Poems for Samhain
Redwood door with candle, Butano State Park, Pescadero, CA
It's been a night for lighting candles and fires. I have been burning candles all evening, instead of electric lights. I put out several different kinds of candles on the porch, to light the way for the kids. I built a fire in the fireplace and have kept it going all evening. I have had remembrance candles burning in Dad’s old bedroom all night long.
Like every Samhain, it's a night of lights, a fire night, a night of starlight, moonlight, firelight, candlelight, and inner light.
the Stars, from Spiral Dance
I've decided to share here a few of my older Samhain poems, written between 1985 and 1995 originally. I've spent a quiet day, putting up some Halloween decorations and giving out candy to costumed kids, but also sitting and remembering my father.
little prayers we say,
little strings of words
like pearls around the necks of the dead,
little automatic movements of the eye
flicking towards half-seen things on the peripheries of vision,
hands curling around in warding signs;
out of darkness come the white trees, suddenly there—
we give a little exclamation, a puff of exiled breath,
and riding out with it float the white tongues of fear;
shimmering in green light,
the hummingbird floats above the pool,
we give a soft cry of pleasure
as its flickering iridescence vanishes;
small red leaves swirl about the mossy shelf above the water,
stirred by children’s unseen hands, little girl ghosts
who watch from the shadows and giggle;
alone and silent
while rain comes weeping down,
we speak quiet words over the stone,
pearls strung together by song,
a little laughter, a small child’s wide eyes;
and you, beneath the stone,
do you hear it? those little prayers
and unnoticed sighs; they ring for you through the silence,
the darkness, the silence, the voices of the soil,
the sounds of the living,
given to the dead.
the voices of the dead.
are you with me, grandfather?
do you hear me, spirits of the past?
is the night hurrying because of you?
the answers are not in unhoped for words
but the images of night: the cloak,
the stillborn wind ripping brown leaves,
rain on the sidewalk, clay earth
becoming mud, mute stars,
the tree sighing as it dies, the ending
of the day, the halo of dawn,
the nighttouch, the wolves’ howl,
the heart, the soul of the dark.
because we know, we know you well.
the voices of the dead carry
my heart, whispering, wind-voiced.
what do they know but time?
timelessness is not theirs; they surpass it,
as they surpass the images of night.
my time is coming. I must leave,
as we all must, as the dead have,
wandering in their cities of different light,
strange and still, touching each other
as they pass, tenderly,
with the fingertips, as they pass,
words over the stone
the earth, newly opened to the sky
and newly closed,
was cool over you
where you slept
we laid all the flowers in the world
on you as we closed you in,
then the soil, a handful each at first,
a spade, a stone, a painted marker briefly given
the air spoke first, then the earth,
dark words flew above the hills,
clouds sang as they stood over you,
covering your head in deluge, in farewell
a stone, a flower, a changing of the light,
a gathering of everyone touched
by your life, who you had touched,
your living a star in you, a flower
then the light broke, and the rain
fell, hardly waking you
but quietly weeping
from the sky, melting into the soil
the flowers melted down into you
and their fragrances bathed you;
the earth was cool over you where you slept:
you stepped into the light, that last morning,
leaving us to follow, tracing you, singing
Fire Night, from Spiral Dance
And, to end the night, a blessing I have been using more and more these past few years:
A Blessing to be Spoken at Night
Earth shelter you
Fire be inside you
Water cool you
Air gentle you always.
By starlight, sunlight,
moonlight, candlelight and firelight,
Who created us all at the beginning,
receive us all at the end.