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As I approached Glastonbury Tor, my mind began to float freely and follow the spiral that my feet ascended up to the top. All around me was still; I had been lucky enough to get to the site early, and no other pilgrims were around. I climbed slowly, listening to my own breathing and the occasional birdsong. Feeling a bit chilled, I realized that I was beginning to walk through swirling mist. It lay thick on the ground, and was beginning to rise like water around my legs. I was slightly concerned, but felt my mind relax into the mist, becoming one with it.

I continued to walk as though by instinct, and eventually reached the top of the Tor. I had expected to find the standing tower of the chapel of St. Michael de Torre, but instead encountered the most curious wall of vegetation. It climbed high above my head and was intertwined with all manner of viney flowers whose faces peeped from within and on the surface of the hedge. I walked around it, realizing that it was some sort of circular wall. Eventually, as I traversed its circumference, I reached an opening. I peered within, seeing only darkness and mist, with a limited amount of light to the left. I turned to look back at the surrounding lands, and noted that the sun was just clearing the horizon directly facing me, hitting me full in the eyes. Dazzled, I stepped back into the opening of the hedge, and it immediately closed, trapping me within the greening corridor. I was frightened. My breathing quickened and my heart pounded.

As my eyes dilated with fear, I began to make out details of my prison. It appeared almost as a hallway, leading to the unknown. I tried to regain the exit, but the opening was now a solid wall and could not be penetrated by my hand, which I plunged into it again and again. Finally yielding, I cradled my scratched and bloody hand and wrist, panting for breath. I saw that I had no choice. I must move ahead. Invoking the goddess and kissing the trio of crystals that I wear on a chain around my neck, I stepped forward.  As I walked, my eyes became accustomed to the gloom and I soon realized I was in a labyrinth. Having walked a labyrinth before, I quickly fell into a meditative state which deepened with each step. Without realizing it, I had begun to chant:

Roots reaching into the earth,
Down to the depths of the Earth
Life flowing from the world’s heart,
Cerridwen, Thou art.

Trees reaching up to the sky,
Trees with their limbs in the sky.
Stars, nestled sweet on thy bough,
Cerridwen, art Thou.
  This chant was unknown to me. In fact, I was chanting in another language completely. I stopped, surprised, and the chanting immediately stopped as well. I tried to summon it again to my lips in vain. It was not until I walked on and fell back into reverie that I could sing it once again. I was channeling the song, and it felt as though it came straight up from the earth into my chest and out my throat and mouth. I continued to walk, and the chanting became louder, my own voice joined with the voices of others, and although I looked around, I saw no one. The chant carried me along, and suddenly, I was in the center of the labyrinth, standing in a large central clearing.

Trees and shrubs surrounded a clear pool, with a tumbling waterfall creating a musical sound that blended with the chant. I moved toward the pool, aware of rustling and movement in the grasses and shrubs around me. I turned my head quickly many times, but caught glimpse of no one. Seating myself on a large flat rock, I dipped my hand into the pool, and drank deeply of the clear water. As I raised my head, mouth dripping, I saw a woman.

She was the most astonishing creature—her visage appeared to constantly change, her appearance first that of a beautiful young maiden, then a woman lush and heavy with child, and then a magnificent old crone. She wore a gown of indeterminate color, but radiant, and a large raven sat upon her shoulder. Her flickering appearance was troubling at first, but eventually my eyes became used to the sight and my brain interpreted her as simply “trinity.” She held a silver bowl out to me.

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“Drink, my lady.” I reached toward her as in a dream. She plunged the bowl into the pool, filling it to the brim, and handed it to me. I took it with both hands and drank deeply. The water ran down the sides of my face as I quenched a thirst deeper than that I had ever known. I felt a sudden tremor and dropped the bowl, sinking back onto the rock. Suddenly I was within and above myself at once, and traveling over the landscape at a breakneck pace. I was held gently within the air, and as I looked down upon my body, I saw silver streams emanating from all of my limbs.

I flew, weightless, into the sky, moving across the earth toward the night, toward the stars and the moon on the other side of the globe, and then flew faster and faster until at last I began to uncoil, as does a spool, and leave a trail of silver behind me, seen from earth, no doubt, as a comet or a falling star. This continued for some time as I became lighter and more ethereal. Finally, I began to slow, and I became aware that I had changed. I was pure energy, just a point of pure energy dancing in the great hall of the universe, and all around me I could sense other points vibrating and moving, pulsing toward and away from one another. I was a point, individual and whole, but part of a collective as well. The feeling was magnificent, the singularity and collectivity of childbirth or sexual ecstasy—I wanted to stay in this form forever!But gradually, I could feel the pull of the earth and the tides, and I realized I was moving in the opposite direction, gaining ethereal matter, becoming more substantive, moving toward the sunrise. I traveled long, and landed back in my body, lightly, and with more than a little regret. The woman stood before me, smiling, and holding the bowl.

“Welcome, young one. You are reborn. Go forth in splendor.” I smiled at her flickering selves, and fingered the three crystals at my neck.

“Blessed Mother,” I murmured, bowing my head and closing my eyes. I felt cool dry lips on my forehead. I lifted my head, opening my eyes, and found myself in front of the tower of the chapel. A crowd of tourists was beginning to gather. I decided to skip the tour, and headed back down the Tor, chanting softly to myself.  

One of many side trips……

The Taverna di Muse is lovely tonight, warm and redolent with the spicy smells of delicious and exotic foods…the music plays, transporting me to other places, other times, and I rise to my feet. I begin to dance, inhabited by the spirit of flamenco. The crooner sees me, and begins to sing a song, a flamenco-poem, in Spanish. I move through the taverna as moonlight moves on water, swaying and flowing with grace.  I end the piece with head bowed, one hand high in the air, as the crowd of artists, writers, and musicians applaud and whistle.

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ROMANCE DE LA LUNA, LUNA

A Conchita García Lorca

La luna vino a la fragua
con su polisón de nardos.
El niño la mira, mira.
El niño la está mirando.

En el aire conmovido
mueve la luna sus brazos
y enseña, lúbrica y pura,
sus senos de duro estaño.

Huye luna, luna, luna.
Si vinieran los gitanos,
harían con tu corazón
collares y anillos blancos.

Niño, déjame que baile.
Cuando vengan los gitanos,
te encontrarán sobre el yunque
con los ojillos cerrados.

Huye luna, luna, luna,
que ya siento sus caballos.

Niño, déjame, no pises
mi blancor almidonado.

El jinete se acercaba
tocando el tambor
del llano.
Dentro de la fragua el niño,
tiene los ojos cerrados.

Por el olivar venían,
bronce y sueño, los gitanos.
Las cabezas levantadas
y los ojos entornados.

Cómo canta la zumaya,
¡ay, cómo canta en el árbol!
Por el cielo va la luna
con un niño de la mano.

Dentro de la fragua lloran,
dando gritos, los gitanos.
El aire la vela, vela.
El aire la está velando.

***

Song of the Moon, Moon
   to Conchita García Lorca

The moon came to the forge
with her bustle of nards.
The boy watches the sight.
The boy is watching her.

In the trembling air
the moon moves her arm
and lewd and pure shows
her breasts of hard tin.

“Run Moon, Moon, Moon.
If the gypsies came
they would twist your heart
into chains and rings of white.”

“Boy, let me dance.
When the gypsies come,
they’ll find you on the anvil,
fast asleep.”

“Run Moon, Moon, Moon,
because I hear their horses now.”
“Boy, leave my whiteness
unmarred.”

The rider approached
tapping his tamborine.
Inside the forge was the boy,
with his eyes closed.

Through the olive grove they came,
all bronze and dreams, the gypsies.
Their heads lifted up,
their eyes half-shut.

“How the owl sings, Ay!
how the tawny owl sings in the tree!”
Through the sky the moon takes
the boy by the hand.

Inside the forge, the gypsies
cry and give shouts.
The wind guards, it guards.
The wind is guarding it.

 

Federico Garcia Lorca

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My primary goal on this tour is enjoying what is at hand, so I had planned to pack quite lightly and just take what I felt were the essentials–sturdy clothing, a mess kit, and art supplies. But one day last week, I heard a knock at my door, and opened it to find absolutely no one….however, a large package sat on my stoop, and I brought it into the house with great curiosity. My dog Katy sniffed it cautiously, and I walked around it, looking for some clue as to its origin. Finding none, I retrieved some scissors, and with great care, slit open the brown paper wrapper. Inside was a magnificent carpetbag, woven from some sort of kilim-type fabric, with sturdy valise handles and a bronze clasp that looked like two hands in prayer position. I opened the bag. I could have sworn I felt the faintest breeze, warm and spicy with odors of cinnamon and cumin, caress my face. I felt deep inside the darkness of the bag, and pulled out a garment, plain but somehow radiant, a soft, voluminous fabric that slithered through my fingers like silk.  It was a cape! Pinned to the cape was this note:

“Dear Karen: This bag contains everything you need for your journey. You have but to reach inside and you will be given whatever you need–note: I say need–not want. I understand your goal for the journey is to gain a full appreciation for what is, what you have, and what you take for granted. We all wish for the moon, but oftentimes the stars are enough. Journey in good health,

She Who Is

This journey may be more than I bargained for.  

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This is me, the fall fairy.
I bring to the party all manner of dried seeds, pods,
flowers, and grasses, to decorate
Baba’s house and festoon the
Bone Chair.
The Harvest Moon rises behind me
and I am caught in her glow.
I hope to dance with all of you
at the party.
(ps: I did the drawing…that felt good!)
Madame Eclectica, always one to steal the spotlight,
muscled her way into the life drawing class.
I hope Baba will cut her some slack.
She does look rather fetching, though.
“This is my power hand.
All the thoughts and colors of the world
are inside it, flowing through
my arteries and veins.
All creativity is a part of me,
and I am organically a part of all
creativity occurring in the world,
now, always, and forever.
I may fear that I have no access to this power
but all I have to do is reach out my
HAND.”

I hope you will enjoy this performance, and my costume. I am a bit early, but this is the only night I shall be in town…

Green Chinese Dresser

In the middle of the night I stretch my arm

up to the top of the green Chinese dresser.
It’s too tall for a bedside table,
but I wanted it close.
My fingers skim the gouge in the smooth lacquer,
one in a list of crimes for which
my ex-husband
was held accountable
in the spring of 1993.
This chest used to hold
silken scarves and gloves,
fancy linens and tiny crystal perfume ampules,
boxes of fine gold jewelry.
My grandmother’s “special-occasion wear”
was perfect for my everyday visits.
After forty years, this dresser is used to me
and my no-longer-small fingers
as I pull the drawer open with a
silken sigh.
But it has changed.
The enigmatic coquette
holding a lotus blossom
has become a marketplace auntie,
holding a basket of bread and fruit.
Glamorous silks and kid gloves
gave way to everyday ephemera.
In these fragrant drawers
my grandmother’s scent lingers,
along with
a diaphragm, pantyhose,
wrinkled photos, receipts,
love letters, scotch tape,
spare buttons, sewing thread,
tiny scissors, nail clippers,
my favorite lotion,
pens, spare beads, warm socks,
and even, once,
a vibrator.
I feel around in the bottom drawer
pull out fuzzy socks.
Slipping them on my feet,
I curl into my warm bed
knowing that the green Chinese dresser
stands tall
close by in the dark.

I have not been feeling myself of late, and if you notice
in this self-portrait, there has even been some
serious image corruption.
Obviously there is a ghost in the machine.
Could it be me?
I fear this reflects the corruption of my very soul,
and warn all travellers to beware.
I shall wander the earth on
All Hallow’s Eve,
seeking freedom from
the spell that
has surely
been cast
upon
me.
Or
maybe,
just a spot
of
BLOOD.

Harvest Moon

The moon rises
from the milky bed
of her own luminescence
golden sphere balanced
on the horizon.
I feel the magic of the world.

Harvest my thoughts, oh goddess.
Through the planting season,
beneath bright sun and midnight shade,
with tears and sweat
I laid them down.

Dormant seeds,
some gathered from last year’s crop,
some given,
clutched tightly in my damp palm
and then released,
arcing into the fertile dark loam
of memory.

They crept,
vining their way
across time, space and
my heart,
until I was covered with
green.

Goddess, come to light the harvest.
Thoughts crunch
beneath my feet,
turn to brown
as the circle closes.
The moon is round
and she rises.