All Their Voices

Words and thoughts in devotion to the Divine


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Afterlives

Who will it be when they come to take me,
When at last my flesh grows cold?


Will I see the face of the Messenger,
long my friend, from times of old?
Will I walk that last road with him,
When I breathe that final breath?
Will I descend to gray existence,
When I travel after death?


Or will I find the Sailing Trickster,
with his wave-borne ship at dock?
Will he take me to the Blest Isles,
when my life runs down its clock?
Will I dwell in lands undying,
Where apple trees both fruit and bloom?
Will I be welcomed by the Ever-Young,
While my body sleeps in tomb?


Or will the two-faced Queen send someone
to bear my soul down to her home?
Will she take my shade in keeping,
While my flesh slumbers under loam?
Will I sit in Her great hall, then,
And dine, and sing, and speak, and rest?
Will I know the joys of living,
If I’ve passed her final test?


Who will claim me, when I die, then,
Who will greet me, bear me away?
Who will come when my heart beats its last,
On that far-flung, final day?


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The Long Victory

Lia_Fáil_-_spud_murphy

You thought in your arrogance that you had beaten us;
you thought that you had won.
A flood of words, lies as deadly as Balor’s eye,
gold leaf on vellum and the trickle of baptismal waters:
these were your weapons.
But no creation of Man can stem the roiling tides of magic:
hammer on anvil, flurry of black feathers,
the sweep of oars, the clang of swords coming together,
the bright-blazing spear, the sword that returns every wound,
the cauldron that feeds all who come to it, the stone that screams:
you have not destroyed us; we have only changed.


You invaded and you conquered. Even so, we never feared you.
But we saw the devastation your invasion
wrought in other lands, as you forced your bile
down the throats of those who dwelt there:
groves cut down, temples toppled, books burned,
priests and believers alike put to the sword.
Trees may grow back, temples can be rebuilt,
and men may recopy old books and write new ones,
but blood, once spilled from sundered flesh,
does not return to the heart that once guided it.
We chose to spare our people that, in loving return
for the love they have so devotedly shown us.


Under the hills we will go, the brave and the strong,
the clever and the wise, the beautiful and the fierce.
Under the hills we will go, and watch and listen as you
change our names, change our truths: from god and goddess
to saint, to faerie, to ghost, to demon, to mortal,
putting words in our mouths that we never spoke,
weaving new deeds for us that never once existed,
building for those people you have stolen from us
– but who still live, for this we can grant, at least –
a false past and a hollow future.


Over the tide of centuries to come, they will tire of your lies,
over the surge of time that flows into the future, some will dig –
dig through the true words that yet remain, the tales unforgotten,
the scraps of truth put down in moments of weakness by monks
not quite convinced of the evil you say we were,
or remembering, perhaps, the stories told of those
who their ancestors followed so very long ago.


Some will dig, and unearth us in our sidhe-hills,
read the tales, know the lies for what they are,
and open their arms, tears on their faces,
as they welcome us back, so long transformed,
from saint, faerie, ghost, demon, mortal,
back into our true selves, as indeed we always were,
save in the deluded words of those blind to the truth,
and on that day, we will emerge from under our hills,
welcome back those who know our truth for what it is,
and show the world that sword and fire cannot kill the gods.
For those like us, there is no death. Only change.


We will return.


We will return.


We return.


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Palisade of Bones

A spadeful at a time, I turn the earth,
clearing away yesterday’s garbage:
broken glass, rusty nails, plastic chip bags,
shattered crockery, dirt-dulled toys,
then replace this debris with things far cleaner,
closer to the soil and closer to the air.
Things that lived once, like man’s trash never did,
things that belonged to the land, in life,
and still do now that they have passed.
Bones of deer, bones of raccoon
— possum, mouse, fox, rabbit,
shrew and toad, snake and turtle,
fish and starling, coyote and groundhog.
Each foot of the yard takes a handful of lives,
souls clinging to these old white relics,
interred at last below the surface of the dirt
where once they ran, slept, played, ate, fucked, flew;
a foundation for a forest of spirits.
In places, hints of white peep an inch or so
above the soil: I do not dig deep, but wide,
and these spikes — ribs, femurs, tibia —
seem like the poles of an old fence,
whiter by far than any sun-bleached wood could ever be.
They tell me they are glad to be there,
buried with love and care, spoken to with respect,
whether they died a natural death
— starvation, winter cold, predation, disease —
or at the end of a hail of shot,
or under the tires of a car,
or leg-caught in the top wires of a fence
they couldn’t quite jump over,
or spasming out their lives after eating poisoned bait.
I do this, I lift them gently, set them down,
cover them over with shallow shovelfuls of dirt,
singing to them, whispering the names they’ve told me,
partly of desire, partly of remorse, partly in redemption:
am I not born of that same species
that sends so many who are not like us
to their doom? Whether to save our crops,
put food on my table, or through accident,
unable to stop a car gone too fast
when lithe leap of brown flashes in front,
still so many of these deaths can be laid at our table.
And so, if you will,
call me builder, call me gravedigger,
call me deathsinger, call me friend.
Just let me do my duty and my joy,
watch if you must, but do not interfere,
and do not doubt that these who I lay to rest
are as real to me as you are
and sometimes more.