The Last Witch

No heat rose from the chimney pot tonight.
Apollonius hissed his contempt as we’d flown over roof tops and tree tops blazing with false light.

There’s no darkness anymore
for a fire’s glow to cast shadows in the corners, on the ceilings, on the floor.
Mystical creatures are conjured on the glowing screens held in hands in homes.
Children no longer seek comfort from the Pooka’s howls or the Banshee’s moans.

No one looks up, or out, anymore.
Hovering at the window, I wonder.
When Dullahan comes to carry this last believer home,
will the Death Coach carry me?
Not even the heather fibres of my broom can sweep away this change.

Getting cold (or is it old?)
My familiar urges flight.
Lamenting Sámhain,
I am alone this night.

Eating an Ice Cream at Auschwitz

Repulsed and, with a desert dry mouth, I made my way along the rubble.
Death was mummified in those misshapen, gnarled pieces of mortar, brick, and cobble.
But the gates weren’t locked for me.
No one saw me leave.
No one said I couldn’t.
I wasn’t sold the lie:
Arbeit Mach Frei.

I was sold appeasement.
Apollo was relentless that day.
Evidenced by the sun-creamed portraits my hands left around the surface of three spent water bottles.
I had taken shelter beneath the shade of some tree I should have known from its leaves.
I was distracted by the drought (or maybe I was numb).

That first lick was luscious.
My taste buds slalomed the semi frozen foam of Mount Olympus.
Milk and honey Mytikas cooled my sorrow.
She quenched my pain.
So easily two or three coins had eased my torment.
Guilt followed.

The Secrets of the Vistula

When I was in Auschwitz-Birkenau (Block 27) last June, there was a new permanent exhibition of the Shoah. Part of that exhibition was an installation called “Traces of Life” which was designed by artist Michal Rovner. Rovner, however, did not draw the images on the walls. She replicated them from the drawings and paintings of some of the 1.5 million Jewish children that were murdered during the Holocaust. What affected me most profoundly was the fact that these children, many of whom had no specific language per se (23 different languages were spoken in the camp so they hobbled together a language of their own sometimes), clung on to their viewpoint and what was essential to them in a place where death was their future. The Nazis may have thought they were hiding their crimes efficiently dumping their ashes in the Vistula River but these children, with whatever materials they could find, left their presence on the walls or scraps of paper. I could almost feel their souls in the room as I looked at each drawing. Such a powerful testimony! My following words don’t do justice to the emotion I felt that day.

The Secrets of the Vistula

Her smallest and her youngest
kept you from your conquest.
You took their tongues but not their voices!
If you listen to the water’s song, you’ll hear them sing:
“hide us here if you must,
we’ve left our stories in the dust.”
– the ashes, the wood, the walls…

A menorah on the kitchen table?
This little one had a home, a family, a faith.
Was there nobody to kindle this light?
Twenty three languages spoken in the places between
waiting for death and death; twenty three and none.
A planter full of flowers “pour maman.”
Traces of life.
Her loveheart and his “happy birthday!”
Mother’s washing blew on the washing line as they played in the playground.
The naked breathing skeletons at the edge of the woods,
the limp and lifeless figures hanging motionless at the gallows.

Soldiers of death
– they saw you!

(inspired by the children of the Holocaust, and artist Michal Rovner, at the new Permanent Exhibition in Auschwitz-Birkenau)

Tissue Box

Tissue Box

New Year rings loud.
Deafened by the silence,
a tear trickles down his cheek.
Longing for someone nowhere to be found,
tortured by the chance he did not take,
the fear of loneliness absorbed him
as he aimlessly abandoned himself to the insult of artificial adoration.
Fear keeps him there.
Reaching for the tissue
he tries to wipe away the weakness.
The tissue dampens and is discarded.
The weakness remains.

Mid summer she knew her tears were infinite.
Blinded by the luminosity,
she had not noticed the equinoctial shadow.
Powerless against the malevolence lurking behind the smile,
the fear of loneliness absorbed her
as she struggled to safe-keep custodianship of her being,
struggled to find the strength to keep on breathing, the strength to keep on bleeding.
Fear keeps her there.
Reaching for the tissue
she tries to wipe away the fear.
The tissue dampens and is discarded.
The fear remains.

Bin

Here I stand
on the roadside
waiting.
Waiting for you to grab hold of me, toss me, and swing me.

Suddenly I feel your grasp.
Fixedly you clasp me,
turning me head over heels,
violently shaking out all the rot:
the half eaten memories, the staleness of lives not lived, not recycled, not rescued.
With no prospect of emancipation you’ll pour them into the landfill
to rot with all the others.

Setting me back on my feet, you’ll leave me standing,
empty,
on the roadside.
Waiting.
Until another fills me with their rot.

Suffer Little Children

Suffer Little Children

Suffer little children.
Suffer punishment and pain.
Suffer poverty, starvation and thirst.
Suffer drought, disease and death.
Suffer famine.
Suffer war.

“Suffer little children to come unto me
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Suffer little children.
Endure their existence.
Endure their snivelling, their whinging and their dirty little faces.
Suffer little children.
Tolerate them.
Tolerate their tears for food, for shelter and loving embraces.
Suffer little children.
Stomach them.
Stomach them when they appear on your tv screens from far flung forgotten places.

“Suffer little children to come unto me
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

So the people were bringing their children to see Him.
Dirty, snivelling, whinging children.
Second class citizens!
(No wait. Not even second class citizens.
That’s far too great a compliment for these scrawny, not nearly human, extra mouths to feed.)
And His body guards rebuked them.
Too right! Who do these kids think they are?
But when He saw this He was indignant, outraged, furious!
And He said to them “let the children come to me.
Do not block their way to me.”

“Suffer little children to come unto me
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

With Whom Can You Sleep?

I was introduced to this poem quite recently but from the moment I first heard it I knew it was something I was going to read again and again.

The poem is Felicity in Turin by Paul Durcan.

We met in the Valentino in Turin
And travelled through Italy by train,
Sleeping together.
I do not mean having sex.
I mean sleeping together.
Of which sexuality is,
And is not, a part.

It is this sleeping together
That is sacred to me.
This yawning together.
You can have sex with anyone
But with whom can you sleep?

I hate you
Because having slept with me
You left me.

I began to think of those I have slept with in my life and the number is relatively small. Of course, as the poet suggests, I do not mean having sex I mean sleep. “The unconscious state or condition regularly and naturally assumed by man and animals, during which the activity of the nervous system is almost or entirely suspended, and recuperation of its powers takes place; slumber, repose.” (OED) So, who have I slept with?

Well there were nights in my childhood that I woke from my sleep and, either from nightmares or from merely not wanting to go back to sleep alone, I climbed under the sheets of my parents’ bed and snuggled in safety between them. My siblings on occasion would, at times, feel exactly the same way as I did and inevitably there could be the whole family of six in the bed by the early hours of the next morning. When I’m troubled by something that I cannot “run away” from in my adult life, I long for those occasions to return. There was something comfortable about that bed and bedroom: the familiar family scents, the retro seventies wallpaper, the rhythmic breathing of everyone, even the voluble snores from my father.

I have slept with my best friend and I do not mean one of these “bff” best friends. I mean my confidant, my “sounding board,” the person who knows me better than I know myself. Those sleep-overs when we were younger have been relived in our adult lives when I’ve thrown a party and, inevitably, some of us have had to bunk together. I’m certain we become those much more innocent teenagers who tittered and laughed our way through the night over boyfriends, kisses and school. She has been there for me always and has waited sometimes patiently for me as I charged headlong through some of life’s mistakes and, returning to lick my wounds, she was just there.

I don’t even know where to begin when it’s time to talk about the sensory exchange that sleeping with my baby provided for me. The warmth, the tiniest of sounds, the “new-born baby” smells, the touch of his perfect skin, and all his tiny movements, were the most sensory phenomena imaginable and provided for a bond that most mothers know they would kill or die for. History then repeated itself as he had nights where he woke from his slumbers through nightmares or unrest and made his way sleepily under the covers for the same safety, comfort and familiarity that I had sought as a child in the night. He is much older now and wouldn’t even consider doing this but I do love the fact that he can “body slam” himself on to my bed on a morning or evening and talk about the things that are on his mind with me.

There is only one other person to mention that I have slept with. It was a very long time ago when he was Orpheus and I was Eurydice. No, I wasn’t literally dead like poor Eurydice but I certainly had not been living. Sleeping with Orpheus was sacred. I do not mean having sex. I mean sleeping with him. Of course, sexuality is, and is not, a part of sleeping with someone when you are attracted to them but it was my falling asleep with Orpheus so effortlessly and safely that caused me to realise that I was complete. We are most vulnerable when we are sleeping. We are at our weakest. Even the strongest among us has to sleep and it is then that even the weakest can just tiptoe into our lives and commit untold damage. In the Book of Judges, Jael killed Sisera, while he slept, driving a tent peg through his head until he was pegged to the ground, Macbeth killed Duncan as he slept as a guest in Macbeth’s home and, of course, there are the numerous victims of Wes Craven’s Freddy Krueger. Sleeping with Orpheus cast all those night time fears into some land of forgetfulness, no, not forgetfulness. It was a grace-filled letting go. It was absolution.

Durcan’s poem ends with “I hate you because having slept with me you left me.” Wow! What a line. I can never hate Orpheus.