Definition

I’m trying to get at the idea that women and others who refer to themselves as witches very often do so because in the first place they have been marginalized because they cannot be pinned down in the rigid categories of the religious establishment. The label or identity of witch does not necessarily mean that one situates herself outside the bounds of church or religion, but that her spiritual practices or ways of seeing the world and the holy are threatening to the religious status quo. Witch may be a chosen identity marker, but it may also be an identity conferred by religious dogmatists. Although I have been revising and re-revising, it still feels to me as though this is a poem in process.

Witch (noun) wich,
SEE ALSO HERETIC,
a word used by the spiritual gatekeepers
within religious and social establishments
(no matter how nominal their own piety)
to denote those who cross the hedge
between the status quo and the wildlands
of spiritual inquiry.

the witch is an excuse
the witch is a scapegoat
the witch cannot be catalogued
the witch will not denounce her truth
the witch disrupts the proceedings
the witch does not offer herself up
to be easily understood

What they do not understand,
they call the Devil,
and banish and punish and shun.

When difference is disciplined,
how do the tamed ones
manage their sameness?

What they do not understand
is that they will snare themselves
in their own rules of order.

For when one question is proscribed,
who knows which questions
will lead to the mine field?
Better to eliminate questions altogether.

the witch is feral and free
the witch is both/and
the witch is a shapeshifter
the witch will ask a thousand questions
and expect more questions in response
the witch has already given herself a name


Gratitude List:
1. A winter-bare tree filled with crows in a drizzling mist
2. People who trust my essential goodness and don’t require me to prove my piety
3. Lunch and good conversations with beloveds
4. The joy of the last week of school before vacation
5. Clean windows. (It’s been a while. Don’t judge.)
May we walk in Beauty!


“The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to all.” —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


“Organic images are destroyed if we subject them to linear thinking. How often we judge them as “bizarre” or “weird.” They need to be allowed to grow like plants in a spiraling movement. They carry emotional and imaginative energy as well as intellectual meaning, and as they spiral they are illumined with nuances of feeling. Hence their power to bring wholeness.” —Marion Woodman


“We need beauty because it makes us ache to be worthy of it.” —Mary Oliver


“Beauty is not a luxury but a strategy for survival.” —Terry Tempest Williams


“The insects and birds and animals are singing themselves into being; this autumn land is dreaming and I am part of that dreaming.” -Sharon Blackie


“I am out with lanterns, looking for myself.” —Emily Dickinson

Walking into the Labyrinth

This afternoon, I crawled through cobwebs in the attic to retrieve two full snakeskins and several partial snakeskins that someone had shed at the same place in the eaves. I tried to talk to the AI about a woman with snakes for necklaces, but I wasn’t happy with any of those, so I altered a picture of myself.

I led Sunday School today with a Poetry for Advent theme: Feeling our Way Into the Darkness. One of the various prompts I offered for writing was to write a poem in a labyrinth. I printed out copies of Lisa Gidlow Moriarty’s Dancing Woman Labyrinth. This afternoon, I pulled phrases from my labyrinth poem to make this.

Darkness calls.
My shadow blends
into shifting Shadow,
and I am borne upon wave
upon wave of indigo shade.
I am uncertain
but unafraid
stepping into
the fresh adventure
of unknowing.


Gratitude List:
1. Crows
2. Treasure trove of snake skins I found in the attic
3. Pileated Woodpecker in the treetops
4. The songs and conversation about Mary in church today. In the stories we tell, so often she has no agency, but we get to choose how we tell the story, who we make of her. For someone who daily prays the rosary, this was a particularly meaningful morning.
5. Poetry, and how it opens us to ideas, to each other, to Words.
May we walk ever in Beauty!


“People talk about medium. What is your medium? My medium as a writer has been dirt, clay, sand—what I could touch, hold, stand on, and stand for—Earth. My medium has been Earth. Earth in correspondence with my mind.” —Terry Tempest Williams


“The country is in deep trouble. We’ve forgotten that a rich life consists fundamentally of serving others, trying to leave the world a little better than you found it. We need the courage to question the powers that be, the courage to be impatient with evil and patient with people, the courage to fight for social justice. In many instances we will be stepping out on nothing, and just hoping to land on something. But that’s the struggle. To live is to wrestle with despair, yet never allow despair to have the last word.” —Cornel West (2005)


“Do one thing every day that scares you.” —Eleanor Roosevelt


“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” —Jane Austen

Truth AND Dare

Art by AI and EWK: “The Naked Face of Truth”

Today’s prompt is to write a truth and/or dare poem.

What will you dare for truth?
Will you look inside yourself,
past the veils of arrogance
and self-importance,
beyond the doors of certainty,
to claim doubt and humility
as guides and guardians
to lead you safely
over pathways perilous
to the place where she resides?
Can you bear her glowing nakedness,
her fierce regard, her clarity?
Will you dare to seek her unreservedly,
without artifice or guile?

There is no choice–
of truth
or dare–
for the greatest daring
is in the choice you make
to seek the open truth.


Gratitude List:
1. My classroom plants. Today, I added an aloe plant that my nibling Keri was giving away. It’s in a mug shaped like a Viking head, and it makes me smile every time I see it. I am calling it Snorri Sturluson, of course.
2. The incredible emotional intelligence of some of my students. One of their beloved former teachers died last night, and their processing of their loss is tender and beautiful.
3. Even on the perilous pathways, we are not alone.
4. Divergence. It is in divergence that transformation is born.
5. Also, the creativity of students: We have open lockers at our school, and one student has painstakingly created a miniature apartment in the top of hers for her Black Panther character doll. There’s a bed and a bookcase and a refrigerator and a tiny Christmas tree with presents, and pictures on the wall and a couch, and LED lights strung up around the inside of the “room.” Such delight and magic shared with everyone who passes by.
May we walk in Beauty!


“Healing comes in waves and maybe today the wave hits the rocks. And that’s ok, that’s ok, darling. You are still healing, you are still healing.” —Ijeoma Umebinyuo


“No matter where we are, the ground between us will always be sacred ground.“ —Fr. Henri Nouwen


“The truest art I would strive for in any work would be to give the page the same qualities as earth: weather would land on it harshly; light would elucidate the most difficult truths; wind would sweep away obtuse padding.” —Gretel Ehrlich


“‪The fact that these words and the jumble of lines that create their letters has no real, inherent meaning outside of a human context, yet they hum with life, is a wonderful reminder that what we imagine can easily become real and powerful simply because we decide it should be so.‬” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist


“Writing at the library. Surrounded by thousands of books, windows into other minds. Some of these writers are living. Some are not. Neatly ordered rectangles of concentrated human life and intellect. A book is certainly a kind of ghost and libraries are pleasantly haunted places.” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist


“The beauty of the world…has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.” —Virginia Woolf


I know nothing, except what everyone knows —
If there when Grace dances, I should dance.
—W.H. Auden


“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic—the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.”
—Charles de Lint

Remix

The prompt today is to remix an earlier poem from the month. I don’t think I have quite fulfilled the brief, as they say on the reality contest shows–it might be more of a revision than a remix, but I’ve worked on it so much already, and I need to get on to other things in my day. Sigh. But I do definitely feel better about this poem than I did about the first version. I paid more close attention to sound and progression, and even though it remains free verse, I tightened up the rhythm a bit.

Shrug your shoulders
or tug out your hair,
dig a hole in the cliff,
or rig a ship to sail
away from here:
you’ll never evade the struggle,
for you carry the struggle
within you.

And even if you do hand
the Ferrywoman her due,
or pay the piper for a tune,
or grow the magic beans
or lower your vision,

eventually the only way out,
as they say, is through.


Gratitude List:
1. The way, when a cat stretches, I feel the relaxing of tension in my own spine
2. Many different-colored markers
3. Pecan pie
4. I threw a stone of release into the River today, and I felt the release deep within me
5. The messages in dreams
May we walk in Beauty!


“There are no shortcuts to wholeness. The only way to become whole is to put our arms lovingly around everything we’ve shown ourselves to be: self-serving and generous, spiteful and compassionate, cowardly and courageous, treacherous and trustworthy. We must be able to say to ourselves and to the world at large, ‘I am all of the above.’” —Parker Palmer


Solace is your job now.”
—Jan Richardson


Joy Harjo:
“When I woke up from a forty-year sleep, it was by a song. I could hear the drums in the village. I felt the sweat of ancestors in each palm. The singers were singing the world into place, even as it continued to fall apart. They were making songs to turn hatred into love.”


“The history of an oppressed people is hidden in the lies and the agreed myth of its conquerors.”
―Meridel Le Sueur


“I never want to lose the story-loving child within me, or the adolescent, or the young woman, or the middle-aged one, because all together they help me to be fully alive on this journey, and show me that I must be willing to go where it takes me, even through the valley of the shadow.”
―Madeleine L’Engle


“Alas, the webs are torn down, the spinners stomped out. But the forest smiles. Deep in her nooks and crevices she feels the spinners and the harmony of their web. We will dream our way to them …
…Carefully, we feel our way through the folds of darkness. Since our right and left eyes are virtually useless, other senses become our eyes. The roll of a pebble, the breath of dew-cooled pines, a startled flutter in a nearby bush magnify the vast silence of the forest. Wind and stream are the murmering current of time, taking us back to where poetry is sung and danced and lived. … In the distance a fire flickers – not running wild, but contained, like a candle. The spinners.” —Marylou Awiakta, Selu: Seeking the Corn-Mother’s Wisdom


“Do it right, because you only got one time to walk this earth. Make it good, make it a good thing.” —Grandmother Agnes “Taowhywee” (Morning Star) Baker Pilgrim (1924-2019)

Re-Solutions

Today’s prompt was to write about resolutions. This one got a little prosey, but I’m happy with it.

A resolution presupposes
the failure of a first solution.
We re-solve to solve it all again,
but to get it right this time,
with a little hope and grit.

Every year, we come down
off the Christmas high,
vowing to do better,
to try harder,
to get a little closer to the mark.

And the cynicism flies–
What makes you think you’ll
do any better on a second chance?
But we do try. We re-view
the situation, recalibrate,
reassess, and re-solve
there problem, to edge ourselves
a little closer to success.

And often, the re-solution
turns out better than you imagine
the first solution could have been.

Don’t beat yourself up
for making hopeful resolutions.
Re-solve.
Re-solve.
Re-solve.


Gratitude: There is beauty to be found, even in a rainy November day.


“Never laugh at live dragons.” —J.R.R. Tolkien

*****

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” —Aristotle

*****

“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.” —Mark Twain

*****

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” —Aristotle

*****

“The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.” —Anais Nin

*****

“Changing the big picture takes time.. and the best thing to do is focus on the things that we can make in our lives if we’re doing all that. That becomes the collage of real change.” —Michelle Obama

*****

“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.” —Amelia Earhart

*****

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” —Lucille Ball

*****

“Learn how to take criticism seriously but not personally.” —Hillary Clinton

*****

“Like a great starving beast, my body is quivering, fixed on the scent of light.” —Hafiz

*****

“Identity is a story carried in the body.” —Sophia Samatar

On Third Thought. . .

Today’s prompt is to write a second thoughts poem. Lately, I have been meditating on how my second thoughts actually tend to do me in, cause me to negate the need for healing conversation. I have worked so hard to avoid rushing into conflict with my Leo nature, roaring and biting and scattering the bullies and thwarters of justice, that I have slid into a passivity–especially when I am the one who has been harmed–that just wants to let it go and not make waves. But that’s not the answer either.

I think I need a confrontation,
need to stage an intervention,
offer explanations,
make a fuss, make a mess,
try to force a transformation.

On second thought,
you catch more flies with honey.
You can lead a horse to water,
but can you really make her drink?
Do you think it is essential
to stir the cauldron of community?
Better leave the sediment
to filter slowly to the bottom.

On third thought, however,
if we leave the bad behavior unremarked,
then bad behavior’s normalized,
and the bullies and their backers
and their frightened silent bystanders
are never called into account
for the harm they caused
or were to fearful to prevent.

First thoughts are too fiery,
often too filled up with passion
to bring about a change.
And second thoughts may look like peace,
but only lead us to repression in the end,
sweeping all the clutter
to the back of the closet.
Wait for third thoughts to arrive
and your heart will find the rhythm,
and the pathway to a resolution.
You’ll find that you can take
the fire of the first, mix it with
the modulation of the second,
and create a pathway forward
through the maze.


Gratitude List:
1. Remembering a good soul today
2. The generations who have come before
3. Third Thoughts
4. Naps
5. Wise elders
May we walk in Beauty!


Good advice from my friend Barb: “Find and wear your orange hat honey. There are 750,000 deer hunters in the yard today.”


“We have all hurt someone tremendously, whether by intent or accident. We have all loved someone tremendously, whether by intent or accident. it is an intrinsic human trait, and a deep responsibility, I think, to be an organ and a blade. But, learning to forgive ourselves and others because we have not chosen wisely is what makes us most human. We make horrible mistakes. It’s how we learn. We breathe love. It’s how we learn. And it is inevitable.”
—Nayyira Waheed


“Only those who attempt the absurd
will achieve the impossible.”
—M. C. Escher


Blessing for the Visitor
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

May you who wander, who sojourn, who travel,
may you who make your way to our door
find rest for your tired feet and weary heart,
food to fill your bellies and to nourish your minds,
and company to bring you cheer and inspiration.
May you find comfort for your sorrows,
belonging to ease your loneliness,
and laughter to bring you alive.

And when your feet find themselves again upon the road,
may they remember the way back to our door.


“A seed sown in the soil makes us one with the Earth. It makes us realize that we are the Earth. That this body of ours is the panchabhuta—the five elements that make the universe and make our bodies. The simple act of sowing a seed, saving a seed, planting a seed, harvesting a crop for a seed is bringing back this memory-this timeless memory of our oneness with the Earth and the creative universe. There’s nothing that gives me deeper joy than the work of protecting the diversity and the freedom of the seed.” —Vandana Shiva


“I’m fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.” —George McGovern

SRSLY?

Today’s prompt is to write a serious poem.

When everything is a joke,
then nothing is really funny.
When everything is grave and dour,
then nothing is truly momentous.

I need a little honey in my tea
from time to time,
and a little ginger, too,
to give it that extra edge.

Like sweetness and spice,
like bright light and gentle darkness,
we need variety in mood and tone,
and sometimes both together.
Laughter can sometimes be
the most easiest door to open
into a serious transformation.


Gratitude List:
1. Tea
2. A lovely afternoon with my parents
3. Divergence: divergence gives birth to transformation
4. There are only a few short weeks from Thanksgiving Break to Christmas Break
5. Wind chimes
May we walk in Beauty!


“What if our religion was each other? If our practice was our life? What if the temple was the Earth? If forests were our church? If holy water – the rivers, lakes, and oceans? What if meditation was our relationships? If the Teacher was life? If wisdom was knowledge? If love was the center of our being.” ―Ganga White


“Gratitude creates a sense of abundance, the knowing that you have what you need. In that climate of sufficiency, our hunger for more abates and we take only what we need, in respect for the generosity of the giver.” —Robin Wall Kimmerer


“The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying ‘This is mine’, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society.

From how many crimes, wars and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows, “Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.” —Rousseau


“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.” —Thomas Merton


“For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.” —Mary Oliver


“It is wonderful when you don’t have the fear, and a lot of the time I don’t. . . . I focus on what needs to be done instead.” —Wangari Maathai

For Life

Starry Starry Night, by Richard Weaver

The prompt for today is to write a For _______ poem. I decided to ask my family to help. The first one was all I needed.

What are you grateful for today,
I ask, and he says,
“For life,”
and that is the end of the poem.


Gratitude List:

  • This family
  • Good listening and honest talking
  • The hammer game
  • Wise people
  • Making music with my beloveds

Thanksgiving Thoughts:
“You pray for the hungry. Then you feed them.
That is how prayer works.” —Pope Francis
*****
“Allow dark times to season you.” —Hafiz
*****
The Thing Is
Ellen Bass

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.
*****
My November Guest
by Robert Frost

My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.
Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted gray
Is silver now with clinging mist.
The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.
Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.

Finding Family

Today’s prompt is to write a poem about family. I am blessed in family. I do not know how I would have managed the past eight months without my family: my family of birth, my cozy little family of four, my chosen circles of friendfamily. Those feelings have been riding so intense in me for so many months now, that I don’t know how to distill it into the language of poetry. Perhaps because it is so deep right now, I fear that I could only write shallowly about it. And so, instead, I chose to create a found poem about family, to make it a game, an intellectual exercise.

I chose five quotations about family, printed them out and physically cut them up, which was a different experience in my brain than cutting and pasting on the computer, then arranged them into a poem. Here are the quotations:

“If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.”
― George Bernard Shaw

“I sustain myself with the love of family.”
― Maya Angelou

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.”
― Frederick Buechner

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
—Mary Oliver

“My mother used to tell me that when push comes to shove, you always know who to turn to. That being a family isn’t a social construct but an instinct.”
― Jodi Picoult

And here is the poem:

I.
the family skeleton
used to tell me:
over and over
you can kiss your mind goodbye
your stomach isn’t a social construct
but at the same time
if you cannot get rid of time
make it dance
and put miles between you but because you do not
you may as well
just live in a world
announcing your place
with the love of family the world offers itself
and instinct
harsh and exciting

II.
my mother
calls to you:
a world lives in you
like the wild geese
your family and friends that you carry them
being a family
to your imagination
no matter how lonely I sustain myself
in the family of things
with you in your heart but that when push
comes to shove
whoever you are
you always know
who to turn to


Gratitude List:
1. Re-membering, recalibrating, renewing, re-viewing, rewilding
2. Finding poetry
3. Making things
4. How the prayers shift and transform themselves–and me
5. The fox who paused this morning underneath the treehouse, to sniff the wind and feel the first rays of morning sun.
May we walk in Beauty!


“The winds will blow their own freshness into you,
and the storms their energy,
while cares will drop away from you
like the leaves of Autumn.”
—John Muir


“Those who build walls are their own prisoners. I’m going to go fulfil my proper function in the social organism. I’m going to go unbuild walls. ” —Ursula Le Guin


“The mother tongue is language not as mere communication but as relation, relationship. It connects. It goes two ways, many ways, an exchange, a network. Its power is not in dividing but in binding, not in distancing but in uniting.

It is written, but not by scribes and secretaries for posterity: it flies from the mouth on the breath that is our life and is gone, like the outbreath, utterly gone and yet returning, repeated, the breath the same again always, everywhere, and we all know it by heart.” —Ursula K. Le Guin


“Who would I be if I didn’t live in a world that hated women?” —Jessica Valenti


“The heart is right to cry
even when the smallest drop of light, of love, is taken away
Perhaps you may kick, moan, scream—in a dignified silence,
but you are right to do so in any fashion…until God returns to you.”
―Hafiz (Ladinsky)


“All water is holy water.”
―Rajiv Joseph


“The mullahs of the Islamic world and the mullahs of the Hindu world and the mullahs of the Christian world are all on the same side. And we are against them all.”
―Arundhati Roy


“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness.
Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”
―Scott Adams


“You know what breaks me, when someone is visibly excited about a feeling or an idea or a hope or a risk taken, and they tell you about it but preface it with: “Sorry, this is dumb but—.” Don’t do that. I don’t know who came here before me, or who conditioned you to think you had to apologize or feel obtuse. But not here. Dream so big it’s silly. Laugh so hard it’s obnoxious. Love so much it’s impossible. And don’t you ever feel unintelligent. And don’t you ever apologize. And don’t you ever shrink so you can squeeze yourself into small places and small minds. Grow. It’s a big world. You fit. I promise.”
―Owen Lindley


“The bond of our common humanity is stronger than our fears and prejudices.” ―Jimmy Carter


“The reality is we have more in common with the people we’re bombing than the people we’re bombing them for.” ―Russell Brand


“Colorful demonstrations and weekend marches are vital but alone are not powerful enough to stop wars. Wars will be stopped only when soldiers refuse to fight, when workers refuse to load weapons onto ships and aircraft, when people boycott the economic outposts of Empire that are strung across the globe. ”
―Arundhati Roy, Public Power in the Age of Empire

The Answer is Love

Today’s prompt is to write a Love/Anti-Love poem.

Face it.
An act of hate doesn’t begin
when a hate-addled man
picks up his AR-15
and walks into a crowded bar,
like the start of some sick
and twisted joke.

When that man walks into the bar,
he walks with the priest, the imam,
and the rabbi. He walks with the politician
and the school board member,
with the teacher and the parent
and the angry uncle, with everyone
who offered him permission,
tacit or explicit, to exclude and disdain,
to give up his soul to hatred.

We know how the trail of hate
leads from language to violence,
how the rhetoric of the pulpit
and the political speech
becomes the action on the street,
the rock thrown through the window,
the young lovers beaten,
the gun in the nightclub.

We must refuse to let
the narrative of hatred dominate.
We must create new languages for love,
new analyses, new sermons and speeches
that reach beyond the binary way of thinking,
that actively teach connection, inclusion, belonging.

In the end,
the way to combat hate
is to begin with the rhetoric of love,
is to live as though love is the answer
in the end.


Gratitude List:
1. An incredible assembly at school today for Grandfriends’ Day
2. Decking the halls with my colleagues
3. All the people who really do believe that the answer is love
4. Break has begun!
5. That sliver of a moon
May we walk in Beauty!


“The ability to sit with mystery and explore the dark but fertile realms of infinite possibility is crucial to the work of inhabiting a meaningful life. We have to learn to stay rooted in the midst of chaotic obscurity, in the shadow-haunted wild places of the psyche. We need these rootings more than ever during the bone-deep metamorphosis that is menopause.” —Sharon Blackie


“To see where you are going, look behind you. The clues are there. Mistakes you have made, patterns you have followed, breakthroughs you have had, ideas that did not turn out as planned: your experience is your guide. It tells you what you may expect on the road ahead. The key is in how much you have learned from the past and how those learnings shape your decisions for the future. Look before you leap: look back to see what may come.” —Steven Charleston


“Revolution means reinventing culture.” —Grace Lee Boggs