|The Earth Spirit Appearing To Goethe’s Faust|
The Faust Woman Poems Are Out
It is April, the month of poetry, of Earth Day, of flowering. What a fine month for The Faust Woman Poems to emerge out of their long hibernation and look around the blooming world, blinking. The life behind many of these poems has been hibernating for forty some years— hiding out in old notebooks stored in the garage—until a dream grabbed me, called me “Faust Woman” and insisted I go through those notebooks in search of my younger self.
Why Faust Woman? The notebooks took me back to that wild time when I, among so many women of my generation, was suddenly touched by the Goddess. Like Faust we had no idea what we were getting into when we invoked the Earth Spirit to release us from our narrow, confined lives. She thrust us into the wilds of sex, power and creativity, and we owe Her our sexuality, our creativity and our souls.
|A consciousness-raising group|
I remember the moment the Goddess first touched me—woke me up—in a Women’s consciousness raising group in 1969. She blew the top of my head off and I could see the light of my own nature, hear the voice of my soul.
|Possessed by the Earth Spirit|
I also remember doing Authentic Movement in the early ‘70s—how the Goddess lit up my body with essential fire, gave me carnal knowledge of hips, feet, pulse, desire. I saw molecules dance in the sun. Poetry came to me. So did lust, longing and ambition. The Earth Spirit claimed me as Her own.
My own poems gather me—show me who I am and where I’ve been. I hadn’t remembered that the Goddess had embraced me as a toddler. Often I don’t know such things until a poem reveals them. My father’s first job in America was at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. I was a baby there. I had no conscious memory of the place until Dan and I visited it—now a Presbyterian summer camp—a few years ago.
|Black Mountain College|
The poems that came made clear the power of the Earth Spirit in my earliest childhood. Here’s one of them, from the section of The Faust Woman Poems called “Earth Spirit.”
(Black Mountain College, 1943-47)
Garden of the sun dappled baby I was
and the tow headed toddler I can see me now
on the wooded path beloved of the morning
and the night Drunk on mother’s milk
and daddy’s lullabies Cradled in the rapture
of the mountains Captivated by the fiery flash
of a Cardinal in flight Seer of the light
in willows and in the waters of Lake Eden
Enchanted by the song of the Carolina Wren
Transported into sleep on wings of Bach and Schubert
Enfolded as I was in this Black Mountain tribe
of music makers paint stirrers pot throwers leapers in
Outside the gates news of the war
Smoke rose bombs fell
Inside the gates faculty fights
for or against communism twelve tone music short
on young women In the basement of the cottage named
Black Dwarf a Moccasin frightened my mother But I
lucky baby took my first steps
between your apple and your wild
rhododendron greedy for the names of your every living
Early I lost you Lately I’ve found you
again Sweet spot, source
of the singing in my heart and my communion
with the mountains
This is why I consider myself a “Black Mountain Poet” even
though the famous poets—Creeley, Olson, Duncan— did not
come until my family was long gone.
April 22nd is Earth Day, a kind of birthday for the Earth Spirit. She is the Goddess who claimed me when I was a toddler, who knocked down the walls of my uptight scared little life in my late 20s, who brought me back to my essential Self. I am deeply grateful to Her.
Now, most of a lifetime later, as oceans rise, as climate changes, as species die She comes back to me in deep trouble—as Wounded Earth. My poetry is a small thing to offer Her, but it’s what I have to give. It is impossible to take in the enormity of Her suffering, how many of Her creatures are losing the ground, the ice, the trees, the seas in which they survive; how many are losing their bearings among the high towers of cities, the violent weather, the shift in seasonal patterns.
Solastalgia is a term coined by Glenn Albrecht, an Australian environmental philosopher. A mash-up of “solace, “desolation, and “nostalgia,” it describes the inability to derive comfort from one’s home due to negative environmental change. I think we all suffer from it profoundly.
I found a list of threatened species on line: (http://www.earthsendangered.com/list.asp). It is overwhelming. As of this month 10,796 are listed and that does not include plants. I made myself scroll through that list. I could barely stand to read through it. I was amazed by the wild poetry of this human “naming the animals project,” and horrified by the desecration the list describes.
It is unbearable that the Earth is being deprived, starved, depleted of Her creative bounty, Her wild, teeming life. I do not know most of the creatures on that long, long list, but in honor of Our Mother I need to write out some of their marvelous names, look at a few of their haunting images; I need to grieve, to keen the loss of our creaturely legacy, our squandered inheritance.
Coral, without the Hawaiian Hoary Bat, without the Japanese Paradise-flycatcher, the Lake Placid Funnel Wolf–spider,
the Mexican Bobcat, or the Northern Sportive Lemur, without the New Zealand Grebe, the Oaxacan Coral Snake, the Philippine Warty Pig, the Queensland Rat Kangaroo, the Rio di Janeiro Antwren, the San Martin Side–blotched Lizard, the Tasmanian Devil, without the Upper Amazon Stubfoot Toad, the Venezuelan Flowerpiercer, the Wisconsin Well Amphipod, the Yucatan Brown Brocket Deer, the Zanzibar Red Colobos Monkey.
How can we be at home on earth when our kin, our totems, our teachers, our food, our dream figures, our very nature is gone?
Lailah Wants a Word
In Jewish legend Lailah, the Angel of Conception, watches over the unborn child, initiates us into life on this earth. She came to me in a temper, and this is what she said:
Lailah Wants a Word
Lailah, the Angel of Conception…watches
over the unborn child
You were not born for traffic
Not released into day for hustle
and drive. I did not send you past moonstone
past glow worm, to ignore the light. I did not touch
the soft spot on your crown, nor seal
my blessing on your upper lip, to be a slave
to acquisition. I sent you into the company
of frogs. I sent you to commune with willows
with oaks. Pay attention—
the frogs have stopped wooing
the oaks been sold down river
Grandmother Spider Brother Rabbit
are losing their worlds. You have ears —
Hear them. You have a heart—feel them
You have two lungs—breathe
I give you the wind
in the grasses. I give you the sight
of Coyote. She’s meandering up
the mountain. Follow her. Perhaps she will throw
your shoe at the moon. Perhaps the moon
will fill your shoe with shimmer—
sail it back down to you—Then
will you remember
(Published in The Faust Woman Poems)