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Archive for April, 2019

7pm 

Rumour was loose in the air
hunting for some neck to land on.
I was milking the cow,
the barn door open to the sunset.

I didn’t feel the aimed word hit
and go in like a soft bullet.
I didn’t feel the smashed flesh
closing over it like water
over a thrown stone.

I was hanged for living alone
for having blue eyes and a sunburned skin,
tattered skirts, few buttons,
a weedy farm in my own name,
and a surefire cure for warts;

Oh yes, and breasts,
and a sweet pear hidden in my body.
Whenever there’s talk of demons
these come in handy.

——————————————————————————–

8pm 

The rope was an improvisation.
With time they’d have thought of axes.

Up I go like a windfall in reverse,
a blackend apple stuck back onto the tree.

Trussed hands, rag in my mouth,
a flag raised to salute the moon,

old bone-faced goddess, old original,
who once took blood in return for food.

The men of the town stalk homeward,
excited by their show of hate,

their own evil turned inside out like a glove,
and me wearing it.

——————————————————————————–

9pm 

The bonnets come to stare,
the dark skirts also,
the upturned faces in between,
mouths closed so tight they’re lipless.
I can see down into their eyeholes
and nostrils. I can see their fear.

You were my friend, you too.
I cured your baby, Mrs.,
and flushed yours out of you,
Non-wife, to save your life.

Help me down? You don’t dare.
I might rub off on you,
like soot or gossip. Birds
of a feather burn together,
though as a rule ravens are singular.

In a gathering like this one
the safe place is the background,
pretending you can’t dance,
the safe stance pointing a finger.

I understand. You can’t spare
anything, a hand, a piece of bread, a shawl
against the cold,
a good word. Lord
knows there isn’t much
to go around. You need it all.

——————————————————————————–

10pm 

Well God, now that I’m up here
with maybe some time to kill
away from the daily
fingerwork, legwork, work
at the hen level,
we can continue our quarrel,
the one about free will.

Is it my choice that I’m dangling
like a turkey’s wattles from his
more then indifferent tree?
If Nature is Your alphabet,
what letter is this rope?

Does my twisting body spell out Grace?
I hurt, therefore I am.
Faith, Charity, and Hope
are three dead angels
falling like meteors or
burning owls across
the profound blank sky of Your face.

——————————————————————————–

12 midnight 

My throat is taut against the rope
choking off words and air;
I’m reduced to knotted muscle.
Blood bulges in my skull,
my clenched teeth hold it in;
I bite down on despair

Death sits on my shoulder like a crow
waiting for my squeezed beet
of a heart to burst
so he can eat my eyes

or like a judge
muttering about sluts and punishment
and licking his lips

or like a dark angel
insidious in his glossy feathers
whispering to me to be easy
on myself. To breathe out finally.
Trust me, he says, caressing
me. Why suffer?

A temptation, to sink down
into these definitions.
To become a martyr in reverse,
or food, or trash.

To give up my own words for myself,

my own refusals.

To give up knowing.
To give up pain.
To let go.

——————————————————————————–

2 a.m.

Out of my mouths is coming, at some
distance from me, a thin gnawing sound
which you could confuse with prayer except that
praying is not constrained.

Or is it, Lord?
Maybe it’s more like being strangled
than I once thought. Maybe it’s
a gasp for air, prayer.
Did those men at Pentecost
want flames to shoot out of their heads?
Did they ask to be tossed
on the ground, gabbling like holy poultry,
eyeballs bulging?

As mine are, as mine are.
There is only one prayer; it is not
the knees in the clean nightgown
on the hooked rug.
I want this, I want that.
Oh far beyond.
Call it Please. Call it Mercy.
Call it Not yet, not yet,
as Heaven threatens to explode
inwards in fire and shredded flesh, and the angels caw.

——————————————————————————–

3 a.m.

wind seethes in the leaves around
me the trees exude night
birds night birds yell inside
my ears like stabbed hearts my heart
stutters in my fluttering cloth
body I dangle with strength
going out of the wind seethes
in my body tattering
the words I clench
my fists hold No
talisman or silver disc my lungs
flail as if drowning I call
on you as witness I did
no crime I was born I have borne I
bear I will be born this is
a crime I will not
acknowledge leaves and wind
hold on to me
I will not give in

——————————————————————————–

6 a.m.

Sun comes up, huge and blaring,
no longer a simile for God.
Wrong address. I’ve been out there.

Time is relative, let me tell you
I have lived a millennium.

I would like to say my hair turned white
overnight, but it didn’t.
Instead it was my heart;
bleached out like meat in water.

Also, I’m about three inches taller.
This is what happens when you drift in space
listening to the gospel
of the red hot stars.
Pinpoints of infinity riddle my brain,
a revelation of deafness.

At the end of my rope
I testify to silence.
Don’t say I’m not grateful.

Most will only have one death.
I will have two.

——————————————————————————–

8 a.m.

When they came to harvest my corpse
(open your mouth, close your eyes)
cut my body from the rope,
surprise, surprise,
I was still alive.

Tough luck, folks,
I know the law:
you can’t execute me twice
for the same thing. How nice.

I fell to the clover, breathed it in,
and bared my teeth at them
in a filthy grin.
You can imagine how that went over.

Now I only need to look
out at them through my sky-blue eyes.
They see their own ill will
staring them in the forehead
and turn tail.

Before, I was not a witch.
But now I am one.

——————————————————————————–

Later

My body of skin waxes and wanes
around my true body,
a tender nimbus.
I skitter over the paths and fields,
mumbling to myself like crazy,
mouth full of juicy adjectives
and purple berries.
The townsfolk dive headfirst into the bushes
to get out of my way.

My first death orbits my head,
an ambiguous nimbus,
medallion of my ordeal.
No one crosses that circle.

Having been hanged for something
I never said,
I can now say anything I can say.

Holiness gleams on my dirty fingers,
I eat flowers and dung,,
two forms of the same thing, I eat mice
and give thanks, blasphemies
gleam and burst in my wake
like lovely bubbles.
I speak in tongues,
my audience is owls.

My audience is God,
because who the hell else could understand me?

The words boil out of me,
coil after coil of sinuous possibility.
The cosmos unravels from my mouth,
all fullness, all vacancy.

 

http://lhsela.weebly.com/uploads/7/9/0/8/7908073/_half_hanged_mary.pdf

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There is some indescribable place inside me that is emotionally stirred by the sight of clouds on a not-quite-rainy evening.

The dark swirling into the light. The foggy grays that shine like rainbow moonstone with the setting sun behind them. A peek of light at the horizon beneath the blanket of storm. Heavy, lowering, but not menacing.

It is almost a Northern sky, but not yet intense enough.

I once spent an entire three-week vacation in the wilds of Scotland photographing the Northern skies. Trying to capture the unattainable essence of light and color and shadow. Yet… the photos, beautiful as they are, do not stir in me the feelings I felt while under those Northern skies.

The feeling that water was near, that sunshine was slanted, that color was redefined. The knowing that there was a language I didn’t speak in those clouds. An understanding that light was something new I had never encountered, but could feel in my bones. I could imagine a painter trying to capture life in that light. Trying, but never succeeding.

Perhaps those Northern skies stir a bone-deep memory in me from a time when my ancestors would have been in communication with the sky as they were with the land. Reading the messages in nature. Knowing the language of time.

Were they perhaps enthralled by the sight of clouds, as I am?

 

 

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In 2004 I was tasked with delivering a very big project at work. Very big. At the time, I reported to a leader who did not know how to deliver, but knew how to maintain. There is a huge difference in the way one must lead to maintain applications from the way one must lead to deliver new applications. I was new in my position, having just been promoted to lead folks I had been working with prior to the BIG PROJECT. Then the folks who could have helped me deliver that big project were moved off my team and off the project. I was left with a development team that was woefully understaffed, no test team to speak of (two people who also provided production support do not a test team make), and a project manager and development manager who both worked very hard to sabotage my efforts at every step. As I mentioned, this was a big project with a lot of visibility and demanding customers who were looking for the impossible on an unrealistic timeline.

I’d like to say I overcame all obstacles and succeeded anyway, but that did not happen. The due date came and went with only a tiny fraction of what was requested completed. Even after being called to the CIO’s office and asked which delivery date I would bet my job on, both of which were impossible to meet with the tools and resources at my disposal, I would like to say I was smart enough to say neither date could be met, but I didn’t. I chose the later date that I knew when I said it would never happen.

At the time, I had worked for the company for nearly 10 years. Until the Big Project, I had really enjoyed my career and found the work I did exciting and fulfilling, even with the stress, weekends, and long hours that IT work required. Even when things were at their worst and the CIO had sent his minions in to ‘ensure’ we were working hard enough by sitting in the cubicles of the poor contractors that were eventually brought in to help us deliver asking them if they were done yet, and I was in the office (in another city and away from home) for 18 to 20 hours a day, crying on the way to work in the morning, and crying in the bathroom at work with the frustration of it all, I didn’t want to quit. I wanted to succeed. I was so caught up in it all.

And then I wasn’t.

They removed my boss (who couldn’t lead delivery out of a paper bag), and the project manager (who was only capable of doing what our boss told her to do), and me. I was replaced by the good guy they had taken away from the project in the beginning and he was able to negotiate a delivery schedule that would get the project on the right path, delivered in piece parts, and with a much diminished functionality than the customers were asking for. But it was the right way to do it and the right thing to do.

For me, I learned about the sabotage by my development manager who eventually left the team and went to work in another organization, and watched as my boss had her responsibilities stripped away and given to other Directors. After a couple of years, she was forced to retire. I stayed in the same organization, and for a time, didn’t have anything to do. I would go into my executive director’s office and say, “Please give me something to do. I don’t know how to not work like this.” His response was, “Take a break, you deserve it. You’ve worked hard for a long time and you didn’t deserve this to happen.” He was the one who told me about the sabotage and also told me he was not going to fire me.

Within a short period of time, I was approached to start up another team to help us write requirements for delivery projects. I was grateful for the opportunity and grateful to do something new, but still get to work with a lot of the people I knew and cared for.

So how did this failure change my life?

Well, it was the first time in my long career in IT that I wasn’t working 12 or more hours a day but barely in the office for 8 hours. I had a lot of time to think and process what had happened. It was the first time I looked outside work for fulfillment. That changed everything for me. I began spending more time at home, finishing the remodeling that my partner and I had started on my house while I was away traveling so much with the big project.

It was the first time I realized the company was not going to fulfill me. The company was not going to take care of me. The company didn’t value me. I had to do that for myself.

I had time to begin looking for community for my spirituality. I had been a Witch for many years but had little time to practice in a big way. I began taking classes and attending public rituals. I began looking for a Coven. This led me down a path and on a journey that I am still traveling. This is where my joy is found.

But that is another story.

Without that failure, I would not have had the time or inclination to want to practice my chosen path in my daily life. I would not have begun searching for community and would not have found the Coven I would eventually Initiate into or become the High Priestess I am today. Without that failure, I would not have found this joy that I live each day.

I am so very grateful for that massive failure and for all the work I’ve done since then on my own personal growth as a human being and not as a cog in a wheel.

As the famous poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost says,

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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