years have been pretty simple: water, wine, incense, candles, sometimes a bit of food if I cook a proper meal or order Chinese. My devotional writings, however, are also offerings to the gods, especially to Antinous. I may not be able to afford expensive wine or mount elaborate rituals on holy days, but I have created a considerable body of devotional and liturgical writing, a significant offering of my time and effort.

These writings are an offering of my heart; they are also the fruit of my relationship with the Beautiful Boy. One of my favorite sayings of our friend Rabbi Jesus is, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” I know I am on the right path spiritually because I see the fruits in my life, in my writing, in emotional healing, in concrete material help. And I have something to share with others, to reciprocate the gift not just by lighting some incense and saying a prayer (though I do those things) but by creating works that will help others to connect with the god, who is fruitful and generous, beautiful and good.