It was a deep and thick-browed sleep
That came upon me full of halls and doorways,
Some of flame and some of stone and some
From which the scent of heaven wafted
Upon no breeze at all but a pregnant stillness
In that air found alone in dreaming and carved
In certain chambers of the heart. The lonesome speech
Known to fall from the mouth of ancient bells,
Tripping one and keeping one from finding
Any way back from the soft and guarded arms
Sleep surrounds us with, it boards its indeterminable
Train and makes for mountains darker still than midnight.
Here is the dwelling place of spirits long forgotten
On this earth. Spirits whose speech is of a tongue
No longer heard upon our world and scarcely remembered
In any land. It is hinted with a cadence known to fairy,
Heard when troops of them dwelt up an airy mountain,
Down a rushing glen. It was a voice of wings that carried
The blue away from the sky and pushed the sun to clouds,
That it might hang its lyric on the walls of our souls,
Admonishing us to be still and await a kind of rapture
One might hear only in the presence of mystery.
I have walked there and will walk there again
For I have deep business with the shades and fleeting
Beings that dwell there. I am come to them to find
Those words which are seldom heard in any poetry
Or song, in any prayer or any curse that might
Be given to those who read these words or speak
To one another of the wonders of the dreamlife.
I learn within those rooms and behind those silent
Doorways of the many rooms and enchantments
That live beneath closed eyes and breathe that other
Breath that rushes from our lungs when we are
No longer present in this old and fitful world.
I would carry this to you that we may share it
As a feast so seldom given to each other
That one might call it madness or others
Call it truth.
THE FALL OF THE MAGICIAN
I was unable to speak, I had never seen
A bird before. I did not know what to call it.
It came with a long and repeated falling
Through chains of molecules or of having
Discovered crystals in my blood.
How do I tell if this is even close to the truth?
I felt the plurality of everything within me.
I tried to move out of this feeling without
Losing the possibly of returning, even if
Only as a message discovered in mitosis.
Deep meditation might do this but it is
Unprecedented except in conversations
With the dead. Will I be other or will
I be all? Or will I be no one? Why
Am I smiling? Is it the temples?
Is it the gardens? Is it the map
Of the labyrinth secreted in my clothing?
I am about to change my memories.
When I read this again, I may be you.
I may recall nothing of the empire
Or of the weaving and unweaving
I have studied so long in solitude.
Here it says: I was once a magician.
What meaning is this in the catalog
Of possibilities I see here before me?
There is no longer any waiting.
I am unable to tell you if this is some future
Dispute or a quarrel left over from yesterday.
I fill my mouth with the words of others.
The vision is the transit.
We heated nine pins
In a pan of milk
Until it began to boil
And it stopped the witch
That stole our milk.
She sucked it from our cows.
It poked nine holes into her heart
And the witch no longer was.
AN ABDUCTION GONE WRONG
“The moon was shining,
For it was the month of August
And the river was smooth and as bright
As a looking glass.”
—From an Irish folk tale
It’s too late. Here come the stars.
They have found that we were
Hiding her beneath the moon.
She held me like the river.
The cathedral looked pink
From just beneath the water.
AN APPARITION AT DAYBREAK
Across the lonely way
The bats and the night flies
Begin to play.
At Prime and Tierce
The sun broke through
The tall, tall hedge
And half a moon stood there
With yellow branches—
A pale, half-moon,
Tied with green ribbon
And legs all covered with hair.
The hair was red as blood
From the heart.
The half-moon stood on the edge
In perdition. It twisted and struggled,
Died on the spot.
There was nothing to do
But to burn the woods down,
The half-men, the ribbons,
The devil’s red legs,
Till nothing remained
But the dawn.
HOUSE OF THE BANSHEE
Lights inside the bottles.
They are the lights of souls
And pulled against the doors
Where old, and old and old
Dancers danced to pipes
Until the dawn was paid
In gold that was not gold,
But leaves and only leaves.
And the finest of the pipers
Screamed his pipes till
People threw open their doors
To drive him away.
And who would keep her
Here but tall and solitary
Giants who dwelt among
The rivers that had
The water horses
And those who vomited corpses
In the tumult of the night,
Calling out from time to time
To make sure we were the ones
Who rode the night mares
And they could draw us
From beneath the straw
Under which we slept
Or draw us from the froggy
Drains where we had gone
To hide from them.
Beware and then be well,
My friends, and hold your
Eyes toward morning,
Lest you’re snatched away
And made to pray at the grave
Of some god who never knew
Morning or the call of the Banshee
Upon the ears.
Practice well the songs you know.
Do not forget the words
Or tune, or they will find you
In your dreams and drag
You from your sleep and drag you
Before the Banshee’s house
And hang you deep and down
And low, so low, so low.
Be careful, for the Banshees know.
He had many strange sights to keep him cheerful or to make him sad. I asked him had he ever seen the faeries, and got the reply, "Am I not annoyed with them?" I asked too if he had ever seen the banshee. "I have seen it," he said, "down there by the water, batting the river with its hands." ("A Teller of Tales")
—W.B. Yeats, The Celtic Twilight: Fairie and Folklore
How do I feel today? I feel as unfit as an unfiddle,
And it is the result of a certain turbulence in the mind and an uncertain burbulence in the middle.
What was it, anyway, that angry thing that flew at me?
I am unused to banshees crying Boo at me.
Your wife can’t be a banshee—
Or can she?
—Ogden Nash, Private Dining-room and Other New Verses
She had wailed loudly enough to wake the dead and make them call the cops.
—Ilona Andrews, Magic Strikes