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Viscum album (mistletoe)

From the druid vision it creeps through neural caverns back to the arc of ancestral voices

In the dark lodge of backbrain, the spine tree, which, from there the roots of the tongue,

Fire it forwards boiled by breath in the cauldron of the mouth.

It emerges complete, an ejected god-form brilliantly swathed, a gold-pinned cloak.

A body of light this beast has become, from wild to wise, from wrathful to illumined.

.

From whence do we grow?

Not from the left leaf, nor the right leaf, but from the point in between.

We grow from the dividing point, from neither and from nor,

Balanced and hefted the spear of green life thrusts deep into the dark secret of the world

And becomes born.

.

So thus, mould the dark to ferment the light.

The dark muscle fires the star blood.

The poison well, the poison cauldron,

That is the only place to distil wisdom.

As the youth ejaculates deep into the warm folded love of his girl,

As the tongue searches each grunt and scream for music and rhyme,

The light will not come forth because it has goodness.

It must have fuel to burn: some dark slick greasy remains,

The blubber and wrack of melted lives,

The dancing skeleton god breaking bones and sucking marrow.

.

He is not a druid who knows not this.

He is not a man of skill who does not refine the ore of remembering,

Who does not balance the two ways and find the third and only way

Through pain and despair to a steady roaring bright flame of light.

This is the third and last piece based on the image below, which is from a Celtic coin. The words were explorations to find meaning for the strange and powerful imagery. In this part, the resemblance of the motif coming out of the mouth to those that appear in other coin designs suggest it might be a form of mistletoe, or at least, the sacred tree of which mistletoe might be an archetype.

A Fall of Kings

A FALL OF KINGS

Crow! Crow! I can hear your voice across the valley,

keening and laughing, looking for your shadow

in the sunlight.

The heart may break into pieces

but the head will still go on nattering.

It can never stop, so used

to being fed by roots and wings

from its buried pit, from its damp, deep well.

It summons up and sees what there is and what is not.

.

A dying comet streaks beauty in the slowest of motions,

upright as a ballerina melted by the music –

Posed and poised, palest and vanishing,

though here, still here, in the dawn light.

.

A voice like last night’s river

hidden in the oak valley,

down by the alders

down by the willows

in their midnight silences.

.

A voice like the morning road

across the valley side,

the streams of bright hope

rolling with ridiculous purposes,

speeding on, diminishing, diminishing.

.

Beauty as it dissolves.

As it becomes something else.

Never moving, but dragged

into other orbits.

We move and stay still,

shine and are dissolved

by the shining.

.

This is what the deep head says;

(the streaming golden head, brocaded

and folded with glory, the red-gold hair

in the golden morning).

The heart with rivers,

the heart with sunlight,

the bones that drag themselves together

from the long dream, and come together

in semblances of something already understood.

The faint, faint sighing hiss of erosion.

.

Crow! Crow!

I hear you laughing across the valley.

The wheel never ends of the horizon,

and all its doors firmly shut for now,

so we can listen and laugh and return

to dreaming a world of bright never-ending.

.

She burns still in the sky.

Return, return!

and that she can never do.

Pale and white-skinned and broken-hearted,

burning, slowly revolving all the fragments of grieving.

Time emptying out, filling up, emptying out.

The head and the heart and the white, white bones.

.

A song as we die, Crow!

Just one more glorious lament.

It is what we were born for, what we can bear,

what will break us into four,

so we become our own horizon.

Smudged out by daylight.

Reborn as stars, the stories will say.

.

And you know them all, Crow!

All the songs, all the stories, Crow!

Laughing and singing

and keening and smiling

and calling from heart to heart,

from sun to shade to sun

across the dancing swallow-crowned,

cool-aired morning valley.

Buried in the sky, deep down in the sky,

in the well of sparkling, starry waters.

Everything is nothing,

and that is perfectly

as it should be.

On Strumble Head

ON STRUMBLE HEAD

A scribble the shape of ghost emotion

locked in a dark of its own

eroded by slow dissipations.

Attenuated solidity, it dusts and fragments,

worn to grit and feathers – like the scoop of ravens

haunting the far and airless void of fractured cliff.

.

So it is the sun shines down this stooping lane.

So it is the sky stretches out cloud as thin as yesteryear

down to a sea-wet sunset.

.

This scribble root of gorse, buried and unburied

in a wall of lost time, scuffed by sheep,

peeled back by tooth of buck rabbit

and the hungry fox who is a poet for worms

and small chances in the night.

.

We slope down, we slope down,

a curved limb and a slow-motion fall.

The land reaches out, reaches out,

so in love it is with the distant perfect horizon.

The whitest lighthouse walls, a geometric parable of steps,

a blessing and a curse of isolation.

Here, it says,

not here, it says,

you are going, have gone,

astray.

.

This tower of the last word, reaching upwards in rain and spume.

A dancer, as a tree is, as a gorse bush is,

straining against gravity and used to failing beautifully

with grace and a small distance in the smile,

a cool distance where perfection lingers before it melts.

.

A ringing landscape song: thin lanes,

long and running bravely to thin air.

Dead ends, dead endings where the ravens wait

soaring up the world’s edges,

soaring up to taste the distant crashing,

testing the resilience of time against

the pump of heartbeats.

.

Small things matter, so close we are here to edges,

where the wind throws all opposition down

and the pastel fragile seasons

dress and undress eternal moments.

There is a transparency in the air

above Strumble Head, a wind-blown kiss,

a word of farewell.

An Artist Dies

AN ARTIST DIES

There will be one this morning

who walks out on the hill untroubled

by the mist and the rain.

Watching with a new eye the bright lichen

on the slick rock, the bobbing wagtail

by the water’s edge.

.

Who will wonder only a little

At the acheless knees, the easy breath,

as he climbs the high ridge out of the oaks.

.

Who will never forget the beauty, nor the love,

but who is still drawn on by a certain brightness,

Like something long forgotten now returning.

.

There is a distant sea of weeping and emptiness,

A yearning somewhere far off beyond the day’s glint,

somewhere where everything is still the same,

though somehow veiled and trammelled.

.

And he shall walk among his sheep

without them lifting their heads, even.

And his dogs will wag their tails,

then look around bemused;

and the cat will stare and stare,

blinking once so very, very slowly.

.

And what was unfinished there

in the studio,

now seems utterly complete,

even so.

Good enough to leave untouched,

good enough to say what needs to be said.

The careful line, the hint of colours:

there is no end to this work.

A brand new sketchbook,

open and white,

is waiting.

write

WRITE

Write with the surge

Of words that boils up,

Nor tide over the roar

And rushing hiss, the fast bliss

Of licking, foaming sound

Eating sand and landwards,

Landwards up to cloud

Up to grass and sun.

Past the decent reach,

Roaring past the pitch

And yaw, troubling the roads

Eating the lazy lean of worn pathways,

Spitting out new views raw and hot with life,

life that burns bright and dances wild.

Life that lifts its skirts

And does not care.

A fire and flood of windswept words

That will whisper and remain:

“That we were here, that we were here”

Long into the longer silent night.

The Perfect Memory

THE PERFECT MEMORY

Chapel oak frames the bright morning.

Crow’s wings: black, white, black, in the early sun.

I have reached into perfect memory

And drawn out a continuous stream,

Beyond names, beyond form.

A song from the bright, wondrous world.

.

My heart is burst into four,

Sundered and cast again into gold.

It hangs by threads strong enough for eternity.

Morning now as hushed as breath of nine maidens.

The slow, rotating mists that rise and sigh.

This summit cannot be reached by thought,

But by the rhythm of steady walking.

It goes beyond names, it goes beyond forms.

.

We have moved beyond safety in the ship of chant.

The confederacy of the senses murmurs in discontent.

Currents and cross-tides and the hidden lands beneath

Steer us whether we choose or not.

It has always been so: these sea roads as fixed as stars

And the stones that measure them staring from the shoreline cliffs.

.

A year and a day: that shall be the last feast.

Months-long travel for the final gathering of memory.

The sowing of seed, the tilling of the soil, the hiding of light.

The letting go, the letting go.

Bones buried, doors locked.

.

Pink thrift on the foreshore.

The horizon unsullied.

We shall sink down in grief here.

Washed away, washed away.

.

White crow, black crow, of perfect recollection.

Beyond names, beyond forms.

We are all gathered up –

The long roads mapped between stars,

The final feast where all is swallowed up.

.

Bright are the beams of its hall.

Its fires, a delight, and its succour complete.

Light and dark the chapel oak holds firm.

Vast are the teachings within silence.

Almost July

ALMOST JULY

Almost July now

The fragile weather moves through fragile time

Sways like flowering grasses, persistent as bindweed,

Sacred as the falling rose, fragile as breath,

Fragile as hearing the sweeping seas of green dip and rise,

The winds from the west bringing rain and no good news.

Fragile is it all, should you try to hold it.

Fragile is the moment, should you name and label it.

Fragile is the horizon’s light, should you yearn to calibrate it.

Though it is only thus from certain angles.

It is not so in the way it dances,

The way it remembers different times,

The way it sways in eternity,

The way it will change its name in a moment,

Change the steps, open, close, open its eyes,

Pick flowers for incense, for poison,

For your graveside.

A bit late, but I have a bit of a backlog of unpublished words that keeps on growing, so before it slipped completely from sight, here it is. And I have many more mythological pieces coming up at the moment, so this gives a bit of a break from the hard stuff.

Exit Strategy

EXIT STRATEGY

.

Easy to make reckless plans with full bellies,

But many hearts sank in silence amid the wild enthusiasm.

To drag us all into darkness is the destiny of heroic leaders,

And it is they and their names will be ever remembered

By the sleek, sleazy poets collecting their nightly gold.

.

Of course, there were plans and there was strategy.

Of course, it was not immediate – that dissolution

Into the suffocating mists of isolating fear.

The poets’ make clear that there was some fine history there.

But we went into the great design believing we brought light and honour

And hoping quietly for at least a little plunder to justify the slaughter.

.

No one had told us that the air there would be sharper than our steel;

That our proud bellowing voices would be snuffed out

Only by the weight of the unutterable silence of that place.

That the chains that chaffed us, ( the poet’s said), were the very sinews

That held our bones and breath, our only strength, our only continuity.

.

We shall be mocked and sneered at by any who survive,

Even refined orators driven mad by the senselessness and broken screams of it.

These bright heroes dragged dizzy from the conflagration of hearts,

Goodness sold for pennies or twisted into shields to refute incompetence.

Greed disguised as quest. That tomb will not be opened.

No triple spells to cajole the lost towards a familiar banality.

No back to normal as the ghostly voices weigh down the thin air

With starved dreams and the corpses of tomorrow’s children.

Nothing but worms, now, of glory.

A heroic sunset it was, and now the cold darkness is creeping in.

.

The Shout

THE SHOUT

1

Anchor my mouth in the sun

and let it roar the world’s width

to wake the dreamers

and to find the tides

to race the weed and wrack

and sweep the land clean once more.

A hook is my word

for to catch the shining, leaping warriors.

It is cast out in the waters of the air,

in the brightness of the morning.

It is laced with gold and the promise of blood,

the crunch of bones in the jaws of wolves and foxes,

the ravens collecting the last fading visions of the slain,

The souls, brave souls, looking for new forms in the wild hills.

A hook well tied to reel in the strong eels of wriggling passion

Well knotted to call them back for gold and glory and another day of war.

Deep rooted my tongue in the synaptic shudders of the past.

Deep rooted my buried word grasping the chambers of stone.

Deep rooted so as to throw out long whip-branches

And a sturdy trunk with a thousand branches of meaning.

It is a shelter to the people, a roof and a feast hall.

This tree of persuasion, a fleet sent out by breath,

Each a vessel of contingency, an unassailable fortress of intent.

2

Battle boar sits on my head, roars though my mouth.

A bright god, bright as sun, bright as moon, springs from my tongue.

Its mind and my mind are united.

It is the circle of the land we are sworn to defend.

The circle of time we are to fulfil.

Lost 1 (Branwen)

LOST 1

My white winged soul is over the sea,

Low over the silver waters,

Far from sight, for duty

And the hope of peace.

Gone from this world,

Gone from the next,

Spiralling down to earth

To scour the debris of other’s joy.

There is some small joy in loss,

But not this loss.

Settled and content were we,

As rocks on a sun-warmed hillside

( the popping of gorse, the dust of heather,

the impermanent river of skylarks).

Settled and content, rippled in sheltered shade

(the hum of bees, the dance of gnats).

But each change brings irrevocable change.

Worlds end at every whim,

The ruins dreaming in emptied desolation.

Time, a syncopated stutter

To relive or forget in themes.

The moment before death –

An unravelling of strategy and excuses.

Something pure there, something silent,

Something wrapped beneath the pain and sorrow,

Something unutterably sweet, something eternal flickers

Before the moment and the light dies.

Before the terrible glorious cauldron darkness,

The seething dice thrown before dawn

Where we have lost our voices

And must learn to sing again,

Sound by sound.

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