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Sabbat Verses

Samhain 2015 (This Year’s Ghost)

small, brick, yew-covered,
dark in my imagination
because in fifty years
of friendship
I crossed the threshold
once when she was little enough
not to worry about it–
or maybe it’s just that he
wasn’t home.
The second time her big sister
asked me in,
gave me iced tea,
a smiling calm
floating over the place
where shame or fear
spread like a stain
in the littler girl’s gut,
tight till she could
get us out of there.

So I could only picture– not see- her,
sitting on the floor of her room
where she nearly passed out
from trying not to cry;
or that other, earlier time,
watching tv on his lap,
and thinking
if we were a happy family,
we’d do this all the time.

And if I sometimes
found her grating,
if I drew back,
even struck–
I guess I’m not artist enough,
could not picture enough
to love from the outside
the friend within.



Samhain 2014

I want to learn old languages.

The kind you have to reconstruct
from runic fragments
or later textual hints,
the kind not written down until much later,
when the dust has settled on conquest
and monks can do their literary thing.
The kind that even then
requires a century of scholarship
to decode,
and whose meaning is still
a source of learned controversy
(to the kind of people
who give a shit
about things like that).

The kind that takes a lot of saliva to pronounce,
and has oddball letters in it like æ and þ .

I want to use these to invoke something I can’t name,
but I would like to believe it’s old–
hidden under tree roots
or at the bottom of a well–
I would like to think the ghosts
have something wise to tell.

Yule 2014

Birch means renewal?
Okay, then, birch means renewal,
which is good, because ever since
the bundled branches have appeared
outside the local organic grocery,
the pagan consumer within
has wanted to buy a bunch.
“I have to have them to ring them up”
gripes the cashier,
gruffly bagging my food
while I trundle back out, grab the bound poles
and trundle back in.
“What are these, anyway?”
“Oh, a pagan thing ….”
People keep buying them, she says;
“I think birch is for renewal ….”
is my afterthought–
like Virginia is for lovers
and diamonds are forever.

Imbolc 2015

In the Irish Gaelic, it’s called Oimelc, which translates to “ewe’s milk.” It’s a precursor to the end of winter when the ewes are nursing their newly born lambs.       –Patti Wigington, About Religion website

Red-faced, ruthless by right,
fire-house siren screaming,
fierce and fearful wonder,
taut, trembling, hot–
feed it flesh– it seeks,
panicked– latches; piercing
single pointed pain
is all there is– the nipple’s
shriek is shrill and sharp–
tightened belly breaths–

then something gives way;
my body liquid darkness,
yours an electric beam
of attention,
toes uncurled, rigid.

But every time, the pain-price rose.

Do your bodies, my babies,
remember that feeding
was once a sacrificial rite?
Do you ever fear to feed,
or feel that grasping and clutching
are the price you pay for fulness?
Or did the bottle erase
both strife and ecstasy?

The pain only left with the milk.
But still, in the shower,
I used to press to see
if just a little remained–
if I might turn back

Ostara 2015

are really stems
beneath the soil,
swollen storage rooms
that nurse emerging gold
which feeds, in turn,
a color-hungry world.
Tentacled around the base,
white fringe, with
an uninspiring name–
“contractile roots”–
but I’m the kind of plant
who lets those pale fingers draw me
back, back from light,
back from heat,
back into the cool
and dark,
conditions at the surface
being harsh.

Beltane 2015

That is most of what we are;
and our naming tells us
love and fear
construct us all–

hydrophobic molecules
draw back,
beads of oil floating
in a bowl, delicately
turning inward,
girls of fourteen,
lanky arms protecting
too-new breasts,
then opening with a rush
to embrace the known–
one’s kin, one’s kind.

Hydrophilic: these dissolve
like salt, lost in
ecstasy of
roiling pasta pot,
or ocean.

Leading to
exhausted bride-to-be
in the hotel lounge,
pale with worry
for a missing groomsman’s suit,
and with sorrow for
a whole six hours
away from her
towheaded love.
The elders trading stories
of lost luggage,
not enough sleep,
and picking wedding flowers
in the heat.

And the blooms should make it
kept in water,
sprayed with water,
in the hot tub,
elders by the pool.

What’s the word?
fragile? tenuous?
so contingent–
all these links of
hydrophobic, hydrophilic,
circling in, closing off,
in sweet, silly,
solemn pairings,
threadlike channels
usher surging seas.

Litha 2015

sunflowers in Florence–
didn’t know they grow
in North Dakota–
not so brash, more compact,
with the same sun-devotion–
easy, maybe, in the light
of northern plains,
thinner, bluer,
clean and innocent–
after all, it’s new terrain
(to me).
And I crave? imagine?
sweetness, newness,
respite from
a density of glare.
I wanted a day
in which hot dogs were protein,
sweet corn a vegetable,
and chips still seen as
a necessary starch;
a summer unaware
of what things do to your body,
do to your heart,
without the need for research
or feedback,
which sends mixed signals anyway.
Especially, of not knowing
what the usual things
do to other hearts
(and heart is not
deep enough a word).
The Motown artist
without his sadness
and slow death
to have to make way for,
a summer day of
ignorant permission.
Hot fun in the summertime.
The sun is willing,
has smiled on injustice
and bad nutrition
without comment–
it’s we who train the light
on new duties
to do right.
Mabon 2015
Choose, or be chosen,
but there’s only so much
bloom and buzz
that can go into you:
where you’ve been–
and how many places can you go?,
what you’ve heard–
and how many stories can you hear?,
Never mind the harvest–
our plantings happen
in a small, small space,
and we learn to
carry this knowing
or die fools.



The veil between the worlds, I hear,
is thinnest now–
sheer bedroom curtains
of my girlhood
swelling, lifting, caving
with each whim of the meandering air


Forgot to light a Yule log. Bought a tree.
Looking at apartments had me wired,
Had you numb with loss, heartsick and tired.
“I can’t let sadness, can’t let sadness be

The way I meet this change, to rent or sell
This house—when loss is looming, then I flee,
And loss of home, when home is breath to me—
Decorate the new, and all is well!”

“And so, again, you may outrun the thief.
We two alone will sing like birds I’the cage …
Well, that’s your act, but my life’s not a stage,
And in the green room, I break bread with grief.”

Where is shelter large enough to bear
The feelings you and I refuse to share?


The snow won’t let us out this year–
wind chill warning,
do not go outside unless,
two hour delay–
Gently, firmly, snow says Sit
sit and read
sit and think and read
sit and think and dream and read
Stories, this year’s first sown seed

I am white
white hair, white flesh,
fat-lined like a seal–
My mothers worked cold climes,
cold would call them in round fires to Sit–
sit and tell
sit and think and tell
sit and dream and think and tell
Till spring unlock0ed the cell



Wish I could paint them.
Cobalt, orange, rose,
with black outlines
like eyeliner,
for emphasis.
What I want is
Strong lines,


Essential tremor–
essence, also called
familial tremor–
my familiar,
or, just say,
in other words,
they shake.

My hands.

I cannot hold a brush.

When I was ten
we had one chance,
one egg
(in girl scouts)
just one shot to
wail to sing to howl beauty
from the heart,
which I slopped and sloshed
to dun colored shame,
and since have hauled
some tons of dirt and stone,
have tended miles of flowers
all to atone.

And will,
while my hands still
can pull the clods,
can drag a hose.


We were lovers, earth and I;
how can it be
that while my hands grasp,
my back bends over my beloved,
my legs stretch out astride the dirt,
the still fresh lord,
the horned god,
turns his face to the young and strong?

Rough love and tender is what I know–
kneading, pulling–
the stubborn root yields
to my hand,
the dirt now moist black atoms,
a spray of dark sparks
as I tumble back–
the impact
of sudden release–

Swift rhythm of probing, probing,
parting earth with the trowel,
swift and skillful
easing in new plants
before the crumbling soil
closes the hole,
and always
rhythm, rhythm, rhythm
until, all sweat and new motherhood,
the earth and I survey new beauty
together ….

Are first wives to be forever cast off?
The earth,
ageless, faithless,
has bagged generations of trophy wives,
while the withered arms of the just-plain-tired
give way.

Beyond arthritis,
a wish to weep.

That heartless bastard, the horned god
commands “Rest!”
(as if I could help it)

Then, oh so gently,
the lady whispers,
from every corner of the garden,
from the dusky grey of the evening sky,
where listening is the last, best gift.

She whispers “rest,”

whispers “rest,”

in the eyes of the kind young women
who take the spade
from my hand.


Litha’s light
burned at night–
Glare of dreams
lit a backward path,
gathered phantoms masked like
lovers never gained–
now mine,
they made of touch
a warm “at last,”
“of course,”
a restful fact.
Others, long since injured,
walked with me
in daylight,
where as plain as earth
and unremarked,
was pardon–
unremarked because complete.
And patient ghosts
replayed, revised old scenes
which pained, yet puzzled,
till regret
could look again,
and having pondered,
softly sleep.
These sunlit visions
made me look ahead to Mabon’s crop,
and wonder, when it came,
what fruit would drop


“It is the fate of the baker
to eat with floury hands”
is a line that has stuck in my mind–
long forgotten by its author,
I suppose,
who at the time wrote poetry
with inky hands,
and spoke very fast.
She was just a teen,
and however her hands fare now,
a recent friend tells a new story
about middle age.
Her doctor calls her a “hand abuser”
for the torture she’s inflicted
by decades of stitching,
knotting, beading, gluing–
in such pain now,
she has to dress one-handed,
and can’t always lift a cup.
My right hand goes numb
when I’m on the phone
with clients.

You can romanticize it–
the pain of birthing,
the venerable wornness
of self-aggressive creativity–
or you can ask the rain
when it softens August’s heat
how to make

Mabon (2nd Harvest)

“This is the cup of my blood”
intone men over wine–
I call it menstruation envy,
to claim this blood “will be shed
for all”
while silencing those
who have always shed blood
to give life.



Cold as stone
comes the crone
Gather in
and patient spin
grief, regret and barren toil
to wisdom, love, a better soil.
Then age is blest,
and death brings rest.
Fires tend
wrongs mend
silence keep
dream, and sleep.

Oak will Holly overthrow,
and now the light begins to grow
but many times the earth must turn
before we feel the warmth return

Be the warmth
bear the cheer
ease the pain
soothe the fear

Deepest chill and longest night
cauldron warm, and candle light.


Grey light
blue light
clear dawn

cold night
frost here
frost gone

Green shoots rise, and pause, and bide their time

And Brigid the maid
watches and waits.
Lets things grow steady
till they are ready.

No force, no shame
no fear, no blame.

Her gentle hold
lets life unfold.

we cannot go back
as though time could be undone.

We change,
we change others,
and we have to build on the past.

We cannot be perfect,
but we can recover our balance,
revive our love.

May the circle be a place of healing,
a place to recover our strength
as the light and joy of Beltane draw near.


Maiden, run!
Greet the sun!
Yours, to choose
where to give your love,
and whose
the hand that meets your hand,
the breast
that meets your breast,
the he or she whose lips you taste,
who strokes your hair–
Or if your beauty lives for you alone
and for the summer air.

Yours to choose, yours to do.
Crone and Mother smile on you.


Where I live, the sun is sometimes cruel.
Where I live, the solstice jewel
We long for, bringer of warmth and bloom
Burns and builds to a frenzy of fuel
That shrinks and shrivels earth’s wet womb.

Oak will blazon in his pride
But Holly’s victory turns the tide.
When Oak becomes a dangerous guest,
We know that we have but to bide,
For Holly says we shall have rest.

(The first couplet that came to me was, “The Oak King in his fiery pride / would reign until my ass is fried!” — but I came up with something more poetic).


Mother, you who first ground grain,
sprung from earth,
gift of sun and rain,
whose leaves exhaled a breath
that gave us life,
as we breathed life to them–
You who plucked the stem,
crushed the seed,
began to fold and knead–
You, our very flesh,
whose art sustains us still:
We are old matter, newly fed,
and grown anew:
as your bread gives us life,
our lives give thanks to you.


This time of year I long for cloud.

I love the crisp September blue
The shock of flaming red and gold—
whose cry of joy says “no, not old,
but ripened, proud”–
Why crave a shroud?

The curtain’s drawn.
I look for autumn crocus in its nest
of black green shadow.
Ivy, twilight gloom
discloses one late bloom–
or failing that,
a winter’s rest

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