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.

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

POEM: Merlin and Vivien

You did not ask me how it happened.
You assumed I was the student, because
I was younger, female, and worst of all,
pretty. Pretty means stupid, right? Pretty
couldn’t possibly mean I knew how
to present myself, how to enchant
for youth and beauty. The old man
was attracted to my knowledge,
to the aura of power that he was
wise enough to sense. Then he was
foolish enough to forget, as
my face bespelled him, my breasts
ensorcelled him, my virtue (by which
I mean my cunt) tempted him.
I was contented to be courted for my magic.
I was willing to trade spell for spell.
I was not content to be interrogated,
seduced, distilled, and dismissed–
with a pat on the head, like an infant–
when he wanted no more of me.
I, Vivien, am no man’s wife, no man’s
consort, no man’s victim. If Merlin
ever admits that he was in the wrong,
the prisoning tree will open, the spell
will be undone. If he repents. I do not
wait for his release; my work is elsewhere.

(Inspired by this early work by artist and illustrator Colleen Doran)



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POEM: Reading Lucille again

(For Lucille Clifton)

Lucille, the first time I saw you,
I knew you were a mother.
I knew you must be the mother
of someone I had been to school
with, the mother of a friend.
I wished you were my mother,
with your calm face, your
shining eyes, and your wonderful
words, few, but each one landing
like the last chords of Monk’s hands
or the last few notes of Miles’s horn,
depth charges settling
to explode in me
later, when I see
another black woman
hauling her ass through life,
just like I do,
and don’t love her right away.

lucille-clifton-2000


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POEM: Our Lady of the Broken Jar

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In the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Toronto, ON, Canada

It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it:
Somebody has to be the bad girl, somebody has to
wear the red dress, somebody has to be the shadow
cast by the light of the pure and perfect heroine
and hero. Buffy has Faith and the Virgin Mother
has Mary Magdalene.
Whore, harlot, sinner,
sorceress, maudlin, melodramatic, carrying
the repressions of two millennia along with
the fragrance of Eros in her little broken jar.
The broken vessel, the woman with seven devils,
the heir of Jezebel and foremother of Crazy Jane.
Passionate, devoted love, focused attention,
commitment, first witness to the Resurrection,
demoted to the camp follower, the eternal sinner.

On this your feast day, Mary called Magdalene,
uncover your long red hair and shake it out,
make your earrings and your bracelets ring,
lift up your arms and dance like your foremother
Miriam, sister of Moses, beating her tambourine
on the shore of the Red Sea because the forces
that enslaved her people are vanquished.
We will celebrate with you the liberation
long-delayed, the redemption of the red lady,
the fragrance of erotic love arising from
the broken jar, the broken heart, the passion
which is life as well as
death and also life eternal.


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POEM: July afternoon

What I know of Apollon is this:
the unmoving July light, pitiless, serene,
a world with no shadows, no movement,
no escape. Trapped in this eternal moment
of the god’s regard, a gaze so intense, so
focused, that one burns up as beneath
a lens, understanding now why Daphne
and others fled, not wanting to be
consumed. Too late now: I turned
my face to him, willingly, and now
I can only lie still and wait
for him to be done with me.


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POEM: St Benedict calls to Raven

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Icon by Sr. Mary Charles McGough, OSB

Come, Raven, bring me that bread
which you brought to Elijah alone in the desert
the body of Christ prefigured
sufficient for all my needs
Come, Raven, bring me the bread
of wisdom, lechem of chokmah
the milk of Sapientia
made firm like a stone
Christ made loaves out of bread
fish out of fish
wine out of blood
bread out of flesh
everything out of words
the Word of his being
I give you that word,
Raven, messenger,
black-plumed angel,
come, give me the bread
that I may live

POEM: Stonewall

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Marsha P “Pay It No Mind” Johnson

 

The first Pride was a riot, they say
The first Pride was a moment of Wrath
A moment of Had Enough
A moment of Fuck the Pigs
The first Pride was a riot
that began with a brick thrown
by a woman
by a black woman
by a Black, trans woman
named Marsha P Johnson
What does the P stand for?
Pay it no mind, she said
it might as well have stood for
Passing is for the weak or
Pride means no more police raids or
Parades are no substitute for justice

St Marsha of the Pay It No Mind
didn’t throw a brick so you could
have marriage equality
St Marsha of the Pride Is A Sin
And I’m Proud of My Lust
didn’t start a riot
so two gay men could hire a nanny
a black or brown woman
to raise their adopted child
St Marsha of No Pigs at Pride
didn’t suffer and die
so lesbians could have
a joint mortgage
St Marsha and her dear friend Sylvia
Sylvia Rivera, a brown trans woman
a brown queer woman
did not fight the power
so you could fit in
at the suburban barbecue

The letter after P is Q
and Q stands for Queer
Queer as in here
Queer as in fuck you
Queer as in no gender is illegal
and every binary is a lie
Marsha and Sylvia and Miss Major
didn’t dirty their hands
so yours could be clean
didn’t shed their blood
so you could be white and bloodless
and safe and nice
and buy rainbow merchandise
from nice friendly corporations

We are still waiting, some of us
us queers and enbies, bi and pan,
ace and aro folks, we are still waiting
for you to make St Marsha proud

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

A fic preview

Today I began another story about the Forest God. It is demanding a rather different form of storytelling than the previous tales:

He is a god

He is one of the First Ones

the ones who awakened to a knowledge 

of this forming world so close to theirs, 

unlike their world but potentially very like 

and turned their attention

presence

desire 

to that world, shaped its formation 

and found

the gap

what would later be called 

a veil, a door, a tunnel

the gap that let them pass 

from their world into the new one

and then

then they could bless that world

with their light

then they could tend that world 

with their songs

then they could shape that world 

with hands that had just become hands 

and he was one of the first 

to step through that gap 

and become…

POEM: In my cell

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A drawing by my friend Megan Amoss

This evening
I would like to be
an anchoress in her cell
a hermit nun living by a stream
where the dove and the crow bring me bread
a hen visits me to lay me an egg
an otter comes up from the river
with fresh fish
a wandering cow
lets me milk her into a sturdy pail
where I can stand in my doorway
and see all the changes of the sky
the cycle of the trees
from flower to leaf to empty branch
the flowers blooming each in turn
and hear the voices of the birds
and of the stream. How easy
it would be to pray and meditate,
to read and write and pass into
contemplation, to chant the praises
of the Lord and never have to worry
about catching a bus, buying toilet paper,
cooking myself dinner and trying
to decide what to watch on Netflix,
or Hulu, or Amazon, in my little apartment,
no bigger than an anchorite’s cell.

POEM: Hymns to the Forest God #31

O Forest God, may I be held in your memory. 

May my true name, unknown to me, be woven 

into your song. May I always be welcome 

in your woods. May there always be a place 

for me in your dance. May I find my way 

to your secret dwelling in times of need. 

May I be safe beneath the shadow of 

your antlers. May I be guided by your voice 

and your song. May I count tree and 

vine and mushroom among my allies. 

May the dove and the fox, the rabbit 

and the wolf, the hawk and the deer 

be my coven. May I never forget them 

or you. May I remember that the earth 

lives always in your dream as it was 

meant to be, and may you dream that dream 

for us until we are ready to dream it, too,

and make it real before our waking eyes.

POEM: Hymns to the Forest God #30

Every day that I think of you, lord, 

a tree grows in my heart. Every time 

that I smile at the thought of you, 

a clump of mushrooms fruits in the rain.

Every time that I pass a tree on the street 

or mushrooms in a row beneath a bush, 

I think of you and a bird builds its nest 

in a place where no one can touch it, 

where it will be safe. Each day the bird 

lays one perfect egg, delicately speckled 

like its feathers, and each egg is a name 

for you that I turn over in my pocket 

like a smooth stone. The coolness and 

smoothness of the stone in my hand is 

the touch of your hand, and the flash 

of its colors the glance of your eyes, 

when I come into the forest seeking you

and find you waiting, smiling, thinking of me.