The Sum of Parts

As the long harvest slips into the season of want
Will you bare your throat for the wolf
howling in the cold beyond your door?
Will you allow your blood to warm her,
allow your flesh to nourish her?
Will you lie quiet…
as she takes you into her body,
every atom of you becoming
a part of her?

How long will it take
for her to break your ribs,
to chew the muscle in your breast?
How long will it take
for her teeth to crack your skull,
pierce your pearly brain with fierce intention?
How long will it take
for her to break you into your purest pieces,
to lay your bones bare,
then crack them open to partake
of the red marrow?

The fat of you will line her lean ribs
warm her in the depths of winter.
The energy of you will fill her limbs,
and she will run, hunt, and brawl.
And when spring thaws the rivers,
She will whelp a litter of pups,
each one containing
a piece of you.

Ancient tradition holds
that when you consume a beast
you take in its power, its essence.
What will she gain from you?

Her head will not fill with your songs
and ancient stories whispered in the dark.
Those will be lost,
as will the knowledge, the formulas,
the recipes.

Perhaps she will gain nothing more…
Than your slight precognizance,
your eldritch dreams of the stars,
and a faint stirring
at the smell of mint.

As the long harvest draws to a close
and the lean months steal in with
bitter breath,
when the sun turns from its child,
when the wind bites,
and the rivers fall silent with ice…
will you bare your throat to the wolf?

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Body and Soul

Mine is a body shaped for tender loving

languid in length, soft in composition.

It has never known hunger

nor the thirst of the desert.

The smooth skin of the palms attests

to a life of leisure.

 

This body is beauty.

The lips were made to kiss,

the eyes to gaze into.

The waist was shaped with the intention

that another’s arm would circle around it.

There is a hollow under the collarbone

shaped for a head to rest.

 

Mine is a mind that hovers

on a duality of independence and isolation.

It is an Artemisian wilderness

Moonlight on the dance of a single sorceress

bathed in virginal glory.

 

Mine is a mind of cathedral caverns

in which dwell, deep and still, silent lakes.

The longer I remain hidden from the sun,

The less I see color, the less I see light.

I scream out, but the reverberations that return

to me are further evidence

of how alone I am.

 

 

Home

I remember wandering the green world in my spring time, black dog at my heels. I watched for the changing phases of the moon, dancing in the variant lights… I remember sitting on hill tops in the cold, my breath steaming before me. A blanket beneath me and another wrapped around my shoulders, I watched for shooting stars, meteors lancing quickly, thin streams of light that existed instantaneously. I waded in rivers under the summer moon, full and fat in the scattered, wind tattered clouds. I rode horses under that moon, disappearing in the fog drenched valleys.

I remember lying on the slopes, cheek to the ground, trying to feel the earth turn and hearing the far off rumble of hoof beats. The grasses grew tall on those slopes and burned gold in the summer. If you lay in them and looked up, the world vanished, reduced to a small patch of blue sky and the ends of the grass, as tall as trees, waving against the blue. They turned russet in the fall, like the hide of one of the horses, like apple cider, like my hair when the evening sun lights it up.

I sat in the roots of ancient beeches in the slanting rays of the setting sun. I talked to it and it whispered to me. I watched the leaves turn from green to beaten gold in the winter, the only color in the gray forest.

I remember running wild over hillsides and watching the passing shadows of hawks against the sun. I remember calling to owls at dusk, and hearing their sonorous replies in the gloom. The tree in the backyard would come alive with birds on spring mornings and sing. There were hummingbirds at the feeder out the window over the sink. Their backs glimmered with green scales, their throats burned red.

I remember storms in spring. The green of new leaves would burn against the blue gray of clouds. I remember that color, and how it shook my heart. The thunder shook me, startled me. I wanted to dance in the rain, but was scared of the lightning. The lightning lanced across the sky, unfolding like cracks in a broken mirror. In summer, heat lightning would turn the clouds pink on the horizon at night, silent but present. If you put your ear to the ground, you could hear the far off rumble, but maybe that was the horses on the other pasture.

I remember snakes. Their backs were black and starred with scars, their bellies checkerboards. Their musk was foul, putrid. I remember holding one, feeling its muscles curl across my arms, watching the tongue dart in and out, fast and delicate. I remember seeing them dart through the undergrowth, startled by my approach. I was never scared of them.

I remember the afternoon light shining gold through green leaves, blinding me. The clouds were gold and crimson, pink and vibrant. I read them, read stories in their shapes as they went from gold to blue in the fading light. As dusk crept in, mist pooled in the lower pastures and bats darted in the gloom. Sometimes I saw shapes in the mist.

And the creek, the creek was the epicenter around which all life turned. It was a great nerve cutting through the pastures and woods, and all existence was controlled by its caprice. The creek cut our property in half, snaking its way between our pastures, marked by the trees and bushes that grew up on either side. At times it would rain, and fill our lower pastures with brown roiling water. I remember waking to rain on the roof in the night and knowing a flood was coming. Each flood changed the creek. It flattened bushes and made new sand banks. Over the years the creek cut deeper into the bank, toppling trees into the water.

I remember walking across these fallen logs in fall and winter, when the water was too cold to wade. One foot in front of the other on the slippery bark. Walking slowly, looking down at the water.

We would spend our summers in the creek, when we were young enough that the water came to our chests. We swam and waded, explored the banks, made castles from mud. We rode our pony into the swimming hole and jumped off his back. We made boats from leaves and sent them off upon the waves, following their journey eagerly. We (did I mention I had a sister?) made our kingdoms along its banks.

I remember walking in the water at night under a full moon, my flowing skirt buoyed up around me. I would walk slowly so I wouldn’t make a sound.

There were lots of stars then. The Milky Way was a burning brand in the sky. I remember picking out Orion by his belt, and Scorpio by his tail. The tail came over the ridge in the summer, chasing Orion, but never the full behemoth scorpion. I would sometimes go weeks without looking up, and when I finally did, I would be overwhelmed, my mind ringing like a bell, a single glittering crescendo.

I remember spring rains, watching the storm clouds come, listening the thunder rumble closer. And then, when it was close, roaring loud enough to make the glass in the cupboards shiver. The lights would flicker and sometimes go out. We would light lamps and play yutnori by the dim light, until the storm died enough for us to sleep.

I would listen to the rain on the roof, pattering or drumming, and I knew that it was swelling the creek, churning it with brown mud. It was rising, this docile creature that snaked through our land. It was bursting free of its banks and growing fat and greedy as it filled our lower pastures. Earlier that day we had rushed through the rain and the thunder to chase the sheep to higher ground. They were now huddled steaming in Quonset huts and I was curled in my bed, but I would remember the urgency of it, clapping hands and yelling, running in the wet, shouting flustered directions to each other over the patter of rain on our stiff hoods and the rolling of thunder growing closer. Despite all, I enjoyed those moments. I would lie in bed and listen to the rain and pray it wouldn’t stop. I wanted it to fill the pastures and swamp the bridges til we couldn’t go to school or our parents to work.

And sometimes I would wake late and be flustered until my mother informed me that the weather radio had sung of my school’s cancellation. I would run to the deck and stare out at the water. Every time I saw that roiling brown lake licking the edges of the hill we lived on, a part of me believed it was the apocalypse. A part of me wanted it to be.

Top of the World

I want to taste this world-

And the heavens too

I want to use the mountains-

As stepping stones.

I want to drink up rivers-

Let oceans fill me

I want to skip megaliths-

Across still bodies.

I want to hunt like a wolf-

Drink blood

Crack open bones-

To eat the red marrow.

I want to stand still as a tree-

Or a lonely rock

Let moss grow over me-

For thousands of years.

I want to find the lever-

That Archimedes sought

I want to stand at the top of the world,

Then step-

The Tiger

I dreamt a dream of a tiger

In musty darkness of a circus tent

Light filtering thorough small holes

Like stars in a maroon night

And glowing dark red gold

Where fabric grew thin.

I smelled the tiger before

I saw her, heavy scent

Of fur and dung, stinging

Of adrenaline and fear a

Hot musty flame.

Yes, I could sense a burning,

Beating flames, burning

In the stomach, gleaming

Embers in the eyes.

Yes, I could see the eyes

Flashing flames in the dark

Filled with deadly fear.

Drawn inexplicably, I moved

Closer. On the edge of hearing,

A large padded foot fall, silent

As a heart beat.

I saw brindled fur, catching

Light in dust motes, orange on black

Flames in the night.

She never showed me

her whole length

Tantalizing flashes

Flicking tail.

We approached each other,

Staring as each confronted

a nightmare.

Finally, I stood before her

I reached out to touch

Her rippling brindled fur

And bruised my fingers on glass.

For I stood before a mirror.

Breathing Flames

Something is calling me, a wolf howl, a drum beat , the scent of smoke on the wind. At night, spinning and spitting flames, we are more than what we are.

Ring around the moon, bright in my eye, thin wailing howl coming from my throat, ripped from there by the rushing wind scattering sparks around us.

A deep breath, hesitation. Pressing the bottle to my lips, mouth filling with the slick warmth of lamp oil. Not too much. Don’t swallow, don’t spit. Hold it in your mouth, like a pouch, a water jug. Don’t spit, wait for the torch.

I wonder if the dragon was scared the first time he breathed fire.

The air is tight in my lungs, ready to burst forth, wanting to push the liquid from my mouth. Hold the torch up, not too close.

Then release.

Fire blooms before my face, searing my lips with heat, roaring in the dark. Just as quickly it fades away, leaving me to wipe oil from my chin and spit out the last of it from my mouth. I will taste it all night, not just the lingering oil but the flames as well, flickering in my dreams until it startles me awake with the acrid scent of smoke in the dark.

Something is calling me, a wolf howl, a drum beat , the scent of smoke on the wind. At night, spinning and spitting flames, we are more than what we are.

Ring around the moon, bright in my eye, thin wailing howl coming from my throat, ripped from there by the rushing wind scattering sparks around us.

The Only Man to Get to Heaven, or My Epiphany on a Sidewalk

I was on a sidewalk in Asheville, NC when the man with the bike approached me. It had already been an interesting and exciting day. It was my first visit to Asheville and I felt the energy that always accompanies exploring a new place. I was with a handful of new friends and was getting to know them. Asheville by day was exotic, invigorating, and new. The fresh wind blew through the streets. The afternoon sky lit up the clouds. Glimpses of mountains loomed between buildings. There was music and chatter everywhere. Night was different. It was still beautiful in its own way. The street lamps lit up and music drifted out of clubs. But there was an edge to this beauty. There were shadows on the edge of those street lamps. There were people I didn’t notice before sitting on sidewalks or benches, obvious that they had nowhere to go. They worried me extremely. We got to the bus stop earlier than planned, so we waited in a small park on the other side of the street. My friends were all smoking their new e-cigarettes and you could see how happy it made them to look so very hip and dangerous (though there wasn’t even nicotine in them). I enjoyed watching them try to blow out more smoke than each other, each pretending they knew everything about e-cigs. Some people stopped by and chatted with us. They had backpacks and worn out clothes. It was obvious that they had been traveling a long time. Of course I have heard all the warnings about talking to strangers, but I felt no fear and only a longing to learn more about there life or even to drop everything and go with them. They were exciting, tranquil, loving people and hugged us goodbye very sweetly. We crossed the street to wait for the bus. As we waited an old black man (aged more with hardships than years) walked up to us guiding a bike. He asked is we had 35 cents. I gave him $3. The humility with which he asked and with which he took the money rocked me to the very core. By his consternation over the $3 you would’ve thought I had given him $300. He almost cried and that made me cry. I turned away and my friends gave him money and talked to him. His name was Ervin and he had a job were he made $60 a day but he gave it away to, well, anyone. He slept in the woods and went without meals so that he could care for anyone he could. He so obviously loved the human race, saying that he loved everyone like his own children. He talked of how Jesus had taught to feed the hungry and to love. Throughout this he was very emotional; trembling, his quiet voice occasionally breaking with desperate sincerity. He was in no way eloquent, but he was passionate. He begged us to take the bike; that he was “tired of it” and wanted someone else to have it. Two of my friends took it to my surprise, but later I learned that they planned to fix it up and try to find him again, or failing that, give it away as instructed. The bus came and before we left, each of us hugged him. Then we climbed on the bus and he was gone from our lives. The moment I sat down I began to sob. My friends comforted me the best they could, supported me through an experience that was so thoroughly mine. One of them, a beautiful and good person, amazingly kind and a deep thinker, handed me a rose she had picked in the park. She told me to keep it, dry it, and hold onto it forever to remember this moment. I remember another friend wrapping his arm around me as I cried and when I sobbed “I don’t know why I’m crying,” he replied “You’re crying because it’s important.”

But why was I crying? It was just how beautiful and how awful this man’s life is. It was his own beauty; his desperation and despair and hope and love, his  humility and his pride in what he did. He is the one true Christian. The basic teachings of the Christian bible are about giving everything you have away and about loving everyone. It sets an impossible standard. Human’s simply can’t live like that and never will. But there will always be that one man, with or without his bike, who is sure of getting to heaven.

I stood on the fire escape of my dorm room. The breeze was still kissing my face. I could see a patch of night sky through the trees. I could hear people moving in the dorms. I stood there and I thought.

The title of this piece says “Epiphany” so you probably expect me to end with a life lesson. Here I must disappoint. Though I am sure I had an epiphany that night, it may take me days or years to figure out exactly what it means. Once I figure it out, you’ll be the first to know.

Be patient. It must be important if I was crying.