In the Ft. Rich woods

April: National Poetry Month.  I’ll be (trying to) post a poem every day this month, some mine, some not mine.  Today, one of mine — fitting in well with my recent preoccupations with matters of spirit & writing.


When they told me who to put on the throne
I said, no, I will not be ruled.
The gods they showed me were tyrants
who displeased me with their judgments,
their injustice, yes, their cruelty.

Tough, I thought, and rugged.
Above the law am I —
an outlaw, a renegade
from the unhappy Kingdoms of Gods
who would cast me to hell and damnation —
there was no compassion, no love:
I was alone.

Running and running, cold and lonely,
hungry and tired — I kept my mouth shut
and my eyes hated everyone.

I was a hero, hungry and tough.
I was a hero, subsisting on crumbs.
Walking through cities, rubbing shoulders
with the people, the subjects, the soldiers,
all of them, of the enemy.

I scoffed at them,
and I knew I was dying.

But messengers sent from my own land, my homeland,
you sent them with messages in their hands
that I slowly trusted to touch me.

And homes where they brought me,
where I could not fall to harm —
where they expected nothing, only asked
if I might come home, to you.

Who are you?  the one who sits not on a throne
but runs hidden in the weather that surrounds me —
who follows but does not pursue me —
who knows always where I am when I
have shaken off everyone else —

who leaves secret love notes
in the heart of my deepest shame —
how do you find me when I, myself, am lost?

Today if I wake in wilderness,
in hot desolation, with cracked and dry lips,
I know you will give me comfort:
a cool stream from the dust,
the promise of peace
when I come home to you —
worn by travel, but wiser . . .
and always loved.

[June 11, 1984]

About this poem

This dates from the finding of my central “household god” — recounted in part in my 2006 post “A brief spiritual history” — the forest spirit Mielikki, who is metsolan emäntä: Mistress of Woodland. The name Mielikki combined the word mieli = heart, mind, consciousness, desire, etc., plus the suffix of endearment –kki.

Mielikki is also a central figure in my novel-in-progress Mistress of Woodland, which I’m finally back at work on.

[Good! We’ve been waiting! — M.]
[Yes.  Still waters run deep, but waters that are too still get stagnant. And grow algae. — V.]
[So says the Slackwater Man. — M.]
[When the helvetti you gonna write a poem about me? — L.]

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