W I T C H – H O U S E

witch_house.

There is a forgotten path in the middle of a ravine,
where the hills rise upward and the creek runs downward,
and a little house lies in between.
The roots from the trees grow down to the house,
the stones from the creek roll toward it,
and summoning them all ever forward it seems,
lives a witch, there, though most don’t know it.

If you should enter this house,
and you would want to,
just as the roots, and stones, and the one-eyed fox do,
just as the owl, and the serpent, and the wolf-spider try to,
you would find yourself standing in a poem.
See, the conjurer chants the words of an old rhyming spell,
words you won’t understand,
which is probably just as well,
for you would be ever-changed if you could decipher them.

Imagine it, then, this small house with many rooms,
filled with old sacred books,
powder jars and twiggy birch brooms.
Where spiraling hazel wands, and green herbal potions,
are just waiting for the cunning woman to put them into motion.

There’s an old phone on the wall that’s hooked up to nothing,
but the spirits call often, so it’s connected to something.
She doesn’t speak into it with a voice of her own,
but with the croak of a toad and a coyote jawbone.
There are masks on the wall, and an obsidian ball,
that she uses at night for scrying.
A mortar and pestle sit high on a shelf,
next to charms, bells, and herb bundles drying.

If a curse or hex are what you need, she will certainly know it.
If it is bone-knowing you desire, she will be able to throw it.
If foretelling the future is what you seek,
she has the cards and will read it.
If healing powers are what you need,
she will have just the right weed for it.
If it’s cord or knot-work that you require,
she is the one who can bind it.
For, if it is magic that you are looking for,
it is in this house you will find it.

So, should you find yourself at the nighttime crossroads,
somewhere just beyond the thick growing hedgerows,
in the place where path, hills and creek meet,
there will soon be a spae-wife for you to greet,
just past rabbit den and nest of grouse,
you will knock upon the door of the old Witch House.

~Erin Gergen Halls

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A Dream of Trees, Mary Oliver

IMG_1564There is a thing in me that dreamed of trees,
A quiet house, some green and modest acres
A little way from every troubling town,
A little way from factories, schools, laments.
I would have time, I thought, and time to spare,
With only streams and birds for company,
To build out of my life a few wild stanzas.
And then it came to me, that so was death,
A little way away from everywhere.

There is a thing in me still dreams of trees.
But let it go. Homesick for moderation,
Half the world’s artists shrink or fall away.
If any find solution, let him tell it.
Meanwhile I bend my heart toward lamentation
Where, as the times implore our true involvement,
The blades of every crisis point the way.

I would it were not so, but so it is.
Who ever made music of a mild day?

~Mary Oliver

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He Lit a Fire with Icicles, Kay Ryan

He Lit a Fire with Icicles

ice_crystals

This was the work
of St. Sebolt, one
of his miracles:
he lit a fire with
icicles. He struck
them like a steel
to flint, did St.
Sebolt. It
makes sense
only at a certain
body heat. How
cold he had
to get to learn
that ice would
burn. How cold
he had to stay.
When he could
feel his feet
he had to
back away.
~Kay Ryan
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The Well of Grief, David H. Whyte

well

Well at William Morris Red House

The Well of Grief

Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief,

turning down through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe,

will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold and clear,

nor find in the darkness glimmering,

     the small round coins,
thrown by those who wished for something else.

 

~David H. Whyte

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Sam Hammill, from Four Letters to Hayden Carruth

carl_and_toes

Pilate asks, “What is
love?” For which I substituted
friendship, which is love
unburdened by erotic
passion, but informed by love’s

kindliness, if not
by the inevitable
necessities of
dialectic argument.
And so I begin again—

“My dear friend,” I say,
meaning I have stood breathless
before the severe
beauty and anguish and love
and delight in your poems,

stood breathlessly still
as I listened to the turn
of a line or phrase
or flinched in recognition
of a painful truth revealed.

I do no know why
we must do it, why the line
begins somewhere in-
side the mind, its insistent
music delivering us

into another
world where the poem unfolds
from within, telling
us what’s really on our minds.
I swear it is so. I’ve sworn

allegiance before—
not to some bloody old flag
snapping in the wind,
and certainly not to that
junkyard dog, the Patriot—

but to what can be
found in poetry: friendship
and small dignities,
evidence of a long life
lived with an ear to the wind

and a heart exposed.
I swear it’s always been so.
A heart or poem
cannot be closed completely.
The heart of Heraclitus

or Euripides,
like the rhythms of Sappho,
resounds in your lines
as surely as the weather
of an age. And so I go

there in search of the
old familiar, the trusted
thing, the poem as
continuing thread binding
friend to friend across centuries.

Friendship in solace,
the root of a good marriage.
I extend my hand,
unwashed, still bloody with all
the excesses of our age.

I stand before your
poems as before a great
hearth in deep winter,
comforted by your labors.
I find sanctuary here.

We have our Pilates’
clean hands in public office.
We have messiahs
aplenty. I’m sick to death
of all those who want glory.

This is poetry.
It may change a life or burn
white hot with passion;
it may bring a smile
or be a coat for Jacob
wandering the wilderness,

but you and I know
that lust for fame is folly.
You ought to have a
Nobel Prize, a Pulitzer,
all the honors in the world.

But that is not why
you write. For which at my heart
goes out to you who
helped me learn to open it.
For which act you are my friend

forever, doing
the real work of poetry.
Fuck money. Fuck fame.
There are three worlds. In this one,
gratitude flows like honey.

The suffering world
brings about its own demise.
This world is neither
fair nor wise, but paradise
reveals itself in every line.

What, finally is love?
Willingness to face the end
without blinking? The
gift made—and given freely.
I bow to the poem, my friend.

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Darkness, Lord Byron

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air
~Lord Byron, Darkness

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The Lightest Touch, David H. Whyte

feathers

THE LIGHTEST TOUCH

Good poetry begins with
the lightest touch,
a breeze arriving from nowhere,
a whispered healing arrival,
a word in your ear,
a settling into things,
then, like a hand in the dark,
it arrests the whole body,
steeling you for revelation.

In the silence that follows
a great line,
you can feel Lazarus,
deep inside
even the laziest, most deathly afraid
part of you,
lift up his hands and walk toward the light.

~David H. Whyte

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