Thursday, November 03, 2016

Reformation Day and All Saints Day

A poem I wrote this week picks up on the themes of the coincidence of halloween, All Saints Day and Reformation Day.
The Protesters

October 31 2016  Geelong

After the wind and rain, I sit in the gazebo
as Cohen’s Alleluia (KD  Lang) plays on my phone,
then the heartbreak of Tears in Heaven.
Where have all the dead gone, I ponder,
and finger the purple pelagoniums for remembrance.
They call this day All Hallows or even All Saints Day,
 but I am confused. The cool air wavers between winter and spring,
 but where is the line between earth and heaven,
between a broken world and godliness?
I pick up my golden cowrie shell, search for visions.
The Progressives don’t even ask about heaven
in the thin space between New Age and belief,
 just protest like reformers have done so in the past.
I touch my lucky charm, a golden butterfly necklace
bought at an Op-shop in Maldon for nostalgia.
 I lack confidence that all will be well;
Julian of Norwich said so but I have doubts.
I peer at my scattered notes, found through Google,
about Reformation Day, of Halloween, of probable fictions.

October 31 1517 at Wittenberg

She sweeps the large stone steps of Castle Church,
and touches the stolen black bread from the kitchen
pocketed in her apron.  She is the unloved servant.
Uncle Martin in his priestly robe approaches, says
‘Hilda, you can help me. Find a hammer and nails.’
 She obliges and watches his urgent movements,
nailing a thick parchment to the church door.
Marks dance but she is unlearned. Uncle Martin reads
‘Disputio pro declaration.’ Another nail is hammered.
‘Vituitis undulgentiarum. ‘Another hard hammering.
Her uncle switches to the colloquial,
‘Hilda, this is for you. No more paying for indulgences,
They do not buy a key to open the door to Eternity,
Your father, my brother, is not in peril of hell.
The Pope intends to build a basilica in Rome
with the collections from people like you.
I do protest. Works and money is not how it’s done.
Our Heavenly God is about faith and grace.’
‘Ninety five thesis,’ he declares,
his accent is now educated not local.
She continues sweeping the dried oak leaves
and pine cones to make each stone clean and shining,
proud of her task at the Castle church in Wittenberg.
Then Uncle Martin brushes her forehead with a gentle kiss
and ambles downhill in the shadow of the church.

October 31 1277, the Crags, Ireland

The Travellers have arrived with coloured caravans
for the Samhain festival. They light clay lamps
they call dya and chatter of a Festival of Lights
but for Drusilla it is a festival of Darkness.
Costumes are meant to frighten the ghoulies,
even though the Priest tells her ‘Don’t be afraid ,
hold a pebble in your hand, an apple pip,
a grain of wheat. Tighten your cape around you.
Feel the earth with your bare feet.
Tie a rosemary wreath over the  kitchen heath.’
But will all of this protect her from wandering ghosts?
She stands beside her black horse above the castle,
the McDonnells, her kin, her dyed blue cape flying
as she looks down on the smoky bonfire,
both pagan and priestly. Confused she turns away
to leap on her horse, ride in the wind,
protesting the priest’s superstitions,
as the moon leers at her fears.

Ten miles from Tara undated, around 205 AD

They named her Tlachtga, born on the New Year
of the Great Fire Festival where children run about
holding firesticks now the bone-fire is raging,
burning up the bones of the animal sacrifice.
They bow to the Sun God  with the cycle of heat and cold.
The altar is made of rough-cut wood and fine stones,
 and driftwood gathered from the shore.
This festival is of the wilting Sun, the harvest over.
Now they want plenty with the next harvest
not paucity of bare earth and eating grass.
Her tangled red hair looks afire as sparks spray out. 
She picks up a smoking branch from the Great Fire
to take back to the kitchen hearth, for safety. 
Her namesake Tlachtaga was a goddess of death and rebirth,
of sun and lightning, but also a real woman
daughter of a powerful Druid Mug Ruoth.
and she had died birthing three after a rape.
The new Tlachtga will do better than that.

October 31 2016 Geelong

Now the wind and rain start up again
so I leap from the back garden gazebo,
drop my golden cowrie shell and its visions,
no longer dreaming of Halloween and All Saints Day,
or Luther hammering his thesis to the Castle Church door.
I will be a Protester, not of theology and God
 but of the darkness that has emerged in these times,
mud and slush so evident, yet hope
for the emergence of the brilliant waterlilies

catching light and opening out goodness.

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