Poetry

Invocation

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 –

Awakeners
Enrapturers
My fondest torturers
Murderers & progenitors
Gentle-men
Madmen
Things that are not men
Door openers
Dwellers on the thresholds
Intoxicators
Lovers
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.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Étranger (or, What it’s like to slowly go mad from spirit-work)

You’re in a room that’s familiar and strange at once.
It’s your room, but little things are off –
you’d swear that picture used to be over there,
and that bunch of dried flowers is new.
You seem to be missing a few books,
and there are a few books on the shelf you don’t recognize….

There’s a scent, too. It’s also familiar, but it doesn’t belong here.
It reminds you of something from your childhood, perhaps,
something you haven’t encountered in a long time.
You keep getting a whiff of it, and remembering…

It’s that lamp, you’re sure of it – something about its soft yellow glow
as dusk falls outside (or has it always been dusk?)
makes you feel a bit funny, like the world beyond your windows
has disappeared, or become a cardboard cut-out, just make-believe….

You’re alone in your room, but you keep having the impression
that you’ve just been talking to someone.
You don’t know who, but you’ve been having a long conversation,
and you were supposed to do something for them – but you can’t remember why.
And there’s no one else here.

* * * * * * * * * * *

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.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Instructions

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.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Dying is an Art

Oh this is madness
to feel the strings on which
the world is pulled

and to pull them

magicians are madmen
both puppets & puppeteers
worn by the spirits
speaking in tongues

this carnival music, can you hear it too?
it feels like someone’s just behind my shoulder
and the fire, the fire is dancing…

* * * * * * * * * * *

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.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Ποικιλομητης

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.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Yarilo

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.

* * * * * * * * * * *

On the Tripod

The shadow of sacrificial smoke
unfurls along the walls,
and I am overcome –
heaping more fragrant leaves
upon Your fire.

Lord Apollon,
enter into this place
made only for Your entry
and no other’s.

I have emptied out my skull,
and await Your voice to fill it.

In the darkness, You are suddenly beside me –
a heavy silhouette –
I have only to turn my head
for the vision to consume me.

“Ask your question.”

* * * * * * * * * * *

Pythia

with seven serpent vertebrae
dangling down my back,
i manipulate the pneuma
in seven-second breaths.
the rhythm is the thrumming
of an ancient instrument –
it synchronizes worlds,
and rides my spine.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Limnades

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.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Lykeios

A wolf in wolf’s clothing,
You scent blood as surely as any
But your teeth and claws are more precise
Carving out the sick and rotted flesh
And your tongue is a healing balm
Lapping up what spills.

Lykeios, I am damaged
I have fallen behind the others
You will catch me easily.

I won’t struggle, when it happens –
I trust you.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Hyperboreos

In an ivory box you keep
your weightless offerings:
the ochre blood of trees
polished into stones by time.
They click together softly
as you move.

Your eyes pierce the surrounding black
as you slice through sky like ocean waters,
the bitter cold a purifying breath,
replacing earth with air, and wind
inside you.

There is no other thought now but this journey.
No origin, nor yet a destination –
a flight on the deep currents of evening;
an eternal moment;
a passage.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Apollon Phosphoros

Your light burns, Lord.
It is the cautery knife that
sears as it heals me,
barely leaving a scar.

All I can burn for you in return
are these few dry leaves.
They carry your scent
and crackle like skin in the fire.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Threshold

We’re never satisfied.

Mortals chase after the electricity of the divine
Looking everywhere for that heat-shimmer, a hint of More
They dream of magic, but wake to Monday morning
The names of secrets playing on their lips.

While gods are fascinated by the urgency of flesh
Attracted and repelled by the weight of the Material
Like a feather falling slowly, surely, to the earth
They want to taste the salt of tears, and oceans.

The only place to be is in between
Walking the perimeter of transience & eternity
The wonders of both worlds laid open
Music of the gods, played through the instrument of human senses.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Lenaia

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.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The Queen

Persephone is a ghoul these days,
Pallid skin reflects the torches in the halls
Fingertips and lips still stained a purplish
red, like fresh bruises,
And dripping.

Her eyes two globes, and clouded
White like the flowers once were
that lay strewn, rotting, on the floor
Her black crown glimmers faintly
As she passes by.

I reach to her with immaterial hands
but still, she feels chilly to the touch
She moves like liquid further down to darkness
And I follow.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Hermaion

I walk this road, snow crunching beneath my boots,
Cold air hardening my flesh, sinking into my bones.
How long have I been here, beneath a deep blue sky
The stars just arriving, always at the edge of night.

The traveler’s god is around me; he is beside me.
He is within me. He is the stone next to the path,
He is the feral creature leaping into the bushes.
He is laughing, and he is silent. He is watching.

Perhaps I walk just to be moving, to break up the stillness,
To change what I see around me, or what I am.
Perhaps I walk just for those fleeting glimpses
Of something strange and perilous at the corners of my eyes.

When the full cloak of night is draped over me,
Will I miss the shadows, and the hints of light,
Will I long to stop and build a fire to warm my hands,
Or will I finally be at home
In the black, cold wilderness beneath the earth.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Lampteria

The lamps were all lit for the night
And bowls of dark wine laid down
I watched flames flicker in burgundy pools
As a heavy musk seeped into the air around us.

I thought I knew what was to come
But I, the mantis, had no real clairvoyance after all.
I thought I was full with freedom
But I, the maenad, still covered my bare skin.

Silently you watched, like a temple statue
As I twisted, twirled, and spun about
Until I was breathless, and intoxicated
With the mad movement of my own body.

Only then, as I lay spent and trembling
Did you finally rise
With something sharp and terrible for me
And a touch, unbearably gentle.

Words are swallowed by the darkness
In the aftermath of my surrender
The visions I am left with only these:
Your eyes, still watching from the shadows of the altar
And your lips, wet with something dark and red.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Eleuthereus

By some bitter alchemy, I am changed.
Released from bonds so subtle,
I hadn’t felt them
Then cast into a darkness
Too cold to unfurl new wings.

My solace is ripped from me.
Contentment a cruel joke –
Or perhaps a distant memory.
They are left behind in the crucible
That shaped me.

Goodbye to all of that.
With wings still held tight by frost
I turn to face the inexorable
Severity of freedom.