Bitter Winds Blow [!]

I love Winter. As the cold rushes in to fill the void, chill skims my arms, I get happier. Rain makes me smile. Snow, giggle. Here, in California, we seem to come upon it so quickly that the shift is sometimes difficult. Sixty degrees one day, thirty-five the next. Breath crisping the air around our lips. I feel alive in the cold. I feel free in the wet mist of low, cloudy mornings, cold car seats, and icy railings. Obviously, I am not alone. Just as obviously, I am thought of as insane by the Lizards among us. While I was reading this morning on the Solstice, I read a section of Hesiod’s Works and Days that seems fitting. Boetha, it seems, is not a place of ice worshiping. Lenaeon is the month that begins somewhere around..oh, today. Enjoy!

“Avoid the month Lenaeon (21), wretched days, all of them fit to skin an ox, and the frosts which are cruel when Boreas blows over the earth. He blows across horse-breeding Thrace upon the wide sea and stirs it up, while earth and the forest howl. On many a high-leafed oak and thick pine he falls and brings them to the bounteous earth in mountain glens: then all the immense wood roars and the beasts shudder and put their tails between their legs, even those whose hide is covered with fur; for with his bitter blast he blows even through them although they are shaggy-breasted. He goes even through an ox’s hide; it does not stop him. Also he blows through the goat’s fine hair. But through the fleeces of sheep, because their wool is abundant, the keen wind Boreas pierces not at all; but it makes the old man curved as a wheel. And it does not blow through the tender maiden who stays indoors with her dear mother, unlearned as yet in the works of golden Aphrodite, and who washes her soft body and anoints herself with oil and lies down in an inner room within the house, on a winter’s day when the Boneless One (22) gnaws his foot in his fireless house and wretched home; for the sun shows him no pastures to make for, but goes to and fro over the land and city of dusky men (23), and shines more sluggishly upon the whole race of the Hellenes. Then the horned and unhorned denizens of the wood, with teeth chattering pitifully, flee through the copses and glades, and all, as they seek shelter, have this one care, to gain thick coverts or some hollow rock. Then, like the Three-legged One (24) whose back is broken and whose head looks down upon the ground, like him, I say, they wander to escape the white snow.

(ll. 536-563) Then put on, as I bid you, a soft coat and a tunic to the feet to shield your body, — and you should weave thick woof on thin warp. In this clothe yourself so that your hair may keep still and not bristle and stand upon end all over your body.

Lace on your feet close-fitting boots of the hide of a slaughtered ox, thickly lined with felt inside. And when the season of frost comes on, stitch together skins of firstling kids with ox-sinew, to put over your back and to keep off the rain. On your head above wear a shaped cap of felt to keep your ears from getting wet, for the dawn is chill when Boreas has once made his onslaught, and at dawn a fruitful mist is spread over the earth from starry heaven upon the fields of blessed men: it is drawn from the ever flowing rivers and is raised high above the earth by windstorm, and sometimes it turns to rain towards evening, and sometimes to wind when Thracian Boreas huddles the thick clouds. Finish your work and return home ahead of him, and do not let the dark cloud from heaven wrap round you and make your body clammy and soak your clothes. Avoid it; for this is the hardest month, wintry, hard for sheep and hard for men. In this season let your oxen have half their usual food, but let your man have more; for the helpful nights are long. Observe all this until the year is ended and you have nights and days of equal length, and Earth, the mother of all, bears again her various fruit.”

–TDD with a guest appearance by Hesiod

The Darkness of Year’s Passing

Somewhere, toward an unknown destination, I think of clusters of sunsets and wonder at the flight of days. As I drove down the road on my last day away from work, I listened to Schumann, master of otherworldly piano  melancholy, whilst blackbirds by the dozens punctuated with spastic flight the closing of the past year. The mourning of it, really. What was there left to think about, save next week’s deadlines and the pressing forward. I looked back, into the shadow, only to see the fragments of the merry season of Winter fading with the removal of Christmas lights and festive signage. Capitalism collapsed in upon itself and we were only left with the faded memories of what was, what was wanted, and what passed by us all so quickly.

My soul is tired. It stands in a barren field, amidst the trees of past years, veiled and dreary, weary of all that is shiny and new in the world. Every year I make the same tired plea – please, do not gift me anything next year. I can’t bear it any longer. I have too much, need too little, and want for nothing. It seems, however, that all the masses around me are waiting for the next big holiday. Cash is king, Credit his willing mistress. A card came in the mail today, espousing us to already think of Valentine’s day. One wonders if there is time for much enjoyment of anything now.

It seems to me that all are sloughing off the idea of death and passing, holding on to the next big thing, the next great purchase, a small sort of secret, sinful pleasure that stirs the soul into having rather than being.  The eternal search for the fountain of not only youth but immortality is alive and well and living in American Culture. Yet, I mourn. I am sorry to see the past year gone; not for my having regrets or desires of youth. I am sorry to see it gone as is normal for all those things which have been created and must die. The years must die for new ones to be born, as the cliche goes. However, we must reflect. We must wallow in our achievements and our failings, one last time, with deep thought and emotion, or else we are doomed to repeat, and repeat again, year after year.

I am always a little dark and mournful this time of year. Sickness eases the intensity of thought but provokes the deeper longing. “Traumeri” by Schumann heightens the feeling. I am reminded of Byron, perhaps for the same reasons. Humans are not so different through the ages. It would be wonderful if perhaps we could remember that.

My Soul is Dark

My soul is dark—Oh! quickly string
The harp I yet can brook to hear;
And let thy gentle fingers fling
Its melting murmurs o’er mine ear.—
If in this heart a hope be dear,
That sound shall charm it forth again—
If in these eyes there lurk a tear,
‘Twill flow—and cease to burn my brain—

But bid the strain be wild and deep,
Nor let thy notes of joy be first—
I tell thee—Minstrel! I must weep,
Or else this heavy heart will burst—
For it hath been by sorrow nurst,
And ached in sleepless silence long—
And now ’tis doom’d to know the worst,
And break at once—or yield to song.

–Lord Byron and…


As a bheith. Daonna. I Cuimhne.

Of Being. Human. In Memory.

Kristine Hawes, 2009

Flash. Bright white line across the iris like a scalpel blade. Photo fade.

Arm trailing in a puddle of winter rain, sleeper’s tears. Woman’s fears. In any other place it would appear as child’s pose, recompose. Not found amongst the sadness, loss only a needle prick, blood thin and thick, in small doses of manageable life. Golden fabric tarnished in the muddy ground. Shhhh. There is only sound.

Flash. Scalpel blade. Photo fade.

Long ashen hair, in a similar face. Could find no trace, of life in the empty space, between ribs three and four, as if the bathroom floor contained the emptiness of chilling world, cold door. To the secret life of tender torment, the moment, when life breathes a single awesome breath filled with the anger of moving through time, moving through creation. The elation, of that unique pinprick death of bliss. A sweet incubus. Kiss.

Flash. Bright white line like a murderer’s blade. Photo fade.

Dry hungry tears and dusky, succulent skin, a hollow well within, toward which we all must turn. Some with burn, some with scorn, some unwittingly, full of painful vain and blame, some with shame. In the bright white flash of the moments of time fine creation’s move, we all must prove, must mark, and hearken, back to the soul. Of God.

–TDD, Ó an aisling a cara a chónaíonn le pian, dó.

Something Wicked…

A dark fall rides the horizon, cusp of the day at hand
Cold sleepy steel arrives in sheets
A devilish sound, Tom Waits inbound
And somewhere, a moment and whisper in blue
Time tides the sound on the crest of a wave
And all that I want is the unworked clay of today
Hot ashes, hot sheets, swimming in sweat
Something forgiving, something conjured
The needing is fresh flesh in the key of D
Twisting in skin, the sound of the net
Caught glimpses of something to be
A taste and a tear, of something so sweet
Teeth and comfort and fingers in you
The clock ticks the moments
In velvety waves stretched
beyond their normal design
Finger tapping, rain rapping
Something sapping the strength from my mind
The nova burst on hydrogen cue
Is it time? Is it here? Has the moment arrived?
A thought passing into divide
A chain and a cross
Sweeping down a firm arm
Coursing into a river run wide
Something slick, a new trick
As if it was something new learned
Your eyes betray something
It’s nothing, your body can’t possibly hide
The Dark Carnival
Has surprise something inside
By my pricking thumbs
Oh, here he… here he… God… here he…

–TDD (February 2009)

Praise Song for the Day, by Elizabeth Alexander

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each other’s eyes — or not — about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair. Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum, with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus. A farmer considers the changing sky. A teacher says, “Take out your pencils. Begin.”

We encounter each other in words — words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, “I need to see what’s on the other side. I know there’s something better down the road.”

We need to find a place where we are safe. We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle. Praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign, the figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Others by “first, do no harm” or “take no more than you need.” What if the mightiest word is “love” — love beyond marital, filial, national; love that casts a widening pool of light; love with no need to preempt grievance?

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun. On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp, praise song for walking forward in that light.