A circle

Oh all the ungrieved anguish of my ancestors!
Compounded and condensed,
borne down upon my shoulders,
and how.
Into an icy and a fiery chill
that sinks itself into my bones
as if they were outside my body,
heaped in the compost pile
steaming in the November chill,
yet lacquered still with frost.
No safe corner of the earth to call my own
so long as menfolk overrun it,
i carry my ailing flesh into the forest,
primeval home,
wood remembering a time my flesh forgot.
I heap myself,
broken like a batwing,
lonesome as any other creature that dare survive
the anthropocene
herds and packs and flocks all –
school, pod, kettle, colony, and rookery,
emptied. disbanded. ravaged and ransacked.
A murmuration of one.
I have come to learn prayer, I tell the trees
and the gods, if they are there to hear it.
I have come to find company anywhere else
but among the two-leggeds,
traitors and savages all.
I draw in the duff a circle around myself,
a magic circle, I tell the worms
and the wind-rustled boughs.
an initiation, an invocation.
Teach me ceremony,
i must remember to remember.
once we nearly forgot fire –
how to make it leap up from well-matched
spindle and hearth,
coaxed by a little nose oil
and a knee-joint of deerbone.
Coal tucked into a fire nest, sung into being.
Have we now forgotten ceremony at last?
Is there any ember of it in me
that the Church could not scour away
with its edicts upon my grandmother’s grandmothers?
My kind traded instinct, tooth and claw,
for what their mothers learned,
for song and story, drum and dance.
Again a trade was made:
for certain salvation in the here-after,
relinquish your heathen ways
the inheritance of a hundred thousand generations.
So steadily, so arduously gained,
so swiftly lost.

Into this circle I must pack all my ancestors
who still remember.
I will open my voice for you to sing me.
My business is not with the middleman between me and the sun,
I make my supplications directly
to the sun himself. Rebirth me as a fallen seed.
Rework me as a slumped and sodden lump of clay,
add a little grit for temper.
I am humbled as the rotting log.
Let the salal grow up from my failures,
a fruit not bitter, not sweet, but belly-filling.
I entreat the Weavers:
release me from the world of scolding and betraying
let me join the nightcrawlers and the nematodes,
I will give up my body
to share company
with my cousins on this earth,
I am sorry we’ve been so estranged.
Little ember, are you there?
My people’s contribution to this earth
isn’t song – plenty of that,
or drum – all life has their own,
or dance – every moment is dance,
no – something more elusive,
gifted by the gods
or muses
or dreamtime:
ceremony.
A sacred reciprocity
to encourage the sun’s rising
and the moon’s mysterious midnight work,
and the earth’s reflowering from the dark time,
and the proliferation of all life.
To ensure abundance,
gratitude must be given.
This is my tooth and claw,
my hide and gut,
my inheritance,
my instinct
not yet extinguished.
Alive so long as I am – ceremony must be made
they tell me,
or perish.
Lost and alone.
Does the stark earth care for how I choose?
Windswept crumbling peak,
unending vista,
will my tiny prayer into the infinite please you?
Will I have done my part to sing alive the spring,
to bring rains to the thirsting plains,
to braid the oxbow
back into the river, that the mountainpeak might reach the sea?
Will you answer my entreaty –
will I know?
.

At last I return from the forest,
because the winter is cold
and a furless thing does not belong in unforgiving woods
past sunset.
My hands still empty,
though my prayers at least have left my chest
and the hollow longing lodged there
I know to be a fertile space.
Emptiness must precede
refilling.

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