Saturday, November 1, 2014

Poems for Halloween: Playlist for October 31, 2014

By  Anne Sexton  

I have gone out, a possessed witch,  

haunting the black air, braver at night;  

dreaming evil, I have done my hitch  

over the plain houses, light by light:  

lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.  

A woman like that is not a woman, quite.  

I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,  

filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,  

closets, silks, innumerable goods;

fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:  

whining, rearranging the disaligned.

A woman like that is misunderstood.

I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,

waved my nude arms at villages going by,  

learning the last bright routes, survivor  

where your flames still bite my thigh

and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.  

A woman like that is not ashamed to die.  

I have been her kind.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Atmospheres, by Gyorgy Ligeti


The Haunted Oak

By  Paul Laurence Dunbar  

Pray why are you so bare, so bare,

   Oh, bough of the old oak-tree;

And why, when I go through the shade you throw,

   Runs a shudder over me?

My leaves were green as the best, I trow,

   And sap ran free in my veins,

But I say in the moonlight dim and weird

   A guiltless victim's pains.

They'd charged him with the old, old crime,

   And set him fast in jail:

Oh, why does the dog howl all night long,

   And why does the night wind wail?

He prayed his prayer and he swore his oath,

   And he raised his hand to the sky;

But the beat of hoofs smote on his ear,

   And the steady tread drew nigh.

Who is it rides by night, by night,

   Over the moonlit road?

And what is the spur that keeps the pace,

   What is the galling goad?

And now they beat at the prison door,

   "Ho, keeper, do not stay!

We are friends of him whom you hold within,

   And we fain would take him away

"From those who ride fast on our heels

   With mind to do him wrong;

They have no care for his innocence,

   And the rope they bear is long."

They have fooled the jailer with lying words,

   They have fooled the man with lies;

The bolts unbar, the locks are drawn,

   And the great door open flies.

Now they have taken him from the jail,

   And hard and fast they ride,

And the leader laughs low down in his throat,

   As they halt my trunk beside.

Oh, the judge, he wore a mask of black,

   And the doctor one of white,

And the minister, with his oldest son,

   Was curiously bedight.

Oh, foolish man, why weep you now?

   'Tis but a little space,

And the time will come when these shall dread

   The mem'ry of your face.

I feel the rope against my bark,

   And the weight of him in my grain,

I feel in the throe of his final woe

   The touch of my own last pain.

And never more shall leaves come forth

   On the bough that bears the ban;

I am burned with dread, I am dried and dead,

   From the curse of a guiltless man.

And ever the judge rides by, rides by,

   And goes to hunt the deer,

And ever another rides his soul

   In the guise of a mortal fear.

And ever the man he rides me hard,

   And never a night stays he;

For I feel his curse as a haunted bough,

   On the trunk of a haunted tree.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Overture to"The Vampire" by Heinrich Marschner


By  Annie Finch  

(The Celtic Halloween)

In the season leaves should love,

since it gives them leave to move

through the wind, towards the ground

they were watching while they hung,

legend says there is a seam

stitching darkness like a name.

Now when dying grasses veil

earth from the sky in one last pale

wave, as autumn dies to bring

winter back, and then the spring,

we who die ourselves can peel

back another kind of veil

that hangs among us like thick smoke.

Tonight at last I feel it shake.

I feel the nights stretching away

thousands long behind the days

till they reach the darkness where

all of me is ancestor.

I move my hand and feel a touch

move with me, and when I brush

my own mind across another,

I am with my mother's mother.

Sure as footsteps in my waiting

self, I find her, and she brings

arms that carry answers for me,

intimate, a waiting bounty.

"Carry me." She leaves this trail

through a shudder of the veil,

and leaves, like amber where she stays,

a gift for her perpetual gaze.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Lament, performed by Lauren MacColl


Field of Skulls

By  Mary Karr  

Stare hard enough at the fabric of night,  

and if you're predisposed to dark—let’s say  

the window you’ve picked is a black

postage stamp you spend hours at,

sleepless, drinking gin after the I Love  

Lucy reruns have gone off—stare

like your eyes have force, and behind

any night’s taut scrim will come the forms  

you expect pressing from the other side.  

For you: a field of skulls, angled jaws

and eye-sockets, a zillion scooped-out crania.  

They’re plain once you think to look.

You know such fields exist, for criminals

roam your very block, and even history lists  

monsters like Adolf and Uncle Joe

who stalk the earth’s orb, plus minor baby-eaters  

unidentified, probably in your very midst. Perhaps  

that disgruntled mail clerk from your job

has already scratched your name on a bullet—that’s him  

rustling in the azaleas. You caress the thought,

for it proves there’s no better spot for you

than here, your square-yard of chintz sofa, hearing  

the bad news piped steady from your head. The night  

is black. You stare and furious stare,

confident there are no gods out there. In this way,  

you’re blind to your own eye’s intricate machine  

and to the light it sees by, to the luck of birth and all  

your remembered loves. If the skulls are there—

let’s say they do press toward you

against night’s scrim—could they not stare

with slack jawed envy at the fine flesh

that covers your scalp, the numbered hairs,  

at the force your hands hold?

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Adagio from Music for Percussion, Strings & Celesta by Bela Bartok



Song of the Witches: “Double, double toil and trouble”

By  William Shakespeare  

(from Macbeth)

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and caldron bubble.

Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the caldron boil and bake;

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,

Lizard's leg and howlet's wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and caldron bubble.

Cool it with a baboon's blood,

Then the charm is firm and good.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Symphonie Fantastique, movement 5 by Hector Berlioz

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