The Vampire Poem

I’ve been a little obsessed with the vampire dream I had the other night, with the idea that I knew in the dream that I was watching the images appearing as I read a poem. I needed to have the poem. Because it has an old folk tale feeling, I kept getting caught up in archaic-sounding language. The rhythm and rhyme kind of happened naturally as I began, and even though it felt a little like a light-hearted cadence, I just plugged on. I’m sort of happy with it.

The moon was high on a cool fall night,
and my child walked home in its silver light.
Her clothes were ragged and her feet were bare
and the moon laid a crown on her raven hair.

Approaching the field called “Soldier’s Rest,”
she saw an old man in soldier’s dress.
He too was tattered, from head to toe,
and he sat on a stump, with his head bowed low.

With a deferential nod as she passed by,
my youngster caught the old man’s eye.
“Stop for a while,” he called from his seat.
“I’ve a tale for you I’ve ached to repeat.”

Long she listened in polite fascination
while the elder unspooled his bitter narration
of stabs in the back and egregious wronging,
of betrayals and rages, unrequited longing.

After his recital, she begged his kind pardon,
and turned toward home, our small cabin and garden.
As soon as I heard her open the gate,
I gathered her into my arms. It was late,

and I bolted and barred the front door for the night
as she told of her encounter with the angry old wight
and showed me through cracks in the shutters the spot
up the road in the moonlight where the elder still sat.

We’d hardly turned and were crossing the floor
than the old one materialized through the door.
I guessed in an instant his vampire constitution,
but how could he enter without invitation?

He’d twisted her natural child’s civility
into the requisite welcome for entry.
Icy fingers of fear grabbed my throat and my spine
and my child sank to the floor with an anguished cry.

Through the snail-stepping hours of that longest of nights
I tended my child as he drew out her life.
I tried every hex, incantation, and prayer
to make him release her from his vampiric stare

but all I could do was to keep her alive
with my own spirit-breath. I cannot describe
the exhaustion and horror of each minute that passed
as I waited for dawn when my power at last

could unmake him. But then at the moment I thought I was lost
the first rays of morning broke in, and crossed
the vampire’s shadow. I saw him whiten like death,
and my beloved daughter drew one long deep breath.

I built up the fire and opened the door,
and our tormentor groaned and rose from the floor,
floated upward and out, and faded like song
as we heard the first notes of the first bird of dawn.

Take care, my friends, of the boundaries you keep.
The old tales ask for kindness, but vampires will creep
through your civil demeanor with evil inventions,
so be canny and wise and make clear intentions.


Thursday’s Words:
“If the Rhine, the Yellow, the Mississippi rivers are changed to poison, so too are the rivers in the trees, in the birds, and in the humans changed to poison, almost simultaneously. There is only one river on the planet Earth and it has multiple tributaries, many of which flow through the veins of sentient creatures.”
—Thomas Berry


“A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.” —Kurt Vonnegut


“For a Star to be born,
there is one thing that must happen;
a nebula must collapse.
So collapse.
Crumble.
This is not your Destruction.
This is your birth.” —attributed to Noor Tagouri


‪”So much of bird flight is really expert falling, slipping into that delicate space within the argument between gravity and air resistance. That natural alchemy transforms a plummet into a glide. Someday, I hope to learn to fail like birds fall.‬” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist


Gratitudes:
1. My order of Africafe came today. I opened it up and the smell took me home.
2. All these mushrooms! So many, and so many varieties!
3. So much gold, and red. So much shine when the sun slants in.
4. People who carry on and do what they know is right even when they get blocked at every turn.
5. The life of Lucille Bridges, who gave her first-grade daughter Ruby the support she needed to face hostile crowds every day on her way to school. Ms. Bridges died today at age 86.

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!

Unsettled

The pholiota limonella at the center of the Wheel of the Year have gotten expansive. I have given them names, but they’re the names of some elven folx who appeared to me in a dream, and in the fairy tales it’s kind of rude to use the truenames of the fae, unless you’re trying to keep them at bay, so we’ll call them Meadow and Chief for now.

In last night’s dream:
I am reading a poem, by Whitman or Sandburg or someone like that. I see the lines on the page as the images of the dream unfold.

A small girl is walking a path home to her cabin in the full moon light. (Why are small children always out at night in these stories?!?)

As she is passing a field which was a battlefield in the Civil War, she comes upon an old man, dressed in the tattered remnants of a soldier’s uniform, sitting on a stump in the moonlight. She listens politely while he tells her his story of woe and bitterness.

After his telling, she makes her way home, where her mother bolts the cabin door behind her. She tells her mother (the narrator of the poem) about the old man, and they look out the window to see him sitting there, way in the distance, in the moonlight. As she finishes telling her mother the story, suddenly the old man is in the cabin with them.

The poem (dream) ends with the mother reflecting on how sitting in the bitterness of old battles can turn a person into a vampire.

I think it’s a dream about the danger we’re in right now, with a bitter old soldier who lost his battles, stewing in his rage. He’s always been an energy vampire, and now he’s been mostly ignored for days. He’ll be hungry. Telling his story to each other only feeds him.
In the dream, the girl did not invite him in, but he came in anyway, perhaps taking her polite listening as a tacit invitation. Let’s draw our boundaries tightly now, and refuse to let ourselves be drawn in to the old battles again, refuse to listen to his story. We’re in a new place now, a safer place than we were, but we need to be vigilant and aware in order to truly make it safe.

I think that part of what startles me about this dream is that in the fairy tales, you’re supposed to be polite, supposed to listen to the elders, supposed to offer assistance to the poor. This was so clearly not that. Her politeness was all the invitation he needed to enter her space. The time for passive politeness is past. White people, especially, have allowed such evil to blossom through passive politeness, through our lack of confidence in confronting lies and abuse.

My friend Anna reminds me to stand within my truth, leaning neither forward nor backward, to feel myself surrounded by a golden light. One of the many helpers who has appeared to me in a dream is an angelic being made of golden light, with great glowing golden wings, so I feel myself surrounded by my dream-friend’s light, like the golden glow of an autumn morning, when the mists are just rising off the fields and everything is awash with light. This standing in one’s truth, Anna reminds me, is like the essential core of nonresistant philosophy, to know what you believe, and to hold to that, not getting caught up in all the rages and distractions of those who oppose a vision of justice.

I am unsettled today. I feel like it’s time to stop celebrating and start looking around, keeping our noses to the wind, not losing our commitment to standing in the center of our own golden light of truth, but all senses alert to the dangers around us. It began with my dream, the sense that some attention paid to the tattered soldier has given him the “right” of entry. On one hand, I want to let the old ghost fade quietly away into the moonlight without giving it any more attention. On the other hand, I have a sense of impending doom settling on my shoulders this afternoon, a feeling of havoc about to be wreaked, chaos to be unleashed.

I know that is his pattern, to promise destruction and wreckage, and then watch in delight as all the worried citizenry gathers to put out the fires. I don’t want to give him the satisfaction. I think it’s time to let it go, to believe that someone is watching and ready to give warning out in the dark night, that everyone is positioned to do their very own job.

In the meantime, in the waiting, in the transition,
we give our attention to our work:
we continue to call for justice,
we keep rooting out white supremacy wherever we see it, especially in ourselves,
we dismantle the patriarchy,
we protect the vulnerable,
we care for the children,
we teach critical thinking and analysis,
we starve the vampire.


Gratitudes:
1. The golden light of autumn
2. The golden leaves of autumn
3. The golden pillar of energy that helps us to stand within our truth
4. The golden shine of the mushrooms in the Wheel of the Year mandala
5. The golden heart of you

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with Beauty!

Finding the Magic

I still have a lot to learn, and I didn’t take a lot of time on this one.

Gratitude List:
1. We had our first takeout in eight weeks yesterday. It was a treat!
2. Yesterday, a blue-gray gnatcatcher came searching for bugs in the cobwebs o the balcony, and sat still for a little while so we could get a perfect view. My eyes have never been good at discerning fast and distant birds, so warblers and their ilk are usually out of my purview. I just assume they’re all chickadees. So it was nice to see this sweet little one up close.
3. Josiah and I saw three bright orange orioles flying across the road during our walk yesterday.
4. Last week Josiah showed me somewhere where I can really easily remove backgrounds from photos to make pngs for digital collage. physical collage has always been a really exciting art form for me, and this has great possibilities.
5. Finding the magic.

May we walk in Beauty!


“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” —Albert Einstein


“The object of terrorism is terrorism. The object of oppression is oppression. The object of torture is torture. The object of murder is murder. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?” ―George Orwell


“Cowards make the best torturers. Cowards understand fear and they can use it.” ―Mark Lawrence


“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.” ―Frida Kahlo


“Go out in the woods, go out. If you don’t go out in the woods nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin.” ―Clarissa Pinkola Estés


“I am always doing what I can’t do yet in order to learn how to do it.” ―Vincent van Gogh


“Do one good thing every day that everyone else is scared to do.” ―Leymah Gbowee


“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” ―Rabindranath Tagore


“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” ―Margaret Atwood


“We are all longing to go home to some place we have never been—a place half-remembered and half-envisioned we can only catch glimpses of from time to time. Community. Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak with passion without having the words catch in our throats. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power. Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Someplace where we can be free.” ―Starhawk

Monsters

Today’s prompt is to write a monster poem.  We’re back to watching Mad Men on Netflix these days, season 6.  This one is sort of inspired by Don Draper, and by characters like him.

Vampire

Oh, that one.
He looked so dapper,
and spoke with such charm.
A family man, they all said.

He sacrificed everything
for his brilliant children,
and more for his wonderful wife.

He played it so well,
even she who thought she knew him best,
had no sense of the truth

until he’d drained her dry.

 

Gratitude List:
1. The smells of springtime in the hollow
2. Lush blankets of purple dead nettle coming up in the rows of stubble in the cornfields
3. Reading and reading and reading with my children–just finishing Jennifer Murdley’s Toad, another gift from one of our book faeries.
4. Memory and forgetting
5. Concentric circles of community.

May we walk in Beauty!