Y Galwad

Cascading voices, as if from waves
throughout the resounding seaside caves,
call to promise ancestral return
while the dreamful stars smoulder and burn.
The wind whistles through resonant cracks
in mountainsides, betwixt seastacks,
while trees of a wood sacred long ago
whisper secrets only druids know
and an antler crown lays amongst roots,
skull white, hollowed eyes abloom with shoots.
Calling…Calling….Call from the Hall King—
hark and listen well, like a thrall thing
to the music that wends round the stones
standing in rows above bygone bones
of old kings, old gods, and oldest earth,
that secret-keeper with deaf-mute turf
where seas, forgotten, have gone to grass
and titans once strode by leagues to pass
with thunderous song and looming shade,
now but echoes that will in time fade.

Greyfell

And so the grim, grave Norns, those horned crones,
being truth-speakers of elder age,
upended their pouch of knucklebones
to cast the future upon its stage;
clad in grey cloaks in haggard cloth
to conceal the gaunt want of Winter’s moods
while their hair frosts like Icelandic froth
that limn the cold Northern latitudes;
whose voices are as the cracking fjords
or chill winds through whispery trees,
promising wealth, fame, or rallying hordes
for or against—forking destinies.
And all heroes must come to mortal ends,
as folk small or great, pauper to king,
at the mercy of the Wyrding trends,
echoing on in songs Man may sing.
Nor will the gods outlast the Twilight
when forces of chaos rise again,
and though the Aesir rally to fight,
the Norns have decreed they cannot win.
For like the bones with which they cast
to read runes and know what is now come,
the future is written by the past:
bones of gods from a fallen kingdom.
And Baldur falls, though born of glory,
and Thor also, venom in his veins,
and Odin himself, his famed story
coming to an end after great pains.
For ambition is a steed running strong,
a horse named Greyfell that carries far
and yet always to an end, ere long,
as Skuld snaps the reins neath a fell star.

By Maui’s Hook

By Maui’s hook, dragged up from a bubbling sea,
the myriad truths come, writhing, heavy,
nightmarish as Life itself, the gnashing teeth
aswarm with froth, quick to bite as a reef.
He hauls them up, grunting, his Time-furrowed brow
weathered, grim, like a sweat-salty ship prow
slicing through the hostile oceans wherefrom float
the alien beings round his small boat.
He hooks and drags, hooks and drags, wrestling upwards
the monsters of the sea, lone or in herds
such would make a god shudder and loathe the world
of his birth where such monstrosities swirled,
and to lose all his sense and reason and heart
like milk from a coconut, cracked apart,
for to travel either East, West, North or South
is to chart the horrors of that womb-mouth
from which Life has sprung in forms as myriad
as waves from the Cambrian period.
By Maui’s hook he snared the elusive sun
and brought light to divide the horizon
from the night above, and the abyss below
where nightmares still lurk where he dare not go—
where luminous eyes glint like stars burning bright
above the palm trees, the moon, at a height
that not even Maui’s hook may ever reach
from the shrinking shore of his island beach—
shrinking shore, sinking land, the tide-eaten isle
soon running out of time, the maws meanwhile
crowding upward from the teeming depths beneath
to devour mankind and the trickster thief
who raised the islands and stole from gods the fire
to illumine a world soon to expire.
By Maui’s hook he dragged up a brief refuge
before the bloody tide and the deluge.

Pythian Road

In a valley gleaming with goldenrod
between high-browed hills, I met a god
who was golden-crowned with the sun
and standing, quietly, by the flat-rock run
of a crystal creek, so snakelike through
the waving wildflower view,
and nearby the land that was green and gold
spread vast beyond the blacktop road,
and that rural god walked alone along
the hissing highway, whistling an easy song.
He paused a moment, lost in his thoughts,
and he shook his head at our lots.
He said, “Such haste is it you so often make
that one wonders whether you could ever brake
in time to save you from your own speed
and the fast progress that you think you need.”
Meanwhile the clouds passed overhead,
slow and silent, dark and overfed
with rain, with lightning, bloated in flight
and shading the valley from the midday light,
their pools deep and cool and blue and vast
while a car behind me lost patience and passed
to go wherever it was he thought he liked
while the pagan god took his time and hiked.
The god said, “What a fellow to rush his life
and travel a speed as if Fate’s knife
could be outpaced if he could just get ahead,
only to rush the knife along his thread.
Listen: I may have killed the Pythian snake,
but it is, in fact, an eternal loop in make,
and all mortals are bound to its coils,
so why rush the ending and all that it spoils?
It is the curse of your accelerated age
that you flip the script without reading the page.
Take your time and take in each sight
before you are confined to a Stygian night.”
And though I heard this god, I also wondered—
as the clouds above rained and thundered—
if it was wise to heed a god with all the hours
to walk so slow and admire the flowers.

The Price Of Knowledge

Artemis, her heaving virgin breast
racing hard upon the hunt, the hilltop crest
bathed in moonlight with nimble nymphs thronging
their Mistress of the Moon, all limbs longing
for the twanging of the trembling bows
and Fall’s leaves flying, red-feathered as arrows
cast down upon the wild, bush-battling boar,
shadowed by her hounds, swift upon the moor.
Yet, here, a young man, seeking the hard-won heart
of Chastity herself, ever untouched and apart,
runs fleet-footed as that winged spirit, Hermes,
upon the mercurial midnight breeze.
He is dusk-faced and dark-haired as nocturnal Nyx,
and the Huntress thinks him one of Aphrodite’s tricks,
but then he downs the boar with a single arrow flown,
marking himself in her heart—him, and him alone

The nymphs gasp and giggle and tease their virgin Queen,
but she dismisses them with a murderous mien,
scattering her nymphs to the pools, glades and trees,
leaving her alone with this man built like Achilles.
She dismisses her hounds, their tails all tucked under
and running up the mountains, rumbling like thunder.
Artemis then hails the young man, so fine of frame,
and reaches out to him and asks him his name.
“Any name you wish,” he says, “is a blessing to me,
so long as it is the name you whisper lovingly.”
Artemis blushes, as does the Moon above,
for the Moon swells, as does her heart, with a virgin’s Love.
“It feels as if I have known you my whole life,”
she says, “and it would please me to be your wife.”
The young man doffs his quiver, his crown, his bow,
and his himation, standing naked before her, toe to toe.

He says, “Let us marry one another as they did of old,
with the union of our temples, the enigma of our mold.”
How fit in form they are, chest to chest, link to link,
embraced and enjoined and bound unto the brink,
but just before the climax reaches its exultant high
and the stars and the Moon all fall from the sky,
the dark-haired stranger glows with a familiar light
and the Mistress of the Hunt knows this is not right.
Pulling free from him, she looks at her lover anew
and sees her own features reflected with a masculine hue.
“I do know you of old!” she cries aloud.
“As I you,” he says, shameless and proud.
“I have warned you, sister, of trusting mortal men,
for you are the virgin goddess of the Vestal ken
and to corrupt your temple with a mortal’s seed
would be to trade the holy flower for a sinful weed.”

Horrified, ashamed, Artemis screams for her hounds,
and aims her bow to cleanse these defiled hunting grounds.
Her twin brother, Apollo, takes to the air meanwhile,
his face twisted with a rogue’s lecherous smile.
“I will talk to Father of this blasphemy!” Artemis cries,
“and he will take your tongue, your manhood, your eyes!”
Apollo’s hair fades fair, lightening to a golden-brown
and there shines upon his head a radiant crown.
“I am the seat of Knowledge,” he says, “and upon my brow
there reside all things known, and I know you best, now.”
“I could crown you again,”Artemis screams, “if I could,
with arrows made from Hydra teeth and primordial wood!”
He pays her no mind, flying away to Mount Olympus
where all the other gods watch, laughing, from each nimbus.
Left alone, Artemis weeps for her thankless role,
Knowledge always costing the Virginity of the soul.

Plain Bird

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Before the first Wodaabe man painted his face
and brightened his teeth and danced in place,
before the first Himba woman wore butterfat and ocher
and collared herself in beads and a copper choker,
before the first Maasai man tamed cattle for his own good
and the first Maasai girl was cut along her womanhood,
before the first Dinka child was inscribed on his head
with the scars of maturity, silent as he bled,
before the Mursi and the Suri extended their lips
with plates to ward off slavers and their slave ships
there was a young girl, Amina, whom her tribe named
“Plain Bird” since she was so plain, and, so, ashamed
since her older sister was both beautiful and envied
attracting a man that was handsome and of a rare breed;
a man not a man, a carnal creature of two appetites,
a kishi, a hyena-man, a man who loves with bites.

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Amina’s older sister.

Amina saw his true face beneath the mask he wore,
yet no one believed her; not even her parents, anymore.
So she left her tribe, trying to follow her sister abroad,
traveling far from her home, and her tribal god.
But she became lost, losing sight of the hyena-man
as he sprinted on all fours, losing her behindhand.

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A kishi in his true form.

In the jungle she found herself, alone and weeping,
sitting down in the heart of the trees, tired then sleeping
and dreaming of a horrible creature that was huge and green
and towered above her, its body pudgy and obscene.
The creature was the Jungle, known as the Fanged Womb,
the Many-Mouthed Mother, the Birthing Tomb,
and the Jungle told Amina the means of her reckoning
that awaited her in the mountains, thereafter beckoning
her to wake up and to venture forth to find her Fate
in the Sky Lands, where even Death must wait.

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The Fanged Womb, The Many-Mouthed Mother, The Jungle

Feeling hopeless, Amina traveled across the African plains,
and was joined by a man who seemed addled in his brains.
He was tall and slender and had hair split in two—
one side red, one side black; his name, he said, was Eshu,
and he spoke to Amina as he would have a long lost friend,
teasing her with secrets about the world, and its End.
“I am a god of words,” he said, “of quarrels, and of Crossroads.
I am a messenger for the gods, of myriad names and many molds.”

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Eshu, the messenger god; god of words, quarrels, and Crossroads

He escorted her to the gigantic mountain’s base
while above them little pygmy cherubim flew, keeping apace.
No animals bothered, or even seemed to see them, as they went;
neither lion or hyena or cheetah or rhino or elephant.
When they reached the mountain, Eshu bowed very low,
his strangely long sleeves swishing to and fro.
“I will see you again, my love,” he said with a mischievous smile,
then danced away as the wind—across the savanna, mile to mile.
Turning to the mountain, Amina climbed for days to the summit,
all the while trying not to think of how she might fall and plummet.
At length, she found an old woman sitting by a little fire—
she was bald, long-limbed, like Amina, and judging by her
scars and tattoos she was a witch of immense power.
She said, “What brings you here, my little savanna flower?”
“I want revenge,” Amina said, “against the kishi creatures
that come to beautiful women while wearing the features
of handsome men, seducing and devouring innocence.”
The witch laughed. “But whose fault is it if women lack the sense
to know a bloody trick being played upon them, my dear?
Do you blame the lion because gazelles do not heed fear?”
Amina became angry and blew out the woman’s flame,
and the witch grinned like the Jungle, baring fangs just the same;
only her skin was not green, but was instead darkly browned—
brown like the rocks of the mountain, strewn all around.
She grew tall, and vast, as big as a mountain peak
and she looked down upon Amina, and thus did she speak:
“You are bold,” she said, “but you will need to be bolder still
if you wish to kill the kishi in their faraway hill.
But I will teach you, dearest, since you have a great destiny,
though I fear it will be bloody—very bloody— and not bless many.”

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The Hag Of the Mountain

And so the Hag of the Mountain taught Amina spells
and, more importantly, told her many of the Creation Tales,
and, unlike her tribe, Amina did not adorn herself in any way,
for that attracted the Hyena Men, the kishi, to their prey.
Amina learned to dance along the scales of a crocodile’s back
and to run on all fours, barking, among a wild dog pack,
and to sneak, unseen, amidst a flock of flighty flamingo birds
and to run headlong against stampeding wildebeest herds.
She learned blood magic, too, and how to listen to the wind,
and how to make fetishes so death would not be the end,
for she died many times in her trials and during each test
and the clay figures died in her stead so she could continue her quest.
And then there came a day when she went out upon the plains
and dressed herself up, ringing her neck with copper chains
and painting her face and looping the lobe of each ear
and dancing in the moonlight, shaking her hips with a leer.
A kishi came, as expected, and Amina invited him to dance
then wounded him with her spear, taking that lucky chance
to follow him as he fled back to his clan’s den,
running too swiftly now to ever lose her way again.
She came to the hill where women were enslaved
and killed all of the kishi, so that the women were saved,
but her sister was not among them; having died in childbirth
to give rise to another kishi to defile the earth.
In her rage, Amina also killed many a kishi son,
mercilessly erasing each and every generation.

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But the blood fury had gotten hold of her that day
and with it the notion that gods, themselves, had to pay.
For, she thought, who allowed the cruel kishi to continue?
The gods deserved to answer for their irresponsibility, too.
Thus, Amina dedicated herself to slaying the Powers That Be
and taking their fetish masks to transform herself freely
between gazelle and lion and croc and various birds,
whereupon she was visited by Eshu, the god of words
and of Crossroads, for she had lost sense of direction and place
now that she had lost herself, and her own human face.
He frowned at her and he said, in a tone as if numb,
“You hate the gods, my love, but what have you become?
You are now a god against gods, the goddess of Death.”
Amina staggered as if struck, unable to catch her breath,
for she realized it was true: she had become a primordial beast
and had offered to the Fanged Womb a glorious feast;

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The Jungle is pleased by Amina’s feast.

a feast of the gods, cloyed on the creatures of Order
now slain, destroyed, their realms in unrest, border to border,
whereas Eshu, being a god of Chaos and of Change
looked upon the devastation and gauged its range
and he said, “It is fine. You have done no better or worse
than any other creature born to Life’s blood curse.”
He took her away, then, to let her rest and recover
and, in time, she loved him deeply, though she took no lover.

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The above is an outline for a graphic novel I wish I had the time and money to pursue (albeit an outline in rhyming verse, probably because I am a masochist). Anyway, it is based on various African myths and the artwork consists of a bunch of concept designs I have been playing with throughout the years. Will it ever be made into an actual graphic novel— or, at least, an illustrated novel? I dunno. It is just another dream on the backburner right now.

La Petite Mort

“Touch my breasts, not my heart,” she demanded as she gyrated atop him to the crescendo of Stairway To Heaven. Impatiently, her hand sought his, the latter crouching timidly between her breasts like a meek, trembling gerbil, and slammed it over her left nipple; her most sex-sensitive nipple.
“Oh, don’t you fucking finish yet!” she growled, feeling him erupt inside of her.
“Sorry!” he moaned, his face contorting ridiculously with orgasm. “You’re…just…so…beautiful!”
Angry, she grinded down on him harder, trying to reach climax herself. It did not work. He went limp and shriveled, vacating whatever iota of pleasure she felt in tandem measure to his manhood. He was like all of the others, then; selfish in sex, even with all of his kisses and promises of love and his priming cunnilingus foreplay. True, he had attempted to sway her heart with love, but only because he wanted sex. She looked down at him, or what remained of him now. He looked like a mummified corpse over a thousand years old. Beef jerky, like the countless others. The ancient curse, thus, persisted, as it had since Hatshepsut had placed it upon her for fornicating with her priest in her royal temple. And she would not die and go on to the land of Duat until a man had pleased her fully.
“Ammit!” she called.
The bedroom door opened and a fat bulldog entered on stiff-jointed, squat legs.
She dismounted from the leathery corpse, almost crudely, and flicked her hand in a gesture of mild irritation.
“Another one unworthy,” she said. She walked into the adjacent bathroom to take a shower and clean up. The bulldog hopped up onto the bed and looked down at the corpse. There was, faintly, the sound of a scream— as quiet as if it came from a great distance down in the shriveled throat of the inert cadaver, barely audible above the sound of the shower faucet and Robert Plant’s mewling conclusion to his magnum opus. Then again, it could have been a pigeon’s feather brushing against the highrise apartment window. If Ammit heard it, he did not care. He opened his jowl-underlined jaws and swallowed the corpse whole, as if there unfolded in his small, pudgy body a whole dimension of oblivion belied by his ostensible size.
She sighed irritably as she reentered the bedroom, walking briskly to her clothes and scooping them up. She began to dress herself hurriedly; preparing her makeup and her favorite black dress and her golden jewelry with its sapphire scarab.
“Looks like I’m going out tonight, Ammit,” she said, huffing and puffing in princess annoyance. “I feel like the Sisyphean dung beetle, pushing his ball uphill. I will never land a good man.”
She turned off the radio, as it began to play Heart’s What About Love. She sat down in front of a long, ornate mirror, applying mascara to darken her already dark eyes. She had feline eyes, like a lioness, which she inherited from her mother. Her rounded cheeks, too, were feline and inherited from her mother’s blood, as were her full lips which always appeared puckered. Her mother had been an African consort from Ghana. Her Egyptian father gave her his long black hair and dusky skin. He had been a royal priest, much like the man she had coupled with in Hatshepsut’s temple. She wondered, sardonically, if she had daddy issues and whether this whole cursed life had stemmed from a need to fulfill an Electra complex. But she hated the Greeks, and she hated Freud, so she pushed such disgusting thoughts away lest they lead to madness.
She looked glumly into her reflection with a sense of doom. She had been cursed by beauty and desirability. No man, through the centuries, had survived a night with her. Hatshepsut had devised the most consummately ironic punishment for the trespass against her divinity. By cursing her with her boons she had guaranteed a persistent curse, seemingly without deliverance. Consequently, she lived a life of one night stands and hopeless bedside regrets. And while many men willingly died for one night with her, she had hoped one of them would overcome the curse so that she could die, at long last, and escape dull eternity as it stretched out upon the infinite horizon of Time.
She braided her black hair in a complex pattern of knots; quickly, to one side. She then sighed, hissing through clenched teeth.
“The Nile is more than just a river in Egypt,” she said.
She stood up, glancing over her comely curves in profile, beneath the black dress. She ran her fingers down the black sheer gown— over her breasts, down her belly and into the valley of her womanhood. She then slapped her hip. She shook her head and rolled her eyes.
“Seduction has lost all of its savor,” she said.
Ammit barked breathlessly, once. She glanced back at him.
“Oh, I am sure you do not mind my bounty,” she said. “I keep you well fed.”
She fetched a pair of black stilettos from her closet. They were angled like pyramids beneath the arches of her feet, raising her buttocks high with an elevated “come hither” posture. When she walked in them it was with a slow, graceful flamingo poise, even as her eyes flashed with feline predation.
Glancing once more in the long mirror—and appraising herself bodily— she nodded and headed into the hall and toward the front door. Ammit followed her eagerly, breathing laboriously. He was a very old bulldog.
“I’ll be back later,” she said to him. She opened the door and stepped out into the outer hallway. “Here’s to finding Mr. Right.”
She closed the door behind her and set off for another day of hunting for hearts.