As the Old Gods Will

Sea whispers to me in my drowning dreams,
and you who balance life and death must know
the debt to pay for treasure stolen thus
from those whose hurts and needs you’d sworn to heal—
blood gold with which you build on burning sand
fool’s fort to keep my heart and gift well-hid.

And if I wished to be their sacrifice?
My people’s fear now spills in hissing waves;
they know the sea god means to take his price.
Just hear! His call to me is calm and deep:
a silent slip into a lover’s arms,
brief storm, then stillness, peace—my part fulfilled.

Thanks to Jane Dougherty for sharing her two-sentence story inspired by this painting, and for inviting me to add this imagining of what happened next.

faith without deeds is

the skeleton of our desire

for better we clothe

with travel, culture

as if our parler and sprechen

and uphill castle-trekking

can help (if we but)

will it?

our newfound taste

for bulgogi and kebap

stops no starvation

heals no hearts

prays no peace

unless

on the other side

when the rich robes fall

we find the bones

upright and light

love still in power

pulsing through

this life-cage

after Amadae

Remember when we hid in the caves
late dust swirling in red sun and talked
of home, imagined roses blooming
thorn-berries yet green and sour, river
foam-cold? We had the king within reach
but were too fearful—proud—young—to grasp
the hem of his robe. Remember how
the cedars howled with the storm of it
wind rushing like undammed water through
the desert valley heaped with his dead
and ours, and you lay huddled, fevered
by the fire? I went out long before
the cliffs should have echoed new birdsong
to watch the armies march clacking, bone-
white, on and on into morning

and these things should happen in winter

Because I did not know what to say to you, I dreamed
of what I wore. I dreamed of scrubbing rust
from the shower walls, of a gallery opening
in this city of locked doors and shuttered windows.

It was black silk chiffon, in case you wondered
just how far this ego’s awkwardness extends.
 

I was intrigued by this dream symbols prompt at Margo Roby: Wordgathering. Apparently dreaming of clothing means you are concerned with how people perceive you…

Once and Future

These years I have burnished
silver, shelved desire
as a thing to sip and sniff
parceled out love as if
the supply might dry up—
What use? Tonight, dozing
fireside, if snow-wind brings
blackbird note, I’ll swallow whole
a drop of hot sun enough
to build and howl and spill

and light my way
to riverside where summer
bridge glints gossamer
humming like bees—
only a step into the forest
fleet-foot past crone’s hut
to rain-hung green-washed glade
where he waits, my blackbird boy
dark-eyed, impatient
to take me to his breast

As though to breathe were life

What use to stand at riverside?
To hold this feather, wishing hard
or hold my breath and listen, still
for even aftermath of storm?
Why cast these rusty strings of words,
scrape fingers raw on stumbling sounds?
As well to toss a yarn-skein high
expecting fall of gauzy dreams
to make a winter’s shawl. What use?
I’ll huddle, fireside, aching fierce
for sun. I’ll unpick stitches far
into the night. I’ll unstring words—
for nothing here is bright or sword-
like, nothing glints; and even hope
dies dim and dull, unused.

Mostly iambic tetrameter for the Yeah Write poetry slam. Title borrowed from Tennyson’s “Ulysses.”

Blackbird’s Patience

Time has not passed for me
in years or even seasons, moonrise
or sunset, river flood or ice-sharp howl
To wait as I have is only suspension
of wing-beat, heartsong—in my dreams
I walk the earth but my voice is gone

Wizard still strings his words in dullness
Crone sits staring, opens blue jar and sniffs
My girl will come back—To have her back!
But I’ve seen her across unbridged river
settled for what humans call love, forgetting
bright belief like autumn’s rotted leaves

Heartsease for Desire

I believed in fairytales
that words had power
to call up forest, river, oak
deep places of wolves and ogre
kings, the blackbird boy enchanted
pouring pathos into song until
I would take him to my breast
find him changed to joyful lover
in the rain-hung green-washed glade

We strung the words awhile—my master and I—
making shining things, berry-jeweled strings
that held no power, for though the blackbird watched
he never came to earth and in the rainless heat
my desire built like storm, pitched me headlong

I lay under bee-hum, dreamed
of my blackbird boy, followed
him branch to branch
into wolf-eyed forest until
in shadow of sagging hut
I saw the crone