Tag Archives: May the Goddess Guard Him

There are Thousands of Good Reasons Why Magic Doesn’t Rule the World. They’re Called Witches and Wizards.

He knew us, didn’t he? He knew us because, whatever he may have or have not said, he was one of us.

We all need models. Granny Weatherwax has long been one of my chiefest models for how to be Witch. It was said of her that: Granny Weatherwax didn’t hold with looking at the future, but now she could feel the future looking at her. She didn’t like the expression at all.

And: Magrat peered around timidly. Here and there on the moor were huge standing stones, their origins lost in time, which were said to lead mobile and private lives of their own. She shivered. “What’s to be afraid of?” she managed.
“Us,” said Granny Weatherwax, smugly.

Most importantly: “[W]hat about this rule about not meddling?” said Magrat.
“Ah,” said Nanny. She took the girl’s arm. “The thing is,” she explained, “as you progress in the Craft, you’ll learn there is another rule. Esme’s obeyed it all her life.”
“And what’s that?”
“When you break rules, break ‘em good and hard.”

Terry Pratchett slipped between the veils today. As Byron says, Tower Time. May the Goddess guard him. May he find his way to the Summerlands. May his friends and family know peace.

OK, one more: Granny Weatherwax was often angry. She considered it one of her strong points. Genuine anger is one of the world’s great creative forces. But you had to learn how to control it. That didn’t mean you let it trickle away. It meant you dammed it, carefully, let it develop a working head, let it drown whole valleys of the mind and then, just when the whole structure was about to collapse, opened a tiny pipeline at the base and let the iron-hard steam of wrath power the turbines of revenge.

May it be so for you.

Tuesday Evening Poet Laureate Blogging

Former Poet Laureate Philip Levine has slipped between the veils.

May the Goddess guard him. May he find his way to the Summerlands. May his friends and family know peace.

As CNN reported:

He was 14 when he began working in auto factories, a formative experience that would inspire his work even after he left Detroit in the 1950s to pursue writing.

. . .

Detroit and the struggles of the working class were persistent themes in his work as he aspired to “find a voice for the voiceless.”

“You grow up in a place and it becomes the arena of your discovery,” he told the Detroit Free Press in 2011. “It also became the arena of my discovery of the nature of American capitalism and the sense of how ordinary people have no choice at all in how they’re going to be formed by the society. My politics were formed by the city.”

Here’s his poem, Burial Rites, which I think says what he wanted to say about his own death:

Everyone comes back here to die
as I will soon. The place feels right
since it’s half dead to begin with.
Even on a rare morning of rain,
like this morning, with the low sky
hoarding its riches except for
a few mock tears, the hard ground
accepts nothing. Six years ago
I buried my mother’s ashes
beside a young lilac that’s now
taller than I, and stuck the stub
of a rosebush into her dirt,
where like everything else not
human it thrives. The small blossoms
never unfurl; whatever they know
they keep to themselves until
a morning rain or a night wind
pares the petals down to nothing.
Even the neighbor cat who shits
daily on the paths and then hides
deep in the jungle of the weeds
refuses to purr. Whatever’s here
is just here, and nowhere else,
so it’s right to end up beside
the woman who bore me, to shovel
into the dirt whatever’s left
and leave only a name for some-
one who wants it. Think of it,
my name, no longer a portion
of me, no longer inflated
or bruised, no longer stewing
in a rich compost of memory
or the simpler one of bone shards,
dirt, kitty litter, wood ashes,
the roots of the eucalyptus
I planted in ’73,
a tiny me taking nothing,
giving nothing, and free at last.

I think this poem shows how, all the way through to the end, he lived in his own landbase, a land base rich with lilacs, roses, hummus rich with bones, and eucalyptus. And, Goddess knows, I respect that.

Do I hope that, in death, he is free of his land base, taking nothing, giving nothing, and free at last? I just don’t even think it’s possible. But I do hope that he’s free.

May the Goddess Guard Him. May He Find His Way to the Summerlands. May His Friends and Family Know Peace.

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So close — so close — mere hours from Samhain, with the veils as thin as spider lace, as thin as an Autumn leaf all gone but the veins, as thin as woodsmoke. One of America’s great poets, Gallway Kinnell has slipped away. If it is every truly said of any of us, then he goes forth shining, then his memory will be a blessing, then when he is remembered, he shall live.

NTodd has already posted one of my very favorite of Mr. Kinnell’s poems, St. Francis and the Sow. And how can you not love a poem with the line, “everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing”?

St. Francis and the Sow always reminds me of Seamus Heaney’s poem, St. Kevin and the Blackbird:

And then there was St Kevin and the blackbird.
The saint is kneeling, arms stretched out, inside
His cell, but the cell is narrow, so

One turned-up palm is out the window, stiff
As a crossbeam, when a blackbird lands
And lays in it and settles down to nest.

Kevin feels the warm eggs, the small breast, the tucked
Neat head and claws and, finding himself linked
Into the network of eternal life,

Is moved to pity: now he must hold his hand
Like a branch out in the sun and rain for weeks
Until the young are hatched and fledged and flown.
*
And since the whole thing’s imagined anyhow,
Imagine being Kevin. Which is he?
Self-forgetful or in agony all the time

From the neck on out down through his hurting forearms?
Are his fingers sleeping? Does he still feel his knees?
Or has the shut-eyed blank of underearth

Crept up through him? Is there distance in his head?
Alone and mirrored clear in love’s deep river,
‘To labour and not to seek reward,’ he prays,

A prayer his body makes entirely
For he has forgotten self, forgotten bird
And on the riverbank forgotten the river’s name.

How can you not love a poem with the line: “A prayer his body makes entirely”?

As we writhe, all of us, within the death throws of Patriarchy, it’s so wonderfully helpful to have these images of strong men, men doing difficult things that affirm and support life, men who limn male strength, men who co-create the world.

Mr. Kinnell wrote about eating blackberries for breakfast:

I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy, black language
of blackberry — eating in late September.

How can you not love a poem with the lines: “the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge”?

And now that he’s slipped between the veils, I think of his poem, How Could You Not, for the poet Jane Kenyon

It is a day after many days of storms.
Having been washed and washed, the air glitters;
small heaped cumuli blow across the sky; a shower
visible against the firs douses the crocuses.
We knew it would happen one day this week.
Now, when I learn you have died, I go
to the open door and look across at New Hampshire
and see that there, too, the sun is bright
and clouds are making their shadowy ways along the horizon;
and I think: How could it not have been today?
In another room, Keri Te Kanawa is singing
the Laudate Dominum of Mozart, very faintly,as if in the past, to those who once sat
in the steel seat of the old mowing machine,
cheerful descendent of the scythe of the grim reaper,
and drew the cutter bars little
reciprocating triangles through the grass
to make the stalks lie down in sunshine.
Could you have walked in the dark early this morning
and found yourself grown completely tired
of the successes and failures of medicine,
of your year of pain and despair remitted briefly
now and then by hope that had that leaden taste?
Did you glimpse in first light the world as you loved it
and see that, now, it was not wrong to die
and that, on dying, you would leave
your beloved in a day like paradise?
Near sunrise did you loosen your hold a little?
How could you not already have felt blessed for good,
having these last days spoken your whole heart to him,
who spoke his whole heart to you, so that in the silence
he would not feel a single word was missing?
How could you not have slipped into a spell,in full daylight, as he lay next to you,
with his arms around you, as they have been,it must have seemed, all your life?
How could your cheek not press a moment to his cheek,
which presses itself to yours from now on?
How could you not rise and go, with all that light
at the window, those arms around you, and the sound,
coming or going, hard to say, of a single-engine
plane in the distance that no one else hears?

How can you not love a poem of death with the lines: “Now, when I learn you have died, I go to the open door and look across at New Hampshire and see that there, too, the sun is bright inside it, giving it light?”

Mr. Kinnell was sometimes compared to the American poet Walt Whitman. His obituary, from his own state of Vermont, says that he “embraced difficult issues. He protested the war in Vietnam. He protested the war in Iraq. He fought for civil rights. He argued against scarring the landscape of his beloved Northeast Kingdom.” The obit continues:

Kinnell was known for mixing the beauty of words with the harshness of social and political struggle. He was an outspoken critic of war, from Vietnam in the 1960s to the Iraq War in 2003. He joined a group of Vermont poets that year for a reading in Manchester after the White House called off a planned national literary symposium because some of the poets planned to read work opposing the Iraq War. A Rhode Island native, Kinnell recited the poetry of Whitman at that Manchester event.

“His bitterness is not because he was a bitter person or because he was anti-American or unpatriotic,” Kinnell said of Whitman in a 2003 Associated Press article. “It was because he loved America so much that he was continually disappointed.”

One of the things that I most love about Mr. Kinnell’s poetry is how willing he was to write about the hard truths. And so, since NTodd has already blogged St. Francis and the Sow, I’ll leave you with my second-favorite Galway Kinnell poem, The Bear:

1
In late winter
I sometimes glimpse bits of steam
coming up from
some fault in the old snow
and bend close and see it is lung-colored
and put down my nose
and know
the chilly, enduring odor of bear.

2
I take a wolf’s rib and whittle
it sharp at both ends
and coil it up
and freeze it in blubber and place it out
on the fairway of the bears.

And when it has vanished
I move out on the bear tracks,
roaming in circles
until I come to the first, tentative, dark
splash on the earth.

And I set out
running, following the splashes
of blood wandering over the world.
At the cut, gashed resting places
I stop and rest,
at the crawl-marks
where he lay out on his belly
to overpass some stretch of bauchy ice
I lie out
dragging myself forward with bear-knives in my fists.

3
On the third day I begin to starve,
at nightfall I bend down as I knew I would
at a turd sopped in blood,
and hesitate, and pick it up,
and thrust it in my mouth, and gnash it down,
and rise
and go on running.

4
On the seventh day,
living by now on bear blood alone,
I can see his upturned carcass far out ahead, a scraggled,
steamy hulk,
the heavy fur riffling in the wind.

I come up to him
and stare at the narrow-spaced, petty eyes,
the dismayed
face laid back on the shoulder, the nostrils
flared, catching
perhaps the first taint of me as he
died.

I hack
a ravine in his thigh, and eat and drink,
and tear him down his whole length
and open him and climb in
and close him up after me, against the wind,
and sleep.

5
And dream
of lumbering flatfooted
over the tundra,
stabbed twice from within,
splattering a trail behind me,
splattering it out no matter which way I lurch,
no matter which parabola of bear-transcendence,
which dance of solitude I attempt,
which gravity-clutched leap,
which trudge, which groan.

6
Until one day I totter and fall—
fall on this
stomach that has tried so hard to keep up,
to digest the blood as it leaked in,
to break up
and digest the bone itself: and now the breeze
blows over me, blows off
the hideous belches of ill-digested bear blood
and rotted stomach
and the ordinary, wretched odor of bear,

blows across
my sore, lolled tongue a song
or screech, until I think I must rise up
and dance. And I lie still.

7
I awaken I think. Marshlights
reappear, geese
come trailing again up the flyway.
In her ravine under old snow the dam-bear
lies, licking
lumps of smeared fur
and drizzly eyes into shapes
with her tongue. And one
hairy-soled trudge stuck out before me,
the next groaned out,
the next,
the next,
the rest of my days I spend
wandering: wondering
what, anyway,
was that sticky infusion, that rank flavor of blood, that poetry, by which I lived?

How can you not love a poem with the lines: “what, anyway, was that sticky insfusion, that rank flavor of blood, that poetry, by which I lived?”

And, of course, he wrote what I think is likely THE great poem to the Great Rite: Last Gods.

Last Gods – Galway Kinnell

She sits naked on a rock
a few yards out in the water.He stands on the shore,
also naked, picking blueberries.She calls. He turns. she opens
her legs showing him her great beauty,
and smiles, a bow of lips
seeming to tie together
the ends of the earth.
Splashing her image
to pieces, he wades out
and stands before her, sunk
to the anklebones in leaf-mush
and bottom-slime—the intimacy
of the geographical. He puts
a berry in its shirt
of mist into her mouth
She swallows it. He puts in another.
She swallows it. Over the lake
two swallows whim, juke jink,and when one snatches
an insect they both whirl up and exult. He is swollen
not with ichor but with blood.
She takes him and talks him
more swollen. He kneels, opens
the dark, vertical smile
linking heaven with the underearth
and murmurs her smoothest flesh more smooth.
On top of the rock they join.
Somewhere a frog moans, a crow screams.
The hair of their bodies
startles up. They cry
in the tongue of the last gods,
who refused to go,
chose death, and shuddered
in joy and shattered in pieces,
bequeathing their cries
into the human breast. Now in the lake
two faces, floating, see up
a great maternal pine whose branches
open out in all directions
explaining everything.

How can you not love a poem like that?

I’ll always believe that Mr. Kinnell wrote the poems for the passing of Patriarchy, in all its forms.

Do you have a favorite poem?

Picture found here.

May the Goddess Guard Him. May he find his way to the Summerlands. May his friends and family know peace.

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RIP, Pete Seeger. Your rendition of Big Muddy changed the course of history and saved lives. I don’t imagine that Presidents Johnson and Nixon appreciated it, but I did.

Woody Guthrie’s guitar was labeled, “This machine kills fascists.” Your banjo was labeled, ““This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.” I miss both of you.

May the Goddess Guard Him. May he find his way to the Summerlands. May his friends and family know peace.

The Poetry Foundation reports that Amiri Baraka, once known as Leroi Jones, has died in Newark, New Jersey. Here‘s a succinct summary of his work and political action. It notes that:

[Mr.] Baraka’s legacy as a major poet of the second half of the 20th century remains matched by his importance as a cultural and political leader. His influence on younger writers has been significant and widespread, and as a leader of the Black Arts movement of the 1960s[, Mr.] Baraka did much to define and support black literature’s mission into the next century. His experimental fiction of the 1960s is considered some of the most significant African-American fiction since that of Jean Toomer. Writers from other ethnic groups have credited [Mr.] Baraka with opening “tightly guarded doors” in the white publishing establishment, noted Maurice Kenney in Amiri Baraka: The Kaleidoscopic Torch, who added: “We’d all still be waiting the invitation from the New Yorker without him. He taught us how to claim it and take it.”

He served as New Jersey’s poet laureate until a poem that he wrote in response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 was seen as anti-Semetic and New Jersey, shamefully, eliminated the position of poet laureate.

Sometimes when my life has felt out of control, I’ve called out his lines: “How’d I get here on my back, in the dark, with the wind and water blowing through my ears?” Thank you, Mr. Baraka, for helping me, more than once, to get up, in the dark, to ignore the wind and water blowing through my ears, and to get back my own language, statues, instruments, and oom-boo-ba-boom. You were always on my short list of people I’d love to have to dinner.

In Mr. Baraka’s memory, here’s his poem, In Memory of Radio:

Who has ever stopped to think of the divinity of Lamont Cranston?
(Only jack Kerouac, that I know of: & me.
The rest of you probably had on WCBS and Kate Smith,
Or something equally unattractive.)

What can I say?
It is better to haved loved and lost
Than to put linoleum in your living rooms?

Am I a sage or something?
Mandrake’s hypnotic gesture of the week?
(Remember, I do not have the healing powers of Oral Roberts…
I cannot, like F. J. Sheen, tell you how to get saved & rich!
I cannot even order you to the gaschamber satori like Hitler or Goddy Knight)

& love is an evil word.
Turn it backwards/see, see what I mean?
An evol word. & besides
who understands it?
I certainly wouldn’t like to go out on that kind of limb.

Saturday mornings we listened to the Red Lantern & his undersea folk.
At 11, Let’s Pretend
& we did
& I, the poet, still do. Thank God!

What was it he used to say (after the transformation when he was safe
& invisible & the unbelievers couldn’t throw stones?) “Heh, heh, heh.
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.”

O, yes he does
O, yes he does
An evil word it is,
This Love.

May the Goddess Guard Him. May He Find His Way to the Summerlands. May His Friends and Family Know Peace.

You have to love a world leader who loved to dance. It’s said of many, but it seems especially appropriate for Madiba: He goes forth shining.

Seamus Heaney Has Slipped Between the Veils.

May the Goddess guard him. May he find his way to the Summerlands. May his friends and family know peace.