I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Kenning the Goddess

At the edge of sleep you softly cry;
your body shifts into a new position.
You — once singing muse, shape-shifter,
Celtic heiress of an old religion,

pagan druidess, dream-drifter,
surf-walker, sea-talker, sand-sifter,
jewelled chalice, bright cup, gold beaker,
soothsayer, rune-writer, riddle-speaker,

Ouroboros swallowing her own tail,
Guinevere, Igraine, Holy Grail,
Isis, Astarte, Ishtar, Artemis,
Danu, Kali, Lilith, Hera, Iris,

Selene, Circe, Ceres, Guari, Gaia,
Frigg, Freya, Shapsu, Thalia, Sophia,
Venus, Diana, Dione, Terpsichore,
succubus, enchantress, strumpet, whore,

Brigid, Bellona, Maia, Morgan le Fay,
virgin, virago, temptress, easy lay,
flint, fire, flaming torch, love–potion,
cornflower, blue flower, sapphire ocean,

sea wrack, bladderwrack, sea wreck,
albatross’s wing, swan’s down, swan’s neck,
song-maker, music-mistress, harp-plucker,
colt’s foot, cat’s eye, goatsucker,

hedonist, prophetess, huntress,
sun-seeker, rain-drummer, seductress,
truffle-taster, mushroom-eater, nectar-drinker,
reclusive anchorite, allusive thinker,

fox-furred, snowy-owl-feathered,
wind-beaten, snow-sculpted, wild-weathered,
bat’s echo, mouse tail, mare’s tail, peacock plume,
rainbow’s ending, river’s rising, salt spume,

damselfly’s delicacy, dragonfly’s shimmer,
butterfly’s flutter, glowworm’s glimmer,
violet, vermilion, viridescent green,
sweet briar, briar rose, eglantine,

pomegranate, grape juice, grenadine,
raven-haired, crow-clever, snake charmer,
dawn deliverer, daydreamer, night embalmer,
priestess of good dharma, bad karma,

pin-pricked, pine-needled, poison-darted,
Medusa-headed, Miranda-hearted,
many times married, many times parted,
man-manacled, girl-powered,

taut-bowed, taut-strung, poison-arrowed,
heaven-sent, hell-harrowed,
soft-skinnned, hot-spiced, musk-scented,
part real, part mirage, part invented,

heart-stopper, head-gamer, mind-bender,
soul-sister, life-lover, love-lender,
sweet honey, sweet grape, strong wine,
thief’s consort, knave’s tart, king’s concubine,

weed-widowed, viper-tongued, world-weary,
moon-struck, moon-eyed, moon-bleary,
sun worshipper of a million suns,
stargazer at a million constellations,

embracer of magic, entrail-diviner,
tracker of turquoise, tourmaline, gold miner,
destiny’s chameleon, luck-chancer,
dark diva, moon river, moon dancer —

gently moan into your pillow,
lost in dreams of your old being,
lost in some fold or crevice of your mind,
lost in some atavistic, ancient feeling.

Your body shifts, dream-writing its history
like Minerva or Calliope; 
once you were mad Ophelia, now Penelope.

7 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

How did you come up with all these marvellous metaphors Robert?

Ruth said...

Holy WOW! You have really covered the goddess spectrum in your pantheon, Robert!

I just listened to an on fairy tales between Krista Tippett and fairy tale scholar and folklorist Maria Tatar, and your chiming lyrical litany brings up some of the names and traits of those old tales.

Something Virginia Woolf wrote in A Room of One's Own also comes to mind. She describes how widely poeticized women have been by men (across the spectrum from good to evil), and yet the reality was otherwise:

"Imaginatively she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant."

Anonymous said...

I love this poem.

from,

Maureen (Weldon)

The Solitary Walker said...

Kennings are those old Anglo-Saxon tropes, circumlocutions, compound words, Pat, and I coined some then couldn't stop... Anglo-Saxon verse is full of these, and also full of alliteration.

Yes, I was just mining the old cliché, Ruth, to see how far I could take it! Non PC, but fun.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for reading, Maureen!

Ruth said...

(Sorry I left out the word "interview" which is what I listened to.)

Oh don't get me wrong, I was making no judgment on your poem when I made my comments about goddesses and reality. (Hopefully you didn't think I was.) I think it is fascinating to see the names and references all in one place, and you did a terrific job pulling them out of the archives.

The Solitary Walker said...

No, I realised that, Ruth!

What I find may be a problem in the poem is the romantic, derivative nature of it — but that may just about be ok if one views it as an experiment in style.