POEM: Heartfire (for Vestalia)

In the sky above us, in the infinite sky,
Sol the light-giver, life-giver, all-seer,
a flaming fusion furnace 93 million miles away.

In the depth below us, the ineffable depth,
Vulcan the forge-beater, artificer, fire-maker,
a core of molten nickel spinning in the heart of the earth.

Between Sol and Vulcan, between sun and earth,
between globe of flaming gas and globe of molten metal,
our earth, our home, our houses, our hearths.
In our hearths, in our hearts, the fire in our spirit,
the link between gods above and gods below,
the priestess, the hostess, the fire-tender, the focus,
Vesta. Vesta. Vesta. Ave!

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POEM: Hekate and Hermes

Neither virgin nor crone but a mature woman
firm breasts that have not suckled
strong arms and strong legs
she runs through the night to meet him
at the crossroads, this place which they share:
Hekate Trioditis, Hekate Enodia,
Hermes Psykhopompos, Hermes Trikephalos

And there they lie down, when the moon is dark,
when the moon is full, Hermes laughing,
eternally youthful, his winged sandals kicked off,
his hat tossed aside, his wand planted in the earth
as he makes the lascivious joke about his other wand
rising up, ready to plant between his lover’s moist thighs

and Hekate eager, biting her lip, raising her skirts
with no fucking patience, no waiting whatsoever
as she rolls him beneath her, her torches to right
and to left, her wet cunt his heaven, his sweet seed
the fountain jetting up, splashing down

and the witches dance and the dogs howl
and the hounds bay and Hekate groans
and Hermes laughs and he rolls her over
and they do it again, and again, and again,
until the sun comes up and Hekate,
laughing under her breath, walks home
with the first rays of sun drying her gown

and Hermes flies away like an arrow
from the string, Zeus’ messenger boy,
and the dogs and the hounds roll over
and go back to sleep, and snore.

POEM: On the Veneralia

Dante_Gabriel_Rossetti_-_Venus_Verticordia

Let us venerate the venerable goddess
who gives us venial favors
and bestows venereal pleasures,
the wish-granting goddess who woos us to venery,
the winsome lady whose presence wins joy,
the mother of Cupid whose other name is Amor
(and Amor is the secret name of Roma),
golden and gracious, desiring and desirable,
who draws us all closer with the bonds of her power:
Ave, Venus! Hail to Venus on her Veneralia!
Lady, may your bountiful blessings and favor always grace us.

POEM: Spring storm

Dark clouds gather; the air thickens.
The pink-white blossoms of the tulip magnolia quiver.
Dark clouds gather: Jupiter’s mantle,
spread out as he looks down.
Flowering trees, daffodils, jonquils,
crocus, the loves of Mercury and Apollo,
hyacinths, dry stream beds, gutters full
of trash, empty asphalt roads: To the god,
all these are lovers, waiting for his touch.
The dark clouds are his mantle, spread out
for privacy. Juno will not see. He woos the earth
with kisses, a sprinkling of sweet rain;
the little gusts of wind are his caress.
The flowers lean toward him, thirsty.
The dry earth opens its cracks and crevices.
Bored pedestrians raise their heads
as the first rain strikes; the birds rouse
and shake. The winds grow stronger;
was that thunder I just heard? Now the trees
are shaking; huge drops of rain strike hard
against my windows. The winds are pounding,
the rain is pouring, the god is making love
to the world, great and potent, showering down
to fertilize everything, anywhere the rain touches,
every Danae who opens her arms
to the father of mortals and immortals,
the lover who sees beauty everywhere,
Pluvius, the rain-giver, Jupiter, the sky-father,
heaven making love to earth.

POEM: Epiphany

img_phanesFirst, they say, was Phanes: Out of the egg he appeared.
The male and the female, the serpent and the eagle, in one conjoined.
The Appearer, who made all else appear. A light shining,
and his daughter was darkness, Night herself.

Mortals walking on the earth looked up.
Brightness blessed them by day, when all things
appear aright, but the heavenly wheel turned
in the night, the figures on its rim
drawn by Phanes’ prophetic hand.
The Zodiac is a dancing band.

Where a new star rises, an old world sets.
Kings, wise men, magicians, three or many,
they came to an old king’s court. They pointed
to the new star in the east, to the house of
the Fishes illuminated. “Where,” they asked,
“is the new king, the one who will replace you,
he who will rule over the whole world?”

“What time did this star appear?” So Herod
asked and calculated an hour of birth, dictated
an hour of death. But the king’s men with
their swords looked down at the earth, not up
at the stars. They did not find him who had
not appeared, who awaited the Magi
in his poverty and accepted gold, frankincense, myrrh.

A century and a decade later, another child was born,
another star began a journey, and after another death
of one who was young and fair and beloved by many,
a new star in the Eagle told a grieving Emperor
that the tale was true, and his beloved was a god.
Consoled in his grief, he scattered the name of
Antinous like flower petals all over the Empire,
in temples and in statues, in contests with rich prizes,
the garland of red lotus to the finest. Already
in private places others burned frankincense and myrrh
in thuribles of gold and called on the name
of Jesus, feeding on his body and blood.

Phanes, most ancient deity, you who were first
to appear, come and open our hearts, come and
enlighten our minds, shine upon our ways,
illuminate our paths, help us comprehend
our darkness. Phanes, by your light may we see
the gods among us, ever living and dying for
our good, ever coming to us and appearing
where we least expect them, in the dark, in
the daylight, in our minds and hearts.

POEM: A voice is heard in Ramah

leelah_alcornWholly innocent she stands before us
her selfie an apotheosis: A white-robed martyr
emerging from the prison of assigned gender.
The Holy Innocents were dragged out
into the streets to shed their blood
in centuries of paintings; like the virgin
martyrs, refusing hearth and husband,
Leelah was dragged back into the house,
dragged into a boy’s clothes, dragged
into an old name, dragged off to be
“converted”, dragged into a prison of
drag. She was a girl of seventeen,
and her name was Leelah Alcorn.
On Holy Innocents’ Day she set her face
and walked into traffic that ran
like the river Jordan. She could not cross
over to her true gender, so she crossed over
from death to life. Her soul is escaped
like a bird from the net of the fowler,
but her body was crushed
as beneath the soldier’s boot,
and a voice was heard in Ramah,
Rachel misgendering her daughter,
refusing to give comfort
even though she was no more.

POEM: “The Road to Little Gidding”

In 1626 C.E., an Englishman named Nicholas Farrar left London and public life for a remote village called Little Gidding. There he and his mother, brother, sister, and in-laws repaired the chapel and formed a household that lived a quasi-monastic life; without a formal rule of life or vows, they observed regular prayer times, did acts of charity, and occupied the chapel with the continuous recitation of the Psalter. When Farrar’s good friend George Herbert was on his deathbed, he sent Farrar his manuscript of poetry, asking him to publish it if he thought it worthwhile. We owe to Farrar Herbert’s contribution to English poetry.

The Anglican church in England, South Africa, and the United States honors Nicholas Farrar as a minor saint. His life and the community at Little Gidding also, of course, inspired one of the greatest poems (I think) in the English language, T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding”, the climax of Four Quartets. I didn’t come to love Eliot or to know anything about Farrar until I discovered them on my own as a teenager, but once I discovered them, they became mine forever: “You are here to kneel/Where prayer has been valid.”

I was still a teenager, I think, when I wrote this poem, which certainly owes a lot to Eliot, but I still like it.

cherry-tree

The Road from Little Gidding

The ruin of this idea straddles

the feast-days of despair:

The Psalter is a seven-spoked wheel

revolving between light and dark.

 

Aleph, beth, gimel, Beowulf:

Water is precentor of this

midwinter summer; the stones

are wet of this small, human dwelling

built by human hands, cemented

with antiphony’s acoustical

relations; one stone

clings hard upon another

in our memory.

 

That was our City,

foundationed in God–

a little, ruined village,

a little home of little men.

Walls lean together

like deacons in a sanctuary;

a hole through a stained-glass

window obscures the light.

 

And after this our pilgrimage

a memory: measured music

under vaults. The Psalms revolve

from Coverdale to me.