(my experience of a devotional ritual to The Mothers at Many Gods West, with Brân)
In the land across the water,
in the land soaked by water,
along the land pressed by water
I offered the wool to the giant,
the wool also to The Mothers.
You’re here, aren’t you?
Now, the song swells, the singers first awkward, learning the words as they sing them,
The drum first unmatched rhythm ’till the rest of us catch the thread.
My arms become other arms, and I stare at them, remembering:
I’m remembering another’s arms, not his, not mine, but hers, a sister-soul’s arms. Neither dark nor light, not very strong, flabby, she thinks, not strong like theirs. And the other women are speaking to her, not worried that she doesn’t think her arms are like theirs, knowing someone will remind her.
And I see her. And I remind her, I not her, but I also her, some fragment of her,
seeing through her eyes,
seeing what she sees,
staring in shame at her weak arms.
“They are not weak,” I will at her, remembering another woman I’d seen, strong and fierce and fat,
full of magic,
full of strength,
the same color of skin,
“They are like hers,” I try to show her, “and they are like mine.”
I’m sure she saw,
I’m sure she understood.
I’m remembering her arms, and the other woman’s arms, and I’m looking at mine,
stronger than I could ever believe,
and stronger still,
because they’re not just mine.
You’re here, aren’t you?
Like that time in the land across the waters, soaked in water,
lighting a candle to a dragon,
an offering to a giant
to be spun by the Mothers.
And maybe he shouldn’t be here, but she-and-they know I can’t be here without him.
They know I come with another,
I met them with another,
that time before I traveled to the land across the water.
It’d been another him,
not this him,
though it’d been him who taught me
how to find this him,
that time they rewove my world.
I feel him in my arms, testing them. That’s how I know, and the breath at my neck,
wind from a mountain and a forest as the song arises,
the crowd weaves it together.
And there’s that moment even he is a bit cynical,
florescent light and carpet and a kiddie pool;
not that they may not come,
but that we may not see.
This isn’t the land across the waters, even as the bridge is lain across them.
It was another I was with last time, under pine.
Prepared the tree for weeks, waiting for when he’d arrived to introduce me,
when he told me to shut up.
The same who’d helped me meet him,
brought me down through caverns I’d later travel for
the one who’d been waiting on the other side.
Under pine, and he told me to shut up. I talk too much sometimes, huh?
He told me like a father, or a brother, both knowing me well
that I’d fill the awkward silence of their presence
with words to stave off decision.
“Shut up, give attention–they are greater than I.”
And so I listened, and they laughed and cackled and jeered,
kind and harsh and indifferent,
blood I couldn’t draw,
blood they probably didn’t want,
but blood I probably owed.
And then the mosquito bit, and then I laughed,
remembering what I’d teach myself later to do.
But this isn’t the land across the water, only a bridge from here to there.
And there’s awful carpet and florescence and a kiddie pool, but I’m crying anyway because it’s her-and-them again,
not at a well by a great pine, but in a room above a well of the earth
where pillar and root shook and broke open and will soon again.
I’m crying because it’s also him again, as he said it would be.
It’s uncouth, probably, to have him here, but he can’t come in anyway,
no house big enough to hold him,
not unless I bring him,
not unless he comes.
Lured to the land across the water
where waited a house big enough,
filled with knives, like the house big enough,
iron circled by flame.
You’re here again.
Like a lover, I guess,you don’t need say ‘yes’ each time he comes,
not when you give him your arms for a little while to use,
even if they are bound for a little while to his will, not yours.
Sometimes, you want to be disarmed.
And (not) my hands attached to (not) my arms caress my face as I cry, remembering them,
Just as later, there’s another, like him but human, bearing banners of all my wars,
doing the same thing, laughing at my groaning sights, delighting in my heaving growls.
“Be ready,” he said. “A god bit the cup you offered.”
But before that dream,
the banners tattered,
she-and-they stand in a well as I cry as he
runs (not) my fingers through (not) my beard.
And I lean into him,
him leaning into me, and neither of us are there
and both are there as
she-and-they stand in that well.
I remember–I stood upon that bridge and listened.
I remember--I walked along that fence and gathered.
I remember, I sat under that tree and bled.
I remember–he told me what would come.
Mothers of victory, Matrona. Mothers of the tribes Matrona.
I’m crying, and he’s there,
and she-and-they are there,
and there’s the copper in the hand and the wish uttered,
what he would ask of them for me, what I would ask of them with him,
and we walk together.
He’s heavy, there at the back,
there at the side, leaning in,
leaning through, and we kneel together,
the coin in the pool, Matrona, the Mothers.
And then the banners after the river-forded,
strong and creaking across the river,
the bridge held over the cracking fault
beneath the land where water springs through,
the dead gather along the lake,
the ancient forests climb older mountains to watch.
A god bit the cup he was offered, pleased, as other gods nod, as the Mothers laugh, smiling, as he runs hands (his)(mine) through my beard and crows call to wake us both
the land across the water.