Imaginary Paintings: All Souls’, The Witch

ALL SOULS:  THE WITCH

~The Kilkenny Book of Hours, c. 1410

Outside, a half moon, waning.

Inside she sits by the fire, 

gray cat on her lap.

Her clothes are unremarkable

and her long gray hair is unbound

and mingles with the cat’s fur.

On the plain table, a wooden

bowl of apples. Garlic

and onions hang on pegs. 

A single dove shelters

on a rafter. A sudden wind

blows open the door.

 

 

This was originally for Pentecost, but I think it works for All Souls, too.

RESETTING

I’d already posted the first stanza. Here’s the whole thing.

 

RESETTING

1. 

Not the old patterns,

or variations printed on different cloth. 

Orange fleece instead of black wool.

The kind of comfortable shoes, but red.

Yellow candles.

The same time, but silence instead of prayers.

Most of the people, but not all.

What the crows talk about.

Where the bobcat crosses the road.

Music in a different key.

Cypriot O Antiphons.

Black currant juice, rye bread.

Things that smell like roses.

White tulips. Marigolds.

 

2.

I do it all the time.

Twice a year, all the clocks.

The weather station

whenever something goes awry.

The computer to accomodate

change, to fix a glitch.

The stove, the microwave

anytime the power goes off.

Why not now

during this long and changing time

of glitch, outage, awry?

 

3.

How should I pray?

No bloody psalm cries

and paeans to a thunder god.

No reconstructed ritual.

No begging for heaven;

I don’t have a soul to save.

 

I know a different god,

not father, but

farther, unbribeable,

god of asteroids, black holes,

god of hurricanes and floods.

Job’s god, who makes no sense,

no sense that matters now.

 

Jesus died for love 

and we’ve overburdened him.

Byzantine, Victorian, 

witch-hunter,  rough-rider,

Supreme Court Judge.

The wineskins split

and the wine is spilt away.

Salt has lost its savor,

and someone turned out the light.

 

The wind blows where it wills,

and not where we expect.

Over the shattered walls

of shuttered holy houses,

through boreal and coral forests.

It breathes in the hearts of foxes,

between the beaks of owls.

The sun is warm but the wind

is cold and carries too much rain.

 

Teach me to pray.

COMMUNION

COMMUNION

 

All morning we cleaned the shed beside the church—

one of those places all over America

where the hungry poor come to stand in line

for day-old bread and canned beans,

for commodity tubes of hamburger,

bags of shredded orange cheese,

MRE-style pouches of beef stew.

We hauled out the cardboard and the plastic 

from the cases of cans of corn 

and mac-and-cheese and fruit cocktail.

We scrubbed down the rusty metal shelves;

we vacuumed up the dust, tidied the refrigerators.

We made room in the freezers 

for the dated meats and donuts and pies 

another crew pickes up from the market.

 

We didn’t talk much. 

We know each other well enough 

to work in silence— 

four women, the Tuesday volunteers,

each of us old enough to have a few scars.

At noon, Phyllis handed out some 

blueberry muffins she’d baked. 

We took a break, ate 

standing outside in the parking lot

in the late September sunshine.

Then we got back to work.

BACK TO THE EDGES OF ODDNESS

BACK TO THE EDGES OF ODDNESS

 

Since midsummer, fairies with green wings 

twinkle around my eyes all night long. 

They beg me to be invisible, 

offer me fernseed and a cap woven 

of milkweed and thistle fluff. 

The dog is restless when they are in the house, 

and my husband can’t sleep, 

and I can’t explain. The cats 

don’t seem to mind.

 

Whatever shall we do with realism, 

reason, logic, the sciences that deny 

the way things are? A cloud of demons, 

their sharp laughter, the steadfast angels 

raising their lavender shields. 

Every tree has a soul;  early in the morning

you can hear them singing to the sun. 

Their music wakes the birds. 

Angels are stars, balls of flaming gas. 

Everything is real, but more or less 

than anyone can imagine. 

God is everything. 

Nothing is mutually exclusive.

EVEN NOW

EVEN NOW

 

Magic can still find a place, you know.

There is a corner behind the sofa

where no dog hair can collect;

you have one spoon

that always makes everything

taste like honey. The third

moth who bumps herself

on the screen door at midnight

has a calm and gentle face.

If you carry a white stone

in your left front pocket

you will remember

to breathe. Or maybe

you’ll just remember.

PRAYER

PRAYER

Jesus, we need you in all your forms—

rising in beauty from seafoam,

black-tongued and stamping in battle.

We need you one-eyed, wandering in disguise.

 

Please rise again in beauty from the sea, 

steal the sacred flame and flee.

Give us your vision; open our eyes.

Split the mountains and come down. 

 

You brought us fire. We made you sorry.

Come now with Medusa’s head on your shield,

protect us from your thunder.

Mourn with us through our sorry land.

 

We need you with shuttle and spear,

cloven-hoofed, drunken and mad.

Walk beside us as we cry; hold our hand.

Crouch with us, hungry, underground,

 

and dance full of wine and song, and mad.

Jesus, meet us at the cross-road with your lamp.

Return with all the daffodils of spring.

Split the earth, drive your wild horses up.

 

Come to the crossroad and fill our cup,

add our skulls to your garland.

Ascend through the rock and carry us away.

Descend to us in all your forms.

ST. MOLUAG

This is more or less a work in progress, but today is St. Moluag’s feast, and I couldn’t resist.

 

 

ST MOLUAG

13th century, artist unknown

Tempera on board

He stands in his thick brown robe

before the church that bears his name.

The sky behind is gray with rain,

earth around all unflowered. 

In triumph, he holds up his severed thumb.

 

Move fourteen hundred years along—

Isle of Lewis, the sky still full of gale. 

A dozen people trail into the stony church. 

We have stood the gales a thousand years,

light in the darkness, singing in the wind.

They comfort the stranger, 

laugh at the storm:

We will stand on until the end.

For more about the church:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teampall_Mholuaidh

 

For more about St. Moluag:  http://www.earlybritishkingdoms.com/adversaries/bios/scot_pict/moluag.html