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Name Poem: An exercise

I recently finished Lunaea Weatherstone’s Tending Brigid’s Flame, a truly wonderful book about my matron Goddess. I can’t recommend it enough, truly.

One of the many explorations and exercises Weatherstone recommends is the creation of a name-poem, similar in spirit to the Song of Amergin or the Song of Taliesin. The poem captures your essence of self — your attributes, perhaps the turning-points in your life if you choose to include them — in imagery that speaks to your spirit.

Weatherstone doesn’t go into the purpose of the poem, specifically, but I imagine it can be used to give strength when you are weary and courage when you are afraid. It sings the soul back home, and changes when you feel that you need to change it — like your life.

My name-poem follows. What is yours?

 

I am the fox that escapes every hound

the speckled veery on its forest perch

the tune of a song threaded by birds

 

I am the ink that scribes the words of truth

the artisan of the air, beading words

and music into a vast creation

 

I was born of blossoms in the sun’s heat

the much-cherished daughter of the heavens

who bears a name of ill-repute and boldness

 

I am a warrior of the wind

who lands no blows but sends the opponent

into the diamond net of gravity

 

I am the pale phantom and the noose

whose borrowed name asks: “Who is like god?”

I am the namer and the describer.

 

I am the walker in dreams, the changer

behind the veil of sleep, the traveler

in my coracle of harp string and drum

 

I am a fisher-cat for fierceness

and an owl for grace. I am the great leaves

of borage, the blue stars of its bloom

 

I am an oak tree, a green stone, a stoat,

a spear, the strength of the arm and the foot

I am a priestess of flame and delight

 

I hold the dream-spear of the Red Woman

I wield the sword of the Fisher King

I serve at the altars of all the Gods

the_arts_poetry

“Poetry”, part of the series The Arts, by Alphonse Mucha (1898) via Wikimedia Commons

As part of my spiritual practice, I write a daily poem about things that I’m mulling over, or which have touched me. They are always nine lines — except for the occasional longer poems, when I have the inspiration — with each line typically comprised of nine syllables. (This, too, can vary but typically doesn’t.)

Here’s a selection of my musings over the past week.

North and South

We should have left one another then.

You wanted to own people, although

you cannot admit that now and turn

 

your eyes away with a hot curse when

I bring it up. I was fine with

dirt and factories and spinning mills

 

and all matter of bullshit as long

as we weren’t putting people in chains.

Long years and still the argument persists.

 

After the coup

In the days after the coup, the sky

shone its usual hue of eggshell blue,

above streets with unaccustomed silence.

 

We smile thinly and make our purchases,

wondering beneath our masks: Was it you?

The banners supporting the insurgent

 

no longer flutter, and the powerful

seal their lips shut when we point to their theft.

And everyone wonders: Was it you, friend?

 

Pogrom

Maybe we will sleep again without

half an ear awake for the sound of boots,

the knock – curt, professional – on the door.

 

We cannot trust our eyes to close and then

the world assemble itself into its

usual shapes when they drift open.

 

The neighbor that held the door wields a knife.

Their compliments on your casserole sift –

writing on the sand, washed away by hate

 

Birds’ nests

When the wind and cold steal the rags

from the trees, their branches shiver

to hide their nakedness, their long limbs –

 

and revealed are the nests, twig-twined orbs

in every crotch and crevasse, great

and small with the remnants of eggshells

 

and shed feathers an shit. Winter

reveals the armature of spring,

chaos and death the seed of the song.

 

Notes during wartime

First remember who you were. Remember

all the things you said you wouldn’t do.

Remember who you were before you did them.

 

Remember the things you said when speech

winged as free and far as chimney swifts.

Remember all the facts you learned from books

 

and stern teachers, the ones who challenged you.

But first, remember who you were – and are.

This is of the utmost importance.

 

Before the storm

The skies are bluest before the storm

the day most beautiful before the turn

to darkness and winter and freezing cold.

 

Like a Victorian maiden with her eyes

luminous, her complexion rosy

as consumption settles wanly in –

 

Red skies at morning, sailor take warning:

How magnificent the cresting swell,

the glass cave as it envelopes you!

The rail grinder

The stars come down with the screen of steel -- 
galaxies thrown wide, sound and fury.
The rail grinder pares the iron road
to perfection, if you survive it --

You are melting in the forge, the kiln stoked--
You are broken and remade anew
your impieties crumbling, charring--
You are coal. You are liquid. You are struck

again and again, thirsting for oasis,
a bucket, an ocean, a pond.
When steel meets steel, even the rocks burn.
You are perfection, if you survive it --

The horses race the cursus of your heart
panting, redfaced, burning with sweat. You are
running freely now, hurtling toward the wall
the iron horse that cannot slow, oh!

Eyes cannot assemble the pieces.
The scene: Guernica. Here is your nose
stuck to a knee, a black braid, an eye,
the angles folding like a pocket map--

All the wicks are lit and the pillar
seeps through the cracks in its glass cage. Watch
the wax as it hardens, making shapes --
Your name, written by Madam Tussaud

and a gun. The night horse hurtles toward
the horizon in parallel lines
now gone to flame. Red for recession--
grinding us down, if we survive it
picassoguernica

Guernica by Pablo Picasso. 1937. Oil on canvas. Via Wikimedia Commons

Good People

They are good people: Mind their own business

save for a kind word over white pickets.

They rake leaves promptly and maintain their lawn.

They keep their dogs from barking too loudly.

 

They tithe to the church, go every Sunday

and bring that casserole everyone likes.

The men doff their hats as they pass you by.

The women give gentle waves, like butterflies.

 

In public, always impeccably dressed,

in private always frugal, never loud.

They are good people: All of us say it.

They uphold convention, support the old

 

and rake their leaves as their neighbor is shot.

Make a casserole as their hairdresser

is corralled behind concertina wire.

They silently judge the loud-speaking women,

 

and say: Maybe you shouldn’t wear that scarf.

Maybe accept Jesus. What does it hurt?

Maybe you shouldn’t speak up for your “rights.”

Go home. Rake leaves. Make a casserole.

 

They say: Don’t worry. We will survive this.

The good people always do; it’s the loud

and the brown and the different who don’t

and nothing will change for the good people

 

because it’s the good people uncoiling

the rope they so carefully set aside

in their clean carport. (You can eat off the floor!)

It’s the good people selecting the tree.

 

Don’t worry: the good people are holding

the guns. They care for them, like the mower:

impeccably. The good people keep their

uniforms clean, crisp and fresh in waiting.

Mutter mit Kindern

Nazi propaganda photo: A mother, her daughters and her son in the uniform of the Hitler Youth pose for the magazine SS-Leitheft February 1943. Via Wikimedia Commons

Gallows Song

I will go to the gallows singing
a glorious aria because
I am a singer, and have been blessed
by my life. It will not be a dirge –
not “Dido” or even Turandot.
“Hark, the Echoing Air,” “If Music
Be the Food of Love” – ah, Purcell, bright
and shining — with every note I soar!

I will go to the gallows singing
for my great and glorious life.
My shackles are made of air and tune;
they do not hold me or define me.
My life is a feather catching wind –
My coloratura, a high draft
carrying me above the eagles.
A sparrow, I burst forth from the branch.

And let every note praise the sunlight
on the water, the velvet of night,
the wood of the tree, the hemp that twines
rope – and the glory, the glory of birds!
I have known their names, and that of trees.
I have loved everything the world gave
and cared nothing if it loved me back,
for what greater glory is there but love?

Each footfall drums the beat of the song,
that final note ringing in the air –
until it escapes your grasping hands,
an arrow-winged bird off to the sky.
What falls through the hatch is not this song.
What strains the rope is not my spirit.
I will go to the gallows singing
for my great and glorious life.

retrieveasset

The execution of prisoners in the forest near Buchenwald concentration camp. Image from the U.S. Holocaust Museum

Your long hair swinging, you sway over

the mere to peer in its murky depths,

the bees singing the song of your name

O salce, salce, salce, O —

 

and the branches underneath the dun

forge the faces of the dead, beloved

and gone, humming with the bees their song

O salce, salce, salce, O —

 

Music is the delight of the dead.

Fleshless skulls sing from under the skree

send tendrils to the waters below

O salce, salce, salce, O —

 

The heavy scent of your garlands mask

the compost of misplaced desires, sins

and crimes. Even maggots make their place

O salce, salce, salce, O —

 

Make a garland of your hair, a harp

strung of its gold that tells always truth

the muddy pond steals back from the sky

O salce, salce, salce, O —

 

Garland dead lovers and living seers —

The moon pulling the tide to ebb

unveiling the dead under the foam

O salce, salce, salce, O —

 

Nine times nine, a chorus of witches

hums with the bees and the mighty dead

under that ghost light, that lamp of time

O salce, salce, salce, O —

 

Let your voice rise with the time and tide,

rush like waters under the tree,

lave the unclean, unshroud the hidden

O salce, salce, salce, O —

 

Your long hair swinging over the hole

that mirrors the sky, you sing with the bees

“Music is the delight of the dead”

O salce, salce, salce, O —

How you tremble at the Red Woman!
You fear the guest at the door who breaks
the arbitrary rules that bind you

the technicalities that keep you safe.
You never know how she will appear:
eel, gray wolf, red-eared cow, crow, the wind,

your fresh-faced daughter holding a blade
under her smile, your mother, the lady
at the deli counter with her knives —

You never know what she’ll do, that one,
even if you pretend. She is not yours
in any shape, and oh how you fear!

By Artist Joseph Christian Leyendecker (1874 - 1951). Cropped and colours adjusted by CorbieVreccan. Via Wikimedia Commons

By Artist Joseph Christian Leyendecker (1874 – 1951). Cropped and colours adjusted by CorbieVreccan. Via Wikimedia Commons