Category Archives: Voyagers

That Light

woman at beach

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I’ve always thought the light I’d filament when done
would soothe from that rising sun at New Smyrna Beach
in 1981, bright gold unhinged from a flat sepia sea
framing just so the woman standing in the shallows
smiling wearily at me after our long late night of love,
her bikini casually loose over nakedness shared in full
& her hair blonde and curly and catching all the gold
like a sea-net lifted and heavy with what was fullest
into the mystery of augment resolving into death—:

But no, toiling behind that light was something else,
pressed to time’s window but still hidden, unclear
to eyes too accustomed to waking & walking,
another type of light, older, veined where gold is found—
A pool’s gleam, say, when all above is 3 a.m.,
turning the water the cyanotic hue too intense
for two young brains drunk on everything else

and now filling past full with each other in
that first night’s dance into love’s wild ocean,
wholly unaware of the others in and around
the pool, or the Scorpions blasting from speakers
pointed out from some rich dick’s living room—he
hoping for 19-year-old pussy scooped up from club
at closing time with promises of champagne & coke—

That gelating gleam is more primary and last because
that hot Florida night gripped round me and her
like a knowing hand, clutching desire with its monster
underwater hand to squish us out in bright blue pulses,
heaving and sharp and orgasmic with birth matters
unsayable and unknowable back then and to this day:

There at 3 AM in just one more party paradise
lost in the vast black burb of mindless evocations,
that late light switched on something first and pure,
haloing the naked woman rising from the pool
looking deep into me with dark eyes deeper than the sea;
And when she looked up and pulled me close and kissed
me openly and full, I became the single ogham stone
notched into the ancient love-dance by that pool’s light,
kennable only to what sings deepest in blue hearts—:

And even though love broke us into halves soon after
all our edges vanished in the womb of first desire,
that song on the radio for months after she said Go
still promised to me love’s sanctum, singing of believing anyway,
a longing beyond lovers toward the long night roads between them,
the bittersweet and haunting filament of that first night,
the lucent scrimshaw which I’ve repeated ever since—

Signing to that late blue light that woke and broke me so
Plunge me back into that pool when this life at last says Go.

February 2016

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woman by pool at night

Submitted to Real Toads’ Tuesday Platform

and D’Verse Poets’ Mockingbird challenge

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The Last Polar Oilfield

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We can, if need be, ransack the whole globe, penetrate into the bowels of the earth, descend to the bottom of the deep, travel to the farthest regions of this world, to acquire wealth.

—William Derham, Physico-Theology, 1713

One more good old jolly roger, he thinks, scanning the grey heave
for wandering floes. There’s more of them than ever these days
as the Arctic tears herself apart. One last derrick plunged in
Mother Freeze and we’re fucking done, a billion barrels
of crude for gas autos so pricey now you have to be too rich
to drive in style, one of the hundred lords or their ladies
or their always errant platinum-plus kids. They alone
pay for this right; the rest have gone to hell, ten billion souls
like these floes, banging about in the rising tides of night.
The last polar bear up here was sighted, what, twenty years ago,
floating away upon a brick of ice into the foggy goop
of what was Greenland. It’s quite temperate here now for
most of the year; developers have begun to lift a magic city
up from the northern sea, no expense spared or tech treat
denied, expecting most of the world’s wealthy and useful
to flee the heat in twenty years or so. He remembers tales
of the captain he served under on his first drilling mission here,
a boozer salt who in his cups talked about ice as far as the eye
could scan, and cold so infinite it was like walking on the dark
side of the moon—a white bone-breaking plunge. Amazing that
a man could see glaciers in his youth, shelved for hundreds
of miles out of sight–and yet by old age see only ocean
and the winding ghosts of northern lights. The borealis
is so sad now, bannering the names of gods of ice
in a language lost when the last Eskimos sailed away.
One more decent plunge of spinning bit of steel into the mark
and that sweet cum sound of crude upgorging, splashing
into tanks, draining clean the last oilfield of human time.
Man what gorgeous music, he thinks, aching for something—
a cigarette or whiskey or a woman’s pierced cry—
and watches green light ghost the broken northern sky,
empty and eerie and winding round up over where
a vanished pole is the haunt of the last lost polar bear.

February 2016

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polar bear northern lights

Submitted to Real Toads’ Tuesday Platform

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Note

Another fine quote from the “Drill, Baby, Drill” catechism, from Francis Bacon’s De Augmentis Scientairum (1623):  “For you have to but follow and as it were hound nature in her wanderings, and you will be able, when you like, to lead and drive her afterwards to the same place again … Neither ought a man to make scruple of entering and penetrating these holes and corners, when the inquisition of truth is his sole object.”

 

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Mix Tape ’78

long highway road

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“Werewolves of London” as we drove out from Spokane,
2,000 miles to roll to my father’s New Age farm near Philly.
Both of us 19 and wanting all of it. The first leg to Missoula
was too sublime for young men, thrilling heights and tragic drops
with “Solsbury Hill” on the cassette deck, rollicking all
we yearned in love and lust and rock n roll. Day Two driving
bald badlands, “Hot Blooded” cracking wide the granite shelf
‘til thunderstorms whipped up, cold and venal, danger
cracking its bright sexual whip across the falling sky.

Stopped in Caspar Wyoming where Dave got good and drunk
partying with the hotel band til 3 a.m. We rolled out of
town on Day Three banging in parched silos of
hangover, passing the back end of a Lincoln Continental
sticking out a drainage ditch near the hotel. Miles
and then a sunny ocean of prairie grass flat as a
woman’s sleeping stomach sticky still with cum.

“Love is the Drug,” you know, verdant and humid
in June with plush heat coming. Quiet night outside
Rochester in Minnesota with manure from dark fields
gestating something deep inside the Scotch we drank
watching reruns on TV. Cornfield dreams that night.

Day Four Dave’s Mustang broke down in Chicago so
we stayed three days in my older brother’s too-small so-
rank apartment, roaches everywhere & beer cans
piled against the wall. Guy I knew from high school
showing up party harder than we had livers for.
Who’s dead now? “Breakdown,” “Badlands.” Praying
to the metal gods to fix the goddamned clutch.
Hot Chicago steel gone black, inside a long knife’s sheath,
Lake Michigan the blue lady with nothing underneath.

Day Eight, car fixed just before our brains and livers broke,
we left that brutal gloss on history behind: Thank God for roads.
“Miss You” for the final leg, a long day to Pennsylvania
as we talked of all the bands and towns we’d rock through
though in fact we were headed nowhere like that: a field
of making made manifest by David Spangler into Findhorn,
singing to the energies of growth in one collective tone.

Fifty miles, twenty miles, three. God how I hated getting there,
my only decent still-young road trip in linear time now done.
Sometimes when driving home from work I pass a field
where the scent of manure wafts in through the window.
I hear those road songs on a distant radio, rolling on in bone.
And tap my fingers on the wheel because I’m driving home.

February 2016

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cornfield road

Submitted to Real Toads Road Trip challenge

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Island of the Beloving

Swan Island dahlia. Photo taken my brother in 2007, the year before he died

Swan Island dahlia. Photo taken my brother in 2007, the year before he died

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You’re still on that island, I know, your t-shirt still
sweaty from your last bright springtime run, your
eyes still blue as the sky which no longer oceaned you.
You are that sunny rock because Salem by the time
my flight landed had turned so rainy dark and raw.
When your girlfriend let me in your apartment I saw
shadowy Things—your photos and journals,
the coroner’s report, your guitar, your shoes—
all that I could only ask where you had been and gone.
By then you were a bright place, fading behind dark days.
Eight years later I thought your island was gone,
no longer a dot on any worldly map, and a faded
almost lost one on my own. Sure, I spent years
trying to weave the archipelago of your scattered
lonely little slowly only somewhat heartloved life,
burying you though there was only ash, and that doled
out only to each of my parents for them to watch
drift in the ground or recede with a wave’s backsigh:
They say that’s how grief’s long winter course is run.
There’s only so much of lost life you yourself can lose.
But ironing shirts for work last night, watching some
cop show on TV, I suddenly felt you standing behind me
as if you’d just come in from that final two-mile jog,
sweaty, breathing heavily, whispering my name.
I remembered you so viscerally, so substantially, so true
I knew that the island of the everliving never fades
fully from view once you’ve grieved it completely there,
once enough of your dead have given its head hair.
Then that island becomes the book never fully writ
until we add our own name to its final sighing page
and cast it silent to the all-bright crashing wave.
That island is where all beloving goes—friends
and family, lovers, lands and cats—: They’re all there,
lost or dead, tossed for good upon the stoving tides of time.
And they’re all waiting now for me to join them, in
reverie or dream or vision, in love again or forever
thence alone—waiting for me to remit the buoyant poem
of this boat and take that final faltering step ashore.
To come home to where you and I walk that one fine
bright so distant afternoon in Portland forever again,
two brothers tall and gawky both now dead men,
toothpicks in our mouths and talking of life and how
we thrilled to the arduous creative working beloving day
while the river now beyond us flows so brightly black away.

January 2015

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Submitted to Real Toads’ Tuesday Platform

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Island of the Earth-Shaker

stormy isle

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A time came when our sails whipped into black.
Some pall splashed from sky like pitch; night
was noon and winds ripped the rigs without cease
or mercy. We cowered in the careening bow,
praying to the sea-lord for deliverance. The waves
became a stallion surf that rode our boat wild,
galloping smash after smash into the lee of an island
that seemed rise like a forehead from the sea.

Our boat stove in and gone, we crawled ashore
to a haunted and wild land misty deep-blue
as if dusk’s hour had frozen before death.
Whipped by winds and rocked by surf
the very ground thundered from deep below.
No food or shelter could be found: just bald acres
of rock from which some pale lichens grew except
at the far end where a leafless tree kept watch.

No humans had been there: no huts or bones
or charred firepits: No scraps to lash up a raft.
Except for sea-birds careening overhead
there was no food to be found. We slaked
our thirst from crevices in the old stone
and picked the bones of a fallen kestrel .

Collapsed and dreaming of homes far away
we woke to the sound of horses in the night,
invisible to us but ever near and furious and dire,
their hooves’ thunder up from the drowning sea.
Come morning we found that one us had vanished,
the shallow impress where he slept littered
with a few horsehairs glistened with blood.

All day we searched the isle shouting his name
but only winds and hard surf bellowed back
with a twisted echo, as if from deep below.
That day we caught a pelican at the far end’s shore,
smashed it dead with rocks and feasted on its gore.

But five men tearing at one bird is hardly mood
for celebration and that night we slept more desperate,
edged closer to our bodies’ circle in that wicked dark.
Come morning another had vanished and we found
a huge horse dropping where he slept, still steaming
with the breath of the man who had laid there dreaming,
one eye staring up at us from the shit like its foal.

Each day the island wore us down, battening some
dire viscera upon our growing terror and despair
going nowhere and finding no escape from the elements
of howl and shake and thunder. Our prayers grow hoarse
and our eyes bled piling stones with trembling fingers.
We posted a watch each night but always the man swooned
as if seduced to sleep by some snakehaired wind
and come morning we found another gone, always
signed off our out with a horse’s symbolon—hoof-print,
a thread of mane or tail, once a mare-shaped shell.

By the fourth morning there was just two of us
and we were too exhausted and defeated to get up.
We lay beneath that wile barbarous sky, feeling the
stone beneath our bodies ground its teeth against
some darker deeper firmament, biting up and down.
I thought I saw our companions running
at the island’s misty edge, whinnying and clopping
and baring big white teeth. We called their
names—Antinoos,! Petrarchus! Callymicas! Soos!—
but the vision vanished with a thunder’s snap
and we swooned while heaven horse-pissed down
and the surf thundered vicious just offshore.

The next day Polydamas too was gone, more grass
to settled down the god’s maw. Of him all that
remained was the tiny wood horse he had been
carving for his son. Now it’s only me, the one
man, faced off with the Furies and the Fates,
sustained and battened on brutality’s salt fare.
Just me on this island of ghost horses and a lone
medusa tree on which at night I hear my brothers’
bones whinny the wind, swinging on nooses
woven of horsehair and a lost god’s sea myth.

For years now I have sailed this solitary rock,
the only witness to time’s long dash of divines,
my face the long-carved caul of that awfulness.
What is it when a man is harrowed so pure?
Is it like when an earth god is exiled to sea?
Perhaps that is the mystery of Leviathan,
falling forever in appalling silent majesty.

We cannot know our fate and yet it must do.
It’s time you left now—go—row on, get through.
Consider this harrow a well deep enough, done.
May your homeward journey by fortune outrun
the maleficent old hand that turns the winds’ screw.
And if those horses should stampede your dreams
call it a blessing, the waves drowning a god’s screams.

January 2015

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StormySea

For Real Toads’ Islands Challenge

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Notes

Poseidon was probably an earth-master god like Zeus brought to Greece by Indo-Europeans in the late Bronze age (ca. 2000 BCE), who brought horse-culture with them. Poseidon was a much greater god than the place he is relegated to in classical Greek mythology—brother of Zeus, given mastery of the depths, tamer of horses and rescuer of ships at sea. His rape of Demeter as a stallion (fleeing, she had changed herself into a Fury or night-mare) and fathers the first horse Arion, who becomes the greatest war-horse of all. When the hoof of Arion strikes the ground, he Horse Spring (Hippo Kreme) opens up: according to Burkert, “the horse is born where the deep opens up.” Horses were ritually drowned in sacrifice to Poseidon in the fresh water that rises from the sea at the whirlpool in Argos.

As Lord of the Sea, “Poseidon reveals himself as the sea opens, up, whether when sea monsters gambol beneath him or the storm-whipped waves tower upwards.” (Walter Burkert, Greek Religion, 139). The living depths are his—further down we find Hades, the realm of the dead—and as Earth-shaker, earthquakes are expression of his rage. “Poseidon reveals himself as the sea opens up, whether when sea monsters gambol beneath him or when the storm-whipped waves tower upwards” (ibid.).

In myth, the solitary figure on this island may be Glaucus, the old man of the sea, who was once a seafarer and ate an herb that made him immortal though not immune to aging. (Now there’s a fate.) The herb only grew on one island and served as a remedy against fatigue for the sun god’s horses.

Marine mammals like whales and walruses and seals are believed to be land-mammals who returned to the sea some 50 million years ago.

Another Arion in the canon is the first singer who rides a sea-horse; that figure is tattooed on my left arm.

The hippocampus is a sea-horse-shaped area of the brain essential for spatial memory and navigation, providing a cognitive map of the perceived environment. It also provides the relational database essential for creativity. Alcohol blackouts are the result of excessive amounts of alcohol shutting down the hippocampus. A shrinking hippocampus is an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

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A Whale, Falling (Hymn)

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When a whale dies
in the deepest of seas
her fall is the song
that angels us all.

No longer buoyant
with air from above,
her bulk is a down-
ballast for great depths.

Falling slow—weeks,
sometimes months—
sharks and crabs tear
the bread of her flesh,
praising the long
buffet though the sea.

Eventually what remains
of ocean might fades,
the cow’s death become
the shape of soul’s black,

descending through
the grand then greater
leagues of Hades

where light is a dream
lost in the endless
snow of the dead.

But life is not lost
here; the dead whale’s
majesty winds on.

Now comes the age of
of hardly falling at all,
the pressure of depth
pushing up against death,

death-rot inflating her
like a siege balloon
or a heart that
cannot yet break.

Hovering there she
feeds blind jaws of abyss,
hagfish tearing what’s left
and tunneling in,
bathing their phosphor
in whale glory, each trail
a shout, a ghost
inward spout.

When the methane
is freed at last and
bubbles full away,
what remains deflates
slowly down to the bottom,
bones hitting the silt
in a run up death’s piano,
ending with a last
pianissimo kiss.

And so the next life
of death’s three-mile fall
is passed to Demeter.

Praising her, the urb of
whale-bone is settled
as invaders claimed Eire:

First the devourers of
soft tissue, sleeper sharks
who spend the first
two years chewing out all
the cartilege, leaving a
ghostly Chartres of bones.

Next the zombie worms
with no eyes or mouths
who attach and send roots
down into the bone, drinking
the sacred host oxygen
trapped deep in the ribs and
spine and immense skull.

Time passes somewhere
up above—one, two more
years—but here there’s
only enduring, a communion
shared between
small and smaller eaters.

And then dark’s duration
settles in, the way
death’s remembrance
fades from hero to myth
where gods all begin—:

A century of last devouring
as the sulfofilic bacteria
ride in on angel wings
from the last whale fall
to break down the lipids
embedded in her bones.

Singing while they batten
as hours whiten aeons
in voices smaller than the
atoms of starlight clinging
to the swirling death snow

We too, are sons and daughters of God—

Their congregation in
the abandoned cathedral
a nutrient field of glory
for aeons of sea snails
and limpets and clams.

Thousands of these Camelots
spread across the seven seas,
everywhere a great whale falls:

they rule Britannia
from her bottommost swale,
each like a cult and shrine
for that last late supper
who fell from the sky.

So it’s true when we say
death ends the person
but not the relationship.

So much thrives when we die,
is merry and worships
because death rides
the womb downward
after our life has fled,

casting blessings like
rain to middle earth,
become the snow swirl
in the vales of the dead.

No matter what we might
have welcomed walking
the bright earth—

no mater what others miss
of us in memory
for their lonely, sad while—

know that a heavenly gold
spreads from death’s knell:

Angels are born from our falling,
are the joy of each shattered bell.

 

December 2015

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snow queen

Submitted to Real Toads Tuesday Platform

Notes

Scientists estimate there are some 6,900 active whale fall ecosystems spread across the deepest oceans, each sustaining an orchestra of ocean life for upwards to 100 years.

Abyssal or marine snow is the continuous shower of organic detritus falling from the upper layers of the sea. It is a significant means of exporting energy down into the aphotic (lightless) bathypelgaic and abyssopelagic regions.

 

 

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The Sixth Element

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The world was once thought
a salad of elements in
the world’s bowl, tossings
of wild earth and hard wind,
deep water and pure fire.

Aristotle added a fifth
called the quintessence—
the element by which
the four combed as one,
the complicate amassing
of spirit which beyonds
earth into heaven,
yearning to choir.

By that alchemy our
machines soon arrived,
conduits of force that quickly
doubled and trebled
blue and bluer magnitudes,
heights to the power of fact.

Abstraction made the
the art of reaching a
science then a math,
bidding us all the way
into the old opus sack,

grabbing the superheaviest
element deepest in there,
the one by which the gods’
starry aegis was fracked—:

Here the sixth element,
the ultimate’s platinum gold,
minting the coins for which
Hell got hacked and heaven sold.

Saved by our reaching
from death’s bereaving cold.
Disrupting the disruptor
with a sickle from his mold.

It’s just me and my media now
alone with yearning’s fresh stuff—
virtuals of purest earth
and wind and water and fire

romancing about in a digital wood,
the homunculus become May wine
drunk from friar’s sixth hood.

December 2015

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sherwood-forest

Something Elemental for Real Toads.

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Heartland

sea scape

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To be true to the heart’s one choice
is the long labor of the mind.
—Wendell Berry

We’re talking the infernal South here,
red kingdom by the burning sea.
Heart-roads meander and invert,
blossoming one night in billows
that snarl the blicker of a sea-witch.
And always in the air that fiddling,
so maddeningly near yet gone …

One night here costs your entire life.
Just when you think you know doors
a black horse gallops from the sea,
his cold eyes like cue balls
rolled back in sexual spasm,
offering the ride of your life:
Hold on tightly to his mane
and kiss your ends goodbye.

It’s hell when the mind tries to
make sense of the heart,
attempting to moralize its mess,
throating raw abyss with swells.

You can try to dry-dose the sot,
mop dreck salt off the lintel,
sweep seaweed in twelve steps:

But she will come for you
at your most penitent hour,
her wet hair pinned with crabs,
her voice a distant hurricane
moaning beneath your dream:

You are my lover, my child,
my burning garden of red gold
 …

Bone minstrel, harp carefully
of what’s forever only yours:
a spinning boat on moonshining brine,
a compass jacked on crashing stars,

another poem split and swirling down
this heart whose only door you are.

—2001, revised 2015

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blue pool eyes 2

Submitted to Real Toads’ The Heart’s Desire challenge

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The Crossing

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It’s a short distance from All Hallows to Samhain,
a crossing that twixts you on both sides of doors.
One night of spook-Danaans sharing soup, your dead brother
serving as hinge for that door, the mythic ligament
that keeps each year’s legs attached to the rest.
Last night the Halloweening in our ‘hood was poor –
only a dozen Princesses and Power Rangers, where
a decade ago there were hundreds of ghouls; lean times
for the candywolves, so many houses too empty or white,
our witch moon to faint a beacon to those who passed
our dark block on the long trek through the Great Recession.

Still, history was in full gallop across the night sky
like Arthur’s Wild Hunt with the void’s disturbances in tow,
all the ages’ dead eyes watering the veil so that
seeing and believing still can seep vatic tea-leaves
in the old dark well their theurgies, even faith. Today profane
and sacred calendars unite this once, squared and circular time
bound in the end of all time into the birth of some next,
twin bonfires every Samhain celebrant – knowingly
or not — passes through, purifying our incorrigible soul
for another round of commerce and intercourse,
more griefs and joys to compost the heart with life-soil.

So imagine that you’re sailing between two shores
of pyre-flame — heading out in desperate quest for a new shore
while at the same time trying to find your way back
at last to home, seeking and finding in the same voyage
a seamed moiety where hard days and nights glass No-Time’s
tideless sands, blowing out the last summer candle
and beginning the year’s walk into darkness so that
starting things can light up again. It’s well after
midnight and the passage moon is huge, filling
half the sky as it did a billion of years ago,
igniting the dark with a primally huge lucence,
silvering the sea with dragon scales, a pale white road
through the night, the old road of souls livid for miles,
going on perhaps forever.

Far out you see the spout of a spirit-whale
and a pale ship giving chase, unaware of the
huge shadowy bird – ghost or spectre, devil or fate
– flapping wings as wide as gale-sea wickedness,
hunting the whaler’s pursuit. Further out you
also see nine islands in a row, the ones that every
coracled hero and then saint harrowed through
as the sought the single most blessed rock,
Tir-Na-Nog, Island of the Everliving, the
ulimate shore of every soul’s deep yearning,
the one our mortality always doomed the quest of,
whispering Enough in the Not Here emptiness
of ocean without measure, bidding each failed
heart make that lonely turn back to mortal time
and home. Even tonight you can’t see it, not quite,
only for darkest blue edges of a halcyon
proscenium furthest out, faint as the hair
of your beloved on her pillow as she sleeps
high up the abyssal ledges of this poem.

You know by now that arrival is not the point —
it never was — and so your heart opens to exactly
where you are, the dark outside so still and quiet,
footsteps of those few trick-or-treaters ebbed
back to sugar houses and fatbergs of treasure,
the arches of the Southern oaks that frame your house
proscenium too to a ruined cathedral, dropping nuts
on the tin roof now and now and now like the
relic fingerbones of saints, still bearing voltage,
hot to the touch with the God who hallows the
sea you cross.. You’re here and out there,
your heart as wild to hold on to what’s
left in this life as to see so many ocean spirits
come out from past ones to revel reach of night.

Sailing on in savage moonlight you pass a coven
of sirens sing from a rock, threading webs of
kelp round your keel, their selkie-soft mouths
all opened in invitation, their songs wave-
whispering wet kisses, inviting you to voyage
to the bottommost bed of silted things,
drifting down in gauzy sexual billows
onto Rapture’s basalt bed of bone abyss.
But you know by now they’re just the invitation,
their mouths welcoming you to the other world
that seems like such doom from your own.

But you sail on, soon entering a fog that
hides all you saw so clearly just a moment ago.
The mist is cold and dreary like Lir’s hoary
old beard, enveloping all in the dreaded silence
of the barrow where hundreds of warriors and saints
are laid out, swords and crosses clasped to
their chests, their mouths faintly chanting
final battle-cries and psalms, their bald eyes
blind to killing stroke that dispatched them,
full of the visions writ by the greater wheel
of dead time, that longest season of the soul,
one with the congregation of standing stones
that circle the barrow’s roof, dark matters
become the invisible axle of the quantum coach.

How long, how far do you travel in fog?
An hour? A night? Three centuries? Who knows?
But a creep of fear up your bony back tells
you have entered a sea-forest, exactly where
peril is most. Something menaces close by;
you peer from the prow and see a barrel bobbing
in the water, then a open crate holding only
a blackened, rusty sextant; a while further
two masts like bone legs of a dead man
sticking from the dirt; then three small
ships that were supposed lost to hurricane,
each covered in black webs of rotted kelp.

More hulks emerge momentarily from the fog
as you sail through this tangled mid-sea brake
of ship-graveyard. They’re all strangely
afloat despite so many killing blows, horrid
breeches visible at their water-lines,
traces of cannon-shot and rocks and
sperm-whale skull around stoved timbers;
others lurk further below with just
their topmost to ken them by,
one steam-chimney of the Titanic,
nose of a dragon-keel, a periscope with
one frantic eye still staring out,
a pleasure-yacht’s silk topsail,
the business end of Dora, one of
the Bismarck’s big fore guns, its
mouth still leaking smoke from hurled shells.

Oh it’s a dangerous ground to be caught in,
this harbor of long-damned boats; every
sense tells you’re drowned and down
where things fall, and yet you know
that for this night only death floats,
moating a castle or throating an isle
where vapors are the incense of Samhain matin.
An eerie green phosphor covers the water
at the fog’s feet and there’s a rising murmur
in the sloshing of tide, lost voices
at dark communion that gives you the
creepy feeling that tonight you’re the host,
the wine, the wicker man’s burning toast
to Queen Morrigan’s dance with her next lover
the white god with his overbright divine.

Spooky shit; you’re crossing your heart thrice
wishing you had the clout of triple God to call on
when you see it just ahead, not the largest ship
in this timbered boneyard, not by far (a while back
you passed an aircraft carrier bobbing straight
up in the water, scraping keel the moon),
but certainly the most strange and feral and wild:
a medieval-looking ship resting at the waterline
although only its aft and fore is whole, the
middle devoured by some monster’s bite that
cleared the mid-decks, leaving just the head
and rump to thus fare the ages.

The boat’s timbers are black and rotting
and akilter like the siding of a spook-house,
holding out the water by the invisible
hand of curse. You squint hard to read its
name from implausible height of its stern
Alhalcog, the faint script reads in moonlight:
A ship for All Hallows, almed by every saint,
father to the galleon that a century
later would sail to the New World.

You hear three bells—tolled by some
other nearby casket of a ship too
enshrouded in fog —then see a
bony arm and hand emerge from the
captain’s cabin of Alhalcog’s stern,
the fingers crooking you aboard.
You know the trope too well: It was the
same gesture dead Ahab made to Ishmael,
tethered by harpoon-lines and barbs to
the whitewall of brute silence that was
Moby’s bleeding hide, waving both farewell
and come aboard as death dove from life for good.

You lower a whaleboat and set to cross over,
alone as usual at the oars, this little
boat a coracle that looks exactly like
your morning writing chair with a keel.
Each plash of wood on water stirs up
the witchy stillness of your past so that
little things start cresting still black waters
—fingers tipped with black nail polish,
whiskey bottle-mouths, brassieres with tiny
palm trees growing from the tips of their cups.

As you get still closer to the ship,
rows of heads bob up just enough so
that familiar livid eyes commence imploring—
the Man in the Car and the Girl in The Woods,
loves lost or tossed behind, teachers,
bandmates, co-workers, cats, lyin’ politicos
and spectral-thin celebrities, Ovid
and Swinburne, your dead brother with his
cobalt eyes, even Saint Oran checking in,
up from Christian ruin: A pumpkin patch of heads
roused to rise and staring your presumption down,

glaring through your every vatic need
and nailing something else deeper inside
your purpose, reaching through the old oaken
door croaked full open tonight to grab
your beating red heart and squeeze hard.
You’re almost there and about to board
when you see the figurehead upon that
splinter’s remain of stern. You recoil
in terror watching the fish-woman writhe
in her tethers, bound to this ship’s fate.

She’s old all right, Lir’s dam for sure,
Grendel’s aunt & Moby’s mammy: and yet
her naked breasts are as fresh and milky
as your first love’s first allowed squeeze.
She turns her head to stare at you and
her soft blue eyes seem to smile in sexual
drowse before turning voracious and wild,
her mouth opening to reveal the orca’s
saw teeth, stained red and slinging gobbbets
of flesh. She spreads her jaws wide to take
you in— or is she mouthing a word, her
ogham for waking, the word that frees
her at last, at least from you?

The fog suddenly thickens to a briny paste
and then whiteouts; you go a ways further
when you feel your boat sail off the edge
of the world, hanging in high air long enough
for you to realize you ain’t going nowhere
but down, and with a lurch commence diving
a screaming cataract as time speeds up from
the mist. The shelves of rock that you pass
are like notches in Time’s yardstick
all most all three feet a dreamtime,
followed by an inch in the Oldavi and
Soan River Gorges, Tamil Naudu and Hohle Fels,
then massive porches shmearing past in a tear,
Jericho and Cairo and Rome and London
and Boston and Orlando, ripping the last
infinitesimal notch to here. All the
while the falling water is singing
with every voice that has lived
is lifted up together, the words
a mashed howl but somehow sounding
a refrain that you understand:
there, amid the roar and tumult
you hear the one voice sing “We too
are sons and daughters of God.”

How long you fall you cannot say;
you never hit a bottom but instead go
black in as your boat spirals beyond
time and space, a black lotus spinning
to rest on forever’s tide. When you come to
you’re floating gentle in the shallows
of first light, moon fled, eastern skies
paling, heavens drained except for one
star, anointing your waking with Lucifer’s
transformed and reborn wings.

Slowly you realize that your boat
is just a park bench; you groan as
you stagger up, the 21st-century schizoid
man now present and soon to be accounted
for, shaking off the ache of traversing
through a door’s haunted mound as
cold November winds rake the square.
It seemed so real, you think as you
rejoin the crowd of passed-overs
massing downtown, the unemployable
and over-deployed, the foreclosed
and the bankrupt, youth without a future
and older folks without much hope
with food priced out of sight
along with health care and winter oil.

And so you add your voice to the howl
that crosses from dustbowl Kansas to
the barred gates of the Emerald City,
uprooting the poppy fields of privilege
promise by lie by defrauding guile.
Dark time of the year for sure
and hard, the wind cold and harrowing
this square that circles Tahrir
and bloody, vacant Homs. Wet fist
beat on against those monied walls
while everything swamp in rising
seas and a burning flight of disease,
Christian time collapsing into Samhain.

It took a while getting here—-
half a thousand years in one night–
but now, amid the stoved-in pummkin ruins
of suburb & church & corrupted-through states
it’s time to convene the wounded and lost
to levy justice and offer sacrifice
between your pyre and mine, arighting the time
if only long enough to finally collapse.

That’s the true merit of this well-delved holiday,
durable somehow for those ships still afloat
amid present buoys belling in dark rain,
mixing with snow now over the ghost-sailors
and selkies and ancestors and soon-enough dead
who crossed the lonely sea  in moonlight
toward the unsayable manger of the future
where we may yet begin again
as first light now rebirths the land.

2011, reposted as the concluding Octoberal of 2015

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Happy Samhain!

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The Island

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This stone crown of Mannann’s ooze
unfolds for you the ancient, first drama,
the one you must choose its ending with care.
For there are two way to gloss its harborage,
two fatus ignii to candle its howling blare.
You must decide: stinking pond or lucent pool,
Caliban’s Pict-paint or Miranda’s blue jewel,
the key of rough magic psalming eternal life
or silver well of upwelling the dead’s bone sooth.
Exiled castle of the book’s bardoloteer
or sea-witch lair that haunts the moon,
the selkie’s aria or black-matin prayers.
Prospero or Sycorax, Antonio’s sword or liege,
the billow-dozed boatmen or Trinculio’s booze siege:
Next life or the last, the charm ever depends
on which voice you raise in full to the wind.
The door is yours to choose and then harp,
but whatever you sing stays on this isle.
And when you wake we’re just carved stones
pushed off by Christians from old shores,
staring up from leagues where deity sleeps.
Ariel re-treed or by your own hand freed:
carve your words too drunk or too deep.

All Hallows 2015

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Lair of the senachie in “Song of the Sea”

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Note

While waiting for the completion of a heart procedure for my mother yesterday (minor, she’s fine), I re-read Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which was first performed on All Hallows 1611 and is Shakespeare’s last known play. Back in 1990, in the early years of my first sobriety, I wrote my first big paper on mythic parallels in The Tempest for a Shakespeare class at the University of Central Florida. Oran and Columba began their work in me then, and towards the end of that blue career, Shakespeare’s island theater, which I’ve always call Iona, still resonates from the well at its center.

Happy All Hallows!

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