All Their Voices

Words and thoughts in devotion to the Divine


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The Pythia Speaks

I sit where you bade me, Lord,

feeling the vapors caress me

feeling myself lift like the coils of smoke around me

feeling you slide your hand into my soul

like a puppeteer’s hand inside the puppet,

and I hear your voice.

 

It comes out of my mouth

answering the questions

of the ones who stand before me

as I sit shrouded in darkness.

I can see the worry on their faces that they try to hide,

here in this cave sacred to you–

the tripod in its place,

the scent of the mountain underneath me in my nostrils

and I give myself over wholly to you,

not knowing the words that emerge from my lips

before the moment that they do.

 

It is not my voice but your voice

not my words but your words

not my sight but your sight

and in all things, my lord,

I am only your servant, your tool,

and overjoyed to be able to do

this task for you.

 

Delphian, Manticus,

may I always hear Your voice

whether I gape my jaws to speak to others

or listen for You only for myself;

may I never cease to listen

may I always wait,

yearning,

heart pounding,

breathless,

for the least of Your words

is as gold and rubies to me,

and Your trust in me to do Your will

the greatest treasure of all.


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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.


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Second Thoughts

Maybe I’m looking at this wrong.
Maybe I should be grateful instead of resentful.
I mean, it made sense to be angry and hurt at first;
You’d ripped me away from everything I knew,
and for no reason I could understand,
and I hadn’t known You
long enough to trust You blindly at that point.
But it’s been almost two years now;
long enough to start to see Your plan unfold,
long enough to start to understand Your motivations:
I can see things then that I couldn’t see now,
stand with some perspective on how things lay then.
You’re right; he wanted me to change,
couldn’t love me like I loved him,
and it would have ended badly – well,
worse than it did, anyway.
Things would have festered, given more time,
an infected wound that would have rotted, not healed,
and that wound would have kept me forever
from carrying out the things You wanted me to do.
I thought I was strong,
but even if that was so, I would have grown weaker,
and something important in me would have died.
I wish I could be more mature about this,
but I was happy then, or thought I was, anyway,
and I am the world champion at holding grudges:
haven’t I borne this one for almost two years?
Oh, and I could carry it so much longer,
but that’s the act of a petulant child,
and children often don’t know what’s good for them,
but parents do.
I know that now, a parent myself,
and yes, I’ve had to do things for my children
that they hated, that they screamed over,
and listened as they told me they hated me because of it.
They got over it,
when they were old enough to see I had been right.
This is me trying to get over it,
trying to be old enough, mature enough,
to see the bigger picture,
to see the bad things You saved me from,
and be a little thankful that You bothered
to save me from the things
I couldn’t see in order to save myself.
That important part of me You were trying to save
is still here, and I am still here,
and now I am a little more willing
to see others’ points of view:
so tell me what You want of me next:
Shall we get to work?


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The Alfar

No prancing point-winged pastel pixies, we!
But warriors of the land, both wild and free!
With sword and spear, we fight at Volund’s side,
And with bright Freyr’s forces we shall ride.
There is no jotun, ettin, wyrm, or troll
That comes away from battle with us whole;
Of our halls’ hospitality, skalds sing;
Our mead is fit for hero, Aes, or king.
Across the farthest borders we can see
Our foes as endless as the ocean’s tide
And ready as the spider’s jaws, we bide
To scythe them all away for Hela’s fee.
Our fighters number as the blades of grass:
And while we stand, no foe shall ever pass.


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The Road to Brân’s House

(This serves both the New-Deity-of-the-Month poem I promised for Brân, and day four of the Five Day Poetry Challenge.)

raven

If I stand in darkness, it is because
I stand in the shadow of His wings.

Have I been climbing this mountain forever?
Perhaps. But it is the only way I know,
step after step, sometimes staggering,
pausing to catch my breath,
resting a hand against the rough bole of a tree,
feet dug in and set,
and this is the way I must travel
if I want to see Him.

Oh, He doesn’t make it easy,
but why should He?
The mountain does not come to the man;
that is not what mountains do.

Every so often, now and then, I think I catch
a glimpse of a little piece of Him:
the flash of an eye,
the curve of lip,
wind blowing through that black, black hair–
but it is sunlight on water,
or wind-sculpted earth,
or leaves blowing on the breeze
which means it is Him, after all.

I know the stories:
giant brother, sorrowing sister, anger to kill
hundreds of men and burst a magic cauldron from the inside,
but here I travel out of the domain of story,
and make my way to see Him face to face–
that is, if He will let me.

It all started with whispers, really:
the sweep of wings on the wind,
and shadows from overhead,
and curious longings,
and too much time in unfamiliar daydreams,
and suddenly I wanted to know Him better.

There are no mountains where I live.

This little midwestern town at the cock-tip of a lake
is the dictionary definition of flat:
lonely, too, and boring, and banal,
and not the sort of place
that a girl like me
would go looking for a god like Him,
but here I am, nevertheless.

The stories are a guide, but a drunken, inept sort of guide:
Wales is no map for Indiana,
and the waters that the people who lived here longest called Michigan
are not the Irish Sea:
nonetheless, I must make them serve.

I greet Him in the morning with coffee,
and honey-oat cakes; there are no ravens here,
but after awhile, their littler cousins, crows,
come sniffing around to see what I have to offer.
Is that just nature being nature, then,
or does He work with what’s available,
as They all do?

This journey is apt to be a long one,
but then, all the best journeys are;
there was never a god worth seeing
who didn’t require some effort on the part
of those who would gawk;
more still from the devoted and the devout,
who would bring prayers and offerings and their hearts,
laid open bloody and bare,
willing to do the work,
if only to find the truest meaning
in giving themselves up to service.

He doesn’t make it easy:
I said that once,
I repeat it now;
what better way to winnow out
the rubberneckers, the cynics, the greedy, the lazy,
and those for whom scorn and jeering
is barely concealed beneath a veil of bored curiosity?
If they’re only here for the show,
best to kick them to the curb now.

So, yes, over the river and through the woods,
though the woods be sparse, and riddled with disease and parasite:
box elder bugs and emerald ash borers and black maple spot,
and all the rivers hereabouts are only now slowly being reclaimed
from having become dumping grounds for garbage.
Still, that is the traditional route to go when going to visit someone’s home,
and it might be a circumlocutious route,
but it’s the only one I know.

And I go slow on purpose;
I’d hate to finally show up at His house,
find Him,
and find out I wasn’t wanted there, after all;
it’s the worst sort of rudeness to force yourself into
a place where you weren’t invited, after all,
but I haven’t heard ‘No!’ yet,
so I go–
–but slow.
Gods can change their minds too:
they have that right, no less than we mere mortals do,
although it’s a lot more dangerous
to ignore Them when they do.

I don’t know how long this journey will be;
it’s been a while now already,
though not as long as some I have taken,
and some I am still taking.
I have a nebulous sense that
it will be finished — eventually —
though no real understanding, yet,
of how the journey’s end will be.

For this is not archaeology:
I am not here to simply dig up potsherds,
fit them back together,
and suddenly be an expert on
all there is to know of Him;
this is not a child’s puzzle,
piecing together every die-stamped cardboard token,
so at last I see the bigger picture;
and this is not medicine,
waiting only to find the right drug
to cure some dread disease.

This journey I am on is worship,
as much an act of reverence as any prayer or offering,
and with each step further that I take,
I understand that even when I arrive at the end of the travel,
it will not lessen the mystery,
enlighten the masses,
or leave all loose ends tied up neat and tight,

and with that, I am content.


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First Harvest

(Day two of the Five Day Poetry Challenge. Again, this is a new poem.)

Wisconsin - Field of Oats

Her fingers bleed; the stones
are buried deep,
tangled in roots of long-dead trees,
and clotted with soil better meant
for green growing things:
the sweetness of apples, the golden riches of grain,
the root vegetables that grew below the surface.

Each drop of blood that seeps from her flesh
into the soil waters it, nurtures the ground,
adds richness to the dark loam that
yields its stony crop to her untiring labor.

She bends herself to the task for days,
cutting the trees down,
letting woodsmen drag them away
to save the wood for the hearths
of the folk when winter returned;
the roots themselves she tears out of the ground,
casting them aside, slowly
reducing forest to fertile field.
Above, the sun: its fire rains down,
bringing its heat to the land below,
summoning from within her
the rain of sweat spangling her brow.
About her, bees hover in a halo,
fanning her with the cool breeze of their wings.

Relentless, she works, sparing no time
for food or drink or rest; her strength flags not,
but day by day her frame dwindles
as her body’s substance burns away
in the fierce flame of her will to finish her task.
A day will come, she knows,
when every stone and every root would be removed,
every spring unblocked, every stream cleared,
and then at last her people could till the land,
sowing there the seeds that would let them
lay away the fruits of that first planting,
and thus, survive the cold to come.

The morn she draws that last stone from the land
comes at long last;
she casts it aside to the oxen yoked to the chariot
to drag it away for the walls the farmers built
to hedge in the boundaries of the fields,
and with a final sigh, falls insensate to the ground.
She knows that, all too soon,
her flesh will belong to the soil, too,
taken apart my rain and worms and the roots of green growing things,
and then in one more way,
she will help to feed her people.


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Hymn to Forseti

Forseti at Jud

Hail, Forseti, justice-bringer
from the halls of great and mighty,
to the homes of small and timid,
over all you see and judge them.
Winnow right from wrong, you judge them,
telling truth from lies for all men,
finding out the secret misdeeds,
reconciling all who seek you.
Mediating, all-presiding,
wielding truth like Thor’s own hammer,
honest, fair to all who come hence.
For you are impartial always–
You, renowned among all Aesir
for your skill bestowing judgment,
and for that, we ever praise you,
praise the one who metes out justice,
thank you for the gifts you give us:
Hail, Forseti, justice-bringer!