Monday, October 31, 2022

Lady Of Dead Leaves


Lady Of Dead Leaves
Beneath a dead leaf my love lies hidden
with a rose pearl and a starling's feather
where the dark forest unties Her ribbons
where night rides as black as robber's leather
with a bagful of moon's most starving hours
in a forest where leaves are falling forever,
whose balefires paint meteoric showers,
whose pale sprites teach old lovers to dance
and sew up their wounds with threads of flowers.
For grape never saw the wine She decants,
a vintage that ripens with dissolution
aged in a song, sealed with ash and chance.
Under the starlight's silver infusion
asleep as a bee in the fading thunder,
 which is volition and which illusion
when all that's left of life is to wonder
or lift the leaf that love is under.

October 2022


posted for earthweal
where I am pleased to host this week's challenge,
Images: Fairy Dance, © Arthur Rackham    Public Domain
Spring Beauty © Andrew Wyeth         Fair Use

Saturday, October 29, 2022

The Howl


The Howl
Deep into the night-abiding trees let free the howl
of my heart(that false doppelgänger, that unreliable narrator.)
Course it there, where darkness shakes down her hair,
fleet where the small hands of rain stroke my cheek
lightly,lightly, not so bitter as kisses, not so salt as tears,
til it comes to a stopping.
There's a fire panting to light up the hedgerows,
to make wilder things writhe from shadows bending,
those fetches the old gods make to beguile us dappling the void
the new ones provide, movement alone frantic with silence
save for crackle and spit and the skin drum's thud
that still beats in my wrist.
Each day dawns with feet cut off, limping,limping,
in the year-turning dark. Willow-wisps glow
in the grove of dancing,coming to draw the light
from the road, off to the flicker where worlds rub skins, 
to flames and fetches, to what's kindling now
where heartwood was riven, heat banked in
each unlit log is given to the season of time burning,
of leaves crumbling and forest dreaming the hand I'm holding, 
dreaming and singing in the sough where rain-wind 
ears the night. Can a child born to houses ever discern it
where all that runs in smoke and mist is changed
and confounded, rounded off without logic
to fire that howls in my skull
what it won't let me know;
it's my own fetch that's come
to dance in the hedgerow.
October 2022



posted for earthweal's
(and inspired by Brendan's Kindling in the Forest of Light and Shadow
Images: Dancing Dryads, 1879, © Albert Pinkham Ryder  Public Domain
Wolves,(detail)  © Andrew Wyeth   Fair Use

Thursday, October 27, 2022

St. Walpurga's Nightmare

St. Walpurga's Nightmare
(or, No Medicine For Melancholy)

Up on the hill where the blade never goes
skimpy clouds dangle like a phrase of bad prose,
with May Day's and Hallows' night stars locked in boxes,
up on the ghosts' hill with the little foxes
sits the old witch always stirring her pot
of bandages and sweet oils, scalding hot,
her dry smile a bleachmark on her tie-dyed skin;
she's only waiting for the crows to begin.

Give her a coin and she'll midwife next year
or recount the rest of your life for good beer
in her voice like a hatchet while her fingers stir
mockingbird's screech into kettle's blur.

What's in the cauldron you sainted crone?
"It's hope, she croons, the alphabet I own.
You can't live on it, though so many try,
but you can certainly die on it time after time

riding the Big Wheel on dandelion silk
sucking tobacco like the baby's milk,
drinking and thinking you'll go up and up
then crushed on the revolve like a styrofoam cup.
Before you learn what your body can do to you, you
think its a warm glass of wine poured out for you
but it soon cracks in the time-slip and shatters apart
like your broken heart, dear, your broken heart.
Before you see what hope does to the living
you think it's a wise thing, loving and healing,
not bitter and blinding, 
hiding the reminding 

of the shambling footsteps shuffling in back of you
of the behemoth ambling in one night for you
the only hope that turns out to be true:
he'll break all your bones, dear, and eat them, too."
But dreams can be merciful with their endings
whatever the bile-twisted gist of their sendings, 
for dawn took her words just as fast as she spoke 
and drowned them all in the lovesongs of crows.

October 2022

posted for Shay's

Note: I've taken a lot of liberties with the history of St. Walpurga, a medieval abbess known for Christianizing the heathen Franks, learned in healing, who was canonized for, among other things, the 'miraculous oil' that oozed out from her dead body, and whose saint's day was enthusiastically celebrated with bonfires for many years on May Day. Obviously, I have added All Hallows to her domain quite mendaciously. She was said to be the bane of evil spirits and witches, so I'm sure she is turning over in her grave at being combined with one here. Finally, apologies to the Rocky Horror Picture Show for stealing 'time-slip,' and thanks to Susie for the gift of her poetry all these years.

Images: Walpurgisnacht, 1923, © Heinrich Kley
Antlers with Crows, author unknown, via internet

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Odin's Mead


 Odin's Mead

 I am not a jewel
fashioned for your collection
nor the paint-pot
for your ever-moving lips,
not the fertility
to your futility
not assumed erudition
to your chosen perdition.

I am not meant for
your wound of a mouth
bleeding hate-kindling for fire-hags
flaming sweet summer-country, 
not the heart-stake
vitriol will make,
not victory to be claimed
in a war too dirty to name.
I'm only the last
taste in the drinking horn
of some bright thing Other
a soft-foot step and fleet hand
pouring drunken snow
brewed by Ones who go
on spirit bones far stronger
but here walk free no longer.
I am only the bite
of the berry
dropping seeds from the bramble,
a tart taste in a season
of falling farewells,
a sapphire flicker
brief in the blue mirror,
 a gesturing ghost's fever
behind you forever;
a thrum too low to be clear
that only the silenced can hear. 

October 2022


 posted for earthweal's
Note: I've recounted this myth before, but briefly to recap, in Norse mythology, the Poetic Mead or Mead of Poetry is a magical beverage made from the murdered body of a being created from the gods' spit which sealed the truce of the Aesir-Vanir war, and was stolen from the  jötnar guarding it by Odin in eagle form, who spits it out into sacred  golden vessels for those chosen by the gods. Whoever drinks from these is given the gifts of poetry and knowledge, and is transformed into a skald and scholar. Odin also releases some of the mead in his droppings as he flies. This anyone can drink, and is called 'the rhymester's share." 
Images: One of the golden horns of Gallehus, public domain
"The Gotlandic image stone Hammars (III). It is held to depict Odin in his eagle fetch (note the eagle's beard), Gunnlöð (holding the mead of poetry) and Suttungr." public domain 

Sunday, October 23, 2022



Was it your lover
you saw in the dream,
a spirit bear on fire,
or perhaps
the chupacabra, a steam
 given off/
absorbed  by
too-hot night?

Some cryptid regardless,
a cambion that comes
when eyelids fall down
before the stare of stars
dropped silent with a burn
from black sky
as morning turns to face you

Fragments of him
of you
litter the lawn.
Meteorite dust
hangs in the air;
the smell of old longings
seeps from the roses

powdery as the skin's
 memory of a hand
that still feels,

of lips that know words
are the dark subsidence
down which you will tumble
to the place of live shadows
where two become one.

Posted for earthweal's

~September 2014
 A little something for All Hallows, originally posted at Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

The Briar Maid


 The Briar Maid

When I slip off this
rumpled dress and slide
down the gullet of time;
when I go, and it won't be long
no matter how long;
I want what they take
from the oven to lie
at the tangleroot feet of
the Briar Maid.
She is faceless, fierce, ever
green as her puncture-vine cloak
drawing blood at the touch;
though I pull her strangling hands
from oak and hackberry,
with her thorns she circles sanctuary.
Whatever is left that lives knows
she marks the line
past which Time may not go.

She stands guard, 
through cyclone wind,
drought, wildfire and freeze,
for grey squirrels' trees,
for greybrown birds 
fed fat on sunflower, blackberry
acorn and mulberry,for
peanut thieves, my blue bickering jays
and black satin crows;
box turtle and
blister-beetle know,
roving armadillo, red-tail hawk, butterfly
in his last piece of sky, prairie
grass and the snakes that swim it,
rat and king, garden, garter
and copper-headed,
each thing secure in its
small life to come and go.
All that really matters of her
holds safe underground
as will I, ash-soul in place,
faceless, fierce
to feed and to become 
with her in season
ward and warden of that space
that was my land, that was my heart,
that is the last try

for all that's been loved
too hard, too long,
too strong
to die.

October 2022

posted for earthweal's

For those who want to know her better, my original 2013 poem about The Briar Girl is here.

Photos © joyannjones