Friday, June 17, 2011



The drum is beating low
but constant like Leviathon’s heart
far up in the moonless basin
filled with the ocean of  night.

The flame flares with the ghosts of grasses
born on the banshee’s wind.
The bent man circles in his animal mask
rustling soft the rattle of bone.

In this black of smoke and flicker
his chant is a shine, his words
a lintel of stars for the doorway 
of morning, each an arrow let fly
unerringly down the path to my tears.

Wounds unhealed, wounds unknown
open and close 
like speaking mouths
with tongues of silk.

I’m undone for the ritual
more than naked
brindled with shadow
wings spread like Isis

to fall instead, only
Psyche’s origami moth, feathered 
on his palm till 
night’s next whisper.

I reach my hand
to the mask, where it rubs
the skin raw.
The drum is silent.

June 2011

Image: Figure de pleureuse, Musée du Louvre
18th Dynasty Terracotta sculpture; thought to be Isis mourning Osiris


  1. Wow, Joy. You wrote a great sensory journey in words. also sensual...

  2. you paint a ghostly atmosphere...can hear the drum beats and feel the intensity, the bareness - raw and powerful miss hedge..

  3. Beautiful language all, especially love those 'tongues of silk' and that 'origami moth.' I had just read another wonderful poem of Billy Collins' yesterday with 'the moth is life with its papery wings' and yours takes it another step, just lovely. I feel the eeriness of the fire in the darkness, and when the drum stops, so does my heartbeat. I love the idea of being more undone than naked!

  4. Thanks Ruth, Claudia, Sean. Can't sleep tonight so I wrote instead.

  5. Seems to me once you remove the imagery I see the nude body of a hurt woman.

  6. more than naked...undone...the last stanza as well lays this open a bit more for is intriguing what becomes ritual in some cultures...i see a woman bound to the whim of man...

  7. My, the natives are restless ... unquiet ghosts rattling through this bonecage of memory. Love the heart of Leviathan beating here in the "ocean of night" but sorry this shaman can't quite get the job done, Or is it that the ritual is too much of a stretch for so such a staunchly godless paritioner? My shaman didn't do much real work off the page -- reality rubbed his mask roughly, too -- and yet, and yet, the work was important, even ... meant. It was Psyche's candle that burnt Eros' wings, teaching the god something about the pain of love. (He grew up and married Psyche). Easy, maybe, for a god(dess). For us, it may only work as origami -- interestings folds of paper truth -- with a very large chasm between what brings a decent night's sleep and the old wild mojo. Maybe the gap is infinitely far; there can be no going back; or maybe you intuit that the mask is not removable -- else why write another poem? My, you've been busy. (PS, for all my ejaculations about old magic, Nadolol's heart candy is dandy and Frova's liquor is quicker...) -- Brendan

  8. @twm, Brian Your vision is 20/20

    @Brendan: All masks are removable, but sometimes that act only reveals another mask.

  9. Wow. "a lintel of stars for the doorway of morning" - what a beautiful line. And "wounds open and close like speaking mouths" - brilliant!

  10. Geez us, girl. This makes me want to wear a chain mail jumper or something. The weird environment, the scary vulnerability, the drums. Not just another day in Duckville, but when is it ever, at Verse Escape? Rage on, woman.


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

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