Bale’corn will soon die.
Earlier under the willow, reading. How it was once seen, how we once thought. Replace the confused words of desire from one with the archaic searchers of desire from people gone into the dark.
Later, under a pine. What the tree asks, I do. My book, my thoughts, back against trunk, leaning against something which knows desire in a different time.
In a cold house I was the only hearth, and she at it laughing. Not smothered, only smouldered, and here again the candles, here again the flame.
At Imbolc, when I left the tower, the web, the loom, after the mirror cracked, I walked through the gate to the forests and saw there a satyr.
“This is a tree. This is oxalis,” he said, and fed me from blue-blossomed vines a nectar. “This stone calms,” he said. “This stone heals. This is my fur,” he said, “this is my heart beneath it.” At Eiler, the first turning of the path we parted with oaths. “I can hear you from there,” he said.
Under the pine, my back against the only thing strong enough, he said “I can hear you from here,” and I smiled and rubbed my neck against bark.
John Barleycorn should die.
Wooden shield, sustainer of armies. I played for him on an island, dark-winged birds wheeling. I thought they were birch, until I knew they were Alder.
Elk-tooth through the forest, in my hand, moss from one Grandmother to another (around which fires now rage, and I fear for her safety). Stag, moss, Alder.
I open a bottle of wine and leave it out for him, whom I chided, but I hold close to the branch he gave me.
At Beltaine I stared into her sky. The stars wheel, and there, her crown, her citadel, where I lost a name and took another. He has been called inconstant, yet hanged her circle of light for us then to see. She crossed over sea, away from him, over her father’s threshold. There gave birth, there gave back to the sea, there took all away from the other to let him make himself.
I have been in her court, though I did not know her. I have been in her court, but I did not know myself.
An old woman under a willow breaks off a branch for her dog. A moment later, a young girl swings from a Birch, and I know it will break, too. Fallen branch, wet into a pool of stars, water dripping like bells.
“I am the Queen of Witches,” she says. Blue reflected in silver, her owl. “You would know him?” she asks. “Take this to protect from your own love, this to remember what you try to forget.”
He loved her. I did not understand this until I saw the stars through needled branches and felt his desire, pining.
Jean Saint Pépin serait mort.
I walked between houses which did not know me, under a scythe moon which would blood me. Black-iron pot in my small rucksack, blackest of darknesses in my heart.
Her hideous son. Towers of glass, a recipe-book, a year of stirring. The boy- he did not steal it, but you cannot know life if you will not know death.
There, his seed. There the death. There, then, the birth.
“You would know him?” She laughs. “I will show you his death.”
I laid against him. Blood drawn from thorn of holly feeds pining roots. “Quiet,” he says, “they are greater than I.”
They demand, and I plead. More blood, but I only have enough for myself. More blood until flesh is drained.
It was only three drops, the boy had said, and yet this was enough, they had said. But they spin and weave and cut, and so do I.
“You have my blood,” I say. Winged water-wisps pierce my skin. “Others feed on their blood,” I say, “which is mine, for they have stolen it too. ‘Three drops is enough,’ you said, but my blood will now run forever in streams of flesh-eaten-flesh.”
“True,” they say, and laugh, and the threads are woven again.
Clad in green, with his hair around his eyes.
In the place where we first met his arms are suddenly around me. He’s not there, but he is behind me anyway. I did not know he was so tall.
“Tell yourself what I tell you,” he says. “Remind yourself in the morning.”
“And look,” he says. “That man there knows me. He tends my shrine, he dances my dance. Use your words, like you did with Them when I told you to shut up and listen.”
I stumble, wheel around him like her stars, throw myself into the dark roiling abyss, and surprise myself with my words. They’re the same words I’d tell myself. “You already know this,” I say, “but you’re fucking beautiful.”
In the morning, I try to piece it back together. Hours of words by the hearth, but weren’t we in a forest of pine? There was dancing, but we were both still. Satyrs laughed and fucked and howled at her moon, at her crown, by her springs, but we were still.
In the morning, I wake and look at the wand of alder, the mug of tea. There was a dance, and there’s proof, but it was from another time. There’s the chalice with silvered vines, the wine.
“The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist,” he’d said, as if talking about him. And why would I dare say he wasn’t?
“Eleutherios,” I’d said. And thunderer, and the howls are still here. A depiction of a dance. Poetic musings to a man elsewhere, that I know how to wield winter (‘don’t write poetry when drunk,’ I tell myself still).
John Balleycorn’ll die, his seed consumed, and me with it.
I know this story.
I am this story.