All Their Voices

Words and thoughts in devotion to the Divine


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To Odin

I don’t want to follow in your footsteps:

I recognize I am too weak for the

sacrifice of well and tree.

This does not mean I have not known pain

in my lifetime, only that I do not, cannot,

compare it with yours.

And yes, there is fear—

how could there not be?

I think of all that you are and quake;

You are not exactly known for your kindness.

A friend writes that it is a folly

to think that the Gods do not care for mortals.

Not all gods will concern themselves

with all humans, of course—

they take an interest in just certain ones,

just as we mortals may take an interest

in a favorite actor or author or painter,

or even a sports team.

We do not know why you choose

certain of us, of course;

for the most part,

You’re not telling,

and it would be rude (and dangerous!) to pry.

Now, saying that the gods care for us

is not the same as saying that they defer to us,

nor would I wish it so;

that is not the natural order of things.

What I mean is that it is natural to be afraid of you,

from time to time,

just as I would fear an earthquake,

or a tornado

or a wildfire

or a hurricane—

forces of nature, all so much greater in power than I,

and unpredictable,

with unguessable motivations,

smashing down boundaries,

ignoring the desires of the venal and greedy

and lazy and weak

(and sometimes the strong and the humble

and the dedicated and the committed, too),

and generally doing whatever must be done

to achieve their goals.

 

No, I don’t want to follow in your footsteps,

but I want to be of use.

I want to learn.

I know my fear has thrown up a wall between us—

no wall could keep you out

if you did not permit it to,

but I think, perhaps, you let it stand,

maybe to see how long I would go,

allowing myself to remain apart from you

(in my fear, or maybe my stubbornness),

before at last I cracked.

 

Longer than I should have,

but less time than it could have been, I guess.

I’m tired of—well, not fighting,

because I can’t hope to fight you—

but of struggling,

like a small fish trapped in an unbreakable net.

 

If you will still have me,

if I have not exhausted your patience,

(I do not delude myself that I could make you angry,

You who have faced down giants and trolls

and monsters without a qualm,

but neither do I think your patience is endless),

 

If you will still have me,

here I am.

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Guardians

I look for your messengers

–your Thoughts and your Memories–

for seeing them lets me know

You are still watching over me.

You leave me to walk my own Wyrd.

That does not mean you are uninterested

in what happens to me,

but you have never been my babysitter,

nor my parent, nor my watchman.

I am not supposed to lean on you,

constantly begging, making demands;

from time to time I talk to you,

and some of those times, I lament problems

I may have encountered,

but I have never asked you to wave a magic wand

and make everything magically all better.

This is why it is so heartening to see them there,

perched on that line every day as I

walk home from work;

just two ravens, no more, no less,

and I think always the same two,

peering down at me in curiosity,

and then flying off to report what they have seen

once I have passed.


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Shared Wisdom

From Hliðskjálf you see down

through every realm, every land, every home.

You who have drank of Kvasir’s mead,

you who gave your eye to Mimir’s well,

and who hears his head whisper to you in the night,

you who hung on the tree for nine days and nine nights,

pierced through with Gungnir:

I know of no other with the depth of wisdom you possess.

Yours are the answers to all my questions;

Yours is the knowledge of man and beast and tree,

ocean and mountain and fire.

You were present from the time that the universe was licked

from the ice by Audumhla and Ymir,

High, Just as High, and Third,

Hrafngud, Ganglieri, Haptaguð, Olgr, Uðr,

I know nothing in comparison with you,

but I know enough to know that it is wisdom

to ask for your guidance,

that I may benefit from the wisdom

you have spent all your existence acquiring,

and if I am most fortunate,

you may even grant it.


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A Plea to Odin

How many times has the thought of failing you

brought me to tears, my Lord?

I fear I will never be good enough to serve you

as you should properly be served.

I have no shame to kneel before you and

acknowledge you as my greater;

Humans are not the equals of the gods.

Many times I have let my weaknesses lead me astray:

Distracted by mortal concerns,

mortal weariness,

mortal woe;

I regret that my focus on you and yours is not as strong as I wish it was.

Desires are ever stronger than willpower, I have long known.

Nevertheless, I pray you, do not forget me, do not forsake me;

If my spirit is willing and my flesh is weak, let my spirit

be the teacher that will lead my flesh to be stronger for you.

As I grow older, and older yet still,

do not think that I have forgotten you;

as the vicissitudes of the flesh bring me pain, exhaustion, illness,

I do not suddenly give you up

in the thought that such a betrayal will make things easier;

I know my destiny, my wyrd, and from beginning to end,

it lies with you.

I honor other gods, true;

The bloody queen of Ireland,

Her fire-shaping healer-poet cousin,

the swift-footed trickster of Greece,

and that land’s lady gardener,

the siblings of the Vanir,

and your own blood-brother

(despite that more cowardly and spiteful men

say I should spurn him),

but I am owned only by you.

I do not mistake you for fictional representations of you,

though I can see the echoes and ghosts of you in those

that the creators and actors tried to summon.

I ask only that you understand my failings–

not forgive them, as I do not ask for forgiveness,

and I am strong enough, at least, to own my failures–

and give me the chance, always, when my mortality drags me down,

to keep on striving to be worthy of you,

or as worthy as any mortal can hope to be.

I know you will never stop testing me,

and I can only hope that some day,

I will pass the test and thereby please you.


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They Speak to Me in Song

(This is a poem that I will never be able to actually publish, since it incorporates a fair-ish number of lines from a well-known musician, but I’m posting it here under Fair Use terms — the artist’s content is less than a quarter of the lines. My association with a particular deity recently swung off the charts from ‘I think I understand you and I understand you have your place in things but I’m not really one of your people’ to ‘constantly thinking about you every day and night and wrote at least three new poems for you in less than five days and this is really unnerving, dammit…please leave me alone no don’t leave me alone’. Today on the walk home from the bus stop the inspiration fairy mugged me again while listening to music; certain lines jumped out at me as being from him, or what I thought was him, or wasn’t sure was him, and…obsession with someone when you’re not even really sure it is who it appears to be is a scary fucking thing.)

 

 

“What makes you think I’m ‘nice’?

What makes you think either of us is ‘nice’?”

 

“We’re not. At all. Neither of us.

Remember that.”

 

–Should I tear my eyes out now?

Everything I feel returns to you somehow–

 

This is fucking with my head, bigtime.

 

–fire of fire, I’m insecure–

 

I know I know better, but still

I know no better.

 

–I am here

you are all that I have–

 

Fire and ice and trapped between:

Why are you trying to make me think

I don’t know who I belong to?

He doesn’t share well.

 

–Follow me now

follow me now

follow me now

Why does it have to be so hard?–

 

Of course this is exactly what I want,

and that is why I mistrust it;

nothing so good ever comes so easy or so free,

and so I expect a trick

a lie

a hoax

a cruel joke.

 

–I should have known better

nothing can be changed

the past is still the past–

 

They tell me I can say no.

I should say no.

I want to say no, but that is born of cowardice;

I want to say yes, and that is born of desire:

I asked for this, didn’t I?

Never feeling worthy of it,

so filled with doubt when it is offered.

 

–I can hear you,

but I’m afraid to be near you,

and I don’t know where to begin–

 

It’s nothing but greed, I suppose;

I have always wanted to be fought over.

What else do the unworthy dream about?

 

–Tired old mare

with the wind in your hair…

is it real or a fable?–

 

Be honest, they say, be open,

but my antenna draws in too many signals,

and my receiver is too broadly tuned,

and my phone will not stop ringing.

 

–And we all know how this will end–

 

I may not survive my latest obsession.

 

–What is that song you sing for the dead?–

 

I guess I did this to myself:

the prayers, the poems, the pleas.

I shouldn’t complain for wanting you too much.

 

–How? How did this happen?

For my prayer has always been love.

What did I do to deserve this?–

 

You are very needy of late, my love,

and you, my lord, too generous.

When I drank the Kool-Aid, was it Kvasir’s mead?

 

–How did this happen?–

 

Will you let me sleep tonight?

I dream every dream and they are all you:

terror, confusion, anger, lust.

 

–Now that I’ve fell into your arms,

my only lover, you vow to give in–

 

Who do I listen to?

Do I go with heart or head?

 

–I should have known better

to see what I could see;

Oh, be my rest, be my fantasy–

 

Of course I want to believe,

but I cannot believe;

I’ve had too many warnings

from those who knew too well,

and no matter how much I want to believe,

I don’t believe it,

least of all because I am not worthy,

and because that tiniest shrunken scrap

of discernment I possess

tells me to rip your mask off

and show myself your real face

(your false face)

and let go of that fantasy–

You have better things to do with Your time

and whatever pretty creature is pretending to be You

(so pretty)

I need to turn away,

shut the door,

and quit thinking that you could want me.

 

–though I know I will fail,

I cannot be made to laugh–

 

I am no bride,

no lover,

only a tool,

and never anything more.

 

–I should have known better

to see what I could see…

Frightened by my feelings,

captive of my feelings,

the only thing I wanna believe…–

 

 

(Why Sufjan Stevens, though?)


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Reasons

You think by now I would have given up

in my attempts to keep you from

swallowing up my life;

it’s not a fight I can win, I know that –

but some mulishly stubborn part of me

still insists it has free will

(a concept I should have accepted as absurd

when I left Catholicism) –

and can tell You ‘no’.

 

Ludicrous, really.

 

In the end, it always comes down to

whose will is greater, which of us is more stubborn,

and we both know the answer to that

(and the answer is not ‘me’).

 

Nevertheless, I persist:

not wanting to watch You whittle away at

the list of things I enjoy,

the list of things that have nothing to do with You,

turning it into a list of things

I am allowed to partake in.

 

Your commands have already started

to abridge my diet,

taking away small consolations I could manage in my poverty.

Nor is that all; You challenge me,

Standing behind me to push me into bravery,

shoving me outside my comfort zone,

because the outcome will be better for me in the end,

no matter how much these things terrify me in the now.

 

I watched You dismantle my marriage,

though I didn’t know that’s what was happening then,

and I understand it now with the perspective of time–

whatever good things I might have

thought about my husband at that point,

I can see in hindsight were illusion,

and had turned me into something

small and stunted and afraid to test boundaries,

and I am so much stronger now.

 

That doesn’t mean I am whole, of course;

I know that I can’t make myself believe

what I need to believe to be fixed

–that I have worth, that I am loved–

I don’t know how deep the damage goes,

I only know it is the product of a lifetime

of people telling me that I was inept, useless,

incapable of doing things that even children could do,

that I was not good enough to be what they wanted,

that I had no worth in the eyes of anyone at all.

 

Which brings me to the question that still lingers,

almost ten years after You claimed me as Yours:

 

Why?

 

Why would You want to own something like me?

So flawed, so limited, so weak?

The pat answer, the easy answer, the one I have heard most often,

the answer that numerous friends tell me,

is that You needed another skald,

and I do confess, without any false modesty,

to some skill with words–

maybe my only skill.

 

But that feels disingenuous, and incomplete,

And even if it turns out to be true,

I don’t think it’s the whole truth;

Then again, I understand these days, after

being Yours for some time,

that it’s likely I may never know the whole truth,

just as I may never know the whole You;

You have so many faces, so many names,

You are—if not infinite—then certainly, obviously greater

than any mere mortal could be,

and I find I am accepting of that,

which is as it should be when dealing with gods.

 

That doesn’t mean I don’t still wonder, of course,

but just as I will never know

what a sunset looks like on Jupiter,

and can live without that knowledge,

I don’t need to know why You picked me–

it would be nice to know, reassuring, calming,

and it would answer a question I’ve had for years,

but I can live without that answer;

even if I had it,

I might not be able to make myself believe it,

because that is the nature of the damage that is my soul:

it is enough to know, in the end,

only that You did choose me,

and that has to be good enough for me.