The thing about witchcraft,” said Mistress Weatherwax, “is that it’s not like school at all. First you get the test, and then afterward you spend years findin’ out how you passed it. It’s a bit like life in that respect.
A witch ought never to be frightened in the darkest forest … because she should be sure in her soul that the most terrifying thing in the forest was her.
“And sin, young man, is when you treat people like things.”
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, if you ever find anything I wouldn’t do.”
“Don’t try the paranormal until you know what’s normal.”
“They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it’s not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.”
“She knew a cutting, incisive, withering and above all a self-evident answer existed. It was just that, to her extreme annoyance, she couldn’t quite bring it to mind.”
I sleep a lot and I dream a lot. The other day I got my second Shingles shot, and this time I had a reaction. Not only was my arm really sore, I developed a low grade temperature. I was toally wiped out. As usual, though, I didn’t fall asleep until 2:30 am. And I had one of those dreams from which I just don’t want to wake up. This is how it went:
I am at some some sort of State Fair kind of place, and it’s time for me to go home. As I leave, I pick up a small bunch of flowers and stick them in my pants pocket. My pants have lots of pockets. I plan to give the flowers to the man I recently met. My other pockets have money in them, both coins and paper.
I have to get on a bus to get back home. Crowds are crowding into the waiting buses, but I am having a hard time finding the bus I am supposed to get on. I am looking for a bus that will take me to Albany NY, where I used to live. I keep asking people what bus I should get on and I keep getting different answers. I finally get on a bus that is very crowded. I keep asking if this is the bus I should be on and saying where I want to go. Everyone seems to be planning to get off at different places. It is hot and crowded and noisy. I feel I am not being helped because I am an old lady. So I start doing a Mrs. Maisel act – shouting funny things at various people and using “fuck” a lot, like Mrs. Maisel. People start paying attention to me and laughing and relaxing. At the same time, I keep trying to call my ex-husband to tell him I will be late, but my phone isn’t working. So I ask if there’s anyone who can help me figure out what I did to screw up my phone. A black “homie” guy says he can help me, so I give him my phone. It becomes obvious that he is not going to do anything or give it back. So I kiss him on the lips and lick his cheek, and his other homies laugh and tell him to give me back my phone, so he does.
As I do my schtick, I say I am 85 five years old and make a big deal out of it because I don’t look that old. One girl on the bus asks if she could see my driver’s license, so I give it to her and she lets everyone know that I am only 82 years old. She says she is a college reporter and she would like to do a story on me after we all get home. I say OK.
Little by little people keep leaving the bus, until there are only a few of us left who will be going in my direction. We get off the bus at a road that has appeared in my dreams before. I realize that I have to cross that road to catch the bus going the other way. I also realize that the flowers I had stuffed into my pocket were all dried up and crumbing, so I throw them away.
Finally the bus comes and some of us get on. When I go to pay the $1 fair, I keep trying to fish out the quarters I have in my pocket, and at the same time, the paper money keeps falling out. The guy behind me helps me fish out the quarters and hands me the money that had fallen out. As the bus continues on, I see a roadside store that I had been to in another of my dreams. The landscapes I am seeing go by are ones familiar to me from past dreams.
Then I am at my apartment and I am excited because I am about to see the man I got the flowers for. My deceased cat, Calli, is waiting for me but she has become feral, and won’t go inside. So I put cat food and water out for her outside the patio door. The man lives in an apartment across a park from mine, so I go to him.
We kiss and he holds me and I feel wonderful. He laughs when I tell him about my adventure.
Each time I get up, I return to the dream. There were more interactions with others on the bus, but can’t remember the specifics. I wake up hot and sweaty because I had turned the heat on at one point when I got up to go to the bathroom. I have been in bed for 12 hours, from 2:30 am to 2:30 pm. I could have gone back to my sleeping and dreaming, but I figured 12 hours in bed was more than enough. Maybe I can find my way back there tonight.
My assignment to my writing group was to write a ode. Here’s mine:
Ode to Hecate
Even though you exist only
in the deepest shadows of our psyches,
your warnings persist in the stories
that drive our most ferocious dreams.
Rise, Hecate, rise.
Claimed by countless cultures,
re-created across eons of fear,
you resist easy efforts to define you
as other than the maternal primal force.
Rise, Hecate, rise.
I sense your counsel in the stirring of autumnal oaks,
hear your sorrows in the howling of midnight dogs.
Those who fear their longings, call you witch;
those who live your bounty, call you Crone.
Rise, Hecate, rise.
Isis, Kali, Lilith, Astarte, Brigid, Hecate.
You are who I need you to be,
standing with me at each challenge of choices,
listening for your call to wonder and power.
Rise, Hecate, rise.
You are who we women need you to be,
relentless truth-teller, fierce warrior,
stand with us at this dangerous crossroads.
You are what we need to be.
Rise, Hecate, rise.
As I was strolling around my peaceful and gun-free, politically Republican neighborhood just now, I had this epiphany. Well, really, Freud had it before me, but sometimes a cigar IS more than just a cigar.
Posts on FB made me contemplate how I feel about guns – and penises. Because I don’t dislike either, and believe that each has a legitimate place in life. While I don’t want or own a gun, that has not been the case in my past life as far as penises go. But I really wouldn’t want to walk around the street seeing either of them hanging out of insecure men’s pants.
Guns and penises. Think about it (and I’m sure many psychologists continue to do so). Just the word “cock” brings up images of both artifacts. And you can use either to “shoot your wad.” Each can be used for violence, and it is usually men who use both for both.
They are both useful, in their place. And both can be dangerous in the wrong hands. (ahem)
I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong, but as far as my research shows, all of the mass shootings and bombings in America have been perpetrated by men. (I think they were all white men, but that’s not the point here).
Penises and guns. I’d bet my bippy that men who are out-of-control gun fanatics also have some sort of issue about their penises. If you can’t shoot one as well or as often as you want to, how about shooting off the other. If you can’t display your penis in public because it’s illegal, then display your gun, right?
Oh, yes. Guns are fun to shoot. So is sex. But there is a time and a place.
I think it’s interesting that gun fanatics say “I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold dead hands.” I bet that they feel the same way about their penises.
Yes, there are plenty of women who like to shoot guns too. There is sense of power (I am told) in shooting off an automatic weapon. I understand needing to feel some kind of power in a culture that has made so many of us, men and women, feel impotent. Power and impotence. Guns and penises.
I have a 15 year old grandson, who plays Grand Theft Auto. I also have a daughter and son-in-law who continually have conversations with him about the the issue of guns and violence, and long ago taught him the difference between fantasy and reality. Actually, the three of them sometimes game together. But it’s their thing, not mine; I play Candy Crush Saga.
Guns and penises. I think there needs to be a whole lot more research into how their essences overlap.
Now, you might bring up the issue of breast feeding in public as some sort of parallel to guns and penises. I have my own middle-of-the-road feelings about that, too.
I am absolutely intrigued by every one of her images in these two portfolio pages , and sent her three responses. I don’t now whether or not she will use any of them, but I like the combinations so much that I am sharing them here:
(Addendum 9/17/16: This poem is being exhibited next to the collage at Geersten’s exhibit as the Mesa Art Center in Arizona.)
She follows the lead
of the lone snow goose
released from the burden of flock —
a warrior in white and Mary Janes,
astride a steed from dreams.
Such is the muse that carries her,
along with miracles of fragrant earth,
safe across the deep seas of memory.
It is always there,
over her shoulder,
both threat and promise —
a whisper in a wind
that can send her flying
finally, into a landscape
devoid of browns and
navy blues, a rainbow
of wildflowers and sunlight
and a bright hint of birdsong.
If she sits, still enough,
breath held and ready…
wait for the moment….
wait for the moment…..
Sometimes it gets into a girl’s head
to wield staff instead of broom,
to stand like a stag in morning mist —
antlers the crowning touch —
to command with eyes devoid of fear,
demanding safety and serenity,
the sovereign right of rulers
to craft their own lives.
I gave my writing circle the prompt “the coat was shabby.” And I gave them a challenge to use strong verbs and specific nouns. As I began to write my response to that prompt, I decided to put it someplace in history and do a little research for details. This is my result, my first ever try at historical fiction:
The Gypsy Coat Tale
The coat was shabby, but its aspect still spoke of nights thrown over a naked shoulder at a smokey Montparnasse cafe, or tossed onto the back of a scarlet sofa at a late night Paris salon. Its stained fabric revealed a careless pattern of absinthe, bathtub gin, and the mascaraed tears of its most passionate devotees.
They say it once belonged to Nina Hamnett, self-proclaimed and notorious “Queen of Bohemia,” who wore its gold satin lining next to her skin while she danced shimmering lights into the weave of the rich silk brocade. On those nights, the coat created its own melody, a mesmerizing harmony of color, texture, and pattern, the timeless echo of a Siren’s song.
Legend has it that the coat was created by the two Japanese weavers and the Gypsy woman whom Hamnett befriended during her brief stay in Paris before the war started, before everyone folded themselves into enclaves of creative ferment or else fled to the safer shores of England and America.
And that, they say is how the coat finally wound up in the window of the Fifth Avenue Parisian boutique on the afternoon that Zelda Fitzgerald walked out of New York City’s Palais Royale Hotel in search of the perfect evening dress.
She did find the perfect dress: a long black beaded silk with a sheer back that dipped down to her tailbone. But is was the coat that took her breath away – the coat and the legend and the fantasy.
The multicolored floral brocade boasted gleaming gold threads that reflected the bright city sunlight. Elaborate scrolls etched its lush black velvet cuffs and ankle-skimming border. A face-framing swath of black fox, added as an afterthought, brought the coat to the level of a work of art.
By the time I rescued the coat from the empty corner of my spinster aunt’s nursing home closet, its shabbiness was well-earned, having been Zelda’s constant companion through her bi-polar adventures played out over two continents and two decades, until both she and the coat began to unravel.
My aunt had been a nurse at the Highland Mental Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, where Zelda spent her final years capturing on canvas the remaining bright colors of her memories and telling my aunt the elaborate coat-tales that fed her lonely dreams of prodigal nights ablaze in the heart of a drowning Jazz Age.
Just days before the hospital fire that took her life, Zelda gave my aunt the coat to wear to a costume party.
And so the Gypsy Coat was retired to the back of my aunt’s closet, although she always took it with her whenever she moved, unable to dispose of its vibrant history. The Gypsy Coat is mine, now, to ponder on the relic that it is – a remnant of legendary lives lived with creative abandon, dazzling artistry, and deadly excess.
The day after I wrote this, as I was watching a “Friends” rerun with the family, Phoebe appeared wearing the coat I had described the day before.
For as long as I can remember, I have dressed up for Hallowe’en. I start in September deciding on and building a costume. Last year I was a mad scientist. The year before, a Lady Bug. The year before that, a Hogwart’s Professor. I have been Elaine of Camelot, a 1940’s gangster in a double breasted suit, Medusa with pipe cleaner snakes in my hair, the “Deadly Sin” Lust (as a vampire), Sneezy of the Seven Dwarfs, Madame Sosostris (T.S. Eliot’s “famous clairvoyant, had a bad cold but was known to be the wisest woman with a wicked pack of cards”), a unicorn, Jeannie the genie, and any number and variety of witches.
My once husband, being a playwright, actor, and director, could occasionally get into the costume thing. One year we went as Elaine the Lily Maid of Astalot and her Jester — with masks. When my kids were little, I made their costumes too. My daughter, as Raggedy Ann, won a prize in a costume parade (an actual parade down the night streets of the small town we lived in then). Here’s a picture of both kids, my daughter as the Queen of Autumn and her brother as a little demon sidekick.
As my son got older, he opted to be some kind of super hero, including one that he invented and designed the costume for. He called himself “Neutrino.”
I am not dressing up this year. I just don’t have the energy, and I’m out of ideas.
But my daughter and grandson are not, and they are in the final stages of building the Dalek that my grandson will sit in and propel around the neighborhood, using my mom’s old transport wheelchair as the base. Don’t know what a Dalek is? Here’s a clue.
I have always approached “clothes” as “costumes.” I had my office worker costume, my funky weekend wear, by ballroom dance outfits. What I wear has always been an extension of who I am, and apparently I have passed those genes on to my kids and grandkid. What they wear is who they are (at that moment).
But what about me? What has changed so that I am no longer excited about a new costume — for Hallowe’en or otherwise. There is very little I seem to be excited about these days, and my Hallowe’en addiction seems to have disappeared. It’s it age? Is it some kind of depression?
Meanwhile, I am getting a real kick out of watching the birth of the home-grown Dalek, made all of cardboard, duck tape, bits of styrofoam, wire wreath frames, cup lids, spay paint, and an awful lot of imagination and determination.
Magpie Tales is a blog “dedicated to the enjoyment of poets and writers, for the purpose of honing their craft, sharing it with like-minded bloggers, and keeping their muses alive and well.” Each week, it offers an image as a writing prompt.
Go here to read what other writers have written in response to this prompt.
If we become the mother
we wanted, our children
grow the roots and wings
of our lost early yearnings,
Our daughters become
the women we wish we were,
our sons the men we dreamed.
But too often we succumb
to the echo of her voice,
trapped in the tangle
of a cord never cut.
There is no burying our mothers,
though we lay them deep.
They live in us one way or other,
whether we heed or not.
This is a piece of fabric I bought, thinking it would be fun to build a piece of wearable art around it. But then I noticed and hated the typical male-fantasy portrayal of warrior women — all boobs and butts and much too much skin. So I got out my Sharpies and made some editorial adjustments to their costumes.
Note the change in the message of the images, just by adding a little ink. It’s such an easy adjustment for comic illustrators to make, and it shifts the message from “sex” to “power.” The pose of the warrior on the bottom is still a problem, but at least, covered, she’s not inviting and easy entrance.
Unfortunately, most comic illustrators are male, and they keep doing what they’ve always been doing — objectifying female heroes and warriors, making them sex objects first and foremost. There are plenty of rants being written decrying that “tradition” and asking for a new paradigm, a new standard, for how female warriors are portrayed. With the new Wonder Woman movie in production, the issue of how to portray and costume a female hero is front and center.
Here’s just another example from the illustration in the piece of fabric I bought. I took these photos after I cut out the squares I want to use, but you can tell where I made the Sharpie changes. In case you can’t, check out the “before.” (I didn’t have a piece of the “before” of the other image.)
After and Before
It just burns my (well-covered) 74 year-old butt that we are still fighting this battle to portray women, even fantasy women, with an emphasis on their abilities and power rather than their sexuality.
Why do I have him listed with Kerouac and Kafka in a poem that I wrote when I was twenty years old?
Even the information about him in the last available copy of his chapbook that I just bought for $10 doesn’t tell me anything about how I might have come to know anything about him more than a half-century ago.
Apparently, he wrote back in the late 30s and 40s, and this chapbook is his only collection. The inside cover says
Only a limited edition of 1000 is being printed, and none of them will ever be available except as a personal gift from the writer.
The copy I bought is inscribed to “Doc Chandler: who appreciates cheesecake and football predictions — all the good things in life. Jack Trussell, 10-15-57.”
I was a freshman in college in 1957. Might I have heard him read his poetry on campus? Did one of my fellow pseudo-beatniks tell me about him? Did I share a beer with him one night in the tiny bar on Central Avenue in Albany where we gathered around a table in front of a bizarre mural of Buddha, Shiva, and various other inspirational myths? I don’t know why his name would appear in my poem.I don’t remember. Have no idea. “Doc Chandler” certainly doesn’t ring a bell.
About the poems in this collectin Jake says “To me, poetry was always a personal thing, written for the pure joy of writing and for no other consideration whatsoever. These poems were written at very odd moments ….and on the strangest assortments of materials (napkins, the backs of old football programs, and scraps of typing paper crammed into a beat up portable late at night on a kitchen table).”
I guess that sounds pretty much like what we were all doing back then.
Most of his poems have end line rhymes, which I rarely like. I might never know why his name found its way into one of my very early efforts. Maybe I had read this one of his; I know I would have liked this one, which he wrote in 1938: