Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hedgerider's Lament~Part III

Note: This is the third in what will hopefully be a set of  four sestinas on the pagan holidays which mark the turn of the year, and of the human heart. Hedgerider's Lament, Part I, (Yule) is here, and Part II, (Candlemas), is here.

The Hedgerider's Lament
Part III: Beltane Sestina

It’s been a killing winter here circled deep in the hedgerow’s walls.
I hear the hungry crying, birdsong and brisk bee buzz drowned out.
Wrapped in the scorpion’s tail of drought the new sun builds no fires
and seeds fester as they’re planted in a darkness shorn of green.
Somewhere a heartwound hides itself, seeping dully under the moon
and all are made to feel that pain till the fires outburn the curse.

Things are coming through that shouldn’t, tangled with the curse
It strengthens dark and brings them kicking out at the charmbuilt walls.
The faery lights are spectral blue, dim and distant in bowls of moon.
The tongue cleaves to the mouthpiece and the song will not come out.
The world hangs on the coming of the one who brings the green.
Behind locked doors barbed evils thicken, old flesh no longer fires.

So out we go to find the nine woods needed to build the fires,
twin pyres to burn nine murders and nine times nine despairs, curse
fright that sets the handle slipping stripping deadwood from the green
fuel and future even mixed in the razorsharp hedgerow’s walls.
Babes are counted, a white horse passes vast as the veils thin out;
pale hands grip tight the reins of light that pull the quickening moon.

In the darkness that is absence floating in night’s red eye, the moon
looks down on fractals, throbbing temples, cold heart fires.
The weasel eating her young, the blighted seed that won’t sprout out
grim her pocked sad face and set her calling to lift the curse,
to begin the windsigh song the harpist brings to raise the walls
so all in the hedgerow’s circle know the lover’s kiss of green.

The flower bride she walks in May, all cup in search of filling, green
her gown, breadbrown her hands, face limpid as a slice of moon,
summer’s lord for her arms, green man of the land that knows no walls.
She carries her basket of wishes to make the spark for the high balefires
and all that dances through them comes out sound and free of curse,
for every spite of winterlong will be ashed and trampled out.

No more shelter for the fiddling tongue ravaged by betrayal, thrust out
black bloated at all comers in pours of poison bitter and green.
No more room for winter’s old man’s rage or hag’s hardbitten curse
when the summer lord and the lady come to dance beneath the moon.
There the skin is thin and the maypole thick by the heartwood’s fires:
stop, reverse and turn, as its green ward weaves the hedgerow’s walls.

Re-spin the curse to blessing, crossweave sun with braids of  moon.
Pull up the dead. Sins' tinder flares to burn out on the green.
All seen, all felt is new again. Life fires light, singing up the walls.

June 2011

Posted for    OneShotWednesday  at the inimitable OneStopPoetry

Process Notes:
I’ve been working off and on on this for several months and  meant to have it ready for the true date of Beltane, which falls at the beginning of May and marks the midpoint of the sun’s equinox in progress towards today, the summer solstice, but the demands of a poem a day in April shunted it to the back burner.

There are too many legends, myths and archetypes associated with Beltane and the coming of summer to list, but I’ll just touch on a few I’ve incorporated here. Balefires are bonfires of purification that symbolically burn away the winter and its ills, marking the goddess of fertility’s arrival and celebrating her wedding with the sun god, when birth and growth of crops and livestock replace the death grip of winter. As always, I've taken a lot of liberty with historical detail and only loosely follow the pagan canon.

You can find a bit more general info here at wikipedia

Image: Summer Solstice Sunrise over Stonehenge, 
Photograph by Andrew Dunn, 21 June 2005 courtesy wikimedia commons


  1. this has such an epic feeling hedge...honestly have you ever thought about writing something like the lord of the rings..? love how you weave your tales and mingle history and legends with your poetic voice

  2. I thought the imigary you used here was beautiful Joy, very natural feeling flow to the piece to be fair. I write a lot of short and it does annoy me when people write as if they're starting a novel, but with your piece it was concise and well written and crafted and I had a genuine interest in wanting to read more! Please write s'mores :D

  3. I believe that this series will be for you as "The Goblin Market" is for our girl Chjristina Rossetti, a signature piece. You know, when you are world famous and stuff!

    There is so much I love about the the entire series so far, and about this one in particular. The scorpion's tail of drought...bowls of moon...burning nine murders and nine times nine despairs (!)...the bride with her breadbrown hands, the description of her dance with summer's lord, and especially the final stanza. It's just simply a feast, Hedge.

  4. Um, that's "Christina", not Chrjistina. Maybe that's the Viking version?

  5. Good lord, Hedge, this is awfully fine. Every word is well chosen, it's clear you've spent much time here, yet it is not overworked. It still feels fresh and as earthy as just dug soil. How does this line . . . The faery lights are spectral blue, dim and distant in bowls of moon come so light and gorgeous and still the rest is as close to the earth and full of bite and fire as can be? It's just an honor to read you and this marvelous work.

    Happy Beltane (if that's what you say).

  6. Wow, this is such a wonderful write, Hedge. I got lost in the beauty of the tale and was glad to reread all over again. What a feat, this sestina, I'm in awe of your use of form.
    Many lovely finds within your words, thou my faves (one I think I've said before...the use of bowls and moon) & the fourth stanza, which for me is so divine.."fractals to temples...blighted seed and windsigh song" *sigh*
    Beautiful tribute to the solstice, indeed ~

  7. this is a gorgeous piece, you know that as you put into it what is there...fine wine takes time....the imagery and detail is delish...being the oddball i loved the stanza on the disgusting tongue...go figure...smiles.

  8. You always transport me to a very magical/mystical place in your writings....Amazing imagery, and you keep up the energy to the end.

    I love your work.

    Lady Nyo

  9. I love your post - I hope to be inspired and learn from you.

    The imagery you evoked from the passing of the season is strong yet delightful. Life is colorful and beautiful.

  10. You spin tales like the perfect spider Web!
    Intricate...Beautiful...Then you are Caught!
    Writhing in Hedgewords until you administer The Coup de Grace....

  11. I am always taken by your ability to tell a tale as if the tale just comes through your skin...you must feel every word come to life before inking it to paper...that is a living story from a life filled storyteller...Great work Hedge....bkm

  12. Seems pretty formulaic to me!~

  13. Wowzers, I am speechless. The very finest writing, Hedge. "Formulaic?" NOT!If there is a formula, someone give it to me, quick! (Yikes, now I will likely get a comment.) This is poetry at its finest. I am in awe. Your Total Fan!!!!

  14. Oh my, hedge. First off, the line "razorsharp hedgerow’s walls" made me also think of hedgewitch's razor sharp lines—something to that effect :) You are a wizard with nuance and your word choices are phenomenal, and unexpected (also recalling your CSI post as I write that). Can't believe this is a sestina! Damn. Agree with Sherry.

  15. You weave your tales beautifully. Just great!

  16. So lush, dripping with the magic of witchcraft that can't help but fascinate. Years ago I grew herbs in a very serious way, studying with Margaret Thomas and Mittie Arnold of Greene Herb Gardens in RI. I became deeply involved in the lore, medicinal properties and of course read some of the darker aspects in the literature and old herbals. When I had to give up the enterprise (no more kids to weed the gardens)I was deeply affected. I believe they might truly have some properties while perhaps not magical ...something with a magnetic pull. Your poem brings all these thoughts back to me.It is so beautifully composed.

    I answered your comment on my One Shot if you get the time to revisit. So many thanks.

  17. Wow. You have handled a difficult form with a deft touch.

  18. This is such a rich piece! I particularly love the description of the flower bride.

    Happy Litha!

  19. The flower bride she walks in May, all cup in search of filling, green
    her gown, breadbrown her hands,

    The rhythm of these lines was a trifle spoiled by the 'face limpid as a slice of moon' that came after - 'as a slice of' were the interloper words...
    But I loved the story.

  20. Sorry the line didn't work for you Jinksy. This poem is not for everyone, I guess.

    Thanks to all who've stopped by and been so generous with your time and praise. For the poster who felt it was "formulaic," I'll just say that's the nature of the beast. This is not free verse, but form poetry, and a rather rigorous form at that. If you meant my ideas here were formulaic, all I can tell ya is kiss my poetic ass.

  21. I know how difficult this form can be and you've done such a beautiful job of it in addition to the fantastic story and the education you've given all your readers on all things Beltane!

  22. Sigh, some folks don't get form do they and this one is difficult to make seem 'natural'( meaning not letting the 'scaffold' obscure the 'house' of the story)but you do this. Also it's not personal biographical navel searching but bardic fable/faerie 'fiction' drawing on Celtic/Pagan themes and imagery where the place/land is important etc. One of my story telling friends is very much part of this bardic tradition and wrote http://www.kevanmanwaring.co.uk/the-bardic-handbook.html showing how to develop your music, stories and poems from this perspective.

  23. I'm glad you took the time to pour and re-pour every line into the careful winding of this charm, for complete it sings a vast blessing at the lintel of this summer. The getting here has been hard, from winter's raging dogs to the ungodly fires of this summer; from wrong's easy fraudulent ways behind the doors of power; from the heart's own blasted heath -- there is so damned much to aright ... Somehow naming them as potently as you do here -- "all are made to feel that pain until the fires outburn the curse" -- goes into the bittter poultice which must first applied (with all its smart and searing pain) before wound can heal into the dancing ground and nuptial bed of the greenwood marriage-rite that brings a people back into union with the land.

    Only a mature contemporary witch whose verbal spell of poetry can come up with so rich a dipper from Cerridwen's cauldron as this:

    Re-spin the curse to blessing, crossweave sun with braids of moon.
    Pull up the dead. Sins' tinder flares to burn out on the green.
    All seen, all felt is new again. Life fires light, singing up the walls.

    The charm is Paracelsan medicine too, a goodly fire to physic the wild balefires sweeping everything dried out by human wrong, in wilderness and court. A mighty, heart-full widdershins round the ole maypole, friend. We all need to read it out loud to the burning in our own back yards, and then come join the dance. You're at your best here. - Brendan

  24. Yes, this is a wonderful piece. I wish everyone could read it!

  25. Very detailed piece, creating multiple images the more ones delves into it, great read.

  26. @john@bd: Thanks for understanding, and for the link. The book looks fascinating,and I had no idea such organizations were around. It's on my booklist.

    @Brendan: I appreciate you setting out more plainly the themes of the poem, which you state so well, and also your kind words. This series started as emotional exorcism, but coming to examine these festivals and their underpinnings in the psyche has shown me a larger weave that encompasses but also goes beyond the personal into the universal needs of who we are and what we're doing here/ought to be doing here as humans. From Afghanistan to Weinergate, oil spills to wildfires to tsunamis, Wall St to the psychopathology of Casey Anthony, to whatever personal burdens we carry, healing of some sort seems needed, and how else to do it than from within with word and spirit?

  27. My word this is brilliant! So well done in it's visuals and imagery. I'm taken -right there- one with the tale. Excellent read!

  28. This is a very impressive piece, requiring knowledge, talent and poetic discipline of the highest order. Reading your work I'm always aware that I'm in the presence of a very fine mind and discovering many original possibilities of our remarkable language. Thank you. Kind regards, James.

  29. a beautiful tapestry of words finely woven, and delicately felt, a joy to read.

  30. My dear dear Joy... It's sooo easy to get carried away with your words... you took me into the dark woods and singed me with this piece, dear friend.. But in such an artistic way, that I enjoyed being jostled around...
    Your knack for poetic narration is simply OUTSTANDING!!! I hope some of that awesomeness brushes off on me too.. *sigh*

  31. Thanks so much to all who have come by and taken the time to comment, and to be supportive. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.

    @James R: High praise, sir. Many thanks.

    @Kavita: You don't need any of me to rub off on you, girl, you have your own way, and your own beautiful voice.

  32. Oh, wow, Joy Ann. Brilliant work with such a challenging form but I think the formality of content and form support one another so well in this one. Beautiful presentation of this celebration that helps in dispelling so much misunderstanding of Pagan ritual.

  33. Wow!! So descriptive and stop-in-your-tracks vivid; and that ending is beautifully uplifting. Crossweave sun with braids of moon -- what a perfect line! You are soooo good at hooking your readers and transporting them into this world you've created. I can only imagine how much work went into this. I read the first two parts and I must say they are just as fantastic. Thanks for setting the bar high for online poetry reading!

  34. A very nice journey of memories, new feelings, emotions, drooling over word use and great lines. You can write; this lives. Look forward to more.

  35. Amazing to me is your sustaining of the lyric throughout, the potency of the figure throughout-- all the while preserving and intensifying the narrative arc of the series-- a tour d'force-- I wish you would submit this somehow, some way-- check out Santa Fe Writers' Project -- xxxj

  36. I'm totally captivated with this. When can I buy the book?

  37. This is a work of massive proportions. You should be extremely proud of the end result, which is nothing short of brilliant.

    In awe.

  38. There’s a great narrative drive and an intense connection to the corporeal breathing of the earth through these sestinas. The terror, the hunger, and the cold become in your nimble word-weaving sharp and insistent, fully embodied. The deepening of metaphor, the spinning of time weighs in gold. There is a wonderful sense throughout of diaphanous layers, as if each thing in its specificity is also the vessel of the universal. The lilt and pace of the lines is well balanced and rings true. As others have noted I did not feel, as I have reading other sestinas, a sense of dread for the iterations. They flow marvelously. This is excellent work and I eagerly await the fourth.

  39. Thanks so much, Anna, for coming by and reading these. They take time, I know, and I appreciate both the effort, and your insight into them. This is a form I love (and also while writing occasionally hate ;-) ) and I think it demands a complex subject to really perform. I was so impressed with your own work this morning--thanks for making the journey through space and time with me here.

  40. I'm just getting home and finally getting the peace and quiet I need to think. Ah, so nice to visit and read your reply. The love/hate relationship adds passion to your sculpted phrases and I suspect brings you back to the form time and again. Once I've rested I'm excited to unearth other treasures you've written.

  41. So superlative Joy, the form never overtakes the power of image, movement, texture. In this you layer deep from the earth to the sky, from the heart to the living and the dead, from history to all that matters.

    I find new joys in this and these works each time I read them. I know it took much time and attention to write, but it doesn't show at all. Yet the payoff is splendiferous.


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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