WALPURGIS NACHT

WALPURGIS NACHT

Last hold of winter, grip of dark and cold,

our times of gathering close by the fire.

Tomorrow the maiden will strew flowers,

tomorrow the furrow, the scattered seed.

But tonight, once more belongs to the old

who know to sit quiet and count the stars.

Blessed sameness in the passing of years—

mountain snows flowing from river to sea,

trout lily leaves poking out from the mould,

rhythm of courting and birthing and tears.

Shall we gather tonight on the mountain?

Shall we sing together the last winter hymn?

Already the children dance by the fountain.

In the light of the sun, our fire grows dim. 

LIPSTICK

LIPSTICK

I bought one for the first time in decades.

Pomegranate red.

I’m wearing it.

What possesed me?

It has suddenly become important,

like the high heels Martha wore

the day she got her general’s stars.

Those men, suited or uniformed,

slick-shaved, striding to the podium,

and the unapologetic click of Martha’s heels.

This is the sound of it, I thought.

The shift. The change.

This is what it sounds like.

Did you listen close

while Nancy defended the kids?

A powerful old woman

dancing forwards. And not

just in high heels, but stilettos.

Did you listen to Emma,

the power of her stillness,

unashamed of tears?

 

Not for men’s pleasure,

these symbols of our power:

lipstick, high heels, short skirts.

Maybe it was Eve who woke me up:

This short skirt is mine. 

I am old enought to remember

Bella’s hats, first the necessity,

then the pleasure.

Maybe it was our hats,

those cute pink hats with ears.

We grabbed the derogatory,

transformed it into strength.

What change looks like.

Even tears are power.

It’s what we’re doing now

in our leggings and boots,

and running shoes and fleece,

our torn jeans and t shirts and hoodies

our shawls and scarves,

our nursing bras and aprons.

And yes, in our lipstick and four-inch heels.

MEMERE–prompt #75

MEMERE

Prompt #75: Invent a Grandparent

 

Once she stopped a runaway horse before

the horse ran over a little boy. The boy’s

father was so grateful, he got her pregnant.

He set her up in a shack on the edge

of town and paid her every month, enough

to get groceries for herself and my dad.

That grandfather died before I was born,

and I am just as glad.

 

Memere always had dogs, stray ones she tamed.

She could tell fortunes by watching crows.

I liked visiting her. Dad didn’t mind,

but Mother worried every time.

I used to sleep in her loft

on a feather bed she made.

She taught me how to kill chickens,

how to bait a hook,

how to build a fire with wet wood.

 

Memere had different names for the stars.

She had three books:

The Oxford Book of English Verse,  

My Antonia, and

Moby Dick, which she knew by heart.

She never did believe in God, she said.

What went on in the woods and sky

gave her enough religion to get by.

TEN RULES OF POETRY #2, #3, #4

RULES FOR POETRY, #2

You may write about anything:

clothespins

horse manure

the pattern on the underside

of a nuthatch’s belly.

 

You can’t write about a damned thing:

your mother

the lover who left

the deplorable state

of the world.

 

 

RULES FOR POETRY #3

Well consider grammar,

its all.

Worry about words,

their everything.

 

 

RULES FOR POETRY #4

Be afraid.

No matter what you write,

things will be revealed, secrets

you have concealed even from yourself.

Especially those.

 

Did you know, for example,

that you’re in love again?

Did you know that you never

liked your father, or the yellow cat?

That your house is on fire?

 

The witch who lives in the cave

under your bed knows everything,

throws everything into her cauldron.

So be afraid. You cannot know

what annealment will ensue.

April prompt #24

April prompt #24

A lullabyDavid’s #5

GRIMM”S LULLABY

 

Sleep, little one, sleep.

Nana will keep

the wolf from the door,

and the sisters with one eye

and three. The ash girl

is shaking the tree

grown up from her mother’s

bones. So sleep.

No one will slice off

your heel or your toes.

The witch in the forest

is far, far away

and the path to her house

is edged with white stones.

Her cage is empty,

her oven is cool,

and the hunter,

the spinner,

the prince and the fool

guard the door of your room.

So sleep.

April prompt #20

April prompt #20

A PROPOSAL

Kari’s #1

If you’re wise,

you’ll say no.

 

I sleep with five white cats.

I rise before dawn,

sit on the front step

with my thick black coffee

to watch the sun rise—

even in the snow,

even in the rain.

 

My hands are awkward

and big, my hipbones

are sharp. My feet

are always cold.

These jeans are

the only pants I need,

but I have two hats.

 

All summer I eat greens.

All winter, roots.

I keep my garden

clean and wild.

 

My house

smells of cabbage,

and cats,

and sourdough bread.

 

Before bed

I circle the house,

singing any hymn

that comes to mind.

 

I always leave

a window open

for the birds.

 

I like people until

they stay too long

or talk too much.

 

I write a poem

every single day.

November Writing Challenge–#18, etc.

I’ve deleted yesterday’s post since this is a bit of a rewrite of yesterday’s beginning and it goes through to an ending of sorts. The whole Writing Challenge may be worth it for this bit–still a bunch of work to do on it, but it’s been good to dig it out and work on it.

 

CAST:

Persephone:  in the Underworld, wearing a long, simple purple dress, a simple tiara with a dark stone.  In the Passageway, covered with a black cloak.  In Demeter’s world, green overalls and wellies, a garden hat.

Hades:  A dark business suit

Hecate:  A black cloak identical to Persephone’s.  Black underneath.

Demeter:  stained brown work pants and shirt, boots

The Ferryman:  jeans, T-shirt with “UFC:  Underground Ferry Company” logo, sneakers.

The Dog:  three-headed, goofy

 

SCENE ONE

Hades is sitting at a desk, looking at a computer screen.  Persephone enters. This scene is played flip, casual, in contrast to the other scenes. 

P:  Hal, can we talk?

H:  Sure.  He continues to look at the computer.

P:  I’m really tired of The Story.  You know?

H:  Oh, I know.  You’ve been saying that a lot lately.

P:  It’s been going on for–how many years?

H:  So long I’ve lost track.

P:  Yeah.  So I think it’s time for a change.

H:  looking at her  A change?  In The Story?

P:  Yeah.  I’m pretty sure I–we–can do it.  I mean, I’ve got some skills now.  I’ve been back and forth so many times that I know the way in my sleep.  I even dream about it.

H:  (a small sound of protest)

P:  So.  This is what I’d like to do–come and go when I want to, instead of when The Story says I have to.  I mean, I’d still do the Bloom of Spring and the Death of Summer bits, I like those, and I’m good at them, but when I want to see you, I’ll come see you—even if it’s summer, and when I want to see Mother, I’ll see her—even if it’s winter.  And I’ll have time on my own, in between.  A place of my own.

H:  Come on, Perry, do you think that’s really possible?  I don’t think your Mother will like it, let alone my Brother.

P:  Are you kidding?   Of course Mother won’t like it.  She’ll hate it.  You know how she is about change.  But maybe, with the changes going on anyway–you know things aren’t working quite the way they used to anyway.

H:  I know.  There’s weird stuff going on.

P:  Yes.  Weird stuff.  That’s one of the reasons I think I might be able to convince Mother that it would be good for me to have some flexibility–there’s lots to do if Spring comes earlier, for instance, or if the frost comes later.  The old rhythm is breaking up.  It might be a good idea for me to be able to come and go.  Thaws, you know, unseasonable snowstorms. . .  she might need help. . .  and she’s getting, well, older.  She forgets things.  She doesn’t move as fast as she used to.

H:  How about him, though? My brother’s pretty set in his ways.

P:  He’s so preoccupied with other things–wars, mountaintop removals–I almost don’t think he’ll notice.  He assumes that The Story just goes on and on. But I want to know what you think.  After all, we’ve been married. . .a long time.  What you think matters to me.

H:  Thank you for that. It sort of makes sense. We’re only together half the time anyhow, and maybe it would be better if it could be more flexible. I, well, I miss you in the summer, when it comes right down to it. But— do you really need a “place of your own?”  I mean, you’ve got a kingdom.

P:  I know that.  But I’m, well, I’m the Queen.  Even when I’m alone someplace down here I have a role to play.  And it’s a kingdom, remember.    “Queen” is more like a courtesy title. I’m a consort, not an actual ruler.

H:  True. And there’s nothing I can do to change that, given our attributes. But where would you find this “place of your own?”  If this is my kingdom, the world up there is your mother’s queendom, or whatever you want to call it.

P:  The Passageway.  You know, the funny place between winter and spring, between fall and winter, when it isn’t quite either?  That’s a realm that doesn’t really belong to anybody yet.   I think it could be mine.

H:  Well, I still don’t know.  But if you think this is right, it probably is.  You know yourself better than I do.

P:  I think I do know myself.  Finally.  And I read the other day that some philosopher is saying you “honor me for my wisdom,” or something like that, which took me by surprise.

H:  I do.  You’ve changed a lot over the millenia.  You’re no longer just a pretty face.  Hard to believe you were once so naïve, so. . .

P:  Innocent?  Stupid?

H:  Scared.  Lonely.  It was really a terrible thing I did.

P:  It was, but it worked out for the best, didn’t it?  We’ve made a go of it.  And the back-and-forth business has worked out pretty well. One of his better ideas.

H:  Maybe one of his only good ones. But it was mostly you who turned what could have been a nightmare into something decent.

P:  You think so?  Really?  Hal, you’ve never told me that before.

H:  You never asked. So, if this works out, you’d come and go according to your own schedule.

P:  That would be the plan.  It would be really nice to get down here summers sometimes.  The heat up there can be unbearable.  And—I miss you, too. But then, I’d have to be up there sometimes in the winter.  Mother would insist.  And like I say, she needs more help.

H:  And you think you can manage the Passageway?

P:  I can manage it.

H:  Because you’ve only just been through it, coming and going.  You’ll have to go on your own.  I wouldn’t be able to take you, except at the usual times.

P:  Of course not.  That’s the point.  If it’s my own realm, I’ll do it myself.

H:  I can’t break out of The Story quite so easily as you can.  You know I can’t get away from here for more than those couple of hours every year.  Even then, getting someone to cover for me is hard.

P:  I know.  Wouldn’t it be nice if there were stretches of time when nobody died?

H:  Maybe. But if that happened too often, the world would be overrun.  Being in charge of all that is tiresome sometimes.  Are you sure you want to be in charge of something?

P:  Yes indeed.  And I want the adventure.  I never had a chance to do that.  I mean, no seductions, no wars, no heroic journeys to recover lovers. . .

H:  Lovers?  Perry, haven’t you been happy with me? I thought you were.

P:  I am, Hal. You know that. I’m not going to “recover lovers.” I’ve never had one but you. This isn’t about you and how I feel about you.  It’s just time for me to do something on my own.

H:  It will change everything.

P:  It will change some things, for sure.  But–things are changing anyway.  And besides, you know we can’t break out of the Story completely.  It won’t let us.

H:  I’d worry about you, you know.  The Passageway can be dangerous. Strange people in there. And there’s the ferry. And Cerberus.

P:  I don’t think it will be a problem. I am the Queen, remember.  Even though I’m a figurehead, I don’t think anyone will bother me. And the dog likes me, the guy on the boat likes me–I don’t think I’ll have any trouble.

H:  Just don’t forget the cake.

P:  Oh!  Thanks for reminding me!  (She takes a notebook out of a pocket and makes a note.)

H:  Perry, what about Hecate? She’s a friend of your mother, after all.

P:  She’ll be around.  She always is.  When you bring me to and fro, I feel her around me.  She’s part of it, in a way that I don’t understand yet–another piece of the puzzle I want to put together.  But the Passageway isn’t hers.  And even though she’s a friend of Mother, she’s also a kind of friend of mine. Somehow I think maybe this was her idea. . . somebody should reign there. . .

H:  What?

P:  I don’t know.  I can’t explain it.  But, Hal–I know this is really sudden, but I’d like to try this out soon.

H:  How soon?

P:  Today.

H:  Today.

P:  Yeah.  It’s March.  This is the best time.  Things are looser now than they’ll be in, say, April.

H:  Today?

P:  Why not?  You’re doing the winter reports.  Mother’s probably finished the Cleaning and begun sorting the seed corn and doing the transplants so it’s a good time to try to convince her. It’s her busiest time. I know she needs help.

H:  You may be right.  It’s funny that The Story doesn’t get us up there earlier, come to think of it.  I wonder why not?

P:  Maybe because in the Story, I’m just a symbol.  But mostly, it’s because your brother’s not a gardener.

H:  You’re not kidding.  But Perry, I won’t get my Spring Outing if you go up early.

P:  Sure you will.  I won’t be all obvious up there–my arrival won’t be a big deal, and my departure won’t be, either.   I’ll just stay a couple of weeks, then come back down and you can take me back up at the usual time, with the usual fanfare.   I know you need the trip, and I still like the flying cloaks and the horses and the drama of it all.

H:  Well then, it’s okay with me.   I’m just a little worried that you . . .

P:  Hal, come on.  I don’t have the slightest interest in staying up there with Mother all year.  She’d drive me out of my mind.  Besides, you’ve said you trust me.

H:  I do.

P:  And I think this will make our relationship stronger.

H:  You’re probably right.

P:  So, I’ll do it.

H:  Um–you’re going to walk?

P:  I thought I would.

H:  You could take an ox cart, if you’d like, at least to the ferry.

P:  That might work eventually, but I think now it might be a little too much.

H:  You’re right.  You’ve got money for the boat?

P:  I’ll take some out of petty cash.

H:  Cake?

P:  Not yet.  I’ll be sure to grab some on my way through the hall.

H:  Don’t forget.  You know how he is.

P:  I do indeed–he’d hound me to the ends of the Earth if he thought I’d forgotten it.

H:  Well then.

P:  So–I’m off.  I’ve got my gear all packed.  I’ve never walked through the Passageway before, and I think it might take awhile.  I’d like to get to Mother’s before sunset.  Do you know how long it might take?

H:  Actually, no. The horses move pretty fast.

P: True.

H:  Could I walk with you to the door?

P:  I’d like that.  Hey–don’t worry about me.  I’ll be fine.  And you know I’ll be back.  It’s The Story.

H: The Story.  You always come back.

P:  Even without it, I would.

H:  Really?
P:  You know I would.  You’re my guy. Ready?

H:  He shuts down his computer.  Ready.

They exit.

 

SCENE TWO

Persephone, in a dark passageway, carrying a candle.  She’s humming  She stops.  There is a whispering around her.

P:  I can hear you.  Don’t be afraid.  You can float right by–see?  All that weight is gone.  It’s hard to be without it, yes?  Funny that that’s something I don’t know.  Gravity encompasses even the gods.  Strange.  And you there sitting, alone.  Yes, I see you. Do you see me? Don’t be afraid. This is only a passage for you, not the end. When it’s time, you will stand and return. But—don’t forget to look at the stars!  Yes, there are stars here, shining under the dust–your dust, the dust of the heavens come down.  I’ll never understand, but I love it that these stars here shine nowhere else, and I get to see them often enough so that I know them well.   There’s the milkmaid, and the raven.  The harp, the horn, the dragon’s wing.  That’s what I call them anyway–I don’t know if anybody else pays attention to them at all.  My favorite is the garden:  that row of stars like flowers–some in clusters like roses on bushes, some like lilies all alone.  Oh–have a wonderful journey—you who are going on.  Tell my husband you saw me.  And you who will return—my blessing on you. The return of light is a blessing, and the return of the dark, though you can’t understand it now. The whispering fades.  I always wonder why these stars shine here.  I’ve never asked anyone.

Hecate (offstage):  They shine for themselves alone.

P:  Of course.  And the flowers I pluck in the meadow every year–if I were not there to pluck them, they’d still bloom.

H:  Of course.  And the birds sing for themselves. . .

P:  and the rain falls, and the snow. . .

H:  . . .and Earth turns under the Sun

P: . . .and Moon waxes. . .

H:  . . .and wanes.

P:  So this is what this place is for . . .

H:  . . .the Passageway.

P:   Yes.  Comprehending that.

H:  Every passage:  being born and birthing.. .

P:  plucking flowers, gathering corn

H:  every killing

P:  every dying

H:  every silence

P:  every grief

H:  Every one.

P:  And here there is no time.

H:  No time.

P:  Funny that even in the chariot that moves so swiftly I can see each star so clearly.

H:  Because you have the key.

P:  I don’t have a key.

H:  Look in your pocket.

P:  pulls a large key out of her pocket.  I didn’t know I had this.  It doesn’t look like any of my husband’s keys, or Mother’s.  What does it open?

H:  Time’s door.

P:  I didn’t know she had one.

H:  Oh, I do.  You do. We.

P:  We?

H:  Our door.

P:  Where?

H:  Here.  No Where.

P:   Have I always had it?

H:  The key?

P:  This key.

H:  You have.  Our key.

While she is speaking, Hecate slowly becomes visible beside her.

H:  So, here we are.

P:  I am.

H:  It’s time.

P:  Is Mother expecting us?

H:  No.

P:   I can handle her.

H:  I know we can.

P:  So, you are  coming with me.

H:  I’m always with you.  But you’re on your own.

P:  Here’s the gate.  Bless me.

H:  You are blessed.

H fades into the darkness.  P opens a gate, and is greeted by a 3-headed dog.  Twilight instead of darkness on the other side of the gate, and a dock, where a small boat is tied.  Charon waits in the boat. This bit has the same tone as the opening scene.

P:  Cerberus!  Good boy,!  Here’s your cake–yup, here’s some more, and. . .one more.  Oh, you’re such a good boy.  Now Sit.  Sit.  Sit.  Stay.  Stay.  Stay.  Good boy, good boy, good boy.  The dog sits.  Charon–I need to get across.

C:  Where’s the boss?  It’s not time.

P:  I’m going up early to help Mother.

C:  I don’t know about this.  There’s nothing in the Story that allows for Earliness.

P:  Oh, I know that.  That’s why I brought you two pennies–an extra one for your trouble.

C: Does the boss know about this?

P: Of course. He’s my husband after all. I tell him—nearly—everything.

C:  I’m not sure this is Allowable.

P:  Oh, come on!  You know there are changes sometimes–it’s not always once for all. . .Psyche, Orpheus, that carpenter. . .

C:  I know, I know.  It’s just that I’m old and I like my routine.  You’ll understand some day, maybe, if you ever get old.

P:  I’m sure I will.  Here.  She gives him the pennies and steps onto the boat, which he unties.  Lights out.

 

SCENE THREE:  A room that needs lots of attention:  cobwebs, piles of books and papers, bags of potting soil,  pots, neglected plants, garden tools.  P pushes open the door and enters.

P:  Mother?  Mother!  It’s me.  Where are you?  Holy Hera, look at this mess.  It’s about time I got here.  Mother?  D enters, disheveled, wiping her hands on a towel.

D:  What are you doing here?  It’s two months early.  It isn’t time.  I’m not ready.

P:  I know.  Spring’s early, so I thought I’d come earlier and give you a hand.

D:  But that’s not how it goes!  YOU bring the Spring.

P:  But I didn’t, did I?  It’s here without me.  The snow is gone, and things are beginning to get green.  And it looks as if you need help.  You haven’t even done the Cleaning yet, have you?

D:  Of course not.  I just started. But I would have had it done before you got here.

P:  But things are happening faster now, and you have to get the plants started earlier, don’t you? Before the Cleaning is done.  I know this has been going on for awhile, and you’ve needed my help but were ashamed to ask me. You really need my help.  Mother, you know you can’t do everything at once.

D:  Of course I can.  I’m a goddess.

P:  But look around.

D:  (confused and desperate) I know, I know, it’s just that–well–I don’t know.  The Story doesn’t work right somehow.  I try to keep it up, but I can’t.  It was such a hard winter. And the house is a wreck, and the trees are budding a month ahead of schedule and the crocuses are beginning to come up and I haven’t even started the zinnias. . . and what will become of the corn? The weeds. . .

P:  So, I should be here.

D:  I don’t like it.  Too early.  This isn’t the way it’s always been. And where’s your husband? I didn’t hear the horses. Where is Hades?

P:  Down there.  He’s got a lot to do.  It’s been a hard winter. Lots of paperwork. As usual.

D:  So you came alone?

P:  Yes.  I came alone.

D:  But–there’s the dog, and the ferry. . .

P:  . . .who all know me very very well, after all these millenia.

D:  Yes, but the darkness, and the shades. . .

P:  Mother, the darkness is mine, and the shades call me Mistress.

D:  Nothing grows down there.  There’s no life, no beauty. . .

P:  Oh, there’s life.  And it is beautiful.  The fine pale roots of things, the silver threads of mycelium. . .

D:  Stop!  Oh, horrible!  To think that my daughter could. . .

P:  Could what?  Come to love something that you can’t understand?

D:  I brought you up to be a perfect blossom, the flower of all my labor, the clear, unsullied, unspoiled. . .

P:  . . .untried, innocent, dependent, virginal. . .

D:  Stop!  Oh, so cruel!  And now the Story isn’t right, and you’re not helping.  You’re making it worse.  And the house isn’t ready. . .

P:  Ready for what?

D:  For, for–you!  For Spring.

P:  But it happens without me, and I’m here.  And together we’ll make things right.

D:  I didn’t want you ever to see the. . . dust, the confusion. . .

P:  Mother!  Where do I live when I’m not with you?  Where is my realm?  I am the Queen of dust, the  disorder of decay, of moldering leaves, the hard bright skins of beetles, skin and bones returning, the thin gray shades learning to be free of flesh. When I left you I was a sheltered child, yes, and I was afraid. But I’ve grown up. My husband is a good. . . fellow.  God.  And he does important work, and he does it well. And I am his consort. I’m quite used to the mess and confusion, to the whole underbelly of life.

D:  So you don’t mind housecleaning?

P:  laughs mightily  Oh Mother, you are the one who minds it!  Why has it taken me so long to see?   You see to the flowers.  I will Clean!

D:  I don’t understand. If you’re here now. . . early. . .

P:  I’ll go home after I’ve helped you out, after the Cleaning is finished. And on the First Day of Spring, Hades will bring me back, with the usual fanfare. Nobody will know but us. Our worshipers won’t have a clue.

D:  But Hecate.  The Passageway. . .

P:  Mother. This may come as a surprise to you, but I’m claiming the Passageway as my own. My own realm. Hecate gave me the key.

D:  Hades. . .

P:  He approves.

D:  When I was a young goddess. . .

P:  . . . you all gave in to the whims of the guys, I know. There were three clear kingdoms, and every goddess knew her place. But Mother, things have changed. Things aren’t so simple. Perhaps they never were. Perhaps it was only our perception that made them so. Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall—-the lines blur. God and goddess. Man and woman. Human and divine. Earth and Heaven and Underworld. The lines blur.

D:  But how do we. . .  ?  Who is in charge?

P:  No one is in charge, Mother. At least, no one is in charge of the whole thing. Oh of course, there are pieces we manage:  you have the corn, the flowers. Hades has the dead, Zeus the sky, Aphrodite the hearts of lovers. But so much is the Passageway—the blur, the gray, the amber, the twilight in between.

D:  And you will rule there?

P:  Not rule. No one can rule that. But I will stay there, I will make my home there between the seasons, between Fall and Winter, between Winter and Spring.  November and March will be my times.

D: And you will have worshippers.

P:  Yes.

D:  I understand. When Hades first carried you away from me.  The emptiness. And there was nowhere to turn.

P:  Yes.

D:  And now—what will you have them do, your people caught in the grayness between?

P:  Sit in silence. With a candle burning, perhaps. They will know what to do, if they know that I am there.

D: I wish—well, I wish that you’d been there for me. That someone had been there for me.

P:  Mother. I was.  She holds up the key.

Silence as they stand facing one another, looking at the key in Persephone’s hand. Hecate is revealed to be standing in the shadows 

Hecate and P:  We were always there.

D:  Yes.

D, P & H:  We were always there.

P:  And now—it’s time to Clean.

all three roll up their sleeves and start working as the curtain falls