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


  1. I love the rhythm of this, the listing of the names, the intricate circle supporting and dancing into the earth. (Kerfe)

  2. I love the line "past which time may not go". This poem feels so grounded and present to me. Thank you!

  3. A fiercely beautiful poem full of a fierce love that holds everything so lightly and powerfully at the same time. Absolutely love it.

  4. This poem lifted my heart - such love you share with all the wild creatures who make the Briar Maid their home. This is such beautiful, heartfelt writing. Fierce love indeed. This poem needs a much wider audience.

  5. ". . . I, ash-soul in place, faceless, fierce to feed and to become with her . . . " WOW

  6. This ever-maid (never a crone) wrapt in thorns, a boundary beyond Time and the predations of "cyclone wind, / drought, wildfire and freeze" is sanctuary for the living panoply and the girl within, evergreen through it all. (Interesting that in the earlier "The Briar Girl" we are told she is a fencepost covered with thorns, adding another layer of boundary and protection and marker in a rough plain of existence. It's also heart that endures, fierce and clawed -- OK, thorned -- and resilient to protect the homestead within.) The poem is the mundo of such harbor. Let ashes nourish that thing we were in awe of til our end. Amen.

  7. Here, you've written an anthem that is--in its own way--quite fierce, much like the Briar Maid. There is something so poetic in your listing of the creatures who find shelter there, that even if one did not know the meaning of the words, only the sounds, it would be pleasing, but when one does know the meanings, it's unexpectedly exquisite. I say "unexpectedly" because a listing of things is normally a prosaic thing, but not here. You build this up, starting with a weary resignation about mortality, and building to a statement that the "ash-soul" will never die, and in a way becomes stronger by becoming part of something so strong.

  8. Where would we be without the Briar Maid where wild things rest and her lessons in staying rooted? Your poetry is so visual. I see her, feel the wind she faces, and the wildlife she cradles. Beautiful writing as always.

  9. Breathtakingly beautiful, Joy. A testimony to the will to not just survive but thrive, to stand wild and free, splendid against all odds, with gifts to succor and nourish and imbue with a passionate will and love all that it cherishes. It's overwhelming and grand in its ferocious grace, this "briar maid." I love her spirit.

  10. "puncture-vine", "ash-soul" like those compound adjectives,Joy! Also the "gullet of time". A flow urgency, and inventiveness to the language ! JIM

  11. This is breathtaking poetry filled with the natural elements that lead the reader to the deep rooted beauty of the Briar Maid. She is fierce weathering the storms of life. She is many things to the life around her, sustaining her ground. Survival in another realm of time. This was wonderful to read…truly one of your best.

  12. fine, fine, fine writing, Joy. waves of goosebumps across my brow. ~

    1. Thanks, M. This should probably be my own last poem, but I keep scribbling on anyway. I hope reading all my nonsense has been good for your head my friend. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for doing so; it's a high compliment--but not as superficial as a compliment. More a handshake on the road, arm around the shoulder, recognition of companionship.


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

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