Tag Archives: death

I sing of an age

I Sing of an age that’s almost flown
Birds whose voices raised the morning sky
Wild landscapes, spread out to receive the naked sun
Trees whose roots embraced the earth, yet towered high
Seeds that sprang up fragile life, silent but for the wind

I sing of the age of crumbling dust
Rumbling wheeled boxes that fume with piercing cries
Houses molded for masses, as if carved from a single stone
Plants with their exhalations of thick smoke, clouding corroded concrete fields

Forests that burn while communities fall
Beneath a cacophony of chorused lies
Millions enslaved to masters ticking on the wall
Hands that wring the time from unlived lives

Endless games of monopoly and musical coins
Galleries of staged photographs, manufactured mirrors to memory
Chiseled bodies, carved into perfection, whose occupants still seethe with self-loathing and hate
Gold palaces, beneath which bones rattle the dark restlessly

Stories of renewal on tips of tongues that never tasted rain
The deserts of souls whose blood runs dry
Endless grey complacency to numb the festering and open wounds
A harvest of pain sewn from all we deny

Wars waged to sunder, to ravish with rage
A wasteland of frightened faces fleeing for shelter, turned away
Nuclear families forced to split apart, fission into half-lives
Screams in school yards and the drip of silence cold as death

Generations gaunt and starving and those who crushed them to make their start
Spilled greed that leaves a spreading stain
A sea of fear to fill the ever-widening divide
ANONYMOUS sentries sent to defend and guard against each broken heart

Children who are taught to lose themselves before they’re formed
Men and women wanderers with vacant hollow eyes
Their tears from banished terrors fall stillborn
Life lingers, though breath’s motion fades as oceans rise

I sing of an age bereft and slowly breaking
Each, though aching, standing alone
Among the paths still left to us for taking
Could we accept and meet this age, and one another, as our own

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The Mill

Mill Photo

Lugach fixed his son with a soul-piercing stare. “I entrusted her to you for no more than half a sun’s climb, Cormac. Where is she!” Seeing the pain threatening to engulf his fathers face was almost worse than the hot waves of shame, flooding him with his countless failures. He felt like he had been a disappointment to his father from the day he was born. Now he would be hated. He shoved the clawing animal of guilt and grief back into its iron-barred cage in his heart. To his horror, he was not quite under control when he spoke. That was the way with him, good, but not good enough. “Lost.” It was a choked whisper. Dazed, he shook himself violently, as if from a nightmare that would not give him up.

“Lost?!” his father roared. “May you find her or die trying!”

Running … running … who had moved him? … When had the running begun? As if from a great distance, he watched his body run. Die trying… if only he could do that, it might make his father proud.

Now far from the roundhouse door, down the steep rugged path… he was headed toward the mill… the mill his father built along with his new life after he left the fianna. Cormac used to hate that mill. Now it was a refuge, one of the only places to be alone.

Today it was not his thoughts that sent him sprinting to the roar of the wheel and the grind of the stones. It was not even the resentment he had at not being given the same choice for a future that his father had. It was a dread, an unnamable loss that tore at him now.

Lost, she was lost…

He’d been playing “hide to find” with her when the runner arrived from a far off settlement, on the business of trade with his father. But his father wasn’t there, and so it was up to him to provide hospitality.

He’d left her for a moment among the clusters of trees with no concern. His sister knew the woods like the back of her hand. Besides, at five summers old, she shouldn’t always need to be supervised.

The last thing he had said to her was, “Don’t wander outside the trees.” The last thing he’d heard was her birdsong of laughter as she enacted some imaginary game.

The sound of pounding feet that were not his own brought Cormac unceremoniously back to the present. He thought that running full ahead might keep him from the pain, but now it sliced through him again, sharper than a spear.

The mill, he had to get to the mill. Tears threatened to fall, and crying was as good as forbidden. He was not so far now… but whoever was coming this way was having no trouble gaining on him. Had he been spotted? Quickly, he moved sideways, then dashed behind a thick clump of trees where he could remain hidden, while keeping an eye on the road.

Lost … she was lost …

“Mac Lugach!” the voice shouting his name too close to the sheltering trees provoked a cold panic, even while he recognized the speaker. It was Aodh, Caoilte’s eldest. . Since when did his friends provoke terror in him, he wondered? But he dare not question the extent of his ability to fall short of every social expectation. He held his silence close as death.

“Cormac,” Aodh questioned quietly, having soundlessly covered the space between them. He was too good. Of course he was.

They belonged to the same cohort, and yet Cormac could not meet Aodh’s searching eyes. He turned away in shame, but not before Aodh saw the tracks of tears on his face. He wished he could disappear. He prepared for the inevitable mocking that didn’t come. Instead, Aodh just stood there quietly, regarding him with a genuine concern.

“Something isn’t right with you. What is it, man?”

What was it. Cormac searched in the growing fog for the words that seemed to shrink into shadow, frightened by the glaring light of truth. “Lost … the mill … lost…”

“Look, man,” Aodh said after thinking for a while. “If it’s the mill you’re wanting to get to, let me come with you.”

“Why are you here?” the question was sudden, and Cormac immediately regretted its harshness.

“Your father sent for us to search for…”

That was enough. Could his father not trust his own son? Apparently not. And there were others?

he was back on the trail now, moving … parting the shadowed words and the fog, pounding the anger into the ground, aware only vaguely of Aodh’s presence beside him. He was too dazed to care, but not too numb to drown the panic rising in him like a tide. Lost … he had lost her.

***

They found the body floating near the mill. She had not yet learned to swim. Between them they carried her, back up the path from where they had come, to break the news no parent is ever prepared to hear.

Behind them, as the sky began to darken, one light could still be seen. It glowed soft and shimmering, just above the mill. It has never disappeared.

Sue’s Photo Challenge

You Came _ In Memory of Carson

You came into a world, crying out the joyous wonder
Bursting to begin, to set the spark of life aflame
Safe within the arms of love, they brought you home

You came to be a living song, long into the years of growing
Knowing within every passing moment
All that precious time could name

You came and went so quickly
Your laughter a dying memory
Your love, a glowing ember, still remains

You came into a world in peaceful silence
Across the threshold, a light, a hand to welcome you
Safe within the arms of love, they brought you home

Why Change Metaphors Need to Change

Imagine you wake up one morning to the following printed in bold on the front page of the newspaper: “Everything is falling apart! Chaos and mayhem are inevitable!”
Feeling anxious and scared? Most people would.

Now imagine you wake up to a front page news article which claims, “The tyrannical dictatorship is falling apart! Chaos and mayhem within the oppressive government is now inevitable!”
You’d be relieved rather than terrified, right? Well, let’s hope so!

Both news articles are about chaos, mayhem, and falling apart, so what is it about the second article which instilled relief and perhaps even hope and gratitude, while the first article instilled only fear? Well first off, where the first article was vague and grossly overgeneralized, the second article was specific and to the point, adequately defining what human realm was under threat, without leaving it up to your alerted and all too vivid imagination.

So, apart from bizarre hypothetical examples, when does this kind of trend toward all-encompassing shock value occur? It occurs, quite often, in spiritual books and discussions on alchemy, transformation, initiation, and life transitions: and this needs to change.

Accounts of spiritual transformation often abound with claims about long painful suffering, dismemberment, “dying to who you were to become who you are,” undergoing a “soul death” in order to graduate into some higher spiritual consciousness, and descriptions of dissolution and the stripping away of all you’ve ever known, are attached to, care about, or conceive of as being central to who you are. No wonder people reading about this (like me) metaphorically run screaming into the hills, never to pick up a book like this again.

So, given the high probability of grave misunderstanding, why on earth do authoritative texts on transformation skip over the all-important bit about defining their terms and settle for shock value language like “dissolve” or “dismember” when describing alchemical shifts, initiations, or life transitions? The overarching message is just as sensational and vague as the claim that “everything” is/will be falling apart, but with the additional entreaty to “not worry, and embrace the process, because you’ll be grateful in the end.”

Uh huh. Is it my pre-dismembered or post-dismembered self who is supposed to not worry and be grateful? I don’t want to know. Not me, please!

But with all the change going on in my life, ending a 30 year career as a student and beginning to build my future, I’ve been suspicious that a transformation might be lurking just under the surface anyway. When I started to catch onto the fact that I was right about this, my response was abject terror. All I knew about transformation was taken from those harrowing accounts I’d read about, and there was no way I was going to consent to an experience like that any time soon.

And then one night I was lying awake, too anxious to fall asleep, and Ailbhe and Caoilte were keeping watch on me. Finally, having been unsuccessful at it myself, I asked if they could help me calm down.

Ailbhe kept on with the watch, but Caoilte looked over at me, his face gradually showing greater concern. “No wonder you’re terrified about your future, Éilis, when you believe spiritual transformation happens like this:”

In my mind’s eye I suddenly saw an animated picture. A nondescript but imposing looking man, embodying uncertainty and change, pursues a woman through the woods as if hunting her. The woman is terrified that if she is caught, she will lose everything important to her, or end up dismembered in some vague spiritual sense, so she is running for her life.

“I wouldn’t sign up for that myself if there was a choice in the matter,” Caoilte continued, and his eyes glinted with a hint of a smile. “Actually, what is really happening during shifts and transitions is more like this:”

Again, I saw a picture of the same woman out in the woods. Now, she is caught in a vine which has twined around her arms and legs, trapping her. It appears to be on its way to eventually strangling her. There’s the person embodying change, trying to convince the woman to let him cut away and uproot the vine which is threatening her, so she can finally break free and live her life.

For a split second, my mind stopped racing a mile a minute and I was still, surprised and intrigued by what I was seeing. That was the moment when Caoilte said, quietly, “You are dying to live, Éilis. You’ve been given an understanding which has its origins in fear, but it isn’t true.”

I began to relax somewhat. I unfolded my arms, which I realized I had crossed over me, and undid the tight grip my hands had on each other. I hadn’t even been aware how much my body language was mirroring my emotions. I was able to keep from being defensive for one peaceful moment, and then like a wave with a pattern of its own, the fear returned.

“Nothing is going to happen to you, Éilis,” Caoilte said, reading my thoughts. “Transformation is an integral part of being fully alive. If anyone wishes to speak of death, it is all that is not you that dies. But such a way of putting the process is highly misleading and unnecessarily dramatic. No one explains that what supposedly “dies” were all along illusions and never really existed. People get attached to them, so they think there is something real to dissolve or cut away, but what doesn’t serve a person was never part of them to begin with. In fact holding on is what puts so many people in danger; it is allowing change to happen which keeps you safe and gives you the space to live as your own person.”

I understood, and my panic slowly dissipated into relief, even gratitude. After a while I said, “I want to really live. So, what happens now?”

Since I’ve gained this different perspective on what transformation means, I wonder why broad statements such as “you will die to who you were” aren’t discussed in a more careful, precise way. It would be healing for a person to realize that even when it feels like all she is familiar with is dissolving around her, she will never cease to recognize that core essential spark of who she is. Just as it seems unnecessarily disingenuous to gloss over the fact that it’s the oppressive government, not “everything” that is falling apart, it seems particularly cruel to devote an extensive amount of time and energy toward descriptions and accounts of dissolution, without making the distinction between the illusions and patterns that unravel and the person’s essential nature which remains the same. That core nature of a person shines even brighter in the world after all that stuff that doesn’t serve her is out of the way. Knowing that, why suggest that anything truly valuable to her could be irreparably lost?

Anyone who is in a position to make a spiritual contribution to the world and chooses to do so has the responsibility to cultivate love, rather than fear. To that end what you say, and how you say it, really does matter. Clarity is just as valuable when conveying spiritual concepts as it is in writing good journalism or constructing good arguments. Change is already daunting in and of itself. Perhaps we might be able to move more gracefully through the transitions that are bound to occur if we transform the way we think of and talk about change.

As I Crossed Over: Caoilte’s Experience

It was winter cold, the morning I returned to her. The night was cresting a wave of a darker sea, brightening slowly with patches glimmering brighter than any sun. The light filled every span of sky, until I felt it filter through skin, it was, and was not mine. Boundaries seemed to dissolve, around me, around all I could see from where I was. With quiet curiosity I felt separation fall away, while keeping whole the one I knew as I.

***

The murmur of the surrounding voices, growing sharp with concern, began to fade into a song whose melody I once could follow, but to whose chords I could no longer belong. Why did they weep, my fiercest friends, when I was still here, tinged fair against the depth of sky, shining out all I had ever been? Could they not see me, holding out my hands to them, set free from the bindings of age? For a moment, uncertain, I remained, bewildered, torn, unsure which way to turn.

Then, in fully fledged joy, I leapt between silences, having glimpsed the threshold of a door, and then I knew: the cause of their keening, the body huddled on the floor that once answered to my name. I tried, but could not shout to make known I was there, the same. For a moment I wondered if I might remain alone, if I would wander the in between of worlds as I had done in other ways the whole of my life.

And then, suddenly you were there, grasping my outstretched hands in yours, as strong as I tried to remember you. This time we would not let go.

I forgot if there were other things I knew, lost as I was in the light-song of you. Joyful tears sparkled in your eyes, eyes like the bright moon, eyes of my love, I dreamed, mere dreams, to see again. Laughing then, you pulled me into your arms, effortlessly carried me, though between us you’d been so much the smaller of the two.

I did not know how to speak in such a new form, but love never needed words. Together at last, we crossed the bridge of light woven with a thousand stars. I’m here, you’re here, and the felt thoughts blend, both of ours.

For there is now no moment to separate us in time, no sequence of nights and days, no leaving behind. No veil, only mist, that parts to the keen eye, with the colors of belonging, an eternal tide, a dance we’re wandering, life into life, and ending in beginning, we do not die.

There is no death, only change. Playful time might rearrange as we let go of what was never ours to own and emerge, as if from the cocoon of a denser, more solid world, into the vibrant song of being, which we have always known. In joyous abandon, we leap into the arms of those who wait for us, united once more, finally come home. We cross the bridge of becoming, Brilliant and bold, and dance the patterns of the light. In us, there is life.

The Morrigan

Waiting, watchful
Beady eyes,
Cold, coal crow,
Follows me.

Harsh her piercing
Grating cries
Cah, cah, calling me
I run, terrified to turn, to see.

But it is time
For battles to be won,
Reclaim the sovereignty that’s mine,
Declare independence … my own.

Red veils fall
On stark terrain,
The stretching past
The road before,

Survey the ground,
Bide your hours,
Face it head-on, don’t back down
Fight for all you’re worth.

She will lead you where you’re bound.
Demand what’s yours,
And then break free.
The other side to our path. you see,

To shine, star bright, across the sky,
You must not be afraid to burn.
Strike a kindling of flame, the old to die:
In time, this balance, you will learn.

Waiting, watchful
Beady eyes
Cold, coal crow
Follows me.

Harsh her piercing
Grating cries
Cah, cah, calling me
When I turn around, what will happen? I wait to see.

Falling Stars

Stars fall
And fall
I could do nothing
But watch stars fall

Brilliant sparks of soaring light
Lost in a senseless sea of sorrow
Tears cried too late
Then too soon dried

There was no time
To gather the fractured shards of love
Hold them close
Keen their crossing

Run, the shadows
Will snuff out in an inky smoke
The tiny incandescent suns
Smoldering in your harried, haunted eyes

Does the earth over your heads lie cold
Is it not yet satiated
With enough red rain
No time, I slip

Over the black pools
Lying in wait
Like withered, sunken eyes
Acrid reservoirs of unwept tears

Don’t fall…
But silently, filling
Hollows with the horrors of memory
A steady rain

Perhaps tomorrow
The warm sunshine
And the call of the curlew
Will pull me back

From the endless depths
Of yesterday’s neglected grief
But at last, today I weep
And weep for fallen stars

I Resisted, I Got Inspired, I Tweeted

This is a post about how I started tweeting, some poems I have tweeted, and a fun venture you can join me in tweeting about.

I’m not enamored with social media. Don’t get me wrong, I like media—music, poetry, art, storytelling, informative news– and I like being social, so I see nothing inherently problematic about combining the two. But I’m hesitant to jump onto popular social media band wagons for two simple reasons.

First, most social media websites take an inordinately long time to navigate when the person trying to get around them is totally blind. I once tried planting plants in three friends’ farm patches on facebook, and after an hour and a half of technical negotiation, none of which involved down websites or malfunctioning programs, I succeeded. Which leads to the second reason I’m suspicious of engaging in too much social media: even if the sites were accessible, I believe I would get just as obsessed with posting on them as I already am and waste lots of precious time which I could spend on my career or, perhaps more importantly, on socializing with friends over email or in person which won’t result in PDC (i.e. Public Display of Communication.)

I’ve used facebook since my sophomore year in college when it first came out and was a way for students at top American universities to connect with one another and the friend requests you would accept were from people you were already close friends with. You know, back in the day…

Mostly I now use facebook to participate in closed private groups because anything I want to post on there is usually something I ought not associate with my real name: I’m still in the broom closet. Actually I am technically at the moment in my living room, the closet is metaphorical.

But, it’s surprising how often, as a pagan, I have to be exceedingly careful, especially as I have as many friends in the physical world as on the other side, and that’s not considered normal. If only facebook let you have more than one identity! (I’m sure men and women fleeing abusive relationships and double-agent spies would appreciate this as much as closeted pagans and other targeted minorities, facebook! Come on with it then…)

In any case, although twitter does allow, fortunately, sensibly, responsibly, for as many identities as you like, I struggled for a long time with actually getting onto twitter. I kept feeling like I am this old fashioned thirty-something person who likes face to face communication, and more importantly, I’m a person. Whoever heard of a person tweeting? The concept sounded so absurd to me. I mean, if I walked into a room and five or six people were literally standing around tweeting, I’d get concerned, and quickly. Especially if their vocal bird calls were too convincing. Then I would probably sincerely ask them if they were channeling bird spirits—and I don’t mean the kind of spirits birds might consume to get intoxicated.

I decided therefore that I never wanted it to be said of me that I had tweeted. I imagined a list of modern honors and deeds one might recount upon a person’s death: “She was a wonderful person, no one has ever spoken ill of her, she was a loyal friend, she was never rude in the use of her cell phone, and she has tweeted.”

This imagined scenario made me shutter and adamantly think, not of me, please! I felt like tweeting might once and for all situate me in the modern age, an age I often don’t understand and even less often agree with. Not that past ages were any better. But I live now, so I can point out what’s wrong about the present and usually get away with it, and with sympathy.

That all changed when Ali Isaac and Jane Dougherty posted an invitation to tweet love poems based on Irish mythology to coincide with the coming out of their jointly written book, Grá Mo Chroí, , which I encourage everyone to read! It’s a wonderful book. And, what is more, once I read the previously mentioned invitation, my antitweet resolve began breaking down. To my astonishment, I found myself creating a twitter account. Then, to much less astonishment and great fun, I discarded my, albeit never officially stated, vow to refrain from having tweeted, and have tweeted (twittered?) more times than I can count now.

I’m not sure what the protocol is about posting tweeted things on a blog, but here are a few of my tweeted poems. I’ll create another post with poems by/about my ancient family more directly, as they deserve a space of their own.

***

Together sound
Songbird and foghorn
Take care, come listen
Sirens seaward cry
A soaring and a warning
As day sings itself awake

***

To walk the path
Steeped in mystery
With false starts strewn
Step lightly
One word, yes
Begins your hero’s journey

***

The six encircle me in love
At the center
I, shaped as a star
Enfolded within
Their single light
Resonate with joy

***

Fierce passion Consumed their young souls
Now centuries flown
In the otherworld
They are love
A gentle light
Between them grown

***

Landscape aches
For ancient reverence
Carve a place
A new old way
Weave the pattern
Of what happens
Into being
Come home you say

***

Fretful my night
Until your light fills
This space, glowing
Dissolving my fear
Your silent strength
Guides your lost child home

***

Finally, I love playing around with words and decided to create a hashtag called #absurdwordnerd under which to write ridiculous new definitions of words. Creatively changing the word by adding or subtracting a letter and then redefining it is also totally silly and acceptable. For example:
Indentured servant: a servant with false teeth. #absurdwordnerd

I am doing this just because why not, and because I think the world needs more humor. So come participate whenever inspiration hits you (just ask it to hit nicely.)

Spilling Over

She eats cereals like there is no tomorrow,
My Grandmother, depressions
Dripping like droplets of milk down her mouth,
Mouthing “more,” when she is not speaking,

Because she never got enough
When still a child, spilled by the fountain of youth onto the sprawling clay,
Needy and not kneaded at the bottom of the Bread Basket,
During the Depression.

She married my grandfather, tall, dark, and disciplined by Want,
Who used his knock-kneed frame as a jungle gym
Especially when the children ran rampant with hunger,
Crying shyly as they were tagged “it.”

My mother warns me to respect grandpa’s habits,
As if God herself deemed his behavior redeemable,
In a last attempt to tempt him with wanting grace.

“Eat your cereal, young lady,” grandma chides. My eyes
Bulge, suspecting yesterday’s meal of frosted minny-wheats
Will be mysteriously displaced into my metal spoon,
Milk draining off the cupped bowl of a concave collection of grain.

The children were always hungry, always crying.
My mother watches me fiercely with a hesitant sympathy plaguing
The whites of her corneas.
I see it sift through her eye like sand and flinch,

She, my mother, the survivor, silently
Witnessing the way I will pay
Tribute to my ancestors.

Quickly, I qualify my breakfast, a hurried gulp
Of saturated solution and swallow,
Exhaling elatedly after the enormous effort.

Two years ago, Grandfather wouldn’t insist on such a crude
Relapse into recalling such remembrances of long-ago,
But senescence seems to detain his decency behind bars,
And as the meal ends with many brothey bowls untouched,

He lifts them up sacredly from his table and gently pours
The contents of each eager-lipped, glossy dish
Into a fountain overflowing, that drips back into the carton of milk;
The same ritual he performed yesterday.

Tomorrow, I’ll leave the furrowed house
Where the roof thatches sink concavely toward the floor,
Where water, after accumulating in the troughs made
By the derivative of the roof’s normal triangular shape,
Eventually cascades into a freak rainstorm off the eves.

In the evening, brother and sister would play in puddles;
You could see the whites of their eyes reflect off the water
As they buried cold toes in dusty sand.

And if you were filled with the sustenance of sparse fortune,
You might offer them milk, and watch their mouths gape open
Like dry caves, accepting the first spray of waterfall.
Then they would save some for the family jar
To relive that white dream whenever they needed.

It was raining when the younger finally slipped out of sight,
Over him mounded grains of earth, and the grey-sky tears falling.
And at dawn, mother crept their barefoot, hardly believing,
There, dew dripped in silence, and there was one who longed no more.

*This poem is based on a story told to me by a family friend.

I See You _ A Tribute to Every Person Who Is Not Recognized For Who They Are

I see you,
Children no longer here,
Your faces in my dreams
Chiseled on the landscape of my soul.

Last night, I listened to you tell your story,
With a voice that in life you could not share.
You spoke of many wonders, despite your pain,
Most never noticed you were there.

I see you
Young women now and years ago,
Hands reached to steal you from yourself,
Attempt to turn you into stone.

They tried to make you, objects kept in secret towers.
Your fearful eyes haunt my waking hours.
How many still live with scars?
How many died to protect what is ours?

I see you,
As if I were there,
Each moment, a person I’ve never met,
I will keep your memory near.

How could anyone try snuffing out a sacred star?
How could anyone destroy such beauty until it’s gone?
How could anyone fail to see the brilliant light
Within each of us alike, though different for each one?

How can we stare and judge and yet not see
We’re holding up a mirror?
I live the truth it shatters me,
Stark and raw and clear.

My tears they fiercely stand behind my eyes,
So determined not to fall.
If I put words to your thousand nameless cries,
Could it do any good at all?