Singing-Over

The rain just started pouring down outside. I am so happy to hear it. I love rain–this is a rainy coastal place, and it has never yet rained too much for me. The sound of it brings quietness with it somehow.

The huge Book I was working on has been finished for a few weeks; now is when I start to find out what I was really working on. This is what I know so far:

A little over a week ago, I had an urge to search out some friends from my hometown online. I am not much given to nostalgia, but one of them kept coming to mind. I found out to my very pained astonishment that he died in March, a few weeks before the work on the book began. This was a very hard loss, as he was my first ‘brainiac’ crush from slightly afar when I was a teenager, then a dear friend for several years. We were out of contact, but I always thought of him as someone I would be old with. My best friend from high school died in May. And another dear friend and lover died in August. My last local boyfriend had already died at the end of January. I printed out my files for the time period in question, including the entire book (126k words) and read back the pieces that came around the pertinent dates. It was all there.

Over and over during the work–the ‘Working’ as ritual magicians would have it–I kept getting a sense of someone trying to get through. It became a theme, but then that tended to reduce to the Two, the Lovers, always trying to make or maintain contact against challenges. My hypnagogic meditations are full of faces and voices trying to reach through with a message. I’m not always pleased, as I cannot usually help. When I know of someone who has passed, that is different, and then I am happy to sing them over if the right song comes to me–if I haven’t already, unconsciously. This book contains a lot of Singing-Over.

At the end of March and the beginning of April, I was revisiting my love of the Pre-Raphaelite artists and poets, and rereading a biography of Gabriel Rossetti. My brainiac friend always reminded me of him; there was a distinct physical resemblance, as well as characteristics such as being able to tuck away huge amounts of food with no apparent distress. He was an accomplished classical composer, but he also painted and wrote poetry. (Huge crash of thunder–it rarely thunders here.) My intuition has always been such that I knew his departure would have left traces. Below is a poem from the day after he died. The day of and the day before are vivid too, but this is the best in all:

Till You Know Where You Are

He will stay close by and hold your hand all night, if such you need;

why must you ask it? Nothing but yourself prevents a greater speed

of clearly prescient lyric grace from finding you and taking you

to stranger places far than any nearer by. He will come through–

no matter where you look for him, or whether with a Crown or staff;

something in his deepest-sorrowed eyes beholds its epitaph

on water flowing over marble no one here will ever see,

and when he tears his gaze away, he’s nothing else to see but me.

I’m telling you, the girl you were still haunts these hollow hills, and lives

within their shadowed walls, an elf of grace their silence only gives

to music that she dance and dance within their close embrace long years

as if they had a measure and she’s pleasured to the point of tears

to be so found and reached as if the very stone would vibrate less

with tremors of a flat new world to come lest all this tenderness

between the ghostly dancer and the–someone holding out his hand–

although he’d rather die alone than live in an unholy land….

And then the fever breaks, and she is not alone, although she’s old.

In his other hand, he holds a volume of such tales, she’s told

she spoke them in her deliquescent–lirious–delyric song!

She’s hesitant to sing to him; she’s bound to get the words all wrong–

but underneath the Crown of stars, whilst bearing now a carven stave,

he sights the lightning right before his eyes and sends it set to rave

within its fair recipient until, as healed and whole as all

this hollow land for centuries of timelessness–Who hears this call?

This friend was also known for something in particular–he was a cigar afficionado. The second day after I learned of his death, after meditating in my bedroom prior to composing, I emerged to a hallway filled with the smell of cigar smoke. It’s no one else I know-certainly not in this non-smoking building.

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So Much For That

The book I was working on wound up yesterday. I only felt the end coming on a couple of days before that, but I had also been feeling a bit slowed down and listless compared to a few months earlier. I had only to wonder why–then I knew. Finishing a long project is always a bit sad. I’m anxious to see it safely through, but then I feel lost for a while.

It’s too soon to have much to say about it. Maybe just a few things–I look back and see that I mentioned being given a kindlier name for my Night Mare. Typical. No sooner had it come to me, with about a million hints and suggestions built right into it (Mother Goose and the evil eye–wink!–for starters), than it and She disappeared into the background. The text inevitably has more of an Ars Poetica character than I would like, but such is my life; write about what one knows best, eh? At least it’s always surrounded by images and metaphors drawn from literal real life. There is so much about dancing, for example. I am a sidelined dancer of many years; dancing was always the backbone of my spiritual and poetic practice.

Apart from that, a male character haunted the narrator. This of course had to be real on some level; at first I figured it would be my partner who died, as he was a poet and a very spiritually-minded person as well. That formed part of the early content, but then the real story came through and I knew who I was seeing.

We’ve both aged comfortably into our characters. I’m done trying to be a pretty lady; I’m a bald-headed cross between an elf and an extraterrestrial. He is as otherworldly as ever; I wouldn’t even try to describe him, but he’s ultra-something.

Love! Doesn’t mean we’ll ever interact again. The book was what I wanted. This is its postscript:

Ultra-Terrestrial Resident Here

As I look to the light in the window from so far away, I can see the reflection there cast

by a pale, eyeless woman. Am I the sole witness–has some crime of passion committed here last

October let go of its victim, so worm-eaten, raising what’s left of her glowing white face–

and was she assisted by someone–her lover? From utterly, eerily far outer space–

in some ritualized resurrection? I must be mistaken–she looks like a woman I know,

but I haven’t laid eyes on in–let me count backwards–a hundred or more lifetime-years in a row,

like the light-years that measure the distance between points of starlight and where we are measuring from,

but conceived as a series of wetly embodied experiences. From a far world we come,

who’ve felt a long, slow recognition mount up in such gradual stages, it’s only begun

to impinge on our focus; if one or the other is working and won’t look away till they’re done,

it’s after the work is laid off to one side, but the doors are still open between where we are

to ourselves and our sacred and genuine place. Shall we meet in the corridor under one Star

we have steered by, if sometimes unknowingly, shall we grow lush as the garden we still bear in seed,

shall we clasp at the hour of sweet sunset the hands which have worked on and on to see both of us freed

from the barrier-vapors in black-ribboned wreaths that surrounded and choked us, their marks on our doors,

which we then closed and locked? Shall we dance down the hallway of light till we race to the light-housing shores

it reveals in the breadth of its beam, cast across the wide water, with both of us shoreside at last,

and the same shore, and even the same stretch of sand as the same tide subsides and the Moon rises fast

and its loveliness overcomes both the worn journeyers reading the letters from far years to go

to these two, who are endlessly weary and yet so enchanted, they’ll blossom in sunshine or snow,

only let them so blossom together, the seeds they will cast out will bear in their turn other tunes

from far other ethers and galaxies, even as far as the farthest star-family’s Moons,

and the beings who live their, all song, singing clearly, and breathing the fragrance of songs in return

as we send them in essence our spirits, our hearts, and the letters conceived by the last light to burn–

By the soft-glowing lantern that hangs in the window, yet crosses a distance too great to behold,

an eerie reflection comes clear through the glass of the magical mirror whose use was foretold

in the prescient penultimate verse before closing the sad bloody story–the womanly ghost

who fended away in the name of her great inspiration, her half-human heavenly host–

the powers of darkness that splintered and fell like the first crystal snowflakes of winter this year.

Early, a bit; it’s not quite Halloween; I’ve not got a costume; I’m going to appear

as I am this time round, so he’ll see what I’m made of. The eyes in my head are the stars in the sky

showing through, but they’re grey, and near-sighted, and slightly confused and–they know him. Poor old world, good-bye!

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Never-Ending Indeed!

There’s no point even trying to catch up here–so much is in development. It’s all magic.

I reached menopause, or ‘croned,’ about ten years ago. I could scarcely believe it–I had outlived my treacherous uterus! It was a most welcome change, but really it was only the start of a process that has lately been picking up speed.

The story of Night Mare has been shared before, but briefly–when I stopped trusting my human mother, I reached inwardly for a stronger and more protective one, and found her. I called her Night Mare in a sense of irony, as she protected me from the nightmare my daytime mother could be. She gave me wits and reason and words to fight back with if I needed them, and so much more.

I will never permit this to be psychologized. It was not an end-run around my feelings for a person; it was pure intuition guiding me to a spiritual source of strength. Night Mare has been the sponsor of my work ever since, although the Muse I speak of is someone else, someone of male appearance. She is now most vividly present, telling me story after story. We are untangling the many threads we have followed over the years and tracing them to their ends–which they don’t really have, because the spinner keeps spinning more. Night Mare was once the goddess of witches and crossroads, so she still is, but to me she is the stern but kind old woman master of arts and a scholar of literary folklore at its source.

Something else has happened alongside this. I will officially be an Old Age Pensioner in a few weeks. It is a bit early, and I will sacrifice some future income because of it, but it will free me to do nothing, absolutely nothing, but work as much as I can and keep my body alive. That sort of freedom was always a dream, and now suddenly, it is here. All I had to do was survive the suicide craze for a number of decades, and live to grow old.

I am so ready to be old, and to get right into all the secret lore the spirits only share with those who have grown beyond their role in the breeding and getting and spending world. The magic of poetry was always real and now it is so real, it doesn’t even have to be magic anymore. It can just be today. I always loved my work once it was done, but struggled to begin each day; lately, I have never had so much fun.

The sequence of poems has revealed that it is now a book of songs and stories, tentatively entitled Mother of Pearl Greymare. Here is today’s new material:

11 May 2021

The Broken Locket

Behind the playground at school, a young boy finds a small silver locket engraved with marking he cannot read. It is slightly crushed and without the chain it must have hung from. When he picks it up, its hinges swing open, and a tiny bit of paper falls out–no doubt bearing a precious likeness. He searches and searches, but cannot find it. Only when it begins to rain does he give up his search. Later, as a young man, he runs across the locket amidst his favorite childhood treasures. He picks it up, expecting it to open on broken hinges–but it is solidly shut. What could it be so sternly protecting if not–what lockets are for?

He now recognizes the markings. Her face may be lost, but he knows her name.

The Basket of Apples

In the farthest corner of the old-house attic sits a forgotten bushel of apples that were left there to keep over winter. They are all wizened now, and appear as if they had faces–or one face, many apples over. The Mother or even Grandmother of apple trees has surely been here. And no one knows it yet–because the bushel is still forgotten.

The Little, Little Star

The star was so small, all the other stars around it reverse-overshadowed it, creating an aura that perfectly hid its subtler brilliance. Only one person had ever stood out late and long enough to discover its softly lambent fire. After a great many nights spent isolating this eerie and delicate beauty, the watcher too was overshadowed. Another star had arisen–but its light was entirely dark. A single beam could blind a willing eye. The watcher understood that the virginal star would offer shelter as it spun about the Pole. The silence of the light and dark enwound the little, little star until it cast aside its veils and swam toward him, pale face raised:

I am only a reflection of very heaven, but in my eyes you’ll find your guiding Star.

11

Élevée

Child, if my feet did not hurt me, I’d follow your steps to the edge of this world and beyond,

but we’ve already scaled both its stairs and its wall and there’s still a pale face in the depths of the pond–

and there’s not turning back for that most haunting creature, the journeyer straying too long in one place.

Simply remain for the moment. Be pleased to imagine an air of inordinate grace–

as the she’s shedding her veils in a spiraling motion and wisps of that linen go flying abroad

and are captured by eyes peering cautiously over her fast-turning shoulder–transfixed–overawed–

as with heartbreaking swfitness the love he can never allow to be witnessed–he’s cold as the clay

to any observer–but one–and she’s warily watching: Behold me become Elevée,

she whispers as if he could possibly hear her. She staggers a step, and then changes her gait.

White as the resinous milk of the stem–not the clear bead of nectar too frail to relate,

but that vanishing orb under bees in their masses–white as the snow overhead that won’t fall.

Child, when you burdened your poor head with glasses too heavy to lift, did your Mother not call,

and did you not hear her? She can’t grant a blessing to one who avoids her for fear he’ll be shamed.

She also can’t stay on this plain of undancing forever where feet are uncertainly aimed–

your own, should you choose to recall where you left them. Trouble yourself–stand upright, open-eyed,

and growing consumed by a curious sense of bravado–inverse–for he’s more terrified

every moment: The very most ancient of women, where surely he lately beheld one his age?

Gradually leading him upward, a glimmering spirit, a maiden–a slow-inclined stage

upon which other dancers have never permitted themselves the least purchase–without her assent,

a growing morbidity fascinates one, then it hits them all–all their old song-lines are spent–

like the energy upholding quivering backbones. The sad would-be dancers surround someone fair

as moonlight or ice on a window. They ask her, break open the glass and let down your pale hair–

and the old woman answers, Who mothered the daughter of Eve in a girl till the girl had been healed

and returned to the heart of the forest beyond the known world? It is there, in a spiraling field–

I wish I had known you before you were married. Your songs rang out strange and confused at off times,

but made me the happiest spy in the faery-lore queendom and now–as I hear the far chimes

of the intricate church she has stitched between layers of fine-woven linen she wore as her veils–

a man she once dearly regarded breaks open the seal and reads deep in the night the Mare’s tales

of the one he’ll be lying beside in the morning–his chances are fair; he recorded her name

in his self-gathered journal of spells, and before he awakens, he calls her–as spirits take aim.

A face rises up from the depths of the pond as its eyes, heavy-lidded, appear and are seen–

Dance spiraling down whilst her beauty’s beyond you–your lost Elevée–white and pond-water green.

I know two things I am not sure I should tell, but I will:

The man misunderstood. The dancing woman was taking a poke at herself in fun, saying she was ‘Élevée’–lifted, transported by the Divine. It is not her name.

The old woman told me her name last night. I am to call her Malloy.

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Happy Thursday!

Night before last I ordered a special present for myself and my home, a canvas print of Love Leading the Pilgrim by Edward Burne-Jones. It was the last painting he finished. He dedicated it to Algernon Swinburne, my chief poetry teacher. The image is of Love leading a robed figure out of a thicket of thorns. This theme is a large part of what my work is about, especially the long middle passage of the ‘brainiac amour’ I was involved in for a number of years.

The print is already here! It must have flown by its own power. I can tell it is what was missing from the room where I will hang it, as it already seems as if it had been there all along. We will see what comes of this very happy change.

When I was 16, I found a book of paintings by the English Pre-Raphaelites, and that was it for me. I already admired the poetry of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, but was not familiar with his paintings or those of his cohort. Several of them, especially Burne-Jones, became beloved. To this day I have not wandered far, even though I was married to a painter who introduced me to many other artists. The mid to late Victorians had a sense of the world to come, with automation everywhere and all that it implies–the destruction of an ancient social fabric as well as large swathes of the natural world. This is reflected in their work, though it is not often addressed directly. There is so much foreboding–it shows in their characters’ eyes.

Swinburne was my Teacher, in pages and in vivid dreams. He taught me so much that turned out to be classically influenced that when I studied Classics later, the prosody was already half-familiar. He also taught me about the drives behind the poetry, especially the sway of Eros, and what happens when it is blighted. That runs behind so much poetry, by many poets. He taught me to be more sensitive to what lies behind and between the written words.

Today’s main work is done, and it also brought a lyric related to a story I shared yesterday. This is how it appears in the Book of Pertinax:

Call and Response

The woman thought sadly, Is endless recursion after all the point of the story of stories? Why? Why find meaning in that, and how? Immediately she heard,

The goldfish in the marble moves its gills.

The Moon will rise and set inside the Well.

I haven’t any eyes, and yet they fill

with secret tears impossible to tell.

You gaze into the eyes that are not there

and fall so deep, the understory spell

that captures you is longer than the stare–

that keeps the goldfish in a living hell.

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Post Beltane

These have been some quietly eventful weeks. Afternoons remain peaceful since the loud neighbors backed down, and the peace has meant more to me than I once could have imagined. I have my entire day to work again. Things tend to get noisier as the summer comes on, but that is general neighborhood activity and not usually a bother.

Everything I mentioned in previous posts has been developing. My reconciliation or resolution between direct seeking of liberation and remaining creative in a sort of high-grade maya has been a conscious aspect of the story playing itself out here for a long time; I just know to look out for it more now, so there is peace in that process. And the old woman who told me the stories would start coming through more now? Vividly, wonderfully present. Signs have included geese and goose feathers and snow–and I have started to recall earlier meetings with Mother Holda, to use but one of her names. She hasn’t told me the one I will use to refer to her yet.

When I was posting every day, I think I mentioned Dante’s Vita Nuova as a model for the sort of book I love to read and would like to create: verses beside the poet’s own notes as to their inspiration and meaning. Mine would be immediately magical, of course, in the way I describe magic here. That book is happening; I have been working on it officially for several weeks. Today’s text appears below, right after an introduction to an unusual aspect of my work: dancing. This is not a metaphor only; as much as it becomes one, it always refers to actual, in the flesh dancing.

Dancing began when I was 18 months old and was tolerated, mostly, by my parents–until letting a weird kid monopolize the front room floor became a nuisance. Then I found various ways–I never stopped. Since getting out on my own, having a large room with a sound floor–and the privacy to use it–was always my top priority in a living space. This practice provoked curiosity and sometimes more concerning feelings in those who learned about it, so it had to be protected. When conditions were good and time was free, it was an ecstatic practice that could go on for hours. It appears to be the same dance as that of the Mevlevi Sufis, but I danced alone and much faster. Music was important to ‘uphold my spine’–provide bodily energy; I called the songs I relied on at any given time (they changed, of course; most of them wear out eventually) ‘dance fodder.’ When I overcame my fear–‘writer’s block’–and began composing, verse was always preceded by dancing. I wondered if I would even be able to work without it, but I found out when my poor hard-working skeleton started wearing out and paining me. Now dancing is over, but after a period of adjustment, I work as much as ever. Because–all that time I was dancing, spirit tells me, I was bringing through insights–and storing them. Dancing created an invisible storage-battery, and I am drawing on it now.

From the Book of Pertinax:

More stories–the Old Mother has been more than keeping her word. These came when I thought of an image, wondered if it had a story behind it, and then started telling the story as if I already knew it. Turned out I did:

The Golden Ally

A young woman watches a goldfish swimming around and around in its bowl. As she relaxes her mind into its pattern, it seems to swim faster–in spirals–faster. It blurs into a column of gold and resolves into the fall figure of a young man. He steps forward and holds out his hands to her. She reaches out, and he gives her a clear glass marble with the figure of a goldfish inside. He dissolves as she looks down at her hands holding the sphere. She then looks again at the goldfish, which is swimming slower and slower. Finally it stops, almost limp, seemingly with exhaustion.

Under the Leaf

A young woman rises early and walks out at sunrise on the first of May to look for a special leaf–and then to find the magic underneath. All through the fields and the edge of the forest she searches, but finds no sign. Her home garden and fence-row are the same. Sadly she goes back to her room, where she listlessly reaches for the disappointing letter she recently received from her friend. She rereads it, then turns the page over. There is his personal sign. Suddenly, she sees it again and understands what it means. She goes back out to pick one perfect fresh apple leaf, and lays that on the letter to make sure she’ll remember this moment later–even much later: The sign of the double-fishhook anchor, secured with ivy vines.

Dreams were active if not retrievable–more teaching and learning, in the company of others.

5 May 2021

5

A Poisoned Thorn

Why did you ask, when you already knew I would answer as if from an oncoming trance,

then over my shoulder look frantic to enter the back of my head in the race that this dance

was about to turn into–a steeplechase gallop that rendered me breathless–no cantering here?

Why can I only imagine. Imagine I shall. Enter Death, coming over so queer

and yet gentle, as if I were fearful when really I’m anxious to greet my best-spirited kin

and share in return–how it steals softly over me–song spun away from the place where I spin?

How shall I tell you–the Why you are asking is Who I became as the trances began,

and when she is likely to fly into dancing again–on a floor not a faery’s hand-span

from this moment in time and this time of the moonrise when lights in the trees pattern codes into rhyme.

I’ve come out from under the mountain to find and maintain you in peace and good order where time

cannot ever keep up with your burgeoning swiftness. Tell me again, and I’ll ask you no Why–

Horses with terrible thundering hooves hurtle down like hard rain from a cobalt blue sky–

and everything aches in the wreckage they leave in their wake. They assure us, you’ll heal and grow strong–

for all this long meanwhile she’ll see you collecting the flashes of code that resolve into song

after song as you recognize patterns that ask you a question so strange, it’s escaped you till now–

Why did he spell out in letters so faint–Love, he wanted to spell, but he didn’t know how.

Suddenly everything shifts as the trance enters vividly: Such is its effortless grace

that nothing exists or has ever existed–through real but unspeakable–circles you race

into magic concentrically potent and lyrical–images flown on a magnetic wind

across the far ether from where you are already done being left like a dead body skinned

half-alive for the use of a spirit who hates it and cannot remember the reason it chose

to frequent such lowly environs that seldom appear in good taste or remember the rose–

of their scarce mortal person: Not merely the trees in the garden are redolent; loveliness wafts

abroad on a breeze in the oncoming evening and wasn’t she danced here like one of the drafts

her actions have drawn out of heaven, a spiraling motion that pulls magic steadily through

and into a new mode of being she simply completes when she sends her recordings to you,

and you gladly receive them? There’s no Why about it–she’s answered herself; don’t you know what’s been sent?

Back to the maker of angelic art as it plays its own harp strung with hair that was meant

to overflow shoulders and trail to the floor if the bridegroom took too long to find his way here?

Look at her standing in silent reproach–never dancing; he’s barred; he’ll not see it this year,

nor the next–he’s been scorned for a failure. But then the old woman–the nightmare he dreaded and fled:

Draw out the thorn from the side of his mind and deliver him: Make this his wedding’s birth-bed.

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Winds Still Easterly

Oh hello–I’ve just looked back at the last verses I posted here, and the last stanza, about the luna moth, struck me. Only male luna moths fly; the females eclose too heavy with eggs to get airborne. They wait on the tree where they entered their brief new incarnation, and the male finds them by their scent. As my partner said when we parted after he was ill, It’s more than some people get.

My thoughts over the past week have been too Easterly to tell. Easter has always meant so much to me. Winters were long where I grew up, and late winter was shades of dingy grey everywhere from mounds of dirty snow. They were never gone by Easter, but sometimes they were going, and at least some flowers were in bloom. New birth, rebirth, hope that this round will be a kind one–I love the idea of redemption, that things have changed, that they will be different from now on, if only by our faith we make it so.

Every day it’s a little clearer to me that this winter was decisive, and that something in me has changed. A few months ago, I referred to a real-life struggle over a loud neighbor and their disruptive activity. The whole quarrel had me so stressed that I became ill, but they backed down. They have been quiet for over a month now. One of my friends tells me I am a warrior, even though she saw it nearly kill me. Anyway, every day I breathe in the peace and quiet and love it more than I can say.

The relative silence that surrounds me now is–fecund. Pregnant. Even though I could, if I had not so many hours to fill on my own, sit down and meditate and never really stop, the stories are swirling around me. ‘Always the way to a new story lures,’ my Muse told me years ago: Samsara never stops finding new ways to seduce one’s attention. I know this, and am wary, but stories are also teaching vessels. So do I stay or do I go? And whose side are you on? We already know the answer to that is…

…there are no sides, not even one. Within the stories–all of them, if they are true, breathes the same wind that Taoist monks learn how to ride. The Night Mare is the Night Mother, but also the Night Ocean. Behind the sky we can see, lies another sky, which is Ocean. The monks ride the wind that comes from There.

Unless it doesn’t, of course. This could all be just–wind.

4 April 2021

4

The Blanket Chest

She folded the green woolen mantle away–

she expected to need it again, but not soon.

Summer was coming, with such a long day

that wearing it under the new sweltered Moon

would mean punishment, even to still-racing thoughts.

Nay; when the season winds round and grows cold–

under the snow winter’s bound to have brought,

she won’t lie alone, a dead lamb in no fold;

the garment the grass all around had stained green

would still serve its purpose, though stored here unworn.

Once when she ran through the fields all unseen,

she tripped and fell over a serious thorn

that lodged itself under her skin and her ribs–

till she felt herself flourishing strangely. A chill

from two or more seasons away sometimes gives

presentiments chances to haunt with a will,

then to show what lies working within the will’s mind.

Slowly she runs a hand over the wool,

and wonders if this was entirely designed–

this garment, this instant–this growing too full–

this lunar emplacement within a sealed room–

the glowing green stains of a ground without snow–

the fierceness, the plain rapid strength at the loom

where her hooves had grown hard at their work–even so–

she won’t want it out for a while–lest she change

her mind–which was troubled before it was hers.

Under this mantle, the strength to derange

that’s been driving her mad–is the same force that stirs

the blood of the lamb–and remembers its first

home and harbor, her heart. She’d grown fatally cold,

but the one gift he gave–though she still felt accursed,

she saw in its angles a cloth spun of gold,

and she saw it rise up and drape softly and long

all down the tall figure who stood in her way:

I’ll carry it for you; go weightlessly on.

The Sun loses heat at the end of the day.

Yesterday, the day after I composed this, I received an order for one lot of 13 Young Adult supernatural fiction novels purchased on eBay. I wanted to read a number of them randomly, in order to see what sort of archetypal material was getting in. The books I received are very interesting so far, more than I anticipated. And better still, they probably all belonged to one person–they all smell vividly of cedar. They were stored in a cedar chest. Last winter, I spent money I shouldn’t have on small cedar boxes, then was given a little painted chest that proved to be cedar. My bedroom altar is all cedar now, and so are these stories. The Gothic and the Sacred run so close together. And Soul Mates are just everywhere.

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Blessed Foolishness

April Fools’ Day isn’t usually my kind of folklore. Even just a hint that there is any sort of trickery going on, and I tend to wait it out, eyes ready to roll. This time, I decided to be a bit playful and go with whatever comes. It’s foolishness–if I don’t like it later, it doesn’t count.

After all, who makes the rules around here? No idea. Isn’t me! I might be taking some serious chances here!

You might be able to tell that I have been reading Borges:

1 April 2021

1

Present at Your Own Conception

by the author of the lyric ‘Luna Moth’

Tightly curled leaf on the floor of the forest,

the creature within has escaped. Is that good?

Where will it shelter, alone with a bare mortal

skin and no blanket in all this vast wood?

High overhead, by the light of the lunar

and stellar design that winds round to an end

in the eyes of the one crying now–who was soonest

to sorrow, but also to comfort–a friend

to the patiently ministering angel then sleeping

tucked warmly away in a room of its own.

Maybe tonight when the hail and the freezing

night rain stream away and a strange, fragrant zone

enters here, where you breathe, and it tells you it’s sorry–

sorry you waited so long–but its vain

meanderings ceased in a strange dream of glory

to come when it settled to sleep in a brain

fast asleep without knowing how deeply the ether

enwound it in which–when hail started to fall–

then from a star-crowned forest tree its own creature,

a leaf veined alive with one long early call

encoded in each cell and now-withered tissue–

Once a green luna moth flew to my hand:

So like a woman, attracting a bliss you

can’t use, but still long for–Who planted this land?

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Some Summing

This has proven to be a very active time of threads coming together and making more sense than usual. And still I don’t know how much I can write down. There is always a quasi-superstitious fear of upsetting a delicate process that is still ongoing, but that is not quite it; and of course, it’s all complex and constantly moving, but that’s not it either. It honestly feels like it’s all a bit much to talk about, as if I were making suspect claims. But I know where that voice comes from–that’s the same one that always tries to shut down anything that threatens to get actually spiritual. Its mockery gets planted within so early on. Resist!

As has been told, I had Big Dreams about poetry and a great obsession with it from my early teen years on. But when I was about 22, I read the Tao te Ching for the first time, and then the next several times right away, and had a conversion experience. Still the strongest one of my life, although mushrooms, when they came, were as revelatory. What to do with this? I was floating, so happy with the rightness of everything as it was that being ‘creative’ seemed too silly too countenance. I thought about it until I knew I was getting nowhere, then I went off to school at last in my mid-20s, with the intention of studying Chinese. When that didn’t work, I turned to Latin. Eventually I moved to the Oregon coast, and here I am today.

After living here for years, and after the work with the Holy Children was sufficiently advanced to be perhaps done, my recurring thoughts of Taoism, and then Buddhism, led me to join a local Dharma group. My teacher’s lineage was Tibetan Sakya. Vajrayana had always been an obvious fit with my nature, and the group was good, but I was still too obsessed with the work ahead of me as a poet to sink in there.

Since then, so much has happened that I have had to reconsider my position in this world and even as a person in a human body many times. It’s all cast in verse, and will continue to be for as long as I am able. I know that because…

Lately the poems have showed me the same woman we’ve been seeing–struck by lightning. Nothing remains but a black crater and some wisps of smoke. She’s gone, man, solid gone.

When I went in a hypnagogic state to learn more, I was shown a soft rain falling and filling the crater, and then the full Moon rising. The Moon reflected in water is such a basic Buddhist image that I can’t start there, I said; it’s a cliche, and I’m still an outsider. Keep looking, they said. Of course: My Big Dream of poetic initiation involved swimming through a lake to a cave beneath it. They are showing me my own story beginning over again, but with the non-dual philosophy that means so much to me incorporated. Entwined, all of our most important and beloved threads. That was part of the Taoist conversion experience–such huge waves of love for everyone who had ever walked that path and ridden the wind. I cannot have done that–but perhaps the poems can? Their sources have never seemed identical to myself, which is good because we don’t attach much importance to identity.

30 March 2021

30

The Pages That Remain

Where she was standing–there’s now a black crater.

A last wisp of smoke, and then silence–and stars.

Her long-trained attention had been–translocated,

and lightning got into it, leaving some scars,

but likewise removing a few marks and emblems

of earlier vigils that longed for an end

till finally–something was utterly rendered

sufficient. Child, take what the good Night Mares send;

the one who assigned herself heavenly mother

has heard your laments and received your pain here,

in the depths of the heart in herself like a lover

residing in folds of a garment so sheer,

you can read as it’s all written down, all the magic

love yearned for and made–till it met in return

love-letters criss-crossing a channel in fragile

dimensions of oncoming loss fit to burn

with the prayer on the altar where lightning is welcome

and shines in the distance each wide-open night.

One of your own restless kind has been telling

the signs as they rise and reveal the stark light

that takes root when the storm is both torment and harbor.

Once it has struck, and grey smoke flows like grace,

lightning reveals to its lover in darkness

not signs in translation, but those taking place

where a lake has been steadily forming since morning

when dew fell, then rain. When the crater is full,

and the mirror of stillness it is meets the bourne of

remembrance, a spirited Moon in a lull

between stations of change amid tears and a casket–

six carrying hands, a torn page in each one–

and two in her bodice, the one who lies gasping–

she’s struck but not dead. Would she still want this done?

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Second Attempt

This is another try at the post I intended to write yesterday. It became a bit tangled, so I put up something else, thinking that might take some undue attention away from something unready to be said. It seems to have worked, for me at least! So for today, from yesterday:

‘Something else has been on my mind that I have not known how or whether to discuss here, although I may have made that decision when I posted my ‘About’ page. My state recently legalized the use of psilocybin mushrooms in the treatment of illness, including end-of-life care. As much as I have thought about putting my considerable experience with sacred mushrooms, the ‘Holy Children,’ to good use helping others face possibly frightening changes, the obstacles to direct involvement are many, and anyway, I am a poet, not a counselor. I have had to learn again and again that I help best from a slight remove, doing what only I can do. Many, many people are better at direct human services.

‘When I worked with the Children, I understood that I was becoming beholden to them in ways that I would feel being called in later. This has been close to the heart of my work all along: It not only has to come from somewhere real, with a force of its own, and has to be as true as my understanding will allow; it also has to convey meaning that the right reader will receive. That meaning is as elusive to me as anyone, but I trust that it will be there. They showed me this.’

Not much, but more than I had going in. This will take on some powers of its own soon enough. The Universe is already cooperating. The poem from the night before contained clues that I knew pointed to the presence of the Children in my ongoing awareness. I realized that I could think about those clues for a long time, and probably should, all over again. Then I clicked ‘save,’ closed the file, and decided to read some articles online. First up? Literary Hub, naturally, which led me to their feature on Merlin Sheldrake, in support of his new book, Entangled Life. A fascinating article and person.

Ringworm (I first typed ‘ringword’) is, in spite of its name, a fungal infection–one of countless common ones. My medical history includes a lot of odd auto-immune conditions. I am very resistant to bacterial and viral infections, but prone to minor fungal skin infestations. After my work with the Children, I thought about that a lot. Maybe I was already more closely related to them than a lot of humans, eh?

This poem also ties together the storyline that has been developing here, and my thoughts about broaching the mushroom subject. That they are tied somehow is obvious, but the ways how sometimes are not.

And, by the way–a ‘maggot’ is a story or followable thread that becomes, or begins as, an obsession. Poetry is my real maggot; always has been.

27 March 2021

27

Ring-Worm

a maggot

She dried off her hands, but the place remained wet

where her ring was so tight and the skin was so raw,

she thought of a name–one she must not forget–

when it came up, as if by some iron-clad law–

that this hiding-place harbors a species of mold

lately grown in a graveyard till, throwing off spores,

it found her and claimed her: This bit of her cold,

stiff hand is their own now. She’s walking outdoors;

she’s taking her glove off and letting the Sun

penetrate through the layers of skin, but no use.

She shouldn’t have given herself to no one,

and she shouldn’t now take up the reins to reduce

the speed of the racing that soon overtakes

every nerve as she shyly stares up at the sky:

What is this colony claiming the lakes

of the skin of my hand where my ring needs to lie

very tightly all round me? Is this what you want?

Patterns appear if you look very hard–

hands waving back from a field mushrooms haunt.

As if out of a valley of undersky-starred

constellations, these few who are many remain

no matter how dry all the bare skin around.

Weren’t we first married in sheets of night rain?

Aren’t they in part why we’re still altar-bound?

Nothing else matters; we’re underworld ghosts

ourselves when we wake up alone, not in bed

with the angels we wanted, but spore-bearing hosts.

What we’ve learned from this–worm–is–our species are wed.

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As of This Sunday

After updating daily with new work and comments for a month or more, I was not sure I was making enough sense or progress to post so often, so I decided to step back. It was probably a mistake. For one thing, I have no sense of time at all, so I just realized it’s been almost two weeks since I last checked in. Not what I intended! And the story–at last, there clearly is one, not a million fragments colliding–changes more than I realized; I have just been too close to see it.

Many years ago, when I was working on a novel that of course turned out to have a lot of verse passages, I saw a knife carefully poking into someone’s flesh and extracting on the tip of it a small white mass that I took to be a parasitic worm. The same knife, wound, and white object have returned very vividly, and this time, I don’t have to wonder because the visions finally disclosed their end. The verses tell as much as I am able to, and if they are not clear enough, all I can say is, these are mysteries!

My head is swimming with mysteries even now, just for having let my thoughts go there. I hope to be able to write down more of it soon. Here is a very new poem:

28 March 2021

28

That’s Your Sun

I could no longer bear not to look. I was faint

and afraid, but prepared for the worst there could be.

I drew in a very long breath, and a plaint–

a far cry made of song–sought the shore nearest me–

but before it made landfall, its sound-beacon died.

And as I came to, I forgot where I’d been,

stared absently down, and–the cause of the ride

that had been dispossessed of its rider was seen–

in flight–till the far, far horizon came near–

and when I awoke, I still lay in a swoon.

I swore I would try till I saw disappear

why I’d cried and been cried for while under the Moon–

and I did. When I looked down again, there it was,

a tiny white soul in the form of a worm

that shone from the tip of its quivering nose

to the tail upon which it stood upright, a firm

companion between shadow-planes and the haze

of the air in between, though its cries, ever small,

rang round us in dizzying, spiralling ways

so vivid–perhaps I could still catch its call

in the words of a song I once heard in a dream.

It swelled then–I feared it would burst. When a knife

sliced through it, it lay there exposed; if a scream

rises out of my throat when I waken–the life

revealed plainly gasping its wee self away

pulsed fiercely, and put out wet wings and–flew high

as the star I recalled when I first learned to pray

to the place where it came of itself–the blue sky

and the high Moon within and above it, the tip

of the knife, and the worm there exposed–and the sight

I could not reconceive by myself–but one slip

of the blade between layers of flesh gleaming white

as the word you’re about to imagine, my own

and only survivor–and all this is done.

Next time I wake from a faint, I’ll have gone.

Next time you stare at the Moon–that’s your Sun.

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