As the year turns into darkness, I go into the cave to look at the wolf. I am clean and hollow. I am priest and sacrifice and cave. I’m where the wolf lies bound and gagged.
Once I thought naming gave power – Tom Tit Tot dances round his fire- but now I know that power lies in the wolf, and in the cords that bind him.
Did I sacrifice enough? The flesh. I lie down. I lay me down on the cold slab and let the light slice me – the hot thrill of blood between my thighs, the light shafting in, finding the altar.
Daily, we chant the runes that strengthen the cords. Three norns, three fates, three wyrdling sisters. Tom Tit Tot dances on, and the wolf hungers and waits and grows.
For Brendan at earthweal. We are looking at Samhain/Halloween, when the old stories come creeping out of the forest. Tom Tit Tot is the English version of Rumplestiltskin, and I was going to write about him, but Fenris Wolf sneaked in and made himself at home.
This valley curves, he says, just like an upturned hand. It holds us gently.
His hands are carved from wood, cragged over time. They’re strong enough to lay a hedge, and soft enough to graft a tree. He knows the right amount of twist you need to pluck an apple from its mother-branch. He works hard but he knows to pause and watch the rolling flutter of the fieldfare as they cross the winter ground. He puts his head back, gazing up to catch the fierce joy of the wind-tossed rooks. The wild hare knows him, meets his eye, the deer steps daintily towards him, leading her fawn. They’re not afraid.
And yet we know that any day now he could just shrug off that rain-soft jacket that he wears, that sagging hat, reveal the green fire running underneath his skin, and let the green life sprout and shoot and tendril come spiralling and spilling from his singing mouth.
This is for Brendan at earthweal. He asks us to write about the spirit of a place – and keep it local. If you like listening to poetry, there’s an audio version here:
And iI’ve linked to dVersehttps://dversepoets.com/2020/10/22/mtb-let-your-words-ring-out/
From here on in, I’m standing with the crones, the cold-eyed, clear-eyed women who stand in judgement. Yes, I’m saying “No” and “Stop” and “That’s enough”, I’m sweeping out the old shit, the old cobwebbing mess of sweet and pretty and compliant.
I have bled, and fed, and shed so many tears now. Now it’s time to take a stand, to accept consequences. I’m calling wolf and raven, I’m calling up old blood, old wisdom – wait and see. I’m offering the wintering power of waiting, holding on. Tenacity.
I’m seeking out the austere beauty of bone and rock, of leafless branch. I will not soothe you. It’s time now to embrace the anger of old women, the fierce, cold flame, the pointing finger, “I can’t be doing with it”. Stop. I’m doing right, not doing nice. I’m holding firm.
The wisdom of the crone lies in the soil, in time, in darkness. That’s where the seeds are planted, the seeds that send out roots and tender shoots, and grow to be great trees. Bury it deep.
Brendan is hosting at earthweal this week, and asks us to think about what mythic mentors we need now. I did a goddess poetry workshop just before lockdown, and again during lockdown, and I’m pretty sure I need to work on my inner Crone. This is my tribute to the strong old women. You might recognise some of them.
Once upon a time I read a poem about whales, making their stately way through the deep ocean, drinking in krill, and singing – as if they were angels, feeding on light, wings open, chanting their songs of love.
I’m not an angel but I know those moments of freedom – no, of rightness, when I fit the world and sing in harmony with blades of grass, and wasps, and rooks, and tigers – and I call it joy.
For Brendan at earthweal, who asks us to write about joy. Earthweal is a place of love for this planet, and despair at what is happening to it. The poets of earthweal try to balance hope and fear. I am proud to be one of them.
stops and starts – the way change banks up, unnoticed, then breaks through suddenly, cartwheeling. Boys become men. A woman dies. A leaf falls. The rain starts – did you feel a drop? I think I did – and then we’re running under cover. Fruit ripens.
Empty streets – are they the future? or the past? I couldn’t say. Endless blue skies, birds singing, spring slipping into summer slipping into autumn. What are memories worth? They cling, they float away, they sink, ice-pops melting stickily, the soil opening to take the cherry coloured sugary synthetic juice.
A pushchair and a rainbow-coloured dress, sunshine on water. Piles of books. Fluttering through my fingers, scraps of something, anything. Scratching the words on rock, pressing them into clay, the art of writing onto vellum, parchment, the tap-tapping, bell-ting typewriter, the keyboard that I’m using now, the notebook that I scribble in, what are we doing?
A horse drawn on a wall in semi-darkness
Tell me a story. I’m all out of words.
For Brendan at earthweal – thinking about evolution and change and stuff like that.
Rainbows need sun and softness, ambiguity, but here the storms come raging in from the west, flash floods and the shrill sound of car alarms, and the trees whipping back and forth – and we name them – why do we name them? – Ellen, who always sang alone, that pure voice, passing it on to Francis, like the pope, who seemed so nice, we liked him, then he hit a woman, back at the start of this mad year of fires and fevers.
You show me the shape of the storm, but I can’t feel the logic of it, just the wind, and the noise, and the utter darkness, and half an hour ago it was still, and now the wind is winding up again, and what can we do? Gather up windfalls, check the fences, close the windows, breathe these small spaces. Wait.
Some grandmother of mine once raised her eyes to this horizon. Not this one, no. A bluer one, a greener, but she saw the weather coming in, great storm clouds, brown as bruises, waded to shore, gathered her children. Tucked in out of the rain, she told the story of the storm, the fish, the limpet.
That’s how we began. We built the world from sand and seashells, coloured it with words, wove ourselves cloaks of myth.
So, yes, I’m called here – my chest opens at the smell of seaweed, saltwater echoes in my veins, my heart the moon. Yes, I look out to the horizon, watch for weather, yes, I’m lulled by wavesong, yes, in this untamed place unmappable, unclaimable, I map myself, I claim my own breath. Yes.
Sherry is hosting at earthweal this week and asks us to write about the wild places that we connect to.