I walked this life – lonely –

I walked this life – lonely –
Aware of shame – only –
Chiding Your apathy – to me –
I saw myself – painfully – alone.

In Your light I see – suddenly –
Always You are – with me –
Walking me home – lonely –
Never having left me – painfully – alone.


Psalm 35:4-9 (NIV): Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O LORD. How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.

image credit: yoksei @ unsplash

Continue reading “I walked this life – lonely –”

Dreams from a Pilgrimage

photo prompt © Fleur Lind

word count: 100
genre: poetry

Dreams from a Pilgrimage

It’s just this way, she agonized, and
I won’t end where I’ve begun.
It’s the dream I’m waking up to.

I wonder, he antagonized, what if
today becomes your cannibal past tomorrow,
feeding on today’s life, keeping itself alive,
demanding its pound of flesh?

She knew his aim.
It was to lead her in circles,
to origins, not beginnings.

But each cross-road meant progress,
a royal one, or common as a pilgrim
on a well-worn track, peculiar as a dream

singular as a vision, a glaring blaze
of glory, immense as a grain of sand
sparkling in the New Jerusalem.


A three-prompt medley is the tune I'm playing off with Rochelle's Friday Fictioneers photo prompt & 100-word challenge, dVerse's Poetics: Visionary Poetry, and GirlieOnEdge Six Sentence Story ("lead"). Join us!

For and By: Christina on New Year’s Eve

“It was a stark surprise of loss,”
she wrote, and then she stopped,
her hand stilled on the backlit keys
her eyes glued to the screen

where suddenly the lines misted,
metamorphosed in rain,
the world becoming watery,
a deluge full of pain.

She wiped her cheeks, she rose, she paced,
she spun about the room,
though memories of a dream-like shore
outran her pleas for peace.

Into her words she’d poured her heart,
into the poems she wrote
but from them she no longer found
the comfort that she sought.

None came but one, a fiery flare
that lit the distant sky
as if it came in search of her,
a foundling lost to claim.

“What joy is this, what Guest on high
has chosen this black night,
to show His love, to set alight
my dark and stormy heart?”

She cried, and in her joy she found
a new theme to set down
by psalm-borne winds she softly sang
of things divine, unseen.

Christina Rossetti, painting by John Brett, 1857 (Oil on canvas
Private Collection)

Old and New Year Ditties by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

1.

New Year met me somewhat sad:
Old Year leaves me tired,
Stripped of favourite things I had,
Baulked of much desired:
Yet farther on my road today
God willing, farther on my way.

New Year coming on apace
What have you to give me?
Bring you scathe, or bring you grace,
Face me with an honest face;
You shall not deceive me:
Be it good or ill, be it what you will,
It needs shall help me on my road,
My rugged way to heaven, please God.

2.

Watch with me, men, women, and children dear,
You whom I love, for whom I hope and fear,
Watch with me this last vigil of the year.
Some hug their business, some their pleasure scheme;
Some seize the vacant hour to sleep or dream;
Heart locked in heart some kneel and watch apart.

Watch with me, blessed spirits, who delight
All thro’ the holy night to walk in white,
Or take your ease after the long-drawn fight.
I know not if they watch with me: I know
They count this eve of resurrection slow,
And cry, “How long?” with urgent utterance strong.

Watch with me, Jesus, in my loneliness:
Tho’ others say me nay, yet say Thou yes;
Tho’ others pass me by, stop Thou to bless.
Yea, Thou dost stop with me this vigil night;
Tonight of pain, tomorrow of delight:
I, Love, am Thine; Thou, Lord my God, art mine.

3.

Passing away, saith the World, passing away:
Chances, beauty and youth sapped day by day:
Thy life never continueth in one stay.
Is the eye waxen dim, is the dark hair changing to grey
That hath won neither laurel nor bay?
I shall clothe myself in Spring and bud in May:
Thou, root-stricken, shalt not rebuild thy decay
On my bosom for aye.
Then I answered: Yea.

Passing away, saith my Soul, passing away:
With its burden of fear and hope, of labour and play;
Hearken what the past doth witness and say:
Rust in thy gold, a moth is in thine array,
A canker is in thy bud, thy leaf must decay.
At midnight, at cockcrow, at morning, one certain day
Lo the bridegroom shall come and shall not delay:
Watch thou and pray.
Then I answered: Yea.

Passing away, saith my God, passing away:
Winter passeth after the long delay:
New grapes on the vine, new figs on the tender spray,
Turtle calleth turtle in Heaven’s May.
Tho’ I tarry, wait for Me, trust Me, watch and pray.
Arise, come away, night is past and lo it is day,
My love, My sister, My spouse, thou shalt hear Me say.
Then I answered: Yea.

This poem was originally published in Goblin Market and Other Poems (Macmillan, 1862) and appears in The Complete Poems by Christina Rossetti (Penguin, 2001). It is in the public domain.

I wrote the top poem in honor of Christina Rossetti whose poetry stirs readers and poets alike with their psalm-like appeal, as “Old and New Year Ditties,” on the cusp of a new year. Join us at Denise’s Six Sentence Story (using prompt word “surprise”). To my blog visitors, have a Happy New Year, one full of love and peace.

The Prisoner

[A Short Story]

“When’d he stop talking?” asks the new inmate, staring at the gargantuan man working his mouth on a wad of gum and carting the cell block’s laundry, a mountain of a man encased in glacier-like silence.

“Hasn’t opened his mouth from when they brung him in back in ‘73,” Sully answers, shaking his head, “but he sure as heck works that jaw of his on that gum, never without it, like he’s gotta be chewing on something or somebody he’s got it in for.”

“They got him locked up like a vault, I heard ‘em say, murdered too many for comfort ….”

“More like spliced,” Sully interrupts softly, “cutting up their body parts, reworking ‘em into something unnatural so as you wouldn’t know what they were made to be in the first place.”

“But the cat got his tongue?!”

They laugh, until suddenly he turns to face them, and in the chilling clarity of revelation, they look away, stiff with terror, speechless.


The power of language is no small thing in Dante’s writings. Language is a gift of God, a blessing unique to man. When abused it becomes a curse, as with the Tower of Babel when in his pride man misused his speech to defy rather than honor God. In The Divine Comedy Nimrod and his fellow giants of that time are condemned in Hell to not only chains but to speak gibberish, incomprehensible even to themselves. I’ve mentioned in other posts how honey-tongued Ulysses speaks with Dante, as do many others in the Inferno, showing by their speech alone the manner of their thought while on earth. Both the ambiguity and precision of rhetoric as art is on display here.

Pieter Brueghel the Elder, The Tower of Babel (1563), oil on panel,

Yet there are times when language gives way, as when in Canto 32, Dante is met with the sight of the lowest circle of hell where there is no burning fire, only cold, hard ice.

Had I the crude and scrannel rhymes to suit
the melancholy hole upon which all
the other circling crags converge and rest,

the juice of my conception would be pressed
more fully; but because I feel their lack,
I bring myself to speak, yet speak in fear;

for it is not a task to take in jest,
to show the base of all the universe-
nor for a tongue that cries out, “mama,” “papa.”

Inferno, Canto 32, ll. 1-9, tr. Mandelbaum

The language that utters familiar words of love falls short of this landscape, a vast frozen lake, at the center of which stands Satan, each of his three heads (in an unholy parody of the Trinity) chewing on a traitor, Judas, Casius, and Brutus. The only sounds are the cries of the treacherous who are damned here, planted variously about in the ice.

Twice in his Commedia Dante experiences the utter failure of language to convey the sublime: first, the horror of this frozen landscape with Satan at its center, and then in Paradiso when he receives the beatific vision.

What he sees in the icy core of hell makes him cry out,

O reader, do not ask of me how I
grew faint and frozen then-I cannot write it:
all words would fall far short of what it was.

I did not die, and I was not alive;
think for yourself, if you have any wit,
what I became, deprived of life and death.

The emperor of the despondent kingdom
so towered from the ice, up from midchest,
that I match better with a giant’s breadth

than giants match the measure of his arms;
now you can gauge the size of all of him
if it is in proportion to such parts.

If he was once as handsome as he now
is ugly and, despite that, raised his brows
against his Maker, one can understand

how every sorrow has its source in him!

Inferno, Canto 34, ll. 22-37, tr. Mandelbaum
Illustration by Gustave Doré

Unlike Milton’s Satan, Dante’s Satan is silent, dumb with fury, powerful but imprisoned and, worst of all from his perspective, a means of the pilgrim’s ascent, as following his guide Virgil, Dante makes use of Satan’s hairy legs as the only way to climb downward in order to re-emerge upwards in the opposite hemisphere and into the light of the stars above once more.


See Denise's Six Sentence Story Prompt for more stories using the word "vault" or click here.

Gaudete: Rejoice!

Jyoti Sahi (1944–), Holding the Flame of Fire, 2005. Kolkata, India.

Being found by You, I find everything:
the sky a brighter blue, the leaves a happier hue
of glistening green, the river’s melodious

sounds rising high and low, bandying mountain notes
to valley tunes, and sun-washed strands of ocean
shores joining moon-drawn tides of marshalled harmony.

Being known by You, I know everything:
Love stronger than Death, darkness overcome by Light,
Peace past understanding, Hope unbounded, Joy unspeakable,

Faith that Hell’s gates will assail in prayer, Strength of soul,
Patience through trials, Your Life eternal flowing
through me, Your Blood that washed every stain of sin.

Being loved by You, no other love compares:
not love of man or woman or child; not the charms of all
the world’s delights, not health nor fortune, not lands

nor houses, neither knowledge of every secret
on earth or above it, nor wisdom to confound
and bring to their knees every earthly might and power.

There’s nothing on earth for me if not for You:
there’s nothing in heaven if You be not there:
Mary’s little baby boy would be just another child

if he had not been You come down to earth, taking
on our flesh, suffering on earth the plight that is ours,
to give to us, Your children, by faith the glory that is Yours.

Maranatha.


The third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday.

Gaudete, 16th Century Christmas Carol (wikipedia)

The 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 “The Medka”

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”

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”

Entering the Poetry Portal

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”

Come Hell or High Water (A Very Short Story)

Written for Sadje’s WDYS #157 photo prompt and Sammi’s Day 5 prompt of 13 Days of Samhain. Thanks to both for their inspiration to write this short story. Do check out Sammi Cox’s amusing serial mystery featuring Damon, the caretaker of a graveyard full of undead inhabitants. Click here for part 1. You won’t be disappointed.

She grew up looking at the world sideways, knowing if she saw it head-on she’d only see the mask, not the face outlined behind it. Better the warm, blemished skin than the plastic over it.

Never took anyone too seriously, neither. Not worth the trouble and trouble was all that ever brought. Better to know they’d break their word than be surprised when they did.

People wondered why she was always so placid. Why? Because she was never disappointed. And however bad folks were, they could be worse. However good they were today, it really didn’t pay to think they’d be the same tomorrow.

When the Imp came along, she adjusted. She was stuck with it. One day she opened her eyes and there it sat, twisting every nerve and joint in her body till it brought tears to her eyes.

She asked God about it. She said she felt like Job. And then she ended up covering her mouth like Job did when she realized there were things she didn’t need to know as long as God did.

The Imp turned the screws on her off and on. “I solemnly swear I’m up to no good,” it would say, as her footsteps got slower and slower. Then she’d get better. Then she’d get worse.

But she stopped looking at people sideways. “I solemnly swear I’m up to no good,” they’d tease, and bring her a pumpkin-face latte when she couldn’t get up in the morning.

The Imp kept up its mischief. They kept up their love. She kept thanking God for setting her straight, come hell or high water.


1 Corinthians 13:3-7, 12-13 (NIV)
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. …
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.


Image credit: Valeriia @ Pexels

Dante’s “Roundabout” to Beatrice

Per dVerse’s MTB, The Roundabout:

  • Four quintains (five-line stanzas) for a total of twenty lines
  • Iambic meter throughout
  • Lines have 4;3;2;2;3 feet respectively
  • Line 5 repeats line 2
  • Rhyme scheme is aBccB bCddC cDaaD dAbbA

Naturally, given my current reading, my first thoughts flew to Dante’s unrequited love for Beatrice.

Dante and Beatrice, Henry Holiday (1883), oil on canvas

My mind rehearses all the lines
I’d say if you were mine;
Though you are not
My heart you’ve got
I’d say if you were mine.

Oh, how I long to have a sign
That you like me have fought
The love I yearn
For which I burn
That you like me have fought.

There is no wealth, no treasure sought
That would all reason spurn;
To cross the lines
And God’s designs
That would all reason spurn.

Farewell, my muse, to God I’ll turn
For Love like starlight shines;
My mind refine
My heart confine
For Love like starlight shines.

Metamorphoses in Traditional Mongolian Meter

Metamorphosis: A Gothic Tale

He gave me starlings, dark dowry,
Hidden betrayals in gardens,
Houses muttering in the rain,
Hoarding secrets in rosaries.

Then sent he catbirds three, to kill
True love, their mimicry like
The day’s news, veiled, shifting half-
Truths, eyed over coffee and tea.

Crows by the murder he hastened,
Choreographed in gothic,
Cawing incessant, evil
Conniving to see my end.

Bedeviled, accursed, he must then
Bequeath me bats, like foreigners
Bearing plagues, designed to cause fear—
But now I’m more deadly than he.


The above poem is in response to Shay’s Word Garden Word List (inspired by poet Dave Kelly) and is the first of two as I experiment with a new (to me) poetry form: the Traditional Mongolian Meter. This form requires quatrains written in lines of 7 to 8 syllables, each line head-rhymed with alliteration being a prominent element of the form. Grace at dVerse explains a head-rhyme as being “the first consonant of each line matching. However, while still alliterative, with the matched consonant heading the line, it is often seen as the first syllable in each line rhyming with the first syllable of the ensuing lines.”

Christ’s Wine

The wine that Jesus made runs sweet
To quench my thirst like rain in spring
That falls on ground which hardened lies
Till it yields to softening streams.

No Cana wedding had I to go
Nor hear His mother’s firm request
Nothing but His love for me
Nourishing remembrance brings.

See wine in cup and bread on plate
Speak His body and His blood
Shed upon the Cross for me
So from guilt, from sin to free.

Jesus is my God and King
Joy unspeakable He gives
Just to know He loves me so
Joins my heart, my soul to Him.


Top image: jplenio; bottom image: Bouf16

Hope

“Hope is the thing with feathers” – Emily Dickinson

Here’s that feathery
thing called hope again

hopping broken-winged
by stained glass as if

it could sing anew what
once in dawn’s Easter light

drew eyes to see
what the blind cannot.

*

Here it comes, ungainly, careful
of metal shards, rusty gins

of despair, pain-heaving,
the cover drawn

over buried
septic spaces, tucked fast

in stoic dissension
against bruised faith’s cries.

*

How can it be, yet it is, that limping
hope approaches still in song as if

broken wings can yet embrace
a feeble soul, shy now of inflaming

prayer yet unanswered, pinions raised
uncrippled, as if what’s seen is the unseen,

the King upon his Throne with the wounded
by His side to raise to heights unknown.


Matthew 12:18, 20
“Behold, my Servant … a bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not quench ….”

Romans 15:13 (NIV)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Painting by Tamara Natalie Madden (1975-2017); for more on this artist and her work, click here.

Cold Fusion

The stairway is not
the woman
nor the stairway
the bird

The bird sees the woman
but the woman does not see
the light

The light descends
over the flight of the blackbird
over the black form of
the woman

The woman is not resting
nor sleeping nor dreaming
curled weary on
the limestone

The limestone does not know
the hardness of
each step

Each step
is blind to
the descent and
the ascent

The ascent is known
only by the light
and the bird
and the woman

singing
singing
singing


Photograph by Gregory Colbert shared by Carrie Burtt for her Sunday Muse #229 ekphrastic prompt. (Thank you, Carrie.) Click here to join in.

Love Ran Through His Island Heart

“Without hope we live on in desire.”
Sanza speme vivemo in disio.

Dante, Inferno, Canto IV, line 42

Love ran through his island heart
From springes freed took flight
Left swallows’ cries of yesteryears
Desire-torn in apple-bright

Bone-white his wings that beat the air
And strain bent low his neck
Wind beat hard his sinews bare
Yet Hope grew clear his sight

Quiet-warmed as kingly deer by brook
Calm shattered shivers of doubt
Drawn unseen through cloud and dark
Dew-quenched his thirsting heart

Love and Hope together sang
He heard their various strain
Not far the wing-breadths that remained
To reach the One he loved.


“That without hope we live on in desire”
The pagan poet found
But pity more each one whose fire
Burns for themselves alone.


Before Canto 4 of the Inferno where the pilgrim Dante is introduced to the virtuous pagans among whom is his guide through Hell, the poet Virgil himself, Dante first crosses the gate of Hell whereon he sees inscribed, “Abandon hope all who enter here” (Canto 3). Here, he sees the first sinners in Hell, a craven company who lived for themselves, filled with envious desires, whom Virgil describes as “the sorry souls of those who lived without infamy or praise. They are mingled with that base band of angels who were neither rebellious nor faithful to God, but stood apart.” Being disengaged from the battle, this endless line of souls have no hope of death’s oblivion, “mercy and justice disdain them. Let us not speak of them, but look, and pass on” (trans. Charles S. Singleton). Virgil won’t even name them for they have reduced reality, reduced the world to a show, a spectacle for their own amusement. These rage and wail as swarms of stinging wasps and flies follow them and worms engorge on their blood. In contrast the virtuous pre-Christian pagans whom Dante meets next in Limbo live in a bucolic garden, their great sadness, desiring yet remaining apart from God.

Continue reading “Love Ran Through His Island Heart”