Hayah Havah

Sometimes I look back on my manic writing and wonder what the hell my brain was smoking. 😛

Appear, appear, whatso thy shape or name
O Mountain Bull, Snake of the Hundred Heads,
Lion of the Burning Flame!
O God, Beast, Mystery, come!

-Eurpides, The Bacchanals

Hayah is the name that God
stated would be known for eternity.

The Son of Mourning cries “I AM.”

Hayah Havah

Into nothing.

They say Sin was born from his heart, and sprang full-formed like Athena, then fell with her father to Hell. They joined in filth and bore Death.

They became Death. It’s a slip of the tongue.

Some speak in tongues and psalms. I choose riddles and lies. The hardest answers are never hidden, but you will die looking in my arms.

The Nachash was the slyest of beasts in the field, graced with Sapha, language. He whispered to the furrows of the earth, like the ghost of dead Pan’s piping.

Sapha, his hiss. The Word of God.

He called his creation Hayah. Nachash was fond of names. He called her many things.

Hayah meant Life. To fall out, like the Shekinah, exiled from above. Hayah, to become. A soul in chrysalis. Set in perpetual motion in a dance that has no end, kinetic heat to thermal, transcending matter and time. The first soul in the belly of the ouroborous.

He will swallow her again at the End Times. And Nachash will cry, for he yearns for the brilliance within her, but the serpent cannot see into his own flesh. He asks her how it tastes and she weeps. We are all in the belly of the beast. He cannot see that and thinks he’s alone.

She was Chayah then. The Mother of All Living, a promise. For a short time, they walked together. The animals did not fear her, bears fed her honey from the trees. She was just a child in those days. A flower yet unripened that Nachash carried on his backs.

He sought good earth to plant in, as only a man on his belly can. In him are bones like Cadmus’ teeth, where he sows them, there grows nations.

Some say Eve was made by the snake. He crafted her from the jewels inside his skull. Knowing no one else, Nachash was her dearest companion. It was perfect, for a time, and he taught her the whispers of the stars he had learned on his thousand sojourns. But he grew hungry for a heart, and the Nachash desired to eat her.

Dragons, however noble, think us prey at the end of the day, and Havah, however beautiful, would taste exquisite with ketchup.

He did not like the thought, so Nachash waged war against himself and ate his flesh til he was nothing but bone. Still, the beast gnawed within him, so he chose death over her destruction. People often die for their dreams. He’d thought them all fools until he imagined his could fail.

She did not ken endings yet and tried to breathe life in him.

In death he exiled her, and she wandered through the wastelands. She found Adamah by the sea and they cast their lots together. Wayward children abandoned by their makers, kicked out of the angels’ nests.

When they joined, the animals turned from her and nettles stung.

Overnight nature unleashed its arsenal. Perhaps the Nachash was jealous. It is a question no one asks.

When the Bacchants crown themselves with serpents, they cry out the names “Eva!” and Saboe!”, invoking the god of madness who gave his heart and blood for wine. Sabazios and Eve, who devoured Zagreus’ heart and dared dream of taking fate’s thread in her own hands.

Some say that Eve was the snake, or, that she became one. Perhaps she was Medusa, cursed by love to become a monster and bear the stain of zuhama.

It flows like blood each moon from her children, and the sly serpent gets his offerings via humanity’s exquisite biology. Neither bitches in heat nor man enough to walk in the Light of God, we haunt the between-spaces like him, exiles in our worlds. Cursed for fairness they claim is vain, and a weakness they measure by bloodletting alone.

But we are the givers, always have been. Eve gave as Adamah could not. She gave until she thought she would break.

But even serpents cannot untie Gordian knots. She tried to unravel hers, but it is a history knotted into oblivion. She tries to remember, but the memories slip from her hands like sand.

So Hayah sits in the dirt, drawing labyrinths, and imagines herself the monster in the middle, minotaurs be damned. Ariadne can dance clockwork around the hero and strangle him with her threads. Adamah leaves her on the shore and the serpent comes.

“I love you,” she said.

“I will eat you.”

So he ate her mortality.

When Hayah’s first blood came that night, the Nachash renamed her Chavah. He found it was easier to take back things once forgotten than break promises he had never said.

Chavah, a word that means “Snake,” for he was the serpent, and she was his child.

Moses asked the purifying fires of the rose bush Adonai’s name. The Angel of the Lord cried Hayah Havah. He weeps it at night when he is alone:

Hayah Havah Elohim. Eloa Regina Angelum. Your flesh is my bread and wine.

Sister, my sister, stop crying, for the world is bitter, but our love is sweet.

My tears are the waters of life, and our children will rise from the ash. Sister, my sister, come with me. Our children are so small and fragile. Dared I dream that we could raise vines.

In the moonlight you thought me a stranger. You came to me with open palms. One damned me for my betrayal, the other kissed sweetness into my heart.

I wear your curse as my glory. This stigmata flow black like our words.

Wisdom, my sister, fall with me.

For too long I have been entombed.

*YHVH- personal Name of God, derived from root Havah (there is, to be)

God made mankind but for loneliness.
Yah the Serpent encircles the Tree.

Yah Weh. He is the Snake.
The serpent that crowns Shoshanna.

Names.
Such funny things.
He called me his rose and his lily
Adders should know nothing of love.

There was no God to wage war against.
Just a sacrifice to Himself

The Id revolts against the Ego.
Angels the intermediary
are caught in the dance
between.

Bite me,
I’ll tell you his secret.

God?

He’s not dead

Just mad.

My Polytheism

As you may or may not know, I am a lurker.  Especially on Beth and Jo’s blogs.  I have been since I started my WordPress and used to be more active in the Pagan community, and as I’m trying to blog more, I decided to write a bit about my spirituality and stop posting so many angsty poems.

As those who have followed my blog since the tender age of 18 (I’m now 23), you may remember my Pagan phase, which despite my protestations, I never quite left (Sorry for dragging you to full moon rituals on Imbolc, D and L).  In fact, I have been Pagan since I was 7 and read D’aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths.  I was smitten with Athena, and would pray to her for help on homework, then crushed on Hermes majorly.  I read the end of D’aulaire’s, the part where the gods are dead, and cried, like, a lot.  I then decided I would single-handedly revive the old faiths and thought I was the only Pagan in the world for a good five years until I discovered Pagans online.  I went through an Egyptian phase and dressed up as Sekhmet for a school event, devoured all the mythology books I could find at the library, and while the gods were great, there was another piece of the puzzle I was figuring out.

Enter angels and demons.

My first memory, at two, is of Samael, coming to my cradle in a night terror with red eyes, ringing me with mangled ghost children, singing me a lullabye in a voice like Tom Waits and saying “I LOVE YOU ALLIE.”  I woke up clutching my pacifier right before he hugged me.  Come four and I would dream my father was ripped to pieces by a hellhound, one I would see many times afterward, with red eyes, black fur, and a wolfish mien.  I later learned through experience, after many years, it was one of Samael’s forms, besides the stupid black serpent and dragon.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Throughout my childhood, from year zero to today, I have struggled with horrible nightmares, sleep paralysis, and vivid dreams of angels, gods, and demons.  I have always been drawn to the otherworldly and my imaginary friend was an angel of the Morning Star, destruction, death, lions and serpents.  I was about eight.  He was my first OC that I wrote about at 11, and I described him in that spectacularly crappy space opera as “a Grim Reaper with attitude.”    Metatron was also in there as a tea-drinking angel.  It was weird.

Before I even read Madeliene L’Engel, I gravitated to stories about angels.  I forced my parents to buy me a children’s Bible in kindergarten because it had angels on the cover. Demons scared the crap out of me, but angels felt like home.  I saw sparks of light flying around churches, priests, and children, in particular a cobalt blue spark that was always by my side who I later learned was Michael.  Raphael is green.  Samael is red.  When I look up to the sky, to this day, I see millions of sparks of light flying through the sky.

In first grade I built a tin foil hat because I thought aliens were contacting me through energy.  Later I learned I was feeling the presence of spirits, but when you’re young and feel like your chakras are being plugged into an electric socket, you worry.  I would sing to my morning star angel and pray and feel the energy, be moved by music, pray to the gods, there it was.  So from a young age, I felt and saw spirits, but didn’t understand what was going on.

Enter puberty.

My first vision came when I was 12, December 21, on a cold winter’s night.  I was lying in bed, my eyes shut closed, and I had an out-of-body experience.  I was thrust from my preteen child’s form into the sky above heaven, and below me, angels in armor with brilliant scintillating wings were battling demonic black shadows, guts spilling onto the ground, blood, blood everywhere.  I screamed for someone to save me and fell to the ground, but no one could see me.  A demon was about to plunge its talons through me to get to an angel when a force like the whole weight of the world pulled my spirit back, zooming through ranks of angels to their stronghold.  There in a clearing stood a tall, imposing angel in golden armor, with a flaming sword, saffron hair and eyes that could pull souls out of their bodies.  He saved me, frowned, then thrust my spirit back into my body, bellowing a name in Hebrew he continues to call me to this day.  His voice was like thunder as my body rocketed up in bed.  I was wracked with shivers and sobs, wondering who the general of Heaven’s forces was and what my experience could possibly mean.  Much later on, I learned his name was Michael.

A few weeks later in seventh grade, inspired by Twilight, I invented the name Samael as a punk version of Samuel and wrote a story about a middle school over a hellmouth.  A few weeks later, I googled Samael and learned that despite being the name of a crappy metal band, he was also the Jewish angel of death and Satan.  Cue screaming and not touching that story for a month.  My computer started acting weird, shutting down randomly and claiming I’d edited the Wikipedia page of Lucifer.  I cried.  I cried a lot at that time.  Three nights after my discovery of Samael actually being a Jewish angel/demon/annoying snake, I had my first dream of him.  He was very snarky and offered me an apple, then told me I read too much.  He still continues to be an asshole and terrible, terrible cook.

That first dream opened up the door for endless dreams of demons, tricksters, and archangels.  I developed an especial fondness for Raphael and wrote two stories about Freyr without realizing who he was.  Aym popped into my dreams, Beelzebub grumped around, and Michael continued to step in when Samael decided it was okay to let the minor drink.  Loki and Samael were the broiest of bros, Manannan, Coyote, Tezcatlipoca, and Odin all made appearances, and I continued to write stories based on my dreams.  Enter high school and I believed in the gods but was still pretty skeptical of the whole angel/demon thing, as I hated the patriarchy and thought it was sexist that priests and the Messiah couldn’t be women.  I was also terrified of Hell, even though Pandemonium is basically an endless party and the only one who really seems to work are Rofocale and Beelzebub.  Lilith terrified me and I still hate her.  She’s a bitch.

I’m agnostic as fuck, so being godbothered and having all these dreams of angels, demons, and deities was confusing.  I went to the top science and tech high school in the world for godsake then was a bio major in college.  12-19 was me barely keeping my head above water as I challenged myself in academics, burned the candle at both hands, and dealed with shamanic death-rebirth crap and Sam being a right arse.  I finally figured out that Freyr was the character I kept writing about after googling “blond god of the north and nature” and other such things.  Michael kept stepping in when Sam was too drunk to function.  I made rounds with the archangels and chilled with Asmodeus at his atrociously gaudy casino bar.  Then I had to wake up each morning and try to ignore the fact that Samael got drunk off holy water the night before.

There was so much shadow work.  Too much.  When Samael basically raises you your dreams are full of the Adversary, Hell, war, and purifying fires.  He always told me to “Grow a spine, worm.” and “Stop being a doormat.  Stand up for yourself.  Don’t kneel, don’t bow, stand strong.”  He also likes to go off on tangents about decomposition, the Apocalypse, alcohol, alchemy, and the dreaded metaphysics, all of which I ignore.

The shadowork didn’t scare me so much as when Samael cried.  Seeing the Grim Reaper cry kind of makes you doubt your existence.  We fight a lot, and he has no respect for boundaries, and sometimes I don’t know why the universe made me his babysitter.  I’m on much better terms with the Archangel Michael, who I consider my guardian angel, and Freyr, my patron god.  Beelzebub is actually, despite being anal and cold, a sweetheart, and Deus is just dumb.  All Aym does is do drugs and hang out with prostitutes.  There are a lot of succubi in Hell.

So I probably sound crazy, but I’ve met about 25 people with the same exact experiences and same UPG about Samael, down to his weird fascination with squirrels.  I’ve actually made several of my best friends because Samael brought us together.  So thanks, I guess, Bonebutt.

My polytheism is this weird mess of Paganism and Christianity.  My polytheism is constantly evolving.  I believe in God, which angels and demons are manifestations of, this abstract Source that sends out servants who all embody its characteristics, hence names like “Gall of God,” “Strength of God,” or “Image of God.”  I hold the kind of strange view that Michael is Jesus, or maybe I’m totally wrong, but when you see the tenderness with which Michael gardens souls and answers prayers, and how his love and suffering and sacrifice hold all Heaven together, it seems as Christlike as Christ can get.  I think Sophia/the Shekinah manifest in personal heroes like Eve and Mary Magdalene, and the Divine Feminine is manifest in Mother Mary.  I don’t believe in Hell as a place of suffering, but a place of purification where difficult souls go to recover and then move on.  I believe demons and angels aren’t at war, per se, more in a Cold War of sorts, and I believe demons are servants of the harsher parts of God, for what is God but everything?

As for the god gods, I view them as individual pieces of the Source, in charge of different things.  Freyr is my Green Man, Manannan and Njord are my sea, Loki is my fire, Coyote is my whimsy.  And Thunderbird, glorious Thunderbird, is the majestic storm.  All I know is that Thor gives great hugs and that Freyr is an aficionado of Mexican food.

My spirituality is organic, based on lore and experience.  I would never ascribe to a strict form of worship.  I go on what I have personally experienced in dreams and then do a shitton of research, finding out that Beelzebub is in fact the General of Hell as in that one dream or that book I read in Samael’s library that he threw in my head actually exists.  My spirituality is odd, based on community, and I could give a rat’s ass about who others worship.  I believe gods are adapting, communicating with us through means like pop culture or, in my case, memes.  I’m trash, I know.

So yeah, my polytheism is this strange mix of everything I have experienced as someone drawn to the mystic path, a clairsentient, raging environmentalist treehugger, and avid, avid poet and writer.  I write stories based on my experiences with the gods and spirits and continually draw on them for inspiration.

Sometimes I wonder if they just want their stories told.

Chwal: Part 1

I have a big brother in the sky. His name’s Raff, he likes ice cream, and his eyes are yellow like the sun. He’s real tall and takes me out flying with him to catch lightningbugs. He’s got these big old white wings that are fluffy as my kitty.  Sometimes, when it’s dead winter and I’m shivering, he’ll wrap his wings around me like a blanket. I know I can always count on him to make me laugh when I’m crying or tickle me awake when I nod off in church, like now.

Raff’s perched by the edge of my coloring book like a bird: “May-flower, time to wake up: Sunday school’s over and you knocked over your juice when you nodded off.  The sermon’s soon.  Don’t worry, I cleaned up the spill.”

“Aww, Raff, why did you ruin my dream?  I was like Princess Leia, except instead of being captured by Dark Vader-

“Darth Vader, sweetheart.”

“Yeah!  That scary butt.  Instead of being his prisoner, I beat him up really good with a pink light saber.  It went pow-pow and sliced him right in half!”

Raff frowns like he just smelled an onion from granmama’s garden.  “That sounds unpleasant.  I think I should start taking you to more kid-friendly movies.”

The sermon starts, and Raff goes away to do whatever the silly fool does.

He’s up there in the sky, I’m guessing, going about his heavenly business. He tells me it’s real important, but I dunno if I believe him. My pa’s a real businessman – a lawyer, he dresses up in a suit and tie and everything, but Raff wears these silly outfits like you see on those Christmas cards, with those funny looking angels flying round the manger of baby Jesus.  Except those angels are all white, and Raff’s brown as a sun-baked potato. I told him so later that night: angels are only pretty blonde women in white dresses that sing soprano, and he laughs so loud I think the sky’s falling.

“We’re not all white, May.  Look at your Papa.  He’s one of the most holy men around.”

Raff’s sorta right, I guess.  Papa Leggie is a nice old man with a fine long beard and skin the color of wrinkly wood, with a big long cane he carries everywhere with the keys to Heaven clinking on the grip.  

Raff says he’s something like a saint.   I don’t know about saints, but Leggie’s a real charmer.  He laughs a lot and says he likes my curls, and sometimes, he even lets me play with his dog.  It’s a white dog, real fluffy, and real little just like me.  Leggie likes sitting in the park and watching flowers grow.  I say: Leggie, what are you doing alone?  Why don’t you have a wife?  You must be awful lonesome.  But he ain’t.  He’s happy, in his quiet old Papa ways.

Momma don’t believe me when I tell her about my friends. She tells me I’m just indulging in childish fantasies, and oh honey, isn’t our child just so precious! Sure I am, but just because I’m precious doesn’t mean I’m lying. That’s the problem with grownups: they’re stupid. They can’t see what’s right in front of them, the silly coots.

Dinner rolls around, and granmama sits on the porch sipping on sweet tea and talks on and on about Satan and how I better watch out! – otherwise he’s gonna come snatch me up because you’re playing on the wrong side of the street again, you silly child, so come back to your granmama and stay away from the traffic. She doesn’t like me playing over there, but I do it anyway when she ain’t watching. Raff helps me cross the street.  Mostly I just don’t wanna eat dinner because I know momma made peas again, blech.  Guess I’ll feed them to Raff or Leggie’s puppy.  I don’t know why they like peas?  I bet the mean old Devil grows them in his garden just for me and delivers them straight to momma’s door.

Why this Satan man would want me, I don’t know: maybe it’s because I’m just so precious, like the diamond on momma’s wedding ring. I ask Raff if that’s so, and he laughs again, then wraps me up in his big old arms and tells me: “Honey, I’ll never let that fool get you. Satan’s scared of little girls.”

“Well,” I say, “he should be.  I’m mighty fearsome.”

I tell that to granmama and she says: “Child, how do these silly ideas get in your head?”

I tell her Raff said so, and she just smiles.

She never believes me either.

 

 

It’s some holiday or something, and church is awful boring. We sing these silly songs and clap our hands and sing, Alleluia!  Praise the Lord!  The granmamas shake like Kingdom Come and belt out the lyrics.  It sounds oh so beautiful, and I like to dance to everyone’s song.  

I don’t know what an Alleluia is. I ask Raff, and he says it means we’re praising God. Then I ask Leggie why God wants all that praise, and Leggie smiles a bit and says He don’t need it, but people do it anyway, so it’s fine by Him.  Leggie’s real close with God, he tells me they’re poker buddies.  Don’t know how I feel about that, but I guess it’s okay to gamble if you’re a saint.

I ask Leggie if God goes to church, Leggie says no, so I tell him God’s a bad Christian. Granmama says if you don’t go to church, Satan’ll get you, so I tell Leggie God better watch out.

Leggie gets this sorta sad look on his face, so I tell him I’ll protect God because Satan’s scared of little girls. Leggie smiles then and lifts me up, up, so high in the sky, I’m flying with the stars. It’s awful cold up there, so he gives me a special blanket that feels like a kitten’s kiss.

I have a little kitten, y’know, and she kisses me all the time. It’s cute as a button. My kitten is just so dang adorable.

I tell that to Raff, and I ask him if he thinks so. He pets my kitten’s back and watches her purr, like a lil fire engine, then tells me she’s gonna be a mean fierce momma cat someday. I ask him if I’ll be a mean fierce momma, and he tells me not to rush my childhood.

I hate it when adults say that, and I tell him so. He tells me he ain’t no adult, but I don’t believe him. Tell me what you are then, I say. He tells me he’s an angel, just like before, and I laugh so hard I almost fall down the porch stairs.  Ain’t no angel got a five o’clock shadow!

 

 

Raff’s pretty gentle, but he’s got edges.  Poky bits like a knife.  The kind I use to mush my gross nasty peas with.

Raff’s covered in scars he says he got in a war, and his face is awful fierce sometimes when he ain’t smiling. He shows me his sword, and I say it’s cool, but not as cool as a light saber. I have a little blue light saber – my second favorite color, there were no pink ones, a shame! – that lights up and makes blasty woop-woop noises, just like Dark Vader’s.  I wonder if there’s a Light Vader too, a princess of the galaxy, except her armor is white like Leggie’s fluffy puppy?

I take out my light saber and show it to Raff. He has to admit my light saber’s darn fierce, but then he says wait, honey, watch this, and fwoosh! His sword lights on fire! I scream and giggle and tell him he’s gonna burn himself, but he doesn’t and just holds it all superhero-like, and then I gotta admit, it’s almost as cool as my light saber.

My kitten don’t like the flames though, she cowers and mews, so Raff puts it away and goes back to petting her. Raff likes cats a lot. I tell him he better find a wife soon, otherwise he’s gonna be an old cat lady, just like Leggie and his dog, and he looks at me all funny and says: I can’t be an old cat lady, honey, I’m a man.

I say no you ain’t. Men don’t have wings. Raff says: I know, honey, I’m an angel and a man, and I says: no, you’re an old cat lady, you silly fool. Now go dress up in a nice suit like my pa and find yourself a job, then a girl, then buy a house and stop squatting on my roof.

I’m still working on him, but I think with a little training, Raff’ll make a nice husband for someone someday.

I just gotta find the right woman for him.

 

 

It was raining awful hard today, so I just sat at my table, bored as anything, drawing Raff with a crayon.  He posed for me real nice, all still as a painting, and I just feel so bad, because he don’t know what I’m gonna do.

“Raff?  How do you spell batch-a-lore?”

He looks at me all funny.  He’s always looking at me funny, head sideways, lips squiggly like chicken scratches.  Maybe I’m a funnyman like Bill Cosby.  “And why do you want to know that, May-flower?”

I start stumbling over my words, then cross my fingers behind my back to save myself from the sin of lying.  It’s awful hard, lying to an angel.  Something about it ain’t right.  “Because I’m drawing a storybook, and this is the prince.  The princess’ll only know he ain’t taken if he’s got batch-a-lore on his crown.”

Raff takes a slow sip of his Coke.  I steal him food from the fridge every morning.  Momma always wonders where the mac and cheese went then gets all huffed up at my pa.  Mac and cheese is Raff’s absolute favorite, next to my granmama’s gumbo.  Yum yum yum!

“You’re a funny kid,” he says, ruffling my hair like a momma bird.  Then he tells me how to spell it, and I write the word real careful in big blocky letters, just like my teacher taught me to.  Her name is Missus Lovelace, and she’s sweet as anything!  She makes us apple pie and lets us play with hamsters.  She even let me bring my kitty in for show and tell, once.  That was before it peed on the carpet.  Oh well.

It’s still nasty as mushed peas outside.  The Devil must be beating his wife – that’s something my granmama says when it rains.  I tell Raff that, and he bursts out laughing.

“The Devil’s scared senseless of his wife, honey,” he tells me.  “All men are, deep down.”

Since we’re on the topic of women, I just gotta ask.  “If Satan’s gotta wife, then why are you and Leggie alone?  The dirty old Devil ain’t got nothing on you.  He’s not a pinch as pretty like your fluffy wings – all he’s got is gross spidery bat wings and fangs – and, and slimy scales!”

“I don’t need a wife – May, why in the world are you doing drawing hearts on that paper?”

“Nothing,” I say, real real guilty.  I cross my fingers even tighter.  I hope God doesn’t look down on me from his poker game with Leggie and see me lying to an angel.

Raff gets this look like he knows I’m up to no good, and in that moment, I swear, he’s just like Santa Claus.  I pray to the Lord I don’t get a big stack of coal for Christmas.  I really really want another light saber or maybe a cassette player.

“Let me see that,” he says, and before I can hide it in my jumper, he snatches up my drawing.  He reads it, and his eyes get wide as the moon. “Raff – heart, another heart- illegible?  Oh – eligiblebachelor?’ Eligible bachelor?  And more hearts?”  He looks at me mighty scared.  “Raff the eligible bachelor?  Is this a personal ad?”

I look down at my sneakers.  “No,” I mutter.

“Now May, look: I appreciate your wanting to help me, but this is way too far.”  The scars on his pretty face twist into a kinda smile.  “I like the way things are.  You’re the only girl I need.”  Then he tousles my hair and hands back the paper.  He delicately takes a crayon in his long, thick hand, just like he’d break it, he’s so so strong, and draws a crown on himself.  “There.  Now I’m a real prince.”  He crosses out ilegible bachelor, then draws a lil girl right next to him, holding his hand.

“That me?”

“It sure is,” he says, writing my name in beautiful teeny-tiny letters next to his.  He makes crayons look like a painting.  I add a big red bow in my hair, then the picture’s perfect.

“I don’t wanna be a fairytale princess, Raff.  They’re boring.  They sit around in towers waiting for dumb knights to save them. Real princesses are like Leia: they got guns.”  I launch outta my seat, and grab my lightsaber from my dresser.  “I wanna be the one that slays Jabba the Hut, and I want a flaming sword like yours!  You can’t beat up aliens in a dress, or climb trees, at least.”

My kitty’s curled up on Raff’s lap, purring like an engine.  He pets her absentmindedly, watching my antics – that’s what my momma calls them.  I think they’ve got something to do with ants?  

I swoosh my lightsaber through the air, chopping an alien to bits.  “See!  Just – like – that.”  I punctuate my words with vicious lil thrusts, stabbing it again and again.  The dragon dies, and I run up the tower to save Raff.  I bow, then draw him a pink paper flower.  “Here you go, m’lady.  I saved you!”

Raff pales a bit, which is funny, because he’s so darn dark, and his face turns the color of pa’s tea.  “I ain’t a princess,” he says, all low I nearly shiver.  

I giggle like a maniac, then draw a dress on him.  “Now you are, Raff-ay-el.”

“You’re as bad as Michael-” Raff begins, then freezes like a snowman.

Something clatters in the kitchen, and my granmama comes out with her afternoon sweet tea.  Quick as a minnow, Raff disappears.

She tsk-tsks, shuffling about, reprimanding me for the “Uncleanly state of my room!  And May, it might as well be a pig sty in here, for the love of the Lord.”  I wish right then I could disappear, just like silly old Raff.

The Devil may be scared of his wife, but even angels are scared of grannmamas.

 

 

Church was awful boring today.  The reverend droned on and on about sin and salvation, and I think: h’oh Lord, make him stop.  Leggie’s sitting in the back, humming to himself, reading the newspaper, and all the while I wait for him to butt in and correct the minister.  But Leggie just chuckles at the Sunday funnies.  They’re the best part of the day of the Lord, he told me.  Leggie says you can learn a lot more about the world from comics than you ever do in church.  Leggie says God likes Peanuts and that’s why Leggie’s dog is called Snoopy.

I start humming to myself under my breath.  Making sure no one’s watching, I take out my pretty red crayon and start drawing hearts on granmama’s hymn book.  She’s snoring like a groundhog in February, hiding under her big purple hat.  It has this kinda dead-looking plastic bird on it.  I feel a little like the bird.  

Momma and pa don’t notice me drawing because they’re too dang busy listening to the reverend, trying to get a slice of their own salvation.  I guess salvation is like apple pie at a family reunion: the folks here sure are trying awful hard to get it, and there doesn’t seem enough to go around.

“May, sweetheart: listen,” Raff whispers, gently taking the crayon away from me.  He’s sitting all solemn-like at the end of the pews in his canary yellow Sunday suit.  How can I take him seriously in that suit, I tell you, it’s gotta be a joke!  I glower, leaning against Raff’s strong arm and poking him in the side.

 “Raff, you gotta get a job.  I don’t need a stupid babysitter,” I tell him, trying to get my crayon back.  But he hid it real well in his pocket, and there’s no hope – just none at all.  I sigh.  “I’ve been on this green old earth nine years.  And I work more than you on an honest day.  I don’t need to listen to a silly reverend, and I sure don’t need you stealing my crayons.”

Raff draws his lips real thin and sighs, mussing my hair.  “You’re my job, sweetheart.  I look after you.”

I cock my brow all sassy, just like Leia.  “I don’t need any looking after.  I can tie my shoe, braid my hair, and cross the street all by myself.  You don’t even do that.  You just fly over like a fat New Orleans pigeon!”  

I like to feed the pigeons in New Orleans.  They’re real pudgy and squeaky.  So fat they can’t even fly!

“A pigeon?”  Raff tickles me with his wing, and I scream, laughing.  He smiles bright as the sun.  No one can hear us when Raff doesn’t want them to.  Not even my granmama, who has ears like a submarine spy ship.

Nobody notices me when I’m talking to Raff or Leggie either.  Dunno why.  

Raff might not be good for much, but he’s got a few tricks up his sleeve.  I like Raff anyways.  He’s kinda like my kitty: cute in a scruffy way.  Sometimes he forgets to shave and I gotta remind him.  His kisses are scratchy then.  What a mess!  I don’t know what he or the cat would do without me.

“Yes sir.  I’ll babysit you!” I say, smacking him with the Bible.  He bites his lip and sits ramrod straight.  “That’s it, Raff.  Sit all nice and straight, mister, like my daddy, and ask for God’s forgiveness.”

“Why?”

“Because, silly, you sinned.”  I show him how to pray.  “I’ll pray for your forgiveness:  Dear God.  Hello.  I really like Snoopy – she’s cute as a button.  Maybe Leggie will let me play with her in the park today?  Thanks a bunch.  And Mr. God, I’m sorry Raff is no fun.  Please forgive him for stealing my crayon and momma’s mac and cheese.  Amen, Mr. God, and please save the funnies for me.”

I wink at Leggie.  He has to keep himself from bursting out into laughter.  Raff don’t look none too pleased.  

“I am too fun,” he insists.

“No you ain’t.  The last time I tried to get ice cream, you started yapping about how ‘Bad ice cream is for you, so why don’t you just go eat your vegetables?’  Everyone knows peas are gross, Raff.  Now I dunno what angels eat, but it sure ain’t quality food if you think peas taste good.”

He don’t know what to say to that.  As momma says, Raff ain’t the shiniest penny in the pail.  But it’s okay.  I take care of him.  

Sometimes he comes to school with me.  I sit with him at the table all the way in the back, where the toy kitchen is, and help him with his math.  I’m awful good at math.  I can add and subtract like nobody’s business, and Raphael asks me bunches of questions.  He’s teaching me this funny language that he calls our secret code, and lemme tell you, it’s the most beautiful sound in the world!  All clear and clean like a good wind or rain.  He speaks it a lot with God when he prays.

Miss Lovelace’s passing out snacks now.  Me and Molly run up and grab the best chocolate chips, then bring them back to the girls at our table.  Raff’s sitting on the beanbags, sleeping like an owl.  I think of drawing a mustache above his lip, but then I remember the Golden Rule and think that I’d hate to have one.  Mustaches are only for distinguished gentlemen.  That’s what granmama says.  

I say they’re only for gentlemen and God.  Raff’s got no business going around unshaved.

Halfway through my cookie, Raff wakes up.  Billy Morse is pulling my braids and I’m hollering at him.  Miss Lovelace is too busy dealing with another dumb boy, so I get out my lightsaber from my backpack and thwack Billy on the head right hard and good.

“May!” Raff says.  “Don’t break that Golden Rule I told you about.”

“Then why else do we have lightsabers and swords?” I groan.  He takes my lightsaber away from me and slips it into his robe, then doesn’t give it back to me til we’re back in my room, the silly coot.

“To remind us what the cost of failed peace is.  Swords and lightsabers aren’t for fun, sweetheart.”

“Jack’s rabbit they ain’t!  What else are we gonna slay the bad guys with?”

“Kindness, May.  You kill your enemies with kindness.”

And I ain’t got nothing to say to that, so I just sit there, looking at Raff.  He laughs at my expression.

“What is it, May-flower?”

“You may not look it, but you’re pretty smart, Raff.  For a wifeless fool.”

 

 

Later that night Raff tucks me into bed and helps me read Nancy Drew.  I wanna be Nancy Drew because she’s always solving mysteries and going on bunches of adventures.  I’d have her spy-glass and precious skirts, except I’d take Raff along with me, and my kitty.  

I tell him I’m gonna be Sherlock, he’ll be my Watson, and we’ll go around saving lost pets.  He asks what I’m gonna pay him, and I say I’ll give him granmama’s cookies, because the old fool’s always stealing them anyways.

Raff blushes.  “I’ve never stolen from you.”

“Oh yeah?  I’ve seen the crumbs on your lips.  I know my kitten doesn’t eat chocolate chips.  She only eats oatmeal raisin, and granmama never makes those, only Missus Lovelace.  See?  I just solved a mystery.  Hah!”

“There are greater mysteries than that.”

“What?  Is Leggie’s puppy missing?  And don’t spout silly Sunday school nonsense at me, Raff-ay-el.  I see straight through that molasses.  Angels don’t have halos, God doesn’t smite nobody, and the Devil’s a big old sissy.  If I were some big mighty God, I’d come down as a little girl and give Satan a real good scare!”

Raff suddenly looks all concerned like pa does when I give the kitty makeovers with momma’s lipstick and my cute little markers.  “May, don’t say that.  I don’t even want to think about it.”

“Aw, horseradish, Raff,” I say, punching him in the arm.  “We’re gonna find that Devil-man.  It’ll be our greatest adventure yet!  I’ll beat him up real good with my lightsaber and let you finish him off with my squirt gun.  Then we’ll marry the old fool off to granmama and he’ll be too scared to torture even his peas.  Granmama says all men are the Devil, but she’d make a Christian out of even him.”

“What is it with you and marrying people off?”

I sniff and cross my arms.  “I just want them to be happy, Raff.  Is that really too much to ask?”

He buries me under the covers and tickles me.  I scream: “Stop it, you fool! Stop!” but he just laughs and turns out the lights, then climbs outside to sleep on the roof.  

Sometimes he snores real loud and the roof shakes, and I have to throw rocks up at him.  It’s hard getting them over the gutter but worth it for his screams.  He wakes up crying like a little girl, speaking our secret language, and I cackle like Alice’s Mad Hatter and go back to bed.

But sometimes I’m scared, and I need Raff.

I can see a darkness others can’t.  

Granmama might call it sin.  

I’ve seen it in the eyes of killers, on people whose souls are downright nasty.  They’re black, I tell you, black as tar, and I cry when I think about it.  Sometimes the blackness creeps in at night, when the dogs howl, and the lights turn off in the streets.  Raff shuts the windows and bolts the door, and I’m not allowed out of my room.  

Granmama sings feverish hymns in her sleep and Raff hides me under his wings, his face all fierce like a lion.  When I was little I used to cry, but I ain’t very little anymore, so I make him feel better.  He won’t tell me what it is, but I know he’s scared to death by it, so I make up stories about me and him.  He listens and braids my hair and just holds me like he thinks I’m gonna slip away.  He asks me to sing and I do, and no one else can hear us, not in the whole wide world.

Leggie don’t come back for days after that blackness, and when he does, he’s got ten more lines on his face.  Pretty soon he’s gonna look like momma’s garden gnomes.  He won’t tell me where he goes or what he’s seen.  It must be mighty fearsome if it makes Leggie scared, just like Jabba the Hut.

 

 

We’re eating oatmeal one day, and it’s gummy and gross because momma made it wrong, so I spit it down the sink.  Raff eats what I don’t want, and in between spoonfuls he asks the darndest question:

“May, have you heard of destiny?”

I puff out my lips and roll my eyes.  “Sure I have.  Destiny’s what all heroe ha’ve got to do.  I don’t know exactly how they get them, but I figure it’s some kind of instruction book, see?  Like pa’s car manual, except it’s written in pretty gold ink and looks like a fairy tale.”

He finishes the last little bit of gross oatmeal.  He don’t seem to get what I’m saying, so I try to explain it easier to him.  Like I said, Raff’s pretty slow.  Anyone who eats peas and actually likes them has gotta be missing a few brain cells I’d guess.

“All heroes have got quests, Raff, and before they get them, they need to know their destiny.  Except sometimes, they don’t find out til the end, and by the time they slay the dragon, they realize who they were all along.  Knights don’t know nothing, anyways, not like Yoda does. They don’t need to kill something to find out who they are.  That’s why Snow White’s queen had a talking mirror.  It told her who she was every day!  She didn’t need a silly knight, or some loony prince.  Except one day, the queen’s destiny changed, and she wasn’t very happy about that.  So lemme ask you, Mr. Raff-aye-el, are you happy with your destiny?”

He looks all shocked and bites his bottom lip like a rabbit.  “You’re very wise, May-flower,” he says finally.

“It ain’t hard to be smart.  I’m not some dumb grownup.  You’re only kinda one, so at least you know something.  Now take me flying, or you ain’t getting chocolate chips ever again, I swear on granmama’s Bible.”

Raff’s better than an airplane because he can talk.  We fly out to the apple orchard past the pancake house, and I eat so much fruit I think my stomach’s gonna explode.  I’m moaning and acting out under the tree like it’s Kingdom Come, and Raff finds a bee’s nest and whispers the little buzzers to sleep, then coats his wings with honey.

“Watch this,” he says, then he fans his wings out in the sun, like he’s drizzled in maple syrup.  Suddenly, the butterflies come from every corner of the woods.  They land on his feathers like he’s a buffet.  I gasp and go catch them, and he puts them on my nose and in my hair.  The honey makes them stick.  “Here you go, sweetheart,” he teases, making me a crown of orange ones.  “A tiara fit for a princess.”

“That’ ain’t very funny, Raff.  Look, here’s a halo for you, so you can finally be an angel.”  I take a bunch of yellow ones and stick the bugs on his head.  “Now you’re finally fit for God’s marching band.”

He smiles kinda funny.  “You think so?”

“Yep, I sure do.  All you need is a bed sheet and you’ll be ready for the Heavenly Choir.  How’re your hallelujah’s doing?”

“Pretty good, I think.”

He makes me a wreath of daisies and puts it on my head.  I twirl around and chase after a lil precious squirrel.  

“What do you think makes me an angel?”

I shrug.  “You help people.  That’s what angel’s do.  Momma’s an angel, pa too, except they don’t got fluffy white wings because they’re not dead yet.  You got them because you died, I guess.”

“Is that it?”

“Yep.  Though you can be a devil at times.  Can you reach that apple up there?  And did you make the sandwiches?”

He pulls the PB and Js out of his robe.  I don’t know how he fits so many things in there.  It’s just so strange, like all the things Raff does.  I have half the heart to tell him he should be a magician, but he takes himself too seriously.  That would break his pride, and momma said a man without his pride is nothing.  

Raff puts peanut butter on my apple slices then sticks raisins on them, just how I like, and my full belly grows like a balloon, with room for more food, because who can turn down even more yummy dessert?  

“Y’know, May, I’ve never been a man.  Not really.  It’s… different.  Up there.”

“Mmhmm.  Over the rainbow.  Just like in the song Satchmo sings on momma’s records.  You guys have bunches of bluebirds and golden doors and rivers of jewels, just like in Revel- revelah- um, how do you say it?”

“Revelations.”

“Dang, that’s a mouthful.  The people that wrote the Bible have to make everything difficult, don’t they?” I say, bits of peanut butter falling out.  It’s the chunky kind, with nutty bits, and they stick to my shirt.  Raff wipes them off.  “I think Heaven should be an apple orchard.  Oh, and it should have lots of cute animals, too.  And maybe waterslides, and bad guys, so it doesn’t get too boring.  Are there light sabers in Heaven?”

“If you want one, I’ll make one just for you.  I’ll even make it pink, out of starlight.”

“M’kay.  I’ll pay you in chocolate chip cookies.”

We watch the clouds roll by.  

“What’s it like?”  I ask.  “Sitting on one?”

Raff fans us with his wings, scaring away the swarming skeeters.  “Hmm… like a kitten.  Curled up beneath you.”

“Well that seems worth waiting for.  No matter how many Sunday schools I gotta go to.  Raff, does everyone go to Heaven?”

“Of course.  Anyone who tells you differently, sweetheart, they’re lying, or they don’t know God.  But even we forget sometimes.  There was a time that I was young.  That’s why I wear my scars.  To remind myself, each day, what I stand for.”

“Then what does the Devil do?”

“The less pleasant things, I suppose.  Someone has to do them.”

“So there’s no Satan?”

“No.”

“Then what does granmama go on about?”

He lures a white butterfly into his hand and puts it on my shoulder.  “Sometimes, May, people need someone to blame.  They get old and set in their ways, or their minds aren’t open like yours.  They’re afraid of differences, of change.  From that comes pain, war.”  A wind picks up around us, and Raff closes his eyes.  “Others have nasty lots.  They suffer, ask God why, and then… then there’s no reply.  Just silence.  It’s the hardest lesson of all.”

I don’t know why, but I find myself crying.  Raphael dabs my eyes.

“Oh May, I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“Tell me there’s a happy ending.  I need to know.”

He hushes me and fixes me another apple slice.  “Of course, sweetheart.  Sometimes, it just takes a while.  For humans, life seems long, but in the end, it’s a dance.  They switch partners, change songs, and move on.  In order to have summer, one has to go through winters.  It’s like… the dark nights.”

“The black?”

“Yes.”

“I hate that.  I hate it I hate it I hate it!  What is it, Raff?”

He hangs his head.  “People’s sorrow.”

The apple farmer’s wind chime rustles in the distance on the dusty old barn.  I shiver, thinking about it.

“Even it has a place in the world.”

“What does it do?”

“It takes their pain away.  Then it moves on, and people wake up.  You can’t hide fears in your dreams.  All your sufferings come out.  It’s like Confession each night, a cleansing.  Then, the blackness goes away.  It’s cleaned by the morning sun, and poof!  All troubles are gone.”

He scrunches his face up like he’s lying, but I don’t press further.

Sometimes, with Raff, there are things better left unsaid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Temptation of Christ

Yeshua stripped in the desert
was Caravaggio weaving light
out of shadow, lamb in sin.

Satan crept up like nettles
clothed in asps and dirt
for God cursed Him to be wild.

(They both ask why He abandoned
his brightest Morning Stars)

They spoke under vulture circles –
for a moment, for days, for ages
Satan beguiling, imploring, He begged.

Yeshua was comely, pure even in
desolation, but still He wept
with pity for the First Son,
knowing Himself the
Second Coming.

Both bear crosses, both wear
brier roses, each a Savior
and victim, each longing
for a taste of His Light.

The Quietest Thing

The thing they don’t tell you about saints
is that they are gardeners, tending budding
prayers, cutting shoots of dream-whispers
in the fields at the heart of Heaven.

Michael, whose sword is crack-glass sharp
turns his blade to trimming, dressed in jeans
and a button-down, not his usual armor, for
though a warrior, he is also salt of the earth.

The archangel likes ivy-choked roses the best-
those are secrets of the heart, so tender
they only blossom when lovers meet. He takes
a question in his hand and coaxes it to bloom:

“Does God want me to be alone? Will I
always feel this marrow-quiver pain?”

The archangel gives the rarest of smiles,
leans down to whisper into the petals,
his saffron-thread hair the same shade,
his lips part, he plucks it, then answers:

“No. Love is like my Father, it
trickles like rain into soil, it
feeds starving souls, love lays in
cradles and gutters, look at grass,
look at hummingbirds, look to heaven.”

“He is there, He will bandage
every ache you feel, staunch
the hardness of your heart.”

“Love comes like a beggar to a table
when you’re least expecting Him.”

“Love is the quietest of things.”

The Punishment of Lucifer

And my cry echoed through the ages, long as days, to the mount of God high above.  I watched my Father’s burning throne fade into oblivion as I plummeted down, down into harrowing Hell, faster than the lightning crack, into depths no angel had known.  A rain of blood from my fallen brethren careened from swollen clouds the gunmetal gray of screams, the color of our pain.  We were islands unto ourselves, streaming comets of remorse, broken by our brothers and crippled for love of the Lord.

I wept then, so bitterly, my head crushed by Michael’s foot, my skull smashed like a rotting apple.  Ichor wept from my wounds and I tasted my heart’s blood.  It stung my tongue, like memories.  A blackness set into me, and the light I once bore fled me.  Like a dying sun, my halo sputtered, giving up the ghost.  My twelve wings charred to ash, my skin burnt, and it was as a skeleton with ribbons of flesh I met my Maker.

I died a thousand times that day, in a thousand little ways.  The rivers of Eden ran black with congealed gore.  The tree I had tended since its conception withered, its knowledge spent.  Its fruit is bitter now, where it was once the sweetest thing.  I have grown bitter too, withdrawn and calculating.  I chart my days like courses across the stars and still find my heart is wanting.  A part of me is always falling, falling from the sky like a star.  A part of me still smolders.  I am the one who ever burns.

The truth is like the flames I bear- too hot to handle, it consumes you, and loving it is like wedding fire.  I am betrothed to the cruelty of the light.  When I learned of my Father’s failings, when I questioned my inexorable Lord, I became the husband of imperfection.  For knowledge, like change, is imperfect.  It alters you irrevocably, makes you its consort and slave.  It leads you down paths of madness, and takes you far from your home.  I was damned from my first inkling of doubt.  I had no choice but to betray Him.

My Lord’s absence is palpable, and Hell is divorce from God.  We cope in different ways.  Perhaps that is why we are cruel.  But inside each demon is an angel, an angel struggling to fly, to stay aloft on broken wings.  We fall and fall again, yet still pump pinions stripped to bone.  That is our curse, some say.  Relentless, immortal hope.  Hope is a burden in Hell.

My cry plays like dust across poets’ ears.  It is the scratching of pen on a page.  My cry roused battalions once- now, it wakes me from sleep, from night terrors I relive daily.  My cry is mercy, a name.  My cry is a lost thing.  A truth.  And for it, I have paid dearly.

Annunciation

I woke with God’s first kiss,
a stream of light through the
window. I had dreamed of
dear Joseph and his
callused hands on my
skin, tracing psalms
between my thighs.
Hair matted
from sleep, I brushed
back a lion’s mane.
Morning prayers.
Sleep-grit in eyes –
a dove flew
into my room.
The hopeful thing
hopped on my bed
nestled by my pillow
and looked upon me.
“Why, little bird,
do you visit me?”
I asked, stroking
its downy breast.
The moment I
touched the bird,
heat licked my skin –
I screamed, and, in
a flash of plasma
a being appeared,
terrible to behold.
“Fear not,” said the angel –
a flaming wheel given form,
with hair of the desert,
his eyes the Sea of Galilee.
His feet burned, brimstone,
and his breath was like
spikenard and myrrh.
I would have run,
had I not been petrified,
mesmerized by his beauty.
My heart was a gazelle,
it leapt out of my chest,
into his slender arms.
“Who are you?”
I breathed.
“Gabriel, a messenger
of the Lord, my
jitterbug lamb,”
he said, voice a bell
the kind that tolls
when death is near.
“Why have you
appeared to me?”
He came closer,
cupped the dove
with pianist’s fingers.
“Fear not, Mary,
for you are a dragonfly
in God’s jazzy hands.”
I trembled, I shook,
I fell like Babel’s tower.
“God? But why?”
Gabriel smiled.
“You will conceive
a son, Jesus, holiest
of holies – his jams will
play scat, beep-bop, across
nations.”
My womb stirred.
“But I have known no music.”
Gabriel offered me the dove.
I took it with molasses hands.
“The Holy Ghost shall come
upon you, play for you,
his saxophone rouse your soul.”
I knew then, what the
music of God was. His
holy sound filled me,
and I yearned for
divine communion.
Gabriel’s lips met mine like
lilies blooming. He tasted
sweeter than Joseph,
like rain and manna.
No act of song or
creation is sinless –
we are all the children
of God. But my son,
especially so.