Magic Is Afoot

Recent entries here have fallen into a format that I see some potential in and will probably use for a while. The Vita Nuova example I mentioned in an earlier post has always held a lot of interest for me. One can read only the poem itself for privacy with the text, then read the author’s perspective on the poem and its arising. It’s a bit self-correcting, too; if one post gets too far into its topic, or off-topic, the next day brings a chance to continue on course or change, a little or a lot.

‘Writer’s Block’ has always troubled me a great deal. It hasn’t always been easy to explain how I mean it. It isn’t so much been the legendary fear of the Blank White Page and the difficulty of getting started as the fear of not being able to stop, of feeling compelled to continue for as long as the words and ideas keep coming. An empty page always made me feel I was standing on a precipice. Once I started falling, I could not stop myself–once the words were rushing through my head, I could only keep writing them down. This need not even involve poetry. School papers stressed me just as much. What would happen if I quit in the middle of a page? Something so dreadful it mustn’t be thought about, apparently; that is what my apprehension keeps saying.

There’s a split in the world of words and people who write them down that has always affected me. My commitment to poetry is strong, and has included the study of classic works and the English canon. But, being a lyric poet, I must concern myself with magic as much literary precedent. And I have also studied spiritual traditions and texts, but I cannot plant myself there for too long because, again, being a poet comes first and real poetry just absolutely will not bow to human ideology. I am happy to work anywhere I feel living spiritual grace, but I grow restless and have other places to be if I start to feel too associated with anything fixed and/or manmade for too long. When that happens and I fall back on my literary foundations, my work eventually threatens to fossilize in the other direction and become too heady and self-aware as an undertaking of text-production. This shows in my verses when there are many references to pages and leaves and sheets–we are reminding ourselves that we are working in a visionary world but also writing it down and trying to keep up standards. Standards, flags, red flags, spirits flagging–it’s happening even here. Vision never rests, but poets must, so….

One can cut off a poem mid-stanza, of course, but it’s like waking in the middle of a dream–one will never know how it was going to end. And yet we are considering the nature of time, and its unreality. The ending that will never be known is already and will always be known.

Ultimately, my work as poet is to write it all down both while and after it is seen and lived as far through as I am able. Then we can talk about what it means and what human ideas it seems connected with. Try keeping that in mind for more than a minute–it isn’t easy! Everything here is slippery and ever-changing. That’s how we know it’s alive.

Until a few years ago, I danced every day. Around and around in a circle, since I was very small. Dancing always preceded composing verses. When I began to accumulate a coherent body of work, the influence of dancing was everywhere. The songs circle around and–THE ELECTRICITY JUST WENT OUT! We haven’t had the harsh storms here that much of this country has had to deal with, so this is quite unexpected. Curiously, today I did something unusual. When I first got up and went to say hello to my altar, I decided to draw one Tarot card just to see if it shows me a theme for the day. The card I turned up was The Magician.

Magic is clearly underfoot, but then when is it not?

Electricity came back on a few minutes later….

Can one’s shadow become one’s friend?

19 February 2021


Come Home Who I Am

You wavered a little. The dawn light grew filmy.

I watched from my window–your hesitant form

stood casting a shadow. I prayed it would kill me.

And then from its center, a powerful storm

rose and settled in one sudden instant. The moment

of trouble had passed; there was peace on your brow.

When I look out on a world newly frozen–

the one you inhabit this new moment now–

the wavering runs into static dimensions

through which a clear calling comes cracking the ice

your illuminate greyness complains is a temple

of breakage containing a twilight device

within its most arcane enclosure–bear witness

her shadow side tells you–bear witness alive

and when you are swept from the world and admitted

to mine you will see what I’ve had to midwive

dear lord she has spoken. The window hangs open.

You move back from where you cannot stand again.

Outside the storm has been breaking and broken

forever and now in the sheets of the rain

hangs the plane that was cloven between you all winter.

With spring on the rise and the land turning green,

turn back the light in your eyes–it’s like tinder

to far greater light–you’re about to be seen–

compose yourself traveller sing for a lady

whose wavering form is your lightning-struck own

where it struck first was the ancientest maker

where it has lately can only be known

in the distance behind you wherever you worship

only a shadow of grey like a flag

shuddering under an access of unearned and

absolute magic come home nightmare hag


About J

formal verse poetry and commentary at
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