This piece was originally posted last year for Imbolc, and is one of my favorite pieces ever.
It’s also collected in Your Face Is a Forest
It often makes me cry when I read it.
They seem to litter in their scattered array, bits, stubs, burnt-out ends. Drippings cascading down ledges and stilled, icicles without chill. Splashed upon the wooden floor and then frozen by the cold we call comfortable.
They were all once light and a bit of warmth; they are now only fragments, the residue of memory, dreams misshapen, pooled, lumpen in sconces, soaked into blue cloth upon an altar, fused into the grain of a wooden box.
And Brigid tosses more fuel upon her hearth, and laughs.
I. The Guardian of the Tower
Here are the remains of pillars. When I saw Brân, his great black cloak rippled in an unseen wind, his powerful form straddling a Breton valley between the River of Alder and the sea. But the cloak fled from his body, a myriad of ravens having stripped from him his flesh sinew and skin, leaving only great white pillars of bone, the foundation of a temple and a tower. I do not yet know where his head lies.
These gave light for days which became months and years. Here, the garden, here the balcony overlooking a lake, here the lake walled by the roots of mountains. Here the work that gave meaning. Here, the long loves, the friends and men and cities, all burnt out, blackened fragments of wick and ash.
These, we can use.
II. The Harvester
These were once tapers. Stubs fused into holders. I never trim the wicks, huh? These burned too quickly, flaring and sputtering in the draughts. These gave light at dinner, or when I wrote. When a lover and I shared another, or when I shared my home to great throngs of friends and strangers.
These also I burned in sorrow, staring long into their flames in hope of solace–against a darkness within when the light without had grown so very dim. When he told me he no longer loved me, or when I told him I no longer did. When I was so poor I berated a lover for the extravagance of a pear, or so exhausted I broke my bagpipes when I collapsed on them.
The tiny bit ends I lit when there was so little left for me, or so little left of me. Tiny tapers, 5 for a dollar at the apothecary, enough light for a remembrance of hope.
Here, too, the ones which burned wrong, or melted too fast, the ones that caught other things in their flame and molten wax. This one when I, caught up in the joy of life and trust in the world, was raped. This other one when I tried to give love and found it met with utter hatred. These here when an idea of what the world might become was crushed by the cynicism of others or the long grinding-down of the body against the weight of others’ demands.
Ah. These are the ones I made wrong. Here, the wick was too thick, the wax too quickly consumed against the brilliance of the flame. Others, here, the opposite. Braided cord which drowned in the molten well. These didn’t become what they should, didn’t become what they could. The lit-journal, the move to Europe, the plans to return to school. The unfinished manuscripts, the medieval band. Misforged. Failures.
So much wax left over. Good. These we can especially use.
I hadn’t expected, you know, to find Ceridwen’s death-face to be so kind.
III. The Crown of the North
These other ones?
The ones I like a lot! Look, here—I made this one. See how the colors blend into each other? Greens and blues fading together into whites. The colors fade into each other like the forest into the sky reflected in a pool, like when I noticed Arianrhod. Remember? You were there too, certainly. And remember how I’d always stare at my reflection in puddles of water on stone so to see the sky above me, but in that strange light that isn’t from the sun? And know there was something more?
And these over here, I made for others. I haven’t sent them yet. Look! This one from the wax of bees, and this other one scented with vetiver. Remember when I used to grow vetiver? Remember when I had it imported and kept one inside every year so that it would survive the winter and I could separate its roots come spring, come every February when the world turns warmer and all of life begins to awaken again? Remember how all those new things which birth themselves in the darkness of winter begin to move under the earth? And so many candles like this, because it’s been winter and this is when it’s easiest to make them. I’ll light them the next time I’m with a lover, or when I host friends, or even when I feel sorrow again. All these I haven’t used yet, because they’re for later, or for others. So much hope!
We should use one of these, too.
When I was child, a man came from the stars and had me read a book. I’d thought he was an astronaut until he brought me inside and he was dressed like a monk, and the book was like none I’ve ever seen. Every night for over a week I read from it until I finished and he said he could go back to the stars. I’ve never seen him again, but I think he was there in castle where I got my name 14 years ago, and I didn’t realize until recently whose stars he came from and whose castle I’d been in.
IV. The Lady of Fires and Rain
Lady of the hearth. Lady of the springs. Lady of the forge. Lady of the light.
I remember her beckoning. She waited for me to notice (and how long had She waited? So many years, wasted like so much unspent wax, like the stubs and ends and drippings of candles, scattered about my home, about my life).
“It’s Brigid,” the man had said, laughing. We’d all gathered outside a gate, and I couldn’t see what was beyond. People from all nations, women in cloaks and shawls, men in rough clothes and colored garb. So few drest richly it makes me wonder still, but all were beautiful.
I’d asked him what word I needed to know to enter. His face was so kind, full of a pleased mirth. “It’s Brigid,” he’d said, so much life in his voice. A light rain, like that of late spring had begun to fall. “See the way it’s falling?” he asked. “You can tell it’s Her by the way it falls, and by what’s in-between the rain.”
From under the earth rain springs upward. From above us light torrents down upon us.
Here is something new, made from all that was old. In the heart of the hearth I’ll gather these bit-ends of lights that were, and into it I’ll add what might be. In the heat of her forge what was becomes what can be, what could have been becomes what should be.
She does not forge from nothing. All that was becomes what is and will be. We inhabit the past even as we live in the present and create the future.
In Her reforging is Her poetry, and in Her poetry is Her love, springing from the earth, falling with in the rain and what is in-between that rain, and She tosses more fuel upon Her hearth, and laughs.