Opening of the Jars

In the marshes, through tangled trees,
within the sacred precinct,
I follow footworn paths across The Mounds
and down into a hidden hollow
where dark leaves slowly decay in dark pools
creating shadows in the landscape.
The wine – from clay pots buried and unearthed
in ancient, Black Sea tradition –
fills the land’s shallow bowl at my feet,
and my horn cries out long
calling to the ones below the earth:
Come and drink! Arise!
The sharp green shoots of water-loving plants
pierce the muck and mire with new life
all throughout the wood,
yet night still carries the bite of frost
as it falls. I turn to leave
by doorways made of branches,
and find my way back to the world,
careful not to glance behind me
at those who are now remembering
a taste of what they were.

* * * * *

Crow Feast

In the liminal wood,
as the gloaming becomes true night,
I assemble a circular feast
atop dry grass and sticks,
its centerpiece a heap of cold, raw lamb.
Ribbons the color of lapis lazuli
– the color of the deepening sky –
are strung between the ash trees
in this grove within a grove.
A nest of glittering gifts is nestled
amidst lichen covered branches
at a height designed to catch a bird’s quick eye.
With the wind crackling through the leaves
and tugging gently at the feathers in my crown,
I raise the wooden mouthpiece to my lips
and call the crows,
call them to their feast.
The rough notes leave behind an eerie silence
in the wood. From far off, a premonition
of black wings and sharp beaks.

* * * * *

Hunter of Hearts

clothed in the pelts of horned animals
his bare feet pound a rhythm on the ground
his face darkened with a paste of
lees and earth, like a mask
he is drunk
and madness gleams an invitation
at the corners of his eyes
it’s night in the forest and we are alone
and not alone
drawn to him, they have gathered at the edges
growling, howling, whispering
an unseen chorus
but every sound stops
when he strides toward me
and tears my body open for his feast

* * * * *

Courting Madness

I step in every fairy ring I come across
(maybe this time I’ll be ravished
regardless, there will be consequences)
I work my way through all the old charms
(just in case)
Sometimes it seems like it’s not working
and I am an unrequited lover
dropping roses at the feet
of creatures more likely to have hooves, or roots
But there are love letters sent in return
secret, but passionate –
the moment of waking from heavy dreams
when I’ve lost all sense of who I’ve been
the feeling of eyes watching me
and something always just behind my shoulder
the haunting hollowness, and the rush of
blood that fills the space inside again
human speech becoming unintelligible
and long conversations with birds in its place
rotting carcasses by the roadside
and leaves that bring intoxication
until you drink too much and slip away
and the game of hard-to-get finally ends
until then
I set my traps
with only the most exquisite offerings as bait
and try not to remember
the time before I was mad.

* * * * *


To See what is hidden from your eyes:
Look for a bird perched high among the trees.
Put your mind in its mind, seeing with its eyes, its far-reaching view.
Now, do it without the bird at all.
And see beyond even what it could see, into other worlds if you want.

To host another’s spirit within your body:
Put on a mask and let them come into it, live in it,
while your face remains hidden behind it.
Others see the mask shift and even speak.
Now, do it without the mask.
Let them come into your face, while you are secreted away, within.

* * * * *

Bluebeard’s Wife

I’ve laid my head in the devil’s punchbowl
I’ve sworn fidelity to men with no faces
I’ve said yes, too quickly, so eager
I’ve become a carrion eater,
poisoned and poisoner,
and when I wake I know only what’s
etched on my skin, indelible.
My childhood monsters were real
(well, they all are, but mine stuck around)
and the masks that frightened were only
hiding something more terrible beneath.
But it’s no secret – I always wanted the darkness
even when I slept with all the lights on.
You are the darkness I was looking for.

* * * * *


the key to magic (he winks at me)
is letting go of any hang-ups about what’s “real”
is the mask you shape with your hands
any less real for having been made?
is a child, for having parents?
do you not think you have been
formed & transformed
a hundred times, by the lightning touch of gods?
when the world responds to your voice, your words, your will
it has both more weight, and less
a poignant myth that brings the listener to their knees
but changes with every telling

* * * * *

The mask is not a metaphor

The mask is not a metaphor –
it is an old, tanned bear skin
and it reeks of animal
and its eyes don’t quite fit over yours
so you stumble,
and when you speak
your voice carries another’s words.
And there are a million reflections
of its power
in the hearts and minds of men,
but still you must
put it on
and dance.

* * * * *

They arrive

“Do you think for a moment
that we do not attend our sacrifices?
That the scent of blood, herbs, and sweet wine
does not compel us –
drawing us to the spot
like a needle pulling thread?
We need not stay;
we may not speak;
but we will come, and taste,
and be sated.”

* * * * *

For Those Ones

Mad strangers, you are my own true folk
and I your devoted hunter
I will bring back a feast
for you to devour
and wash down with wine
made of honey.

* * * * *


We don’t just mourn your death,
We kill you.
Every year, again we gather
To burn and bury you
With flowers in our hair,
To scare away the coming winter
With celebration,
Even as we ensure its return
As we must –
And kill you we must.
The wine always spills,
And we fill our cups again.

* * * * *


Hail, mist-maidens,
Numphai en limnais,
Dwellers in the marshes.
Glimpsed between trees
In a dawn light muted by fog,
Some rise from the river, hair dripping
Others live under the loam
Or in hollowed oaks.
Yours is the delicate lichen
And the black mold as well –
All that is cool, damp and fertile.
I offer you: pale bog flowers,
The scent of vetivert,
And honeycomb.

* * * * *


In the swirling madness of the dance, your presence is visceral.
I close my eyes but do not see some vision of your face
No, you are in my sweat, and my breath carries your scent
as I shout your name, and fall heavily to the ground.
Here, you are a warm, thick skin around mine
The fur and musk of an animal, with a lover’s tender touch.
You cradle me as the fury pours out, and I cry,
knowing this is not the end of it.
Again, the wine slips down my throat – you are inside me.
My legs want to collapse, but you push me forward
All the maddened people are sweeping past me, cups in hand.
I must follow, for your pleasure, I must join them.
All night, I give you all I have to give
My surrender palpable, and tasting of blood.
For all the pain that rends me like a sacrifice,
I love you – my destroyer, you softly brutal god.

* * * * *


Hail to my most cherished ones!
Your touch upon my life is palpable.
Whatever I was before I knew of you
Is unrecognizable to me now
And oh, for that, a thousand kisses –

My fondest torturers
Murderers & progenitors
Things that are not men
Door openers
Dwellers on the thresholds
Perilous beasts

My constant companions all.

The world comes alive with you
And I a firebrand.

We could burn it all to ashes and be purified
Or stay in this one moment endlessly
And I would be full satisfied.

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