Origin Myths

i.
how could i even begin to write you love poems?
to say but a single word would eclipse the boundless others that describe your love,
to say them all would be to obscure the infinite unspeakable ways
you move me
and rustle in my bones,
as miraculous as an onion
unpeeling itself in the field
to feel the wind on its nakedness.

to be loved by you is to live under a summer sun,
even as the leaves uncouple from the arms
that held them,
and Indian summer abandons us
to the season of shadows,
under you still, i burn.
leaving you each morning is like that,
to part from the source that lends me life
to deny the sugars that you pump through my veins
and scatter myself to the wind,
to nourish the earth
as you think i do.
sometimes i worry i will lose myself in dispersal,
but always you catch my hem
and pull me back
to be ground again under your pestle
making me fresh again to the world
I might almost have forgotten how to love.
medicine man.
buffalo man. let’s rebuild the herd.

when i wake with you i feel the rock of the sea,
rhythm has returned to the movement of the earth
and it quickens my feet as sure as my heart.
to be loved by you is to dance like the plague of 1518
but instead of prescribed bleeding,
for once, they built a dancehall.


ii.
How could I not have known
that all that time in the forge
was for you?
And you my love, your animacy is the greatest miracle of all.
Clay-man, when did it happen?
All the sweet whispers, kisses upon your earthen brow,
the first fire, the second,
sharing tea with you, propped charmingly,
(I held the cup to your lips but drank for you)
my soft caresses, walks with you through the forest
(cradled in my willow basket),
telling you of lichens and hazelnuts,
laying you down on a bed of moss,
sungazing,
stargazing,
still you were leaden to me.
And then one day –
when did it happen?
there you were,
breath, warmth, light in your eyes, humor on your lips,
animate at last, smoothed under my hand
but not mine.
alive all on your own.
And so the tiny bushy habitat between your lip and nose
in the softness of your mustache,
this is my native habitat.
How effortless it is
to refine my awareness just to perch on that softest ledge
tasting every breath.
Moss face. My muse.

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iv.
Soft lips, big hands,
whence did you come?
I love kissing you in the doorway with a bosom full of figs,
October mists and colors wreathing the porch,
but past your sly smile the world is a blur.
why write poems about it anyway?
to love you is purer poetry,
the way Potawatomi is all verbs and no nouns,
they knew –
the truth of everything is more in action
than idea anyway.
Nothing holds still long enough
to be truly known,
least of all you, my love
though you claim I am the one who flits like the towhee.
Well where are you now?
Racing across turtle island
to expand yourself in the doorways of others
And I am here still,
bent over the cabbages and turnips
in the chill of the morning,
slowly pulling each one by its hair up into the sunlight
looking for you underground perhaps.

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v.
Becoming indigenous to place,
is above all,
a work of love –
of love-making.
Of limerence.
To know the place where hazelnuts grow
and the name of the tiny bird who visits
the composting toilet each morning.
To spend time with the marsh
reclaiming itself in the low spot on the old logging road,
to ask it what it needs.
Loving you lets me settle
into land-loving,
to make a place,
to learn, and where absent, to create place-names
To be rooted like cedar
To build our home of maple wood and cattail mat.
Ambling loses its romantic appeal
When where you are,
I am.

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vi.
Oh, how I now know
what it is to be a wartime wife,
peeling burdock into a basin on the back porch
while the first good rain of October falls;
waiting hard on the next letter,
growing my victory garden.
Wind whistles the treetops;
would that I could whistle for you
and bring you home
for dinner,
that easy.
I lay deep bedding for the chickens
and think of my own bed
without you in it.
Knowing that you loved me then
doesn’t fill an empty belly today.
It leaves me pitted like an olive –
a girl can’t live on a letter a week.
The wartime rations won’t last long
you promised,
but I’m forgetting your eyes and your taste already
and I’m not sure if you’ve worn down all the grit in me,
or if waiting on you will make sandpaper of me yet.

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vii.
And so the question becomes
whether to tidy away
all the moments in which you filled my heart with song
and with one look at you, my cup overflowed
fatally, terminally,
and I knew I was done for –
There is no unfiring the vessel,
and I will gladly drink.
Do I let our love be stalled in amber
so I can move about my ministries
with an unburdened heart,
while you are away gracing the wild of the world
beyond my gaze
for months on end?
(must I wait, pining, for such months to end?)

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An open letter to baba yaga

I heard you call my name, and so here i come
lost and found again.
i come barefoot into the forest
seeking the dark of trees beyond lampposts
seeking the wet density
the pungency,
the hollow logs.
i come in a blood-stained dress, bramble-torn
and smelling of the animal inside me.
i am listening for your vulture call
for the sound of cracking bones
of boiling fat.
i come hungry and mostly unafraid,
though shivers run my spine.
i would climb inside your cauldron
i would be your winter soup
your midnight snack,
your final meat.
i hear you call out from those forgotten places
from the choose-your-own-adventure gone awry
screeching and clawing at the library door.
at first i thought it was our cat gone into heat
at first, i thought it was the wolf
come to blow blow blow my house down.
at first i was sure i heard uneven footsteps just beyond the gate
but then i heard my name amidst the howling
amidst the thunderstorm of shattered glass
and then my egg tooth began to chatter,
to gnaw my knuckle bone
and then my skin began to crawl
into the twilight
into the compost pile
into name we have for fecundity.
i felt the center of me blush
and rush to meet the sea.
of course they had warned me against you
with the tallest tales of stolen simmered children
lost to the hungry hearth of the chicken-footed house.
they told me the dew-covered dawn was your youngest son and servant
and the dusk your firstborn, dark and strong.
how they carry the faces of day on horseback
how your every wish is their only command
how they are the ones who know the song to make your house stand still long enough to come in,
or get out.
then, they lower their voices, and glancing over their shoulder
they tell me how your tongue is the snake
how your flying grinds bones into meal
how your bloody mouth never stops screaming the death of the world
how all the darkest shadows do your bidding.
alas they never told me
that your bidding was for the rising stars to keep up with their dancing
for night to always turn back into day.
they never told me that the death you offer brings all the world to life again
and spins a web of story, fine,
into which, at our best,
we become woven.
i heard you call you my name, and so here i come,
lost and found again.

– EVE LADYAPPLES