Samhain culled and harrowed, Midwinter froze and cleansed.
Hiding beneath the surface, under beds of earth, in shadow unstirring you must forget who you are. You’re not him any longer, not while the chill upheaval during winter’s revolt breaks apart the soil of you.
At Samhain I saw them, the echoes of dreams now resounding again as words. We will rush to save what is dying, but she will not be denied. Fear, panicked breath as the pain courses through our bodies undulled by all the opiates of forgetting.
We have drugged ourselves for a very long time, we in the cities and suburbs of the Empire. Drunk on cheap oil, high on the rush of glowing screens, fitting for the next new hit of cheap labor to fill our stores. But now the bottle’s empty, the baggy turned-inside-out-empty. Can’t scrape the pipe no more ’cause there’s some “dirty indians” in the way, and the Blacks in Flint are drinking our bong water.
Empire thought it could cheat death, until the crone brought out a trump.
Death gives form and shape to the meaning of our days, lengthens our shadows, weights our work. Sobering is not fun. Coming off heroin too fast can kill you, few ever escape meth. The more glorious the feeling, the more exuberant the high, the more the bowels rend from its loss. Gay men who’ve used crystal will tell you this, “no sex seems good without it.” A lover escaping heroin told me, “you never know how much life is pain until dope shows you what it could be instead.”
I’ve done neither, but I’ve held a man crying while he thumb-scrolled his phone looking for a recovery meeting. I’ve held a man sweating and shaking all night, urging on the early-morning trip to the methadone clinic.
It was like this, watching those around me panic. They weren’t counting the bottles, didn’t know they had no other pack and the store was closed. Some of them crawled along the carpet, tried to pick out electoral challenges that might have fallen between the cushions. “We didn’t vote for him” I’d hear, but like what comes from the hardest addicts came also the blame. “It was Russia, the third-parties, voter-fraud. You dropped some, I saw you. Call that guy you don’t like, I don’t care if he makes you do anal, I’ll let him do me too if he’s got black tar.”
By midwinter, though, the panic subsided. Dull shock, constipated movements of worry and exhaustion. Family to distract, no questions asked, just unwrap the presents and pretend like nothing’s wrong.
Couldn’t last though, this pause. Half-a-million pussy hats, a Nazi punched, an antifascist shot, Muslims stopped and sent back. Park rangers gone rogue, climate-change data deleted, Iran ‘put on warning.’
It’s Imbolc, huh?
It is not for us to recognise the world we meet again each turning, only to remember it turns again.
Four years ago, this started. I remember when last the wheel turned me here.
Four year ago I cried. The dreams so harsh, the voices screaming.
I’d close my eyes, see the fire. I’d close my eyes, see the woman. She was in the mirror, like he is now. And then the crone at the path, barring my way with a question.
You new to me? New to my writing?
I’m new to me, new to my writing.
Four years ago I was a social worker laying in a bed alone in a house I’d held for 13 years, trying to fight off visions that wouldn’t stop. A woman kept looking back at me in mirrors, her name whispered by companions in dream. I heard a tree screaming, saw towers of light circled by crows, heard laughter that wouldn’t stop.
I knew no magic before then, none more than what we do everyday untrained. And then I did, too fast for my mind, my soul breaking into pieces in a forge a woman stoked.
That was Imbolc, four turns ago. On the third turn ago I was where I am now, writing about land spirits, heading to a muddy little town where a fire-witch fought police on street-corners and a dying crow jumped on my hand. River fords and screaming dead and someones inhabiting the waking nightmares of unbridled schizophrenics.
The next Imbolc, two turns ago, I stood in a grove I’d awakened, crows swarming above as I walked with stick in hand following streams under streets and spirits at intersections. I’d just come back from an Irish tomb in midwinter-light and a Welsh lake where a dragon taught me to breathe fire and giants shook their beards. Two weeks later and I made good on a promise I’d made a headless king and a flame-haired hearth-tender.
The Imbolc before the Imbolc now I picked up Agamben and Derrida again because dead rebels told me too. I’d come from gnawing bones in Annwn, looking askance at the world I’d not seen since Samhain, and filled my lungs with air that would soon burn the world. I’d learned to become the land, to walk with the dead, to stand up to gods, to shrug off their priests.
And it is Imbolc again, four turnings, just before a greater one.
You’ve noticed, yes? The world’s in revolt, and they’ve been preparing us.
I’m not the only one who’s learned to breathe fire, to dance with stars and become the forest. Look hard enough in the mirror and then look away: she’s there, looking back, the lady of the flames, laughing.
While Empire may have thought it could cheat death, it is we who have learned to become it. We who’ve darkened our blades, waiting unglinting in crescent moonlight. Assassins, all of us, biding our time in community gardens, stirring cauldrons in soup kitchens, learning spells from books of theory and histories forgotten.
We who chose to endure pain rather than trade time for empty wealth, endure cold in draughty basement apartments or suffocation in crowded shared houses. We who declined the easy out, refused to look away at the images of bombs and the charts of lowered water tables. We who chilled ourselves in rain to stop strangers from getting killed, who listened to the panic of the earth rather than the assurances of the priests. We who knew this could not last and would not let ourselves pretend otherwise:
It is our time. What was frozen thaws, what was dark is lit again.