Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Old Woman

—Poems and Photos by Katy Brown, Davis


The Old Woman gathered wind and starlight, mixing
them with water from the Great Oasis and a handful
of sand — creating the first human in her image.
What she named her has been lost in the storms of
time— we will call her Badra, The Full Moon.

She was glorious — part light, part song.  She
moved around the Great Oasis with grace and
purpose, tending the plants and animals there. 
Over time, Badra grew lonely and called upon
the Old Woman more often to keep her company.

Like a distracted parent, the Old Woman became
concerned that she was neglecting her other

One night, while Badra slept, the Old Woman took
a lock of hair from the sleeping woman and wound
it around a willow branch.  Taking a spark from
the dying fire, the Old Woman breathed the flame
of being into the First Man.

He was glorious, too.  Vibrant.  Resilient.  In
gratitude for life, he wrapped himself in joy and
danced a whirling dance, spinning and spinning. 
Thus was the First Woman the source of all
mankind.  Thus did the whirling dance of the
desert people become a prayer of ecstasy and


The Great Oasis formed around a spring
among rocks in the sand — a wadi.

You might have thought her fragile, Badra,
slipping among the olive trees in the Great Oasis

— may have thought her brittle like porcelain,
as she slumbered in the light of the full moon.

But she was created by The Old Woman:
made of gathered light and the desert wind.

What you might take for fragility was really
the resilience of uncomplicated life in desolate lands.

The Old Woman created her to tend the garden,
to care for the leopard and the nightingale

when they came to drink from the same spring;
to heal their injuries and give them shelter.

You might mistake tenderness and caring
for weakness, if you weren’t paying attention.

When Badra grew lonely, The Old Woman created
the first man from a lock of her hair and a willow branch.

The man, overjoyed to be alive, whirled in a spinning dance,
praising The Old Woman, declaring his love for Badra.

They lived together peacefully for a while,
in the shade of willow and olive trees beside the spring.

The man grew aware of his strength and vigor, delighting
in the differences between man and woman

until he encountered a viper in the dunes one hot afternoon
— but that is another story, for another time. . . . . 


For a time around the Great Oasis, all creatures
lived in harmony.  Badra tamed the timid quail
and let Panther sleep on her rug.  Her mate, having
listened to the sibilant whispers of the desert serpent,
believed in the strength of his arms and denounced
Badra’s meekness.

He responded to The Viper, who drew his power
from ambush and terror.  The serpent convinced
the man that Badra’s cooperation with the desert
creatures was a sign of weakness.  Teamwork
and trust required time that brutal force never
waited for.

Gradually, the first man sought to control all life
around the wadi.  He sought to control Badra,
made of starlight and desert wind.

When the crescent moon drifted across a field of
brilliant stars, Badra’s panther came from the wilds.
The mighty cat took the treacherous man by his neck,
carried him far across the dunes, and abandoned him
to the company of scorpions and the Viper that he

Water still trickles from the desert spring, calling
wildlife from shifting dunes to the hidden wadi. 
Can you hear it?


It is not written where Badra went after she left
the wadi.  It is not known if she tried to follow
her mate or if she struck out on her own.  It is
possible she felt the sour regret that parting brings.

She had been alone before:  a solitary shadow on
the moving sand.  She knew she could survive
alone again.  She could be like the fox or the desert
eagle.  She did not need the man to provide for her

It is not written how the man survived alone in the
desert after the panther dropped him there.  He was,
after all, the second human.  He had never known
solitude.  Followers of the Viper insist that the man
felt nothing. 

They say the serpent found the Scarlet Djinn at the
edge of the world and joined the two in a vortex of
twisting sand.  What became of this union is a story
for another campfire. . . . .   


In her home, an open cave— high on a rocky
cliff-face, Badra found peace.  Sheltered from the
scouring desert sun, open to the nighttime stars,
with a small spring in the back for water, she felt no
more desire to wander.

Her children had long since grown and moved on. 
Her mate had paired with the Scarlet Djinn, source
of much chaos in the desolate lands.  The Old Woman,
who created her, seldom visited any more — having
more world to tend than just this cave. 

Dawn touched lightly on her stone floor, gilding her
walls and bringing reassurance of order.  Night to day,
moon to sun: a progression of days and seasons. 
Badra gathered the light, mixing it with colors from
the desert:  silver-green of olive leaves, azure from
the morning sky, coral of the leopard’s nose, and red of
the poppy flower. 

She gathered hair shed from the lion’s mane and bound
it to a myrrh branch, making the first paint brush.  This
she used to reflect the spirits she found in the world around
her.  She painted the desert hawk and big-eared fox, the
silver trout and the tawny antelope. 

Badra sang as she painted.  Sang of the spiny flowers and
the round black bees that pollinated them.  She sang of the
river of stars and the shifting dunes. 

On quiet nights, under the dark of the moon, you can hear
this song, a faint tumbling like far-off water.


Today's LittleNip:


can’t draw
can’t sing
never learned piano

no ear
for the correct

couldn’t spell it, anyway
no patience
ah — but for light —

for the lift of wings
— for the slow
step of the

into its own image
on still water—

for the fractured second
for these:
an infinity

under the slow-rolling
a scroll of infinities


Our thanks to Katy Brown for today's poem cycle which she calls "The Old Woman". About her work, Katy writes: I imagine the universe was created by "The Old Woman" — the over-arching creative force.  She can take any form she wants, but in my poems has appeared in human form,  although I have a poem set along an Asian-appearing coast in which she appears as a child playing by the shore.  I have poems about the creation of horses and the fox, among other things.

When it came time to create humans, she created the first one in her image. . . .

I hope that no one takes offense at this slightly-different take on a more well-known creation story.



Pi in the Sky