Saturday, November 12, 2022



 When I was first a woman,
a proto-woman, perhaps,
I fell into the sin
of promising.
A jumbled barter it was
of all I had, masks
and early roses and melodies
too simple to be songs
all, all underfoot in the
maudlin marsh of fool's dreaming
with braggarts croaking their
whisky throats like toads.

So, into the desert
hot and clean, clear and cold,
but there again I fell,
into the assassin's bed.

Every night I knew
his nerveless cunning,
slitting the throat of love
as I lay numb

listening to devils
laughing from the killing-stone,
waiting for your call to come
tenacious and startling-sweet 
on limpid air
as jasmine in the abattoir;
but in the blood-pool
only sticky silence.

Now that time has taken
all the gods and fools
that made me woman,
I see with a child's eye

grateful to be lone 
with meadow-wren and violets,
 promises of fairies, friend of
crows and stars.

November 2022

 posted for
Images: Woman with Mask, artist unknown, via internet Fair Use
Faery and Kingfisher © Jean-Baptiste Monge   Fair Use


  1. Joy, this is so rich in image and language. "Jasmine in the abattoir" is especially startling and apt. We all start out like the The Fool in the Tarot deck, don't we, blithely stepping off the cliff edge and offerign all of our half-formed pearls to various characters and swine who must see us coming a mile away. It's a hard way to go, especially for a sensitive person, and sad to go through it again and again as we both have done. Your third stanza describes all this to a tee.

    Odd, isn't it, that age really does resemble--in certain respects--a second childhood? But this time we've been there, done that, and now find joy in simple things and in simply being ourselves without all the urgent yearnings of youth. It's a hard-earned trade-off and you've addressed it superbly with this poem. I particularly love your closing lines. They certainly resonate in my own life.

  2. Just fantastic, every line. "slitting the throat of love" I whish I'd written that!!! And this: "as jasmine in the abattoir;"

  3. I can so relate to this, Joy, those "braggarts croaking their/whisky throats like toads" and when you're busy wishing on a star you forget your feet are in the "maudlin marsh" and swamp creatures, in the slaughterhouse of "assassins" of the heart. You've spoken for a lot of us who in these latter years have learned to "see with a child's eye," to see the promise in ourselves (no longer "the sin of promising") and the beauty that surrounds us. You carried me away with this one, as always, and the journey is worth its end.

  4. Goodness me, Hedgewitch Joy! I am thrilled and chilled in equal measure! And then there are nuggets of such blinding wisdom - the whole of that first stanza, basically! How easily one falls into the "sin of promising."

    Really, there are too many beautiful lines to quote but I loved these:

    "all underfoot in the
    maudlin marsh of fool's dreaming" - this is so moving. Sometimes dreams are all a fool has.

    The whole of the 4th stanza - vivid and brilliant!

    The 7th stanza, that sticky silence of the blood-pool - OMG! You epitomise horror there.

    And then the beautiful way it ends with her having been freed of it all and loving all the little things, the precious things, "I see with a child's eye" - love that! And "friend of crows and stars."
    I am moved by this woman and feel compassion for her.

    Lovely write as ever, HW Joy <3

  5. So much to love about this poem. From the first line this strikes with raw honesty, "When I was first a woman, a proto-woman, perhaps, I fell into the sin of promising." It is quite a journey as we weave our way through love, complicate it, and then realize we can see and find love in people and things all around us. Beautiful writing

  6. Humans failing to love each other is the shadow of humanity, one of so many in modernity. No wonder we love our pets so much. We made our promises to the paramour inside and at the end yearning (with

    1. ... "masks / and early roses and melodies / too simple to be songs" only to discover ears were deaf and groins impure, their assassin intents cooing from every grave a heart embraces. Only when " time has taken / all the gods and fools / that made me woman" (great lines) can the promises come true perhaps as all they were meant to, or devised in our deeper animal hearts where fidelity and care are instinct. A stellar examination of contracts imagined and destroyed by chromosomes devouring the desert. (Sorry for the comment posting goof.)

    2. Thanks, B. I agree that the unconditional love of our pets(also incomplete, but at least full-hearted and faithful) seems a comfort, as human love so often fails to meet its own exacting and perhaps unrealistic promises. But we see so little of what we want and need--we only feel it, usually either too much or not enough to be guided by it reliably. Thanks for taking the time to read, friend, and for getting it so well, though we both might be happier writers and worse poets if we didn't.


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

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