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~ By Courtesy of Others ~

 

Lammastide

I can remember, son of my womb,
when you were born, nudging your way
gently from between my parted thighs to rest,
gasping and mewling, on my breast
while your sister came out laughing.

You and she, the most precious of any gifts,
and I, the dark priestess, the Veiled One
forever cast into shadow next to
your ever-shining, twin golden flames.
It is there I will wait for you, unseen,
to return from that land of greater shadow.

The procession moves slow and solemn down
a well-worn dirt track between fields bursting
with rye and barley, between row upon row
of plump and shining fruits hanging from limbs
as graceful as your sister’s slow walk.

She holds your hand easily, freely, only
a tiny line between her pale brows giving away
the feelings that will not rest, no matter
how often she must witness this,
the terrible beauty of sacrifice.

And the other, paler still, dark hair braided
like a crown for a queen without a realm –
she clings to your arm, her expression still
as the soft snows of winter on the ground.
Her tears will not fall until you do.

We come to the place, a hollowed stone
lying on its side, placed there so long ago
few now remember whose lands laid it.
I do, and I recall the faces of those long dead.
It seems fitting, given what I must do.

You embrace your twin, her shining hair falling
like a curtain around you both, then she steps
back among the assembly, her lips smiling,
her eyes hard and steely as a naked blade.
Your wife lays her head on your shoulder.

I see your eyes, blue as the deep sky, earnest
and knowing, gaze out past her shoulder
to the ripening fields and the fecund gardens
and now it is your lips that smile, your hands
that soothe as you kiss her and gently part.

The sickle is heavy and cold in my hand.
I gesture to the stone, where others come forth
and lay down armfuls of grain, loaves,
casks of beer, the first fruits of the year,
and step back, bowing, waiting for the moment.

Someone begins a low hum which swells
into a chant, the rhythm keeping time
with the beating of your heart which only I,
your mother, can hear as I raise the blade
like a sliver of molten silver in the sunlight.

O golden king, journey hard and fast
to the silent lands for this night
and return to us on the morrow.
O golden king, your blood waters
and makes fruitful the ground, rise,
rise reborn from the fields fallow
O golden king, Death is waiting
with arms outstretched, go to her,
go and return to us on the morrow.

And you smile, so that only I can see.

A language no mortal man yet remembers
thrumming like the song of insects from
the trees surrounding our fields, and now I move
faster than lightning to open your throat.
I step back and watch your light dim and go out.

Blood spatters the harvest, sprayed across
the stone, pooling in your white robes,
making long crimson rivulets across the dark,
moist soil as your body topples, golden hair
full of blood, your mouth open around silence.

Your bride’s tears fall like another rain of blood.
Your sister opens her eyes and steps forth,
putting a slender arm around her, leading her
from this place, and the crowd parts as it does
every year, people falling into line behind.

I stand still, blood dripping from the sickle.
The procession retreats, mourning cries and wails
of sorrow high on the warm summer air.
I alone will stand watch until you return
from Hela’s kingdom, and I alone will see:

First the hills forming the features of your face,
all this streaming golden grain becoming your hair,
every river leaping, shining, fish-filled and bright
with the gleam in your eyes, the flat fertile plains
becoming taut muscles of your body, trees strong
forming the pillars of your bones, and your cock
bursting with life and showering these lands
with the snowfall of winter and flood of spring
to make them yield and nurture and put forth
all that our people need to survive and thrive.
I will see you echoed in this land when Sunna
comes rioting over the edge of the world, her
long hair blazing, laughter echoing as the ground
erupts, splits apart and sprouts, turning green,
greener, then golden, barley lifting its head
towards the sun’s skirts, birdsong triumphant,
and the pulse of your blood singing in every cell
of every plant and beast and being, your return
warming even myself, wrapped in the darkness
of under-earth and night and deep bogs,
you, my son, the sacrifice that gives and gives
and gives me a smile as you rise whole and stand,
alive again, alive, so that I can at last revel
in the bittersweet joy of what we have done,
in the gladness and glory of another year gone.

© Elizabeth Vongvisith

Twilight and Fire - Mysticism, devotion, and explorations of the heart.
 

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