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
Winter land gray, hawk-still, slow
river under ice-shroud; with the moon
fair I far-see: Autumn spells won’t hold
her, not for all the heartsease in the world.
I dream of her hair-shorn, light and dancing
at forest verge, spinning rope of spring-buds,
rain-troth. I string out these shriveled words,
sup on desire, waiting. My girl will come back.
I had a prentice, once. She came across
the river, bright belief like starshine, sharp.
I taught her names; to listen, still; how words
quick-hum inside the oak, how they can build
and howl like lightning splits the sky, and spill.
We strung them fine on heart-string rope to make
a blackbird song.
She’s gone. To have her back!
but autumn spells and heartsease hold her now.
A little blank verse for the Yeah Write May poetry slam.
All that long-lighted day I watched her
rope-spinning, flinging it bridge-ways
across the clear river, bee-hum loud
in the glade. Rain held off and held off
as it did in such a summer (a wizard’s trick
or maybe of the crone herself). A girl gathering
words like blackberries, fingers mouth juice-
stained and she never saw me in her headlong
desire but oh, I would have told her heartsease
is not worth the price. For a word I would have
told her an eased heart is nothing, songless.
But she came by belief and all that light-
long day I watched her, aching, for it was
only a step to the crone’s hut and now
she’ll never find her way back.
It was only a step into the forest
to the river running fast and clear
and I knew that summer trick
of spinning strong rope
from paper and heart-strings
twirling it high and far
to snag lightning-split oak
where wizard-words swarmed
like bees, spilled like blackberries
to fill mouth, pockets, buckets
It was only a step from the forest
to where the crone sold heartsease
for desire, a mere bucketful of words
and a spinning strong rope
I expected more
but you will sit dozing
in the garden
as if this spectrum
from green to forsythia
were reason enough for being
You won’t rise to the rhythm
of truck-springs, dove-throated
scoldings; you come begging
on moth-wings for dew-drops
or even candleflame, snapping
up any crumb of praise dropped
between cracks while prating
of moonlight and blackbird song
If this kind of drowsy bee-hum
is the nectar you had in mind,
who would sip from it?
It tastes of mower-drone
inelegant clang and clatter
of construction on the next corner
whirr of what—saws? And the chairs
need repair; weeds sprout in the flags
My dear tone-deaf old thing
the blackbird is trying to teach you
while you lie there dreaming
you can sing
The NaPoWriMo Day 15 prompt is to write a poem that addresses itself.
in the peasant month
the pleasant month casting shadow
down the barefoot baked-grain fields
ripening for scything absorbing red
heat in every cell
back in thundercloud warm rain
ripe as corn-gold hair (inner green girl
Inspired by this page of the Huth Hours 15th-century manuscript, which I found on the British Library’s always fascinating Medieval Manuscripts blog AND by my window-box dianthus, aka gillyflowers (July flowers).