All Their Voices

Words and thoughts in devotion to the Divine


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Streetside Prayer

Athena of the Polis,

watch over me, I pray you,

as I walk the byways of your city;

see me as I wander and keep me safe

as I honor you with my visits

to the libraries

the galleries

the schools

the museums,

and pray with the rhythm of my feet

against the sidewalks and cobblestoned street.

The merchants, the artists, the craftsmen,

they sing the litany of your skills

in the call to buy their wares,

the pounding of hammers;

the creaking of wheels against the road

are the instrumentation of your hymns.

O Athena, I exult in the richness

of this, your place,

this temple to civilization,

and thank you, grateful that I am so lucky

as to be allowed to share in it.

Io Athena!

The city, too, is your temple,

and gladly I worship there.


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Ode to Pan

Let me honor you with my fear,

o Lord of the woodlands and meadows.

Goat-footed god, great Pan, Hermes’ son,

there is wisdom in your wildness,

and ecstasy to be found at your revels,

but all the libations poured out to you

are less a fitting tribute than that primal terror

you engender,

setting the heart to roaring

and the skin to grow cold.

I taste metal streaking my tongue,

the song of adrenaline and cortisol,

a thunder in the ears akin

to the pounding of drums.

No matter how steady my feet have been

on the forest path,

when my mouth goes dry and

my breath comes quick,

I know it is reverence for you,

ripped from my bosom

even when there is no obvious cause—

no bear or wolf to menace with claw and fang,

no strange sound, sourced in silence,

no bolt of lightning or earth shaking beneath my feet,

only terror,

raw and relentless,

climbing up my throat from

my heart and my gut.

Great god Pan,

accept that offering that I bring you,

the gift of fear that you, in turn, give to me,

a gift for a gift,

given to the giver,

the respect and awe that I have for you,

and let my cries rise up to you.


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Love Song for Aengus

Laughing boy, dancing boy, beautiful boy,

your father’s house is now your own.

Above you, the doves dance as you dance,

stretching their wings, exulting in the poetry of movement.

There is glory in your gaze,

sensuality in each step you take,

and every smile is seduction.

Goldenhair, blue-eyed perfection,

or green, or hazel—

Each of us sees in you what we most crave,

and what our longing bends toward.

You have every temperament that

draws lovers to love:

courage and wit,

kindness and humor,

intelligence and patience,

generosity and strength and gentleness.

Silver tongue, silken voice, smooth manners.

 

 

God of youth, god of passion,

Lord of poetry and of love,

we beg you to be kind in your gift-giving;

we do not always know what is good for us,

so when we beseech you to bring us love,

I pray that you lead to us

what we most need

rather than just that which we desire.

Beauty is found in the heart,

not just on the surface,

and let us not be deceived

by hateful heart wearing fair face.

Sweet and knowing Aengus,

let us never be so blinded by our lusts

that we forget there are other qualities just as great, or better.

and in your generosity and mercy,

help us find a love that will last a lifetime.


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For Educational Purposes

What have I learned in Your keeping?

 

My grasp of the mysteries of the world

is no deeper than the film of motor oil

on the surface of a puddle of rain.

 

My desire to cease existing is neither

unique nor necessarily a surprise,

but my life does not belong to me,

but to you, and I should not destroy

or throw away that which is not mine.

 

I have found that there are more things

linked to you than I knew

–indeed, almost everything in the universe

seems to bear your signature upon its soul.

 

But also, finally, that all these defects may

be remedied if only I continue to draw breath,

feel the sun on my face, hear the wind at night,

and continue to exist in your service.


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Conversations (Part One)

Most think You only cleverness and mischief,

if they know of You at all.

Others still get what they know of You

from fiction, thinking You a blue-skinned mini-monster

with bloody eyes and bloody hands.

But ‘giant’ doesn’t always refer to size;

sometimes it indicates the height of Your ambitions,

or the vastness of Your reach;

I do not pretend that I know Your plans,

I only know that they are not for those like me to know.

Jotun You are, blood-brother to He who owns me,

and I pay attention to His demands and desires,

and things laid out in the lore;

at first it was only due to duty

that I poured out offerings to You

when I made them for Him,

but of late there is more to it than that.

I am not seduced by the pretty face worn by the

fictional ‘You’, scarlip;

Beauty cannot be trusted,

it has its own agendas,

is all too often only deep as skin’s surface,

and anyway, I know that is not the real You, though

–shapeshifter that you are—

I know you could wear that mask if You chose.

But why would You choose to?

I cannot think there are things You could not do

without that lie of a smirk;

they call You Lie-Smith,

but You tell the truth when it suits You.

Honesty can be a weapon, cutting, bruising,

killing when wielded correctly,

and I have no doubt whatsoever

that You are skilled in its use.

I will not say You are unknowable,

but the knowing of You is the work of a lifetime—

or two, or three, or ten—

and not something to be gained

in a night’s casual jesting

or the reading of however many books I might buy;

You cannot be found in paper alone,

but only in life.
I cannot call myself Lokean,

not when I belong to another,

but I will confess a fascination with You

the lure a serpent has for a mouse,

a fascination that was not there in the beginning.

I want to know You better,

and I know how disastrous that has been

for some of those I know,

and wonder if it would be worth it.

I do not think myself incapable of accidentally

angering You in my fervor,

and there would be nothing to stand

in the way of Your wrath if I did so;

He who owns me would not protect me,

for He does not value or respect stupidity.

It would definitely be a lesson, of a sort,

though one I do not think I would enjoy.

Still, if I survived it, I could definitely say

I knew You better, afterward.

Understand, such a mistake would never

arise out of disrespect, contempt, or malice;

but I could not say in truth

that it might not come from fear;

given what I do know of You,

only a fool would not entertain

a healthy fear of You,

just as only a fool would not hold

a healthy fear of a tornado,

or a rattlesnake,

or a forest fire,

or a flood.

These things might contain no hatred in them

for those they destroy as they go about their business,

but they destroy and they kill anyway.

You are like that,

a force of nature,

not to be underestimated,

or mocked,

or disregarded,

or dismissed,

or made light of.

I have no wish to do any of those things,

only an overabundance of caution,

and a healthy fear of what You are capable of,

though I do not consider myself a coward.

I would like to learn more of You,

I do not shy away from that,

and I would dare much

and ask for no favors to do so,

but not without His permission,

and not without a plea that You not shatter me

for my presumption.


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Song for the Mississippi River

Father of the continent!

Breast broad and deep and long and strong,

that artery pulsing with the mud of your heart,

how far you reach!

 

Fingers thrust high and wide into the wintry north reaches

of the heartland,

tiny capillaries bleating and bleeding

as they clench at the rich soil that is the land’s head—

breadbasket, ever-growing, dark source of life:

Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin.

 

Down you wend your way South,

snaking your trail through the Midwest,

your touch caressing Iowa, Illinois, Missouri:

land of corn and cattle, swine and soy,

waves sweet with sundered soil,

sweeping ever onward.

 

When the spring comes, you break free of the chains

imposed by ice, shake off your winter slumber,

and dance your way deeper into the land,

floes of your frozen flesh

colliding with one another,

grinding against each other like teeth gritted in frustration,

until at last they return to your bloodstream.

 

Oh, I hear you singing

when the thunderstorms of the heartland burst over you

with a rumble of anger and the hiss of the rain;

happy as these clean tears join to your bosom,

angry that they are needed,

sorrowful when they too are tainted.

Held within the heart of you is the blues,

and you have so much to grieve,

but yet you refuse to lay down and die.

 

Here you grow grumpy, growling:

the places of man spill their poisons into you,

burning in your belly,

killing fish,

enriching the bottom silt with chemicals

that the trees that line every bank

draw up with their thirsty roots,

weakening their hold on the shore,

and inch by inch each year those banks

draw farther apart, a middle-aged spread in the fundament

that only gets wider the further down you go.

 

In your depths swim great catfish and carp,

trash-eaters, gobblers of filth, who take up what man

would toss away, processing it through their bowels,

shitting out clean soil again. White blood cells of the river,

doing all they can to dispose of such infections,

unloved and unrespected denizens of the depths.

 

 

Your stance at the bottom is widest, drawn out,

the toes of each tributary digging deep

into the Louisiana soil, rich and dark and toxic,

water washing your ankles,

until at last you empty into our mother, the sea

–mother! O mother!—

rejoicing to be reunited with her,

exhausted by every inch of the long journey,

your substance returning to the womb where she created you,

and in her belly,

two become one again

and you sleep.

 


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Song to Cernunnos

Guardian of the wildwood,

You who watch over the creatures of the forest

and those humans who call the woods home,

I greet You each time my foot touches

the soft loam of the forest floor.
Hail to You, Cernunnos!

Antlered lord, You who are guardian

of the shadowed shelter of rabbit and raccoon,

fox and ferret,

badger and bear,

sow and squirrel.

I thank You for your watchful eyes,

I thank You for your fleet-footed step,

I thank You for your wisdom.

 

As the stag and the doe and the fawn

make their way under boughs of oak and alder and ash,

pine and fir, maple and willow,

You protect Your bourne with the

dedication of a father with his child.

You permit me entry to your domain,

And in gratitude I pour out libations to You

–wine and mead—

And leave offerings for You and Your kin.

Oats and honeycomb and dried fruit I set out,

Raw sugar and bread, apples and honeycomb,

And the prayer of these words,

Composed in thanks,

Written in thanks,

Sung in thanks.

 

I pray You hear me, o Cernunnos,

With an understanding and acceptance,

And ask You that I may be welcome in Your realm

–the home of my soul—

For so long as I draw breath.


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A Father’s Song

Never was father ever prouder of his daughter.

Not just a worthy woman;

enough skills has she for three women

–doctor, smith, poet–

and paramount, without peer, is she at all three.

Gentle are the hands of the healer,

grinding herbs,

setting broken bones,

stitching wounds,

massaging away pain from muscles with oils and ointments.

Strong are the hands of the smith,

lifting the hammer to bring it down,

turning the hot metal with tongs,

shaping it with careful blows,

quenching it in cool spring water.

Deft are the hands of the poet,

trimming the quill pen,

stretching and cleaning the parchment,

letting the fire in the blood

kindle verses for the bard and insults for the satirist.

What skills does she bring to a battle?

Not hard:

weapons keen and cruel to let the blood of the foe;

words and wit sharp as steel to lacerate an enemy’s courage;

bindings and medicaments to once more make whole the flesh of our own.

None there is like her,

My daughter Brigid,

Brigid daughter of the Dagda,

Dagda the son of Danu,

Danu leader of her people.


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His Cauldron

All good things come from His cauldron:

Roast of cattle and swine and sheep,

Duck and chicken and goose,

Oats baked into bread and porridge,

Apples and berries with honey,

Butter with garlic and onion, or from the cool bogs,

Milk both sweet and sour,

Cabbages and parsnips and wild herbs,

And every good thing that walked on two legs or four,

Or flew,

Or grew from the ground.

 

All good things come from His cauldron:

Meat for the protein to build a warrior’s strong muscles

And a worker’s strong back;

Fruit and vegetables to provide vitamins and fiber

To ward against sicknesses and keep the heart hale;

Dairy products with their calcium,

To keep bones growing strong and healing swift when broken,

And small green growing things with their many

Compounds to help build toughness for all.

 

All good things come from His cauldron:

Heat of a meal inside the belly,

To warm against a cold winter’s night;

Heat outside the body, from where it hangs

over the hearth’s flames to help send warm goodness

all through the house, and drive away the drafts;

The scent of food, which is the scent of home,

And the scent, most of all, of happiness.

 

All good things come from His cauldron:

Seated at His feast, we know how to work together

To create a meal;

We learn to cooperate to build something worth having,

To commiserate with each other when there is sorrow,

And celebrate with each other when there is joy.

We learn to understand the brevity of life; in knowing

It is short, and will end, we learn to value every moment of it,

Because once gone, those moments will never come again.

 

All good things come from His cauldron:

Health, and strength, and perseverance,

Togetherness and joy, even sorrow,

But of all these, the best thing to come from His cauldron

Is hope.

Hope is at the heart of every piece of daily bread;

Hope is the soul of the joy that links us together at the table,

And hope is what holds us together,

Tribe and family, beneath His gaze.

 

O Dagda, great god, good god,

We thank You for the gifts You bring us,

Red-headed lord of great knowledge,

Warrior without peer, champion with no equal,

Great father to Midhir and Aengus and Brigid and Bobd Derg,

Generous one, wise one:

All good things come from Your cauldron.