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Messages Received

Winter Mara

who are you without your identity?

lay down, settle in your bones

let your self release above you,

a balloon you are disconnected from.

you are your body, too, what is left

when your soul leaves. feel your body

breathing, digesting, slowing,

churning, falling apart an inch at a time.

she keeps us alive, feeding us,

but in the Winter she will bleed us

and cut us down and leave us

to others who seek sustenance.

she is not concerned with

what comes after aside from

decomposition.

we break down with our

component parts. we go on to become

part of others’ cycles.

The Banquet

she knows what it means

to drag a body up

from the ground, from nothing

taking sharp steps on the way

care, love, giving, all knives beneath

calloused feet and dirt-brown footprints

the black crepe is hung up in the corner

out of the way of smiling life

but always in the corner of your eye

she has waited, frozen and unsure

she has torn lovers apart

in her despair, and mourned

she has made a feast of loneliness

so none will go hungry

there is always another to your right

and another to your left

no matter the laughter in the conversation,

we all know what we’re drinking

salt and copper and spoiled milk

sitting in our mouths

we look straight ahead

stumbling forward, and she will catch us

as we fall and she will free us

from the dirt and she will embrace us

as we are burnt and we will go on walking

Spirals

down sie went into the mountains, into the earth

deeper than sie could ever remember going

down this far, hir head hurt and sie lost track

of where sie began and ended

there was so much sie had not remembered

and hir Mother would only say that sie

had already chosen not to know

deep in the earth are the labyrinths

past the grass snakes and the turnips

past the springy loam and the roots

past the groundwater and the worms

you are here again, the labyrinth said

again?

you may walk. the price does not change, wyrm.

unsure what that meant, yet

unwilling to wait and miss hir stop

sie went down, down and curled up

shed hir skin and diminished

The Black

Handholder, you show me

an open door, an empty bed

armfuls of posies and lilies

sicksweet smell of perfume

with a gunpowder tang, choking

as I swallow the tea you served.

Are you laughing or screaming

at me, fire catcher, wind tamer,

and is there something I’m

too afraid to see in your orchard?

Do I fear you for good reason

or in foolishness? Do I hear you

or merely echoes in others’ words?

Let Your Breath Out and Wait

the river called me down

I didn’t know her name

just the voice calling

across summer so hot the air

stole back everything I drank

til it hung on me, a heavy

drunk like Josh expecting me

to carry him home Sunday morning

I collapsed under the weight

of the shore


I burned the bridges I stood on

collapsed into her arms

and wept, or drowned,

shrouded in charred skin

mourning as molted feathers drifted

across the surface of the water,

gathering in waterlogged eddies

like rice left along the curb

as the car pulls away


she was so close as I stood on the rocks

just past the riptide, just out of my depth

all froth and lace and brokenshell-sharp teeth

the song pounds through my chest

stone brown as my skin, hot as my blood

under my feet as my heart picks out

the rhythm of the river and I jump


between the beats


too fast and not far enough

I can’t tell if the shock is the water

or the rock or my lights

going out as she pulls me close

whispers the lyrics as I hum

vibrating with melody

coughing, choking, spitting her out

but never straying far from her either

never listening to good sense

when she opens her arms and calls my name

New Moon

there is incense and honey and wine

there is the figure on the altar

glass eyes catching the candleflame

there is music pounding out

the beat while I chant


there is a headbutt against my ankles

warmth, humming thanks

the sense of her in my lap

weight on my legs, claws digging casually

into my calves and I reach out of habit

to scritch and touch nothing

then I understand how long it’s been

since she was actually here


there are arms around my shoulders

heavy, muttering nothings

quiet like she always was, waiting

for me to talk and me not knowing

what to say but it

doesn’t matter anymore

maybe it didn’t then either


doesn’t she look like Blackie

Blackie died when I was a toddler

I don’t remember her but I agree

the weight in my lap readies itself,

jumps higher than she had in years,

is caught by insubstantial arms


I’m so glad you called and

I’m proud of you and too soon

well I’d better be letting you go

I don’t want to let go

but there’s a different hand

on my shoulder now, black marble,

linen-draped, and it’s time


the offerings go to the crossroad

the rain has stopped for the moment

her presence is solid when I begin

and by the end I am alone

I leave her altar bare in the dark

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