Summon Back the Light

When, where, and who are we?
The experts disagree.
You’ll find them in old libraries
Measuring us against

They measure the shadows
To remind us what light should be,
To tell us where and when we are,
If not when we’ll be free.

Now, if you listen to the experts,
you’ll find that they all say
“that a shadow’s length is height
over tan of angle A”
And that the sun—
Barring unusual disarray,
yes, the usual polling error—
Has a chance, a real
“if not insurmountable,”
Nate Silver’s quick to say,
Chance of rising, oh yes rising,
At last, on election day.

When darkness overwhelms you—
When wolves devour the sun—
When it seems the world is over—
Before the year’s begun—

When the home fire’s left unburning—
When your lantern’s out of oil—
When the stars no longer guide you,
When ice holds fast the soil—

When the blue moon laughs pitilessly
Down from its place on high—
When fire devours the ancient trees—
And under mistletoe, all die—

Then remember your ancestors,
The long nights that came before.
Remember this is not our first winter,
But one among so many more.

Remember the gods and heroes
Who’ve kept hope burning bright,
Call on Lakshmi, Christ, and Stanislav,
To summon back the light.

But remember that champions alone
cannot keep the dark at bay.
It’s hope that summons back the light,
That brings a better day.

“But that’s just solipsism,” you say.
“Baseless optimism. Don’t experts disagree?
“What is hope, I ask you,
But well-branded passivity?”

Look, pal—it takes more than polling data
To keep Níðhöggr from the tree.
We need the blood of patriots
To resurrect our Lady Liberty.
It took more than facts and figures
To raise Balder from the dead.
Whether you’re a Mayan or a Democrat,
You sacrifice, instead.

Sure, the sun may rise without it—
Sure, the moral arc may bend—
But if we want a trend toward justice,
We’ve all got hands to lend.

In an unusual consensus,
The experts all agree—
“Hope does spring eternal
From a well of gravity.
And the length of a shadow
May tell us who we are
But it can’t predict the heights we’ll reach
Beneath that rising star.”

So join me in rebuking darkness,
In calling back the light.
And perhaps the sun will rise again
After this endless winter’s night.

We Hold the Wall

If we do not hold the wall

Then that Eternal City, that land where your fathers died, that land of Aeneas’ pride, your home, yes, that Rome— 

That Rome will fall.


If we do not stand our ground and guard the land those brothers found, then the Gauls

Will scale the walls, will sack your home, will steal your bride, will take your home—that’s it, your Rome— 

We hold the wall.


If we do not keep foreign treasures, each beyond all worth and measure, held in trust, (for safekeeping, by their betters), well protected within city walls, 

Then our temples will be looted, and all our Gods will get booted and our white towers will be overthrown, and Rome, that’s right, your Rome—  

That Rome will fall. 


When the tweeting, when the twiddling of Nero’s fiery, fractious fiddling is drowned out by the singing, by that ringing clarion call

Of the Vandal, and the Goth, and the Gaul—then Rome, the Rome that was your home— 

That Rome will fall.


Out of the walls they built, out of the seven-tiered tombs of Troy, the barbarian dead rise, draw veils across the stars, and cry out our curtain call,

Those once silent sullen shades are now humble hungry mean, and they ravenously dream—of a Rome where everyone is free, of a Rome that never has been yet but still could be, a home

We hold the wall (but that’s all, that’s all.)


The dead mumble in the dark. They say that without the wall

There would be no citizens and no barbarians, only one home, a single Rome.

Why hold the wall?

When this Rome will, (when this Rome must,) fall.

julius caesar marble statue

Photo by Skitterphoto on

For Prometheus

Now comes the daybreak, biting and cold.

Now comes the morning unending.

Now comes the eagle, 

The eagle.

The eagle.

Then comes the day, frightful, alone.


Do you regret it, Prometheus, I wonder?

The pile of fat, the pile of bone. 

Do you regret it— 

The defiance, the yearning

For something yours only, 

a people called home?


Your chains are unbreakable, 

for me, only human. 

I hit them with hammers,

I hit them with fists. 


Blood of a god,

Blood of a mortal, 

Spills on the mountain,

The air wet with mist.


Do you remember, Prometheus, 

the days that were painless?

When you shaped me from clay—

When we made flutes from old bone?

Do you remember the time before 

Hurting and waiting, 

before days upon days

Of blood, and cold stone? 


Now comes the nightfall, biting and cold.

Now comes the darkness unending.

Now come the hearth fires,


and blazing.

When you see them, remember:

We’re never alone.

The Quest

To harvest the root of fire,

you must pry back your eyelids,

and listen, as the wild cat does,

stomach growling.

You must walk backwards for a thousand miles,

until your boots break,

and your toes peek out like hatchling birds

begging for worms.

You must pull back the skin of water

and make, of it, a cloak.

You must forget yourself –

and make music

from old bones.

an antidote to inattention, indeed


like you mean it


the catch in your throat

the swell of

the abdomen, the na a sal

pa a SAGACHOO – – –

damn it.

you’ve sneezed. already.


the… whistle, the er

snuffle, of

(allergies, you know)


on the breath.

(your dog is whimpering outside;

the microwave hums)

inhale, a

sloww exhaalaation 1 2 3 4

(your mother is eating, chewing carrots

in the room next door –

what was that she told you,

about not smacking your lips?)

3/25/2018 journal

For long I’ve said

I live in Hope

but Hope’s no place to be –

it is a traveler’s destination,

full of pickpockets, bad restaurants, and

overpriced accommodation.

Why spend your life

window shopping for that great



You can’t afford the rent,

let alone the mortgage.

Enjoy the Moment;

eat in weekdays;

there’s always time

for a weekend away.

Some Devilish Wordplay

When I was young I loved Lucifer,

that red gold morning star. I adored

the glinting immovability in his eyes,

the bone sharpness of his teeth.

What John Wayne was to you,

the devil was to me:

perfection, in a nutshell –

so he is, and was –

trapped, frozen,

too willful for permission or permeation

from a world whose living breath

is God.

Intransigent and intransient,

he would rather be consumer and consummation incarnate

than the artery and artillery of Heaven.

Once inspired, he aspired to the throne of God,

now dispirited, he will not respire again;

he would rather expire than conspire

with the will of God.

From the Great Wizard Albertson to His Recalcitrant Student


First, the unusual result of the spell was your own fault, for not casting it correctly, and even then, for modifying said spell ineffectually. I told you to kill a lamb, and not a common household spider. And certainly I told you to cut its throat, as well, not to spray it from a distance with DEET. But you chose Renfield’s path, and now all you’ll ever have is that – this common household magic.

Have you even considered what you have lost in your squeamishness? I gave you a rite and recipe for true power. You could have given your very whisper the strength and weight of natural inclination, awoken the long-since sleeping. You could have untwisted the threads of space and time, reordered the cruel hierarchies of man and nature, acquainted yourself with, or even interrogated, this world’s errant and most ancient gods.

Before you start to draft your reply, recall that I’m aware of your thoughts on the matter. You think it’s wonderful, how the laundry folds itself, how you always know just when the soup will boil. You love the way spices taste richer, the way the mist lingers in your garden in the morning as though waiting for you to arrive, the way your singing, though to your ears no more melodious, can make your infant sleep softly in your arms. Perhaps most shameful of all, you have boasted to me – with no shred of irony or even remorse – that after twenty years, you have finally managed to keep an orchid alive. A miracle, indeed. Had you heeded my teachings, you could’ve brought it back from the dead.

You have always been, at best, a tolerable student – painfully slow, and all too keen to tangents and to scruples. This last incident is almost enough to make me discontinue our lessons entirely. The proverbial straw on the camel’s back, so to speak. HOWEVER, given the fact that I have not, as yet, received a more promising student, in spite of frequent advertisement, I have, below, attached your homework for our next monthly session. Perhaps, in the course of my efforts to turn you into a more admirable sort of sorceress, I have neglected your penchant for, if not proficiency in, Green Magic. Don’t disappoint me again, Viola.

Please read the introductory sections in the Green Magic Grimoire on both Herbology and Potions, and prepare the supplies recommended for the first two spells in each. I am attaching a vegan-substitution guide for witchcraft, given your recent, unfortunate quibbles.



So you’ve decided to become a hermit witch…

…And why wouldn’t you? Between the world’s political situation, the patriarchy, and that guy who keeps emailing you about timeshares, there are plenty of reasons to want to get off the grid, off the mailing lists, and to start experimenting with black magic – how about a timeshare on a dark and distant dimension, buddy? But before you put any ancient gods on speed-dial — or your internet on deep Appalachian dial-up — it’s important to figure out a few of the basics.

  1. Figure out your goals.

Are you becoming a hermit witch to get away from the world, or to work more on yourself? Perhaps you want to be closer to nature, or need somewhere quiet to work on your magic. In any case, determining your goals, priorities, and expectations ahead of time will allow you to make the most of your time in the deep, dark woods. 

  1. Determine the requisite resources.

Sure, there are trust fund hermit witches out there, but the rest of us need to make a living. Think about your finances: can you save up money before the move, and how long will that money last you? Does growing your own food, herbs and all, sound fun to you, or would you prefer Amazonfresh deliveries? Do you need to find a supplementary form of income, and will that require internet? Determine the resources you need, and make your plans accordingly.

  1. Plan your lair.

Once you’ve determined your goals and resources, you can begin narrowing down locations and housing styles. Are you more of a classic Black Forest kind of witch, or would you prefer somewhere a bit sunnier, like the Rhone-Alps or a redwood forest? If you aren’t sure yet, you may need to do some additional research on the pros and cons of various housing options. After all, you don’t want to sign up for a candy cottage only to realize that you’ll be roommates with every squirrel in the neighborhood. Are you willing to install an elevator in that obsidian tower, or do you enjoy the physical challenge of parading up and down a few dozen drafty stories with your cape flowing behind you? 

These are just a few things to consider before becoming a sorcerer recluse. For a more comprehensive look at a hermit witch’s life, please see author Bernadine “Deanie” Schmitt’s memoir, Why I Never Came Back from the Black Forest: A Witch’s Guide to Making it Work in the Woods, Dial Up and All, or read about our own experiments with the lifestyle on our blog, A Tiny House with Two Chicken Legs. Like and share!


I am what your mother warned you about:
the wolf, the trickster and devourer,
the witch, the wicked man,
the selfish woman.
I am no peaceful creature;
one day I will swallow the world,
crack it like an egg and let it drip
its hot dark blood upon my tongue.
I am wanting in every regard,
Wanting itself, in fact.
But don’t believe me, see for yourself —
between my jaws, witness
the expanding universe,
(or the last one, anyway)
peruse oceans without shore,
skies without stars, darkness almost
primeval in its scope.
Come closer, stroke the bones
of extinct and ancient gods.
But what’s this, you ask?
These white pillars, these bars, these —
yes, these gaping teeth.
Large, you say,
too large? Well. All the better to eat you with,
my dear — after all, that’s how
the story goes. In any case,
I find reality is best preceded
with a fine aperitif.