Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Book of Shadows and Grace - Pagan Poems of Love and Parting


I found in my files a forgotten collection of poems, written between 1972 to 1995, that I called the "Book of Shadows and Grace".  Some of them were from the halcyon years in Berkeley, when I lived in an artists warehouse (extinct now), and also when I had my "Rites of Passage" Gallery there (also extinct because of real estate*)

So I felt like unearthing them from the compost pile of my file cabinet, and sharing them on this journal.........some of them I still like, and they bring back memories, like a fragrance carried on the wind.   I see that most of them are very Pagan, and most of them are also about love.  And I reflect, reading these poems I mostly forgot, that they are an attempt to realize a profound truth about love:  it is always a blessing, no matter what.

 The first poem, At Beltane,  I wrote after realizing that someone I felt passionate love for  would never be able to return my affections.  What do you do with love that cannot find the "traditional" expression?

The second, "In Praise of Waters", I wrote after I was divorced, in the dismal wake of that experience so many others have also shared.  One of the  most painful, and yet transformative moments of a divorce  of any kind is the remembering of, not the other's wrong doing, but your own piece of the failure of love.  Again, what do you do with that?

"The Rune of Ending", I never showed to anyone.  I don't know if it's a particularly good poem, but it is painful to read again, still, I was trying to make some kind of benediction for myself and my ex-husband on the occasion of our divorce.  A canyon that opened between us indeed, a canyon many have had to turn, and walk away from.

The last poem, "The Green Man", is about spring, the great Eros of nature, which includes us.  All hearts are renewed with the coming of the Green Man, the great Pagan catalyst of new life.  He is always there, calling among the trees.

The art is all mine, mostly lithographs.

*It may be that, as Rebecca Solnit has commented, small artist run  galleries and artist warehouses, in major urban areas at least,  will be an extinct phenomenon, along with the Dodo.  To read Solnit's thoughts on this, read her article "The End of Bohemia".



The Book of Shadows and Grace,  Part 1.

At Beltane

Set me free now.
You walked among my dreams,
I will bless you as I go.

I pause at the door, key in hand
breathing in the last of you.
Pleasure that pierces heart and reason:
there are no words to frame this
all I can give
is to give it back 

Back to the World.
To the dreaming earth
the singing waters,
dancing flames,
to the open sky.
To the Circle at the center of all things.

World, here is my heart's unspoken delight.
I offer it back to you with gratitude
to play among the leaves
lighting  my dappled path.

I open my hand:

a scarlet bird 
flashes among the trees.

Fly free,
Bird of Paradise
fly into the morning
from the other side of forever.














In Praise of Waters

How are we turned,
again and again,
to find ourselves 
moving into the shadow land
where our best and finest intentions
drift out of true, and into the truly opposite?

     love becomes hate
     hope turns into despair
     inspiration hardens into dogma.

Perhaps
we must find our faces again
in dark waters.

Revealed among fallen leaves
our reflected sins
our cherished scars,
the dappled shapes of light and dark
that surface toward a whole.

There is something that wants us to open

that pours from the crevices
where we have broken

     Something that laughs 
     like a river in the morning.






The Rune of Ending

What can be said now
when all words are spent
when the final word has been spoken?
We go now to our separate houses
relieved, at least.  A course has been named.

     Our lives are severed, our story is told.

We will each surely tell that  story, 
and strive and laugh
and talk late into the night,
and kiss lips salty with tears and with love

     but not with each other.

Here the tearing ends,
here ends remorse and reprisal
here end dreams and plans.

We will not travel to Scotland, 
to walk among ancient monoliths 
in the white mists of our imaginations.
We will not walk again on a warm beach in Mexico,
toasting each other with margaritas.

That was once, it has to be enough.
I will not call you mine, husband
you will not call me yours, 
and our cat is now your cat, 
our teapot is now my teapot.
I touch a potted plant, 
remembering its place
on our breakfast table.

     We divide the spoils,
      humane, courteous, fair.

A canyon has opened between us,
we are each old enough
to know its name 
to view its depths without passion.
There is no bridge to cross this time.
Beloved,
I must now forgive myself,
and you,
cast my stone into this abyss
and bless the ghost woman
who has not yet come
to stand by your side
and wave with grace 
from across this canyon's lip

     then turn
     and walk my own path.




The Green Man

I walked among the trees
I wore the mask of the deer.
Remember me,
try to remember.

     I am that laughing man 
     with eyes like leaves.

When you think that winter will never end
I will come.  You will feel my breath, 
warm at your neck.
I will rise in the grass,
a vine caressing your foot.

I am the blue eye of a crocus
opening in the snow.
I  am a trickle of water, a calling bird,
a shaft of light among the trees.

You will hear me singing
among the green groves of memory,
the shining leaves of tomorrow. 

      I'll come with daisies in my hands,
      we'll dance among the sycamores
      once more.






**My thanks again to Robin Williamson, the Bard indeed, for a few images
     I will never forget, including "eyes like leaves" and "songs of love and  
     parting".  The blood of the Green Man runs true in him. 

*** And to Joanna Brouk, whose "Mask of the Deer" I never forgot.  
To those whose magical images never left me, even when I borrowed them....thankyou.

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