Medka

The nurses flocked, they flocked to me
              like jackdaws thirsting
And me without a jaw left behind
              in the mouth of a Kamchatka brown bear
Airlifted and onto trolleys, recomposing surgeries
              discomposed, composing
(Is my jaw now compost? Half my face for gruel)
              their reinvention with chalk lines drawn
And I with hymns and old prayers, half-remembered
              in dragon’s mist, tamping
Down hysteria, breathing, breathing, wondering
              at my new name, Even-given, transfigured
By suffering into medka, call me medka, half-
              human, half-bear,
Conflated by misunderstanding, or was it evil,
              this force of Nature’s kiss
Which bit off more than it could chew at one sitting,
              to make of an anthropologist
A believer in transfiguration, to wish for the Other
              when left to the mercy of human hands.


N.B. This poem is solely my personal interpretation based on what I’ve read in reviews of a recent book by Nastassja Martin, an anthropologist studying the indigenous Even people of Siberia, in which she recounts her experiences after a Kamchatka bear “went off with a chunk of my jaw clenched in his own.”

Continue reading “Medka”

An Experiment in Poetry (A Cut-up)

What can be made of a poem which solely uses the last lines of other poems? Today’s dVerse challenge prompts us to construct just such a poem (or hodge podge or call it what you will) and I was curious what would follow. So I used the last lines of the first twelve poems in Margaret Atwood’s latest book of poetry, Dearly, (without alteration, only enjambment and lower-case) and this is what I got. Make of it what you will, but it goes to show that there is a resonance in words that builds on the generosity of a poem’s ambiguity and particularly the reader’s generosity as well. And such a cut-up technique plays on that to more or less affect.

Dear Reader, you decide.


An Experiment in Poetry (with apologies to Margaret Atwood)

hearts
hurt

not quite
cursed if she smiles or cries

the candle guttering down
I’ll give dry light

turn the key. Bar the window
let there be plot

why can’t I let her go?
isn’t it pretty, back there?

as Heaven always is,
if you read the texts closely

remember me
sing: On

Journeying on Geryon

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot
Join us at Rochelle's Friday Fictioneers (100 words, photo prompt) 
and Denise's Six Sentence Story ("meter"). Click  and  to join the fun.

Journeying on Geryon

Dante’s Inferno lies open as I sleep.

On winged Geryon we descend into the infernal sublime of fraudsters, flatterers, the treacherous, their earth-borne bullshit stench exceeded here by that of countless privies.

Geryon’s human face seems kindly, despite his serpentine body and scorpion tail, and I ask: “Geryon, will I recognize anyone in the Malebolge, this place of stone?”

He, answering sweetly in steady meter: “Nay, why, for art thou not too clever for such?”

I relax, then gasp, as he drops me in the mire.

Alas, it’s not as one living but as one damned to her final destination.


Illustration by Gustave Doré 1867, The Flight of Geryon.

In Canto XVII of Dante’s Inferno, the pilgrim Dante and the poet Virgil, his guide, ride on the back of the monster Geryon to descend from the seventh to the eighth circle of hell in the third ring of hell, the Malebolge. It is described in this way in the next canto:

There is a place in Hell called Malebolge,
made all of stone the color of crude iron,
as is the wall that makes its way around it.

Right in the middle of this evil field
is an abyss, a broad and yawning pit,
whose structure I shall tell in its due place.

The belt, then, that extends between the pit
and that hard, steep wall’s base is circular;
its bottom has been split into ten valleys.

Just as, where moat on surrounds a castle
in order to keep guard upon the walls,
the ground they occupy will form a pattern,

so did the valleys here form a design;
and as such fortresses have bridges running
right from their thresholds toward the outer bank,

so here, across the banks and ditches, ridges
ran from the base of that rock wall until
the pit that cuts them short and joins them all.

This was the place in which we found ourselves
when Geryon had put us down; the poet
held to the left, and I walked at his back.

The Divine Comedy – tr. Mandelbaum – Cantica I – Canto XVIII
Sandro Botticelli (1480), Inferno, Canto XVIII

This Long November Day

This long November day
unravels, filaments of self
unthreaded spin in disarray
seek a coalescing glance
from Thee, my soul’s desire.

This long November night
defeats, malingers yesterdays
that moon in shallow doorways
guilt-shadowed, hammering refrains
that only Thy voice can silence.

Hasten to send Thou, Oh Lord, Thy Word,
Thy Light by day, by night, my sight
unblind, my thought overspread, unroll
yard by yard Thy seeded spring
in frozen heart by Thy Spirit’s warmth.

And then shall November night become
as day, November day as night unfurled
in Thy blanketing love, and like a traveler
who spies a bridge o’er torrents harsh, I’ll race
to cross encircling time, and so abide in Thee.

An Advent Song (For the First Sunday of Advent)

ADVENT STARRY NIGHT 5, Virginia Wieringa, Acrylic 2011

An Advent Song

Clothed in the armor of Your light
We walk by faith throughout the night
As darkness fades, so all earthly fear
With the long-awaited dawn, when You appear.

All the prophets spoke was true
All that they prophesied of You
We knew it then, we know it now
That every knee before You one day will bow.

In the fullness of time You came
As babe in manger, Jesus by name
Now ascended King, when You departed
You left us not alone, but the Holy Spirit imparted.

Yet out of our sight You reign on high
Until that day when You again come nigh
The dawn of that day we will shout and cheer
Not an eye will be dry when You, O Lord, draw near!

Now, Father, keep us faithful and strong
Singing ever onwards the Gospel song
Knowing it is the power of God to save
By believing in His Son whom to us You gave.


Romans 1:16 (NIV) For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

Galatians 4:4-6 (NASB) But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

Lyrics: Psalm 121 (sung in Arabic) I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where my help comes from My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going from now until the end of time

In the malpaís

malpaís (spanish: mahl-pah-ees; lit. “badland”): an arid, rough barren landscape of lava flows difficult to traverse; image: A Juniper bush grows out of the lava beds at the Carrizozo Malpais

In the malpaís – the badland –
burning – a bird flew down
And on my right hand sat

His eyes spoke love, so complete
His feathers gentle gleamed, so glorious
Where sun beat heavy in the malpaís

His kingly talons dug into my flesh
Scored pain, bled wounds, I cried
scorched by heat in the malpaís

Yet the good song he sang as I died
Was one that filled my heart with joy,
With peace ne’er felt in the malpaís

In the malpaís – waiting –
once hopeless, condemned –
With my last breaths, enlivened I rise

Bald Eagle at El Malpais, New Mexico

Lamentations 3:16-25
He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes;
my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD.”
Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

Romans 15:8-13
For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,
and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.”
And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”
And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.”
And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.”
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Confession of a Bibliopole

*A bibliopole is a person who buys and sells books, especially rare ones.

This Dream recurs — I am the Bird —
Neither the Darkness — nor the Light —
Ranging over Estates of books
Endless — See one Book — now Ubiquitous — contains Life
Lights the Path —while others
Sound
Characterize
Reflect
Darken
Never overcome the Light


A recent post by a fellow blogger1 awakened me yet again to issues of abuse. Extremes of reaction and behavior caused by past abuse. Impossibly high standards it engenders. Unrealistic expectations. Childhood scars that reopen and bleed. Shedding these old habits of thought/behavior and clearing our lungs of them by achieving moderation does take time … but particularly time in the word of God. Diving deep and long, letting the Holy Spirit fill our lungs with His love so we can breathe more easily in our own skin. Theology is not a luxury but a necessity that God alone can provide through the special revelation that is His inerrant and infallible word. Through it we come to know that He is the Rock that is higher than all others, as the psalmist puts it, a fortress of peace, stability and safety. But more: He gives life, abundant life, His own, by uniting us with Himself, Emmanuel, God with us, the incarnate God, Christ Jesus. Finally, union with Christ is God’s divine life poured into us by His Spirit and we become a new creation, leaving the past behind, following a new path that leads to life eternal, and pressing on “toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”2

Psalm 119:105 (KJV)
Thy word [is] a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

John 8:12
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 1:5
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 6:68
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2Phillipians 3:12,14
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. … I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.


1Anna Waldherr writes at A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse: her most recent post is “Of Ogres and Onions”

Continue reading “Confession of a Bibliopole”

Under Dust

Found on a flyleaf: “Awarded to Fanny for an Essay on ‘What I saw during my trip to the orphanage’. Sept 19111

John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893), “November Moonlight”

The art book when I find it
is pristine with dust, a gray snowfall,
only the flurries fall upward in the sunlight

defying gravity, defying the orderly Milky Way
of my existence, its fixed planetary motions
with phantoms of metaverses like motes

in my eyes: Marcel² says, “leave it under the bed”:
but the plank is in his eye: this dust is
important as marble, a tombstone in the tundra

of which I am custodian, and I hate the gloved hand
that gave it and know the open hand that received it
and I would not disturb the fixed leaves

that shelter the child who murmurs “dada”
then “rosebud”
then dies.

Man Ray, Dust Breeding (Dust over work by Marcel Duchamp), ca. 1920

1Inscription (with edit) from The Book of Inscriptions Project

2French artist/writer Marcel Duchamp let dust collect in a spot under his bed (he called it “growing dust”), instructing his maid not to clean it.

Continue reading “Under Dust”

Dante’s Prayer

I hear the call, Eternal, sound in my heart and in the stars.
Is it timeless or infinity itself? Is its Voice a song?
I do not question, so much yet to understand and I am not able.

I only respond in gratitude, though one-legged in faith still hobbling,
letting go finger by finger my pride,
and taking up, hand after hand, my cross of self-denial.

For this Eternal is Love.


By Purgatorio, Canto 11 of the Commedia, Dante the pilgrim has exited Hell and entered purgatory by permission of the angel at the gate who uses two keys, one silver (remorse) and one gold (reconciliation). As he and his guide, the poet Virgil, enter they are warned not to look back at any point in the journey up through the terraces of purgatory to the Garden of Eden. In Purgatorio, Canto 10, Dante had seen examples of humility. Now on the first and lowest terrace he sees souls of the proud bent over by large stones they carry on their backs, due penance for their sin of Pride, of which there are three kinds: pride of family, pride of art, and pride of power.

Federigo da Montefeltro, Divina Commedia, ca. 1478.
Purgatorio, Canto XI: The Prideful. – Source

Purgatorio is filled with the prayers of souls as they ascend the terraces. And Canto 11 opens with the only complete prayer which is really an expanded version or gloss of The Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6: 9-13; Luke 11: 2-4).

“Our Father, You who dwell within the heavens

but are not circumscribed by them out of

Your greater love for Your first works above,


Praised be Your name and Your omnipotence,

by every creature, just as it is seemly

to offer thanks to Your sweet effluence.


Your kingdom’s peace come unto us, for if

it does not come, then though we summon all

our force, we cannot reach it of our selves.


Just as Your angels, as they sing Hosanna,

offer their wills to You as sacrifice,

so may men offer up their wills to You.


Give unto us this day the daily manna

without which he who labors most to move

ahead through this harsh wilderness falls back.


Even as we forgive all who have done

us injury, may You, benevolent,

forgive, and do not judge us by our worth.


Try not our strength, so easily subdued,

against the ancient foe, but set it free

from him who goads it to perversity.”

Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio, Canto X1, lines 1-21, transl. Alan Mandelbaum
Gustave Doré, Dante Alighieri’s Commedia, The Beatific Vision (1880)

The Commedia ends with Paradiso where Dante receives the beatific vision: “The Love that moves the other stars” (l’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle). As Giuseppe Mazzotta notes, Inferno and Purgatorio also end with stelle. “So when Dante says that love moves the sun and other stars, what he’s really doing is placing himself immediately right back on earth, back at the beginning of his quest. He’s here with us looking up at the stars.”

Continue reading “Dante’s Prayer”

Last Testimony

Rainbow feather-bearers,
winged busy trilling wonders
rest on stout Sequoia shoulders

arcing out in providential shelter
with canopy of ancient splendor
slain when commerce cuts asunder

felled history’s immanence
felled unwritten covenants
felled ringed testaments

fell sight of heaven
fell curse east of Eden.

Fallen Giant Sequoia Redwood tree Loggers with felled Redwood circa 1905
A fallen giant Redwood tree with 14 loggers around a large Redwood tree
Humboldt County, Lumber industry, circa 1905
Photographer: Jesse A. Meiser (1870-1939) Monterey County Historical Society

For Sherry's "Tongues of Falling Trees" earthweal prompt
and De's dVerse Quadrille (44 words, "wing")

A Cynic’s Prayer

Image credit; Pavel Danilyuk@ Pexels

I don’t believe in you, don’t freak out,
god(s), or demi-gods, or goddess,
lol, you’re just words to me, like
psy
cho
lo
gy, (read it, it’s in a book)
of wanting things I can’t have,
help when I need it
a step up, a step down
a shout out, a call down,
but I’m too smart for you
I’ve
got
all
I
need
in
me, don’t fool yourself
that I’m praying when I’m posing
and rit-
ual-
izing,

Continue reading “A Cynic’s Prayer”

Love and “The Sick Rose”

In 1794 the poet William Blake published his “Songs of Experience,” a collection of poems (complete with his own hand-colored illustrations and illuminated borders) of which one is “The Sick Rose.”

    O Rose thou art sick.

    The invisible worm,

    That flies in the night

    In the howling storm:

    Has found out thy bed

    Of crimson joy:

    And his dark secret love

    Does thy life destroy.

William Blake (1794)
Continue reading “Love and “The Sick Rose””

The Mountain, the Moon, and the Rider

(Dedicated to Stephen Crane)

The Mountain under the marble Moon
speaks to that blind assassin
whose cold shards impinge
upon a brave rider’s heart, and asks:

“Why dost thou not strike a flame
from off thy flinty eyes and lend a light
to this lost child that wends through thickets
of devils to reach the gardens of her gods?”

“Fool!” cries the Moon in pale fury, “the devils
are her gods and hence, my stony countenance
notwithstanding, I refrain from giving aid
to those who seek her bitter demise.”

The rider unaware of all but her own desire, puzzled
o’er the Moon’s cold stare and the Mountain heaving
‘neath her horse’s feet as if to urge her retreat,
yet rides on breathing, “Brotherhood for all!”

Now she hears a melody bewitching strong
as near a tomb o’erlaid with dew she spies a stranger
with a grinning mask of Pharaoh’s gold singing,
“Brotherhood for all,” and she hastily stops short.

Unease strikes her restless heart, she wipes her fevered brow
glad for once of the Moon’s restraining sight,
the Mountain’s sudden shadowed dips, and decries
the siren’s call that had led her thus on such false hope.

For that golden mask she knew had enslaved far more
than greed or fame, and hid a braggart’s deceiving face
to lead to doom all those who brotherhood seek yet flinch
to own the One who came as brother to die upon a cross.

The Moon shone brightly now she turned, still breathing,
“Brotherhood to all,” and a Mountain toad among sweet violets
croaked when dawn came glistening o’er the dew as the Sun,
once dark to see its Maker’s pain, now sang a song of life.


Continue reading “The Mountain, the Moon, and the Rider”

Tree by Night

photo ©dorahak

Tree by Night

Under cover of his darkness, I walk. And night walks with me.

As a child, I mistrusted him, hiding under the crisp linen covers, fearing transmogrification of dust bunnies under beds.

Much later, worries, imprisoned by the day’s demands, would spring free and trouble me to insomniac madness with night’s seeming acquiescence.

Now my life closes in on its last chapter. But I’ve learned night’s secrets. His is not the darkness of despair or torment, the deceit of his doppelganger. His the sweet nourishing knowledge of his Maker, the sustainer of souls looking to Him in childlike trust.

Lying on my bed, I look up in the street of sky. Night walks scattering poems of a Love more powerful than the stars that light the avenues of time and space.

Tree leaves shiver under streetlights. A thousand golden poems sing me to sleep.

Hallelujah.


Psalm 19:1-4 (NIV)
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.


Continue reading “Tree by Night”

On the Radio: Jim Morrison

“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”

William Blake

In Café De Flore and Les Deux Magots
I met him, an actor on an oneiric screen,
a phantom disappearing into a Rimbaud
like an atavistic Lizard King.

Parades of strangers peered through windows
to see this prophet of apocalypse from thin air
construct intrusions of fireflies in the soul
to scatter the camera’s malodorous viewing.

Like an auto-da-fé hissing sparks, or a flambeau
through a swamp, short-lived, threatening night
demons that in Blakean chambers claim abode,
he rose Eden’s loss to sing.

” -Hypocrite lecteur, -mon semblable, – mon frere!” I cry, to see my sorrow
as evidence of becoming, infinite desire in true Desire finding, the Word.


Continue reading “On the Radio: Jim Morrison”

Note to a Vandal

PHOTO PROMPT © Brenda Cox

Genre: Poetry; Word count: 100

Note to a Vandal

Named demon by my father,
taught life’s grammar by brute force,
think you to disassemble me by calumny,
emblazoning my property green,
as if the seen shames more than the unseen?

Are you a vandal? Are you meretricious?
Would foster evil greater than mother’s blame,
beat harder than a rod of pain?
Have stakes driven through my heart?
It’s been done.

Yet long before fists of flesh, eyes of stone,
Love upon a Cross of wood claimed me;
I, hidden in Him, rose with Him,
live by faith, by grace, enjoy eternal life in Him.

Grace, mercy, peace, my friend.


Host Rochelle Wisoff-Fields of Friday Fictioneers provides us with this week’s photo prompt and reminds us that “November 9–10, 1938, Nazi leaders unleashed a series of pogroms against the Jewish population in Germany and recently incorporated territories. This event became known as Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass) because of the shattered glass that littered the streets after the vandalism and destruction of Jewish-owned businesses, synagogues, and homes. This was only the beginning of one of the most barbaric and vicious times in recent history. We say ‘never again.’ But.…” Rochelle shares a video link to Auschwitz concentration camp survivor, Dr. Edith Eger, who experienced survivor’s guilt, attaining peace towards the end of her life, and who says at one point in the short seven-minute talk: “When you share your secret, you are no longer in the concentration camp that is in your own mind.”

This Sunday, November 6, is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, when you are invited to pray with those around the world for persecuted Christians, currently the most persecuted religious group in the world. The group Open Doors USA figures that 360 million Christians last year lived in countries where persecution was “significant.” Roughly 5,600 Christians were murdered, more than 6,000 were detained or imprisoned, and another 4,000-plus were kidnapped. In addition, more than 5,000 churches and other religious facilities were destroyed.

Continue reading “Note to a Vandal”

Entering the Poetry Portal (2)

It’s about the size of a hand cupping a snow-
flake, the first of the season, this heart
beating back the fires around her

the frozen lake, the sweep of wind rising
to quell the fear, the voices drowning
then driving, jealously guarding

the ground snow pure in its pristine skyfall
a secret bower where the moon shone
and the woods sang to her and she knew

one day she would sing back to the Voice
that sang delight from the dark unknown
lovely to the child cupping a handful of snow


Continue reading “Entering the Poetry Portal (2)”