Tithe

6CAB549A-4AF2-4558-B704-16099245E831.jpegMarcus lived on an edge of town. Not the actual edge, not the city limits where light gives way to quiet dark – but an edge piece, a place where the neighborhood butted up against the rail road track and the ruins of old factories beyond. One could walk past it on either side in a couple minutes, drive past in a heartbeat – but it remained an edge, a cliff of the known.  A place where the railroad track felt like the shore of an ocean, the collapsed buildings a ship’s graveyard. Marcus had lived  in his house for only a few days the first time he heard the music, only two weeks when he saw the first stranger come down to the tracks to leave an offering.

The music only came at night. Too quiet to hear inside his house, but if Marcus was walking home late or getting something from his car or walking his dogs he could hear it plain – echoing from the dark beyond the train tracks. Sometimes it was guitar, sometimes it was a low trumpet, sometimes a flute – hollow and insistent.  The music did not come every night, but often enough. The melodies changed – always approaching familiar, but distorted by distance and wind. He asked his neighbors if they heard the music, but they only smiled and turned away from the question.

Then the first stranger came. They came at sundown, just drove to the end of the street in a black sedan. They got out, they wore a coat and slacks, work-day tie loosened. Marcus watched from his window as they walked across the tracks, something wrapped in red cloth in their hands. The stranger did not look left or right, they did not stay long – their shoulders seemed to carry a familiar errand. They came back to their car empty-handed. The stranger sat in the black sedan for a few minutes then drove away.

Marcus could not bear the curiosity and made his own way down to the tracks with a flashlight, but as long as he looked he could not find whatever had been wrapped in the red cloth. Whatever the stranger had left behind was gone – or beyond his ability to find.

Time passed and more strangers came. Young and old, rich and poor. They drove or they walked or they rode garish bicycles – always to the end of his street, always to the rail road tracks, always bringing something. Sometimes Marcus could see their offering – bowls of stones, a loaf of gray bread, red flowers in a green vase — all placed over the tracks among the ruined factories. All placed and left, but try as he might Marcus could never find them after the strangers departed.

And still at night, the music. Marcus found himself humming through his day, trying to remember the tune. He still could not place it, but was sure that it was sad.

He asked his neighbors again – about the music, about the strangers. They frowned and shook their heads and handed him back the question unopened.

At last, he could stand it no longer. He waited on his front porch at sundown for three days, until another stranger appeared. An older woman in a long blue dress walked down his street, her eyes already looking beyond the rail road tracks – Marcus had learned to recognize the gaze. She carried a small box under one arm. He rushed across his yard to move between her and the tracks and held up a hand in greeting.

“I am sorry to bother you, but – but I live here. And for weeks and weeks I’ve watched people like you come to the tracks, to the this place – and all of you leave something. Can you tell me what’s going on? Why you come here?”

She smiled politely, and said, “No.”

And to his surprise she walked past him.

She walked past him and continued on to the shore and beyond, with the box under her arm. Marcus followed.

The woman in the blue dress walked across the tracks and sat the box down on a collapsed brick wall.  She sighed, then turned and walked back the way she had come. She nodded to Markus but did not speak. He watched her go, wanting to call out again, to ask more questions – but he knew it was fruitless.

Then the music came – louder than he had heard before. He blinked and the sun jumped below the horizon, he blinked again and the street lights came on — not the customary yellow-white, but a pickle-green. He turned and the box was gone and the music was so loud and he was singing and he was singing and he was crying and crying and the fog, the fog was green the fog was green, green as cucumber and how could he ever forget the tune?

A few months later, a new family moved in next door to Marcus – a lawyer and her husband and three children who quickly became enamored of his dogs. One evening, after hot dogs and wine he was chatting with the lawyer while her husband and her children threw a blue disc around the yard. She stopped mid-sentence and leaned in close, ” Marcus – this is a weird question, I know – but the past couple of nights I’ve been hearing music outside at night. Do you know where it’s coming from?”

Marcus took a slow sip of wine and felt her question on his tongue. He gave as good an answer as he had.

“Over the tracks.”

“But there’s noting over there but ruined old buildings and trash? I saw a cop walking down there last night, I wonder if kids are sneaking in to hang out there?”

“The cop probably had something to give.”

“Something to give?”

“We all have something to give — we all owe something, eventually.”

“Marcus, what are you talking about? Am I missing something? Are you making fun of me?”

Marcus smiled politely, and said, “No.”

9 times the comet

1 the comet came

and i

2 the comet came

and i was back in my brain

but

3 the comet again

this time like a friend

standing demanding

the globe reprimanding

not sure what it meant

but the sparrows are landing

4 the comet

jaws like a sonnet

circle of singers in the crest of a wave

praying and laying the heart of  knave

i made me a man of lightning and air

someone i thought could take me to where

the stink and stammer of the stardust corruption

was something that my wit could wrap with eruption

i made me a man who made only pain

because villains are willing to howl in the rain

lessons i carved but erased every morning

my ironside doggerel is whippoorwill warning

5 the comet

still think I’m on it

ship made of stories and stolen bluebonnet

6 the comet, nothing this year

creeping down alleys  and clutching my spear

7 the comet, harder and harder

running out of rambles kept safe in my larder

rhythms are ramshackle and fable for fools

the weaver won’t last if even his loom unspools

8 the comet, the comet, the comet

it’s not hard it’s only hard when it’s only the comet

comet the blood comet the time

comet the singer puking up rhyme

 

 

9 times the comet

9 times the gauntlet

unsteady remainder i wait for the sun

i am a container for days on the run

 

 

 

i hate this

no not that

here not then

now now, no no

too late

wrong color

wrong tone

wrong black and tan wire wrapped around the phone

i love that, i hate this

screwing up my courage to type the word kiss

hamper your temper and still sharpen the blade

no one can never know how the light lines are made

gardens of gerunds and sultans of nouns

everything lost when the red marble’s found

no  wrong, too late

a heart sigh too much

i hate what you make what i make what these make

what clatter is the matter when the three day bread can only break

all there is is this

this i hate all i have that i have is this

i hate your this

i hate your that

jealous and sour and howling cravat

stop

stop this

stop that

too late

The Wind

Start small.

Build a tree, and a chair beneath, and then wind, and then night. The wind is cold.

An actor enters, sits on the chair. They are waiting.

Start small.

The actor is a man with red hair. His clothes are old, cut for a larger person, perhaps stolen. The man sits in the chair and leans back. His head almost brushes the bark of the tree. He shivers. He is waiting.

Already the lines form in the dark, already the roots spread.

Tempting to leave him here. Tempting to leave the man to his moment. Is he waiting for a lover, waiting for a rival, waiting for the sun to rise? Ask but the answer is already clawing against your teeth.

He is not a young man, nor old. He has a knife tucked in his belt. He once loved to sing, but now does not remember the way of it. He is waiting in the chair under the tree on the edge of the town (a town! of course, this moment requires it). He is waiting for another traveler, one that can lead him home. He has promised gold to the traveler but he has none. He has no particular plan beyond waiting and the knife and the roll of the dice.

Does he have a name? He does, but not one you can claim. He has two, but they did not travel with him. Why him, why this shadow and not one of your own? The question is sharp and heavy but you feel the moment passing.

The man in the chair looks up, almost as if he can hear you pondering.

You are close, you are tempted to speak – but the moment is passing.

The wind is cold. The man waits and hopes to have more than a knife to offer. The tree and the chair and the town wait. The wind is cold.

rime

stand at the edge, doorway house

green field around you

you are awake at last

but empty, maybe less

than before

you wear clothes you have swallowed the thin soup

you are ready to know

if you are who you were

jonas is off chopping wood

now is the time

where you can walk alone

on skeletal feet to the edge of the water

the edge of the yard, the sun beats down

is yellow, is daffodil face

you are ready to know

if you are less

you hum

you are white hair blowing in the wind

you are skin and bone

you are

merely human

 

regret but also relief

that sleep could prove a thief

 

now you can live and die and eat bread

drink wine and let sleep take

whatever it might wish

you can be

merely human

 

ah, but now

a spike of fire on your brow

you on the edge of the water

on the edge of merely

you do what you must

you reach down

your hand in the water

your hand in the water

your hand is the water

the water is now

you replace blood with wind

skin with storm

you drink deep

ah, you drink deep

 

 

 

Belenus and Belisama

nypl.digitalcollections.510d47db-b605-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.001.wOnce before the world was old, a woman walked from her village to the river to fill a vase with water. She was no maiden. Her feet were strong on the earth, her hands full of care. She had borne two children and lost two children. Her eyes were dark and her hair was darker. Her heart was darker still. But still she walked to the river to bring water, still she sang the songs when the three moons demanded it, still she ate and still she was she.

She was named Maero, which means sorrow, for sometimes we are marked for the paths we must walk.

But on this day as she walked to the river, she found a man groaning on his back, laying on his back just a few feet off the path.  He was a golden man – hair, skin, even his eyes. A green snake was wound around his legs and the serpent had sunk its fangs deeply into his thigh.

Maero sighed and sat her vase down.  She crept forward with her careful hands and grabbed the snake behind the head. She pulled the serpent’s fangs free from the golden man’s leg, then crushed the serpent’s head with her strong feet. Without pausing, she knelt at the man’s side and drank the poison from his blood and spat it out onto the dead snake’s corpse.

The golden man moaned, but at last grew still. His golden eyes stopped fluttering and he looked at Maero.

“You saved me,” he said, “you saved me. Thank you.”

“Yes,” she tied her scarf around his wound with steady motions. “Did you not see the snake?”

“I…fell,” the golden man looked embarrassed, “I didn’t see the snake. It came upon me as I lay here.”

Maero looked around. There were no trees of any particular height on this path, nor a cliff or mountain. She looked down at the golden man in suspicion, “You fell? From where?”

The golden man pointed up towards the sky at the face of the bright morning sun. “From there.”

Maero sighed and stood. She reclaimed her vase from where it waited in her path. This strange golden man was mad and she had no time for madness.

The golden man sat up with some difficulty, “Wait! I’m telling you the truth! I am the God of the Sun, I fell from my chariot. Very embarrassing, but it is true! I am Belenus!”

The woman turned and looked at the golden man with doubt. “The god of the Sun? Then how can you be here if the sun still shines in the sky?”

Belenus opened his mouth, then closed it again. He pointed up at the sun again, but then let his hand fall. “It’s complicated!”

Maero laughed, just a tiny bit. She then turned back to continue down to the river.

Belenus had by now managed to get to his feet and called after her, “Wait! Don’t you want me to reward you? Or maybe you could…perhaps…help me?”

Maero sighed and then replied without looking back, “God of the sun or no, time waits for none of us. If you wish to come with me to the river, you can help me fill the vase. Then you can carry it back for me to the village. Then I will feed you, perhaps.”

She walked on to the river and the sun-god followed, limping but relieved.

And so it began. Maero led and Belenus followed. She taught him to fish from the river and taught him to make jars from clay and taught him to sing when the three moons demanded it.  His wound was healed within a day but he seemed in no hurry to return to the sky and his chariot. She taught him how to tend the green grapes and how to weave the sheep’s wool and how to fight when the wolves came howling.

After some time, the elders of the village approached Maero in confidence.

“Maero, “they said, “We have watched the moons and consulted the old songs, and summer has gone on too long. The cold winds should be blowing, the leaves should be turning – but none of that has happened. The sun rises and sets, but it does not alter its course. It is time for the sun-god to return to the sky.”

Maero nodded, for she knew better than to argue with Necessity.

She called Belenus to her and took him by the hand. She walked him down the same path where she had found him until they stood by the river. Maero pointed at the bank and helped him lay down. She went into the water and looked down at him.

“It’s time for you to go home, ” she said.

The sun-god opened his mouth to reply and she seized him and plunged him down under the water. Belenus flailed and clawed at her, but she was strong and sure. At last the golden man grew still and she let him float down the river.

That winter was long and cruel, and spring a weak remainder. Summer found her waiting and unsurprised when Belenus walked through her door again.

She took him in her arms and comforted the sun as it wept. He could not stay and she could not go and time waits for none of us. She drank the poison from him and spat it out on the earth, then she turned so he could see the child sleeping behind her.

From then on the woman chose a new name, Belisama, which means faith, for sometimes we choose our own paths no matter how hard or shadowed they may be.

As it was told to me, I tell to you. Let the sun turn on the wheel and bring us back together.

Invocation Sketch

Sing in me, O Muse

of fire.

Fire that burns the grass

fire that is the grass

perennial

sure and rude

on the hillside.

Sing of fire and sing of the night

when.

The night when She saw Fire and

everything after

The tournament of wands

and the beloved annihilation.

And

everything after.

The fire is here

come closer

it is what we always say.

Or

are you Fire?