Four Pagan Poems

In a Barber’s Chair[1]


“Before me and, I know, behind

Tunnels the mirrored mirror of myself.”

“At least, your self that reflects

On where the edges of reflection meet.

`I breathe the mountain air of numbers.’

He’s ascetic too; he’d seize every minute

To look between the stars,

Wants time diamond-cut, and pure as glass.”

“In a distant glass, I, illogical,

Blackgnarled, a tree.”

I have mountainsides on every side

Where one and one are a forest

That roots in the nonlogical self,

Who, neither true nor false, but real as stones,

Rambles in the city.”

“Where I see

Violet trees against a green night sky

And sitting women’s thighs that, slightly enough

Apart, show white silk slick over memory-tangling hair.”

“This barber prunes the self that, necktied

By biology, sits at desks of discipline and works,

While I the anarchist wave unroamed words

In the corner of his eye.”

“I the self for the barber’s eye,

Samson and child and masculine protest,

See my selfs flung out before me,

Selfs that Janus-face on others,

Selfs like Kali, bull-swan-Zeus, and satyrs,

And selfs unparalleled by myth.”

“The I is caught by this procession

And speaks poems in all our voices, known or not.”

“Then am I the poet like all men

A patchwork quilt over the animal,

Broad sown by the illusion of a thread?”

No, underneath is arbiter, choreographer,

Vishnu within, Preserver of my ostinato base,

Organum that informs the social tunes I choose:

I am my avatar of Atman, and I dance.



The Poem that Weds Larry and Catherine

With festive bread

I thee wed

And take thee

To our marriage bed.

With festive wine

I make thee mine

And from this night

I shall be thine.


Goddess of the earth,

Make this our rebirth.

Goddess of this life,

Keep our love as man and wife

Quick as the dance of drum and fife,

Our joy, our rock in spite of strife.


Goddess, we give to each these rings:

Let us be a pair of wings

On which our love shall fly and sing,

Together as complete a thing

As the circle of the ring.


Goddess, as we share your meat,

Let our love grow rich as wheat.

Goddess, as we share your wine,

Let our love grow wild as vines.


Goddess of air, of sea, of earth,

Goddess of love, of life, of birth,

Goddess, here your blessing shed

That we by your grace be wed,

Married by your ancient light,

Married on your ancient night,

Married by your ancient rite,

Married in your ancient sight.


Goddess, let our tongues be free

Always to talk, quick to agree,

And let our hearts be open wide

To keep us from a stubborn pride.

Goddess, come into our nest;

Let us be with children blest.


We, by ring and wine and bread

Are wed.

We are man and wife,

For life!

[This wedding, at Litha 1963, was apparently the first ritual in modern times devoted strictly to the Goddess. We weren’t really paying attention to that fact at the time.]



The Contentions of Love and Strife[2]


Sing, Goddess, of the start of things

And of the war of Aphrodite and Eris,

Who, insulted, threw the golden apple

That caused the first war among men.


Eris and Eros, the ultimate twins,

The dynamic tension at the heart of things,

Manifesting multiformed in the world we see,

Are all gods and goddesses in one.


Eris, Erinues, Ares, are the force of hate,

Eros, Aphrodite, the force of love.

Without the one nothing would be the same.

Without the other nothing would be different.


Aphrodite is gravitation; so the stars make love.

Eris centrifugal, by which the universe expands.

Love drives us on to truth, the Shaman says,

And war as well, the warrior testifies.


Order is created by two forces in balance.

If either force prevails, then chaos returns.

The chaos of sameness is as dead

As the chaos of total difference.


Zeus slaying Typhon is not simply

The drawing of order out of chaos.

Zeus unopposed is as chaotic as any dragon.

No, order and our human world exist

Because Zeus battles the dragon forever,

And if either ever wins, we’ll never know it

As the veils of order collapse around us

Into a bright nothingness, or a dark one.


Atalanta flees, and the suitor never catches up;

Atalanta pursues, and the suitor throws

Eris’s own apple to escape from her warrior maid.

But Aphrodite and Eris are not forces, but Goddesses:

They know the dance depends

On the exquisite balance, the unresolved tension.


Therefore never assume you know

Why a Goddess does what She does.

Who put Peleus up to ignoring Eris?

Who put Hades up to seducing Kore?

Athena mixes into love affairs all the time

And Diana’s no goody twoshoes in the dark.



De Rerum Regina[3]

How remember you Madonna dove?

How reflower your wing maid hair?

Who dance the letters of your hand?

Who sing the numbers of your name?


Where gone your unsounded cymbals?

Who ride your were-turn beasts?

What woman serve you reincarnate?

What man dare relie on her?


Who tend the phases of your eyes?

Who reseed the spiral of your trees?

Returns you that Sothic wheel?

I feel you reeling in the slack.


Amusing to terror, she

Is rock of incarnate sea.

Whether there be step or still

It please man to call his, will

Her signates come and go,

Whether man please or know.


[1] First version completed January 15, 1961; revised January 15, 1965.

[2] Composed ca.1963-64.

[3] Written April 1964; revised about 1973.

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