Bessie’s Testimony

Bessie’s Testimony

The title of this post is a near-mystery, and for that reason I wish to honor and publish it. It came up when I tried to copy and paste the verse text to follow into my Word file for this blog. That is to say, I started to compose a new entry, but the page opened up with the title already on it, without my putting it there. I know the Bessie in question, or at least I hope I do, but I haven’t yet written about her here. Or have I lost track? It’s possible! I’m a poet; I live with this every day: I opened my poetry text file for December, and the page I left dated but otherwise empty for tonight showed me the title line, never, I swear, typed by me: Bessie’s Testimony. It makes no sense, and yet it makes all sense. Even if someone comes forward to offer a logical explanation, that still won’t explain why these machines were reading poetry in the first place.

Regarding tonight’s poem, before all this: I had brownish, but slightly reddish, hair when I was young. It was thick enough, and would grow to seemingly endless lengths. I wanted to look like a classical nymph or goddess, Burne-Jones style, but it also bothered me, it felt itchy on my skin, and my nervous disposition finally deteremined all on its own that hair-pulling was the least destructive release of otherwise unbearable excessive energy.

After growing it, cutting it, growing it, cutting it, and fighting for and against it always, I now cut my hair off every two or three weeks, velvet-close, and it honestly makes me happy for the first time since I was a child. It feels so lovely to touch, and it never turns into dust-serpents (we can hardly call them bunnies). Cast-off human hair is a serious hazard to birds, and birds are among my best friends, so I am also happy to know that doing something for my own well-being is also so good for them.

Bessie is Bessie Griffin, and this is my favorite place to hear her testimony:

4 December 2014


The Hair She Plaits by Night

The fine, silken hair that took acres of legends of dreams out of time out of mind to grow long
just lies like a sad waste of everything mindful, one half in her hand, and one half in the wrong
sort of mirror. Its lovelessness showed her the nothing that wanted to rise from within her and feed.
Small little ocean of tears I command, steal down from me swift as the tide. Full Moons bleed
on and on through a sheet frail as magic, and thin as a tissue of lies where a virgin once lay.
Let their red witness just play through your mind, then come back and tell me the things you will say.
Sing them, if brushing the mane that’s so silky will help the mare run at past ghost-speed this night;
sigh them, if that will feel safer. We’re still going to number the shed-count. We won’t get it right
altogether, but we’ll get it all each and severally real as the cast of your eyes when you read
the lines I had sent you—dawn, yesterday—and the soft words that amazed you, and all that you said—
when you first met my meanings, and we knew we’d always arranged for this meeting. It’s come, plaited hair
such as mine used to be—but I pulled it out, all of it. Now it’s a velvety layer I wear
because once was a burden I sang and I tried hard to love like its cultivar, song made of lines.
Birds come to me with their feet all bound up with long fine human hair and it hurts them. Such signs
wing toward me, wheel round me, encircle me, shiningly, happily know me, and seek me, and feed.
All my old brush-hair just had to be fed to a furnace to keep my friends safe, as birdseed
is food most of all to the god of high song as he knows me and sends his reminders I’m loved.
I have no more hair to plait, nor will ever, but I am a woman impossibly doved.

By night, in her dreams, sometimes she is an angel who’s dear streaming draft is a long silver wake.
That’s where the hair of me shines. That’s where wearing wild non-sense is real. Waves, you never there break.

We all struggle with the way we want to see ourselves, and the way we feel we are. None of this is particularly real, and absolutely none of it is permanent. Time is the sickness we need to see through. Then, we will see each other and ourselves as we have always been and will be.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Please Don’t Try to Know Too Much

New tonight, after many old loving thoughts and memories:

15 November 2014


Please Don’t Try to Know What Love Means Here

All night, I walked out too far and too long, and somewhere along the cold way, I went wrong.
Small little creatures the width of my palm or much smaller went scurrying. I sang our song.
Warmth was the pledge at the heart of it; warmth round a hearth, or a bonfire outside, on the beach.
All the old branches of sad garden deadness just gathered and fed to the flames the near reach
of pure magic has called to embolden our senses: Children, these flames reach high year after year.
You’ll never know why your seeking has sought out and found the high reaches that songs will call near;
such subtle calling well back of the mind you’ve been taught to acknowledge—that calling’s our own,
ours, as we run round the ditch and the beach, each alike, where old ghosts give new morningside moan.
Oh I’m a lass made of angels right up to my eyelids, yet I dance with eyes cast right low.
Someone’s my own, yet my moaning won’t own him or me the least sight of the seas that must flow
before we can cast our eyes back and be wed with the magic that sang us awake, and will sing
before the strange shivering silence’s lowness arrests what can die if that’s all we can bring.
Maybe I’m going to walk on, for a small little long ancient way, far past columns that glow
in sight of ideals turned to holidays. All night. Just let us walk on. Don’t let on what we know.

Posted in love, loving-kindness, song, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tell It All

Things are going to get weirder before they get normal again.

28 October 2014


Tell It. Tell It All

Far and alone and so lonely I wandered, and when my soul left as I lay half-adream,
I knew I was seen by an ocean of eyes high above as new leaves lay above me, a stream
of living astonishment green as the magic of waves meeting land as the land greens with awe.
I just don’t know where I stand unless you hold my hand and that greenness receives our souls raw.
Magic just quivers with living new light each moment we meet, mind or eyes or real words.
Lights are the wings of the rising huge palace of where we have been, as we turn into birds,
wheel round and so tenderly, beautifully circle as waltzes were played in the days we loved best.
I am a soul whose best effort at ghost just keeps reeling out musics that interrupt rest,
but remember the way you kept twining your hands round a fixture, a focus—and now, I can’t sleep.
These are just ranges of waves, all arrayed like far mountain-tops. Picture it: Oceans so deep,
they penetrate land like a flock of flown arrows from boats that just don’t know how far out they all are.
When I come out of false sleep and lie woken, I’ll know I live by the light of one star,
Oceans are gentle and deep as the forests I’ve lived in and wandered through, loved, and hold dear
forever, but oceans still hold what I want and cannot ever have while I hold to one fear:
Death holds dominion—oh no, he does not. He never has, ever. Death holds all the reins.
Child, I am willing to die, and I have been since ever. Death’s my solemn father. The pains
that hurt me so much I kept wanting to halt them? His hand lay easy behind them; as light
as serial Moons through a woman whose beauty was utterly bloody and left her bled white—
though he never saw it; the woman above her kept all of this terrible poisoned blood hid.
Far and alone, I will not keep you waiting. You know you—we all saw what all of us did.
I am alive past the way I am used to. Waves keep on breaking on land, salt and all.
Just you please still hold my hand. I’m nigh useless, but fearlessness still tells my soul to tell all.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

For You

27 October

In Memoriam

for Jay, most luminous of corvids

If you will, please go back to the very first post of this blog, and note the date on the poem there. Here’s a link:

3 June 2014


I told just a bit about the story at the heart of this blog a few days later:

6 June 6 2014

Sotry Here

Now I am come to the sad place of telling how the story I alluded to ended, at least for the time being. In the summer of 2012, I read a blog post by a poet I had recently discovered and found interesting for the depth of his work. He had had a vision, and the words in which he described it were almost the same as mine, describing a vision of my own that came a decade or more earlier. I found my old text file recording the experience, and sent it to him. He wrote back, It’s tempting to think it’s the same place, yes. A little over a year later, when I was pressing for a face-to-face meeting (we lived continents apart), he was diagnosed with brain cancer. I learned this during a visit with my family. Immediately after going home, my mother died; during my return visit for her funeral service, I was told that my friend had been given a terminal diagnosis, and might be expected to last 15-22 months. After a few weeks’ discussion with him and his son, I traveled to my friend’s home country to be with him. He was so ill. So ill, after eight days his family decided he should not have visitors. They maintained that position afterwards, so I never saw him again.

We were and are both very intuitive and very highly trained to work with our intuition. We had had out-of-body meetings before, so these continued. One night, last April, I woke up with such a strong sense of his presence—stronger than ever before. I thought, that’s it, he’s passed over. I reached for the notebook I keep by my bed, and noted his name and the date. And yet, it was too soon. His doctors told him to expect as much as another year. I was confused, so I wrote it down, but did not trust it. An obituary online would prove it, so I searched, but found nothing. I must have misunderstood. We were so close that I really could not tell which side he might be on.

Just a few days ago I searched again, and there it was, a memorial page his family posted. My beloved friend died half a year ago, only nine months after his diagnosis. Immediately, so many things fell into place. This is distressing, and yet I want to share it, because it turns out that we have lived a very good and hopeful story in the face of so much pain. I have to tell you, it is rainy autumn where I am, and I have had no flowers in the place for ages, but this room is now suddenly filled with the fragrance of lilies. Anyway, this is from the letter I sent to a friend night before last:

”Before I left to see him, I found a silk scarf in a thrift store in NC that was printed with white dogflower on a background of green, gold, and purple–Easter imagery, and colors. I took it with me to Ireland. While I was there, one time he was very distraught, so I gave him the scarf, telling him, Remember, Easter will come. Your mind will lie to you and tell you pain is all there’s ever been, but time is still moving, and Easter will come, I swear.

I knew he held more or less Christian beliefs, although very much more mystical than most. When I said Easter, I meant spring, renewal, and joy. I wasn’t thinking about it. Last spring, one night I woke up with the strongest sense that he was present, and I told myself, that’s it, he’s passed. I always keep a notebook and pen by my bed. I wrote his name and the date in it, knowing I’d want a record. After that, I searched online for an obituary or any news, but there was never anything. Not until yesterday. I searched again, and found a memorial page his family left up online.

Easter this year was April 20th. He died on April 23rd. His visit to me came on April 27th. His funeral was April 28th.

When I was with him in the hospital and he was so distressed, he kept trying to ask me something, and I knew it was to pray for his deliverance. He was suffering so, and was ready to be quit of this world. I couldn’t do it, but I did pray for–you know, thy will, and for it to come easy. I can’t help but think that by naming Easter, I was showing him a landmark, a goal. Please hold out until then, perhaps. Neither of us wanted him to suffer, but he also did not want to have to leave his children sooner than need be.”

Now, if you will, please note again the date of the first poem I published in this blog. This came for him as soon as I knew:

25 October 2014


My Love, at Love’s Last Door

Jay Landar, 1955-2014

The far and slightly broken other window lay ajar all night,
and when I woke, the floor was wet, the bed was wet, I looked a fright;
I sought out then a kinder mirror, and it showed me ghostly signs.
When I lie alone and go to sleep again, I shan’t; the lines
are drawn between your present world and mine, and yet they’re lines so thin,
I scarcely move my eyes and all dissolves away. My sighings spin
a web of subtle dancing on which such fine tender touches light,
I dare not close my inner eyes one moment lest I lose the sight
your precious high and holy spirit seeks to show me, Lord my own.
Then was spring and now is autumn, falling time, and I’ve but sown
my own last season. I’ve no future; I’ve lived all this time to sing
the musics that have given me your gaze, your voice, your hand, your—wing—
and now I’ll have to walk and sing alone, and fly—or maybe not.
Love who’s only laid aside a weak false sense of time, one thought
from you for me will turn the tangled lines that spin me inside-out,
and then I’ll have arisen, ghostly, one huge soul my own—no doubt.
You’ll have gone before me and alongside every breath; the air
we live and breathe is music, and it has been since the dawn’s one fair
and gentle premonition we were granted, and allowed to breed.
Even past the last door, where the window’s broken, love sets seed.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In the Sweet, Salt Bye-and-Bye

I just put up a post that was entirely prose. Forgive me! That is so unlike me, and I cannot let it stand.

This happened last night:

17 October 2014


In the Salt Bye and Bye

Twine and untwine with your sad little fingers so thin and so worn, they’re like petals in rags
all round a Sun-halo that wanted to flower, but met with sad magic. My own smile now sags,
but something that’s trying to make me pronounce it just leans down like small flecks of spittle—or prayers.
Let me just hang low my head as we both know the reason. Those terrible long-tangled airs
were voices that met amid storm-clouds, then sang out their warnings as high, loud, and clear as need be.
We were both standing alone when they found us. How sad we felt then. How confused, yet—we’ll see
the end of this story, the long tunnel-brightening turn round the curve, then. Oh then. We’ll both die.
Twine with your own and so many sad others both fingers and stems as fresh live flowers lie
in a heap at our feet as we sing out our message: Death has come round, yet we’ve live years to call
to further our message, all dressed up in vestments that woke a brave face born impossibly small
who lived through our most ceremonial hallways, a burden that passed from tired fingers to hand.
Fingers so small. Hand held far out of balance to offer its strength, though it’s weary. The planned
spirit baptism, soul confirmation, and wedding is why we are gathered—but not here; oh—no.
Twine between fingers the endless gold rings that encircle the waters where oceans will flow;
the skies high above that are nigh but not endless; the place we will center our gaze on, next sky—
It’s flowing again, just like water, live Moonlight, and where we are now—love’s tide-plain’s bye and bye.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meta-post: True Souls

18 October 2014

Metta, True Souls!

Soon after starting this blog, I recall noting that the visitors revealed by my site statistics were remarkably diverse. This has continued to be the case. I am really amazed and very, very pleased that this is so. Read on, and I’ll share a little more about it, and also why this blog exists in the first place.

My About page doesn’t reveal much about me because I was stalked at my last blog and have become wary. Even so, I don’t mind telling you that I am an aging woman who lives on the West Coast of the US in what we still think of as a fishing village, although fishing is not what it was. I grew up in the Midwest, in a displaced West Virginian family, so I’ve been around. School was not to my liking, as bookish as I am, so it took a few extra years to decide I needed a real education. It absolutely could not be creative writing. I was strongly called to poetry as a vocation and form of mysticism, and swore to myself and my Muse early on that I would never permit a human being to interpose himself between us. Once that decision was made, it was very, very serious, so I did the only thing a poet of my station could do, and I majored in Latin.

Latin was my way of studying the grammar and etymology of my own language and some of the literature that influenced my teachers. It also tied in with my earlier French studies and lasting desire to learn Romanian. My real poetry teachers were mostly English and high-born—I certainly am not! Sidney and Swinburne were privileged, socially and intellectually, in a way that I could not have been, and yet I learned so much from them. They both had a seemingly innate sense of music and cadence that few poets ever master, an instinct for when to tighten up and concentrate, and when to lighten up and let a few lines dance. Poets today seem to think they have to keep the screws on tight all the time. I don’t understand it, myself. It isn’t possible to read more than a few lines like that at a time, if you are really reading. Anyway, even today, Latin is like a skeleton in the shadows of my imagination that I can hang a few scanty threads on, and still conceive a beautiful vision. So many of my visitors are from Romance-language countries. I always thought my syntax would deter a non-English native speaker by its complexity, but perhaps my Latinitas goes further than I knew? I do tend to stick to a very concrete vocabulary; perhaps that helps? In any event—thank you all so much! I am very grateful, and humbled in the face of my earlier doubts, that you have visited, and sometimes like and follow my posts.

Now I am come to a sticky place, and one that has been bothering my conscience: Since my last blog, I no longer seem to know how to get WordPress to follow my orders. I receive email notification of likes and follows, but when I try to visit back and like an About page or a post (and honestly, I do visit every one of you, some many times), a popup shows on my screen, and it is empty. I can tell by the URL that it is asking me to approve an action—i.e., register my ‘like,’ but it is non-functional. Someday I’ll figure it out, but until then—if you’ve visited, and signaled to me, I have at least tried to signal back. I might never have time to be really involved here, but I surely want to do that much!

As to who you are, as I hope I have made you slightly curious. Without ever taking part in social networking or otherwise publicizing this blog, I have seen hits from: China, India, Australia, Canada, many countries in South America, the UK, Ireland, France, Italy, Angola, Israel, and so many others—I’m pretty sure I have been visited by guests from every continent except Antarctica. Even those of you from within my own country cover a remarkably broad human spectrum, and the talents you all share between you are astonishing. This all just makes me deliriously happy, it truly does, in a way that ties back in with what I shared with you earlier.

My background is English-speaking going back many centuries. My people are from a remote corner where the ethnic makeup is pretty much what it was two hundred years ago. I learned my profession from some of the most traditional poets in the canon, in the sense that they drew on much earlier Classical lineages. And yet, I grew up on hillbilly music, raised my own self on recordings of Welsh folk songs (yes, in Welsh, of course!), and have always depended on dancing to get my blood stirring and at the same time to enter trance in order to be able to compose poetry. That always meant high-energy music, preferably with words and a singer, and that usually meant popular song. What haven’t I danced to, and then made poems! I won’t bother naming names. Just know that, over the years, as I have grown in my work, I have needed to seek out deeper and stronger sources of song. Some of them today are Celtic, but most of them are African-American, and strongly gospel. That’s just where the lived experience sings out most eloquently, in my current listening and dancing experience. I have posted links to her recordings before, and many are available on YouTube, but just to be very clear, I have a serious teacher now who is not English, not high-born, and not male, but I love her more than I can say. Her name is Dorothy Love Coates.

Other profound and powerful singers help me hew close to inspiration now, including some I would never had heard if I had not just clicked on link after link. Elizabeth Evans, you’ll wait right here! I know you will. I’m going to keep on listening, singing, dancing, listening again, and composing, but I can feel something changing. My entire life has changed over the last few years. For the longest, time, it seemed the most important service I could render to song was to go as deep as I could, retrieve the most visionary images I could, preserve the most feeling language I could, and to formalize it into the least-corruptible lines I could. Now—while I still believe in what I have done—I also feel called to reconnect with the more human-voiced natural language of those around me. I’ve been out among the angels for almost a little too long, learning their ways better than my own brothers’ and sisters’, and yet I’m not worried about making it home someday; I know I will. I know we will. God will remember me! That would be the voice of Albertina Walker in my heart just now. I’m going to get up on my feet and get dancing pretty soon. For now, just know you’ve all reached me, and I know your excellent and blessed work will help us all wind back around to speak and sing the common tongue we all share. It will partly be English for me, but—it will mostly be WE ARE SOULS WHO LOVE AND COME FROM LOVE.

Thank you all so much for being here. We all believe in poetry and song. What else is there? What else connects us so deeply, to each other and something More?

That’s a real question, but its answer has no end, and neither has true song.

Posted in love, loving-kindness, song | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment


A few days ago, one of my most beloved authors died, at a good but still too-early age. I learned of her passing yesterday. Zilpha Keatley Snyder, more than any other author for magical young people when I was both magical and young, understood how to ply the line between knowing and hoping. Far more subtly, and utterly unproveably, she understood and thoroughly mapped the line between make-believe and true imagination. I hope these very spontaneous lines for her show just a hint of the depth of my respect:

14 October 2014


Love Laid Underhill

for Zilpha Keatley Snyder

You’ll cry about your father and your daughter till their trail goes cold,
till someone more than anyone still seeks the trace of love so old,
you’ll so adore the places where it lay in wait, like dreams grown wild,
and then you’ll feel both cold and sad and let your eyelids seal the child
who used to stare with hard, unsparing principles all the down the streets
where love was wont to let its children play outside. It loves and greets
the little human, upward-tending cast of eyesight sent the way
it means its longing, lovely magic—Let it lean, and let it play
toward the true, straight cast of vision someone who might mean us yet—
Dance about in frocks of silver, eyesight clouds where Moonlights wet
our long-occasioned beaches where the singing swimmers on us lie—
Don’t just be a fretful cast where song would crest, where eyes would cry
from out of old long memories through beaches where the salt tides rows
would still call back from old but living memory. We’re real; we’re those—
I’ll make immortal memories the next time I fall faint and wake.
Open oceans, real salt tides, my bloodstream, yours; it’s yours to take
when kind low skies recall the reasons we were sent to meet and love.
I’m much more than mourning’s sister’s claim on skies so white with dove,
so grey with summer coming down, so hushed with winter leaning low—
if I were fallen overboard, I’d love my death, as you well know—
A mountain range behind the seeing silhouette where all we stare—
He’s not stolen half a glance; he’s ours; we’re love made everywhere—
Then the cautious, stolen, soft-voiced moment where new dreams are born—
His hands and mine are held out wide; so many old soft skins are worn
where cunning little faces want to peer out, sweet, but wise, as years
accumulate amongst us. You are beautiful, old man, whose peers
just pass amongst our settled valley, singers who have seen, and still
remember how to call love home from everyone laid underhill.

Love, come home; my valley greets; my lover, too. I sing you so,
so many magic meanings. Till I can’t, please understand—I’ll flow
the sweet red running river blood is made of, as we greet and cry.
Life will move between us, like the land where oceans rise and—I—
Please understand the whole of living Earth is song about to rush,
and I am just a lonely signal fire where small true lights will hush
the hours where we’ll now lie together, called to see what we have seen.
Under such cold lonely depths. Love underhill. We’re all we’ve been—
and when in just a scant scarce hour from now, you’ll mean what we must see?
Love was always swimming close behind your eyes and mine. Please be
the sower who set simple, loving, multiply endeavored seed—
wherever my glad steps would glide. My tender, spelling, prayed one, speed
the music that’s been good to us, all carried on sweet breath that knows—
We’re the loved and gentle children angels wrote through books that rose
toward the settled salted cloud their loving words hung all throughout.
When we reach the open oceans’ shells’ wide gates, the songs that shout
will understand the more for our sad dancing that took steps to bear
imagining’s tomorrow morn. I’ll die, and wake, and know nowhere—

and then, I’ll rearise, one pillow under me, and one thin sheet.
I’m not only going to hide my eyes; I’ll die where both we greet.

Zilpha, you are one of the few who taught me the load-bearing bones of my work.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment