“Don’t Ask Me Until this Wine Bottle is Empty”

The Florilegia Project #2: Samhain

Happy October 31st!—a reasonable compromise date for the various death-centered festivals observed at this cross-quarter of the circling year: Samhain, All Souls/All Hallows, Dia de los Muertos, and our commercialized amalgamation, Halloween.*

In the Celtic tradition, it’s also the end of the year—which, since it’s deeply concerned with death, makes sense to me. Convergently, the liturgical Christian tradition understands the new year as Advent, which begins a little later in November.

Between the Autumn Equinox and this old year’s day, further sparklets have gathered daily, and now coalesce into the second of The Florilegia Project‘s eight found poems—with what I already suspect is going to be my favorite title:

Don’t Ask Me Until This Wine Bottle is Empty

2:30 in the morning: the hour of ghosts—
their darkness, their mystery, and their shelter,
some momentary disorder of magic.
Looking out into a night of answerless black,
I write because I do not believe in words, battering
their full hearts against the moon. 

This is how I know the marriage will last
—a good while, two or three poems.
Born into the poem that God made, and called the world; 
a line of vehement life, cleaving through sleep, and silence. 
A place without too many explanations, where magic 
has a chance to breathe.


***


Attending to the tongues of other species is our birthright:
shrubs that seem to speak unintelligible words 
when the wind goes through them; the bobcat that roams 
from dream to dream. A distant storm
means the creeks will soon boom with song. 
Beauty is not optional, but a strategy for survival.

The daily wearing-away of life: 
still answering it by going on walks, as if salvation
were just growing in the garden. 
All road signs and maps are hoaxes. If trees could speak
—they wouldn't. Treat with respect the power you have
to form an opinion. Fire and flame are your ministers. 


***



Closer to dust and mystery, the universe is resonant with music: 
a queer, divine dissatisfaction; blessed un-rest, its wings 
like the stretching light of the river. 
So capricious, so complex, so delightfully contradictory,
the river is always coming from somewhere;
always going somewhere too.

So I begin my day with trust, with poetry, 
and other such lapses of taste. The contemplative effort 
needed to apprehend things divine—and human. 
A rooted preference for the same places, and the same pursuits.
Where the space is wide, hours should be wasted
in the company of:

charred lemons, French wine, 
and memories of the sea. 
The songs of crickets, 
and the setting of one's soul to ease.
The simple pleasure
of a good shelter in heavy weather. 
The hubris of language. 

Sources

A Better Animal (essay), Talley V. Kayser, in The Hopper

An unknown Lutheran liturgical setting

A Gentleman in Moscow (fiction), Amor Towles

Braided Creek (poems), Jim Harrison & Ted Kooser

Creation Sings, hymn by Shirley Erena Murray

Daily Prayer at Corrymeela, Pádraig Ó Tuama

Driving Oklahoma is Rarely Met with Much Excitement (poem), Travis Truax, in The Hopper

Facts About the Moon (poems), Dorianne Laux

Ground Truthing (interview), Terry Tempest Williams and Devon Fredericksen, in Guernica

Help the Witch (fiction), Tom Cox

How to do Nothing (non-fiction), Jenny Odell

Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

Mysticism for Beginners (poems), Adam Zagajewski

Ragged Anthem (poems), Chris Dombrowski

Red (non-fiction), Terry Tempest Williams

Still Writing (non-fiction), Dani Shapiro

Swan (poem), Mary Oliver

The Anthropology of Turquoise, Ellen Meloy

The Hundred Thousand Places (poem/s), Thomas A. Clark

The King of Elfland’s Daughter (fiction), Lord Dunsany

The Practice of the Wild, Gary Snyder

The Voices of Birds and the Language of Belonging (essay), David G. Haskell in Emergence Magazine

Thirst (poems), Mary Oliver

*I am trying to learn to love—or at least to appreciate—Halloween. The short “audio banana” here is helpful in this.


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