A SUMMER AFTERNOON

Heavy as hot wet flannel, every breath…
I hate to sit or move against
this August afternoon.
Sticky-damp, clothes cling,
a drag against ambition.
Birds, lethargic, dull,
sing only if they must,
fly ghostlike if at all
through dusty drooping trees.
Cicadas ratchet on and on–
maddeningly constant;
mosquitoes whine
or strike unheard, the devils!
Roses overblown and bright,
relishing this tropic season,
exude aromas heavy and too sweet.

I languish, scowling, discontent
and longing for the night–
for sleeping cool and waking
to a morning softly lit, a little chill–
a tease dispelled by ten o’clock.
A distant rolling grumble…
Ah!The thick and heavy air is stirring–
Ozone sharply breaks the roses’ hold
upon the atmosphere–
the light is strange and green and darkening,
and thunder rolls and rolls and rolls again,
bolder, growling ever nearer now…!
A little wraith pops up
where a raindrop slaps the dust
and lightning cracks!
across the canopy of cloud–
and down the deluge comes
drowning wraiths and dust,
silencing cicadas in mid-song,
washing mosquitoes from the air…

I stir, I go down from the house
with gratitude
to greet the storm and lift my face
to the blessing rain.

In half an hour, it is done:
birds exulting, flicker through
the clean and gleaming trees,
they lose the dust that dulled them
drink on the wing
and refresh their song;
cicadas scrape out again their noise;
the roses, freshened, lift their heads and buds,
bejeweled in crystal beads;
A beam of sunlight shoots from west to east
and mists rising, catch the glow…
The heat retires before
the evening coming on…

August 2006, revised June 2020 by CLRedding

Reclaiming the Eternal Feminine

MEDUSA

O maid, you once were lovely,
full of grace, and named
for Wisdom in eternal female form–
Metis, Maat, Medha the names you bore…

But the passing generations,
reshaping and restructuring your form,
made you over as a thing to fear,
no longer Maid, but Monster
with a deadly, stony gaze;

Men made you cruel and cold
and perilous to life in latter days,
forgetting that the peril in your eyes
is Truth too true for them to see, and live.

Grim-faced now, the Gorgon who is wise,
whose serpents in her hands once offered Life
now–writhe in ringlets on her brow
And Perseus pursues her with a knife…


2005 by CL Redding

The mythic Medusa illustrates one of humankind’s greatest dysfunctions.

Throughout all the cultures in which women have been put down and diminished, relegated to roles of subservience, charged with incapability of mind and frailness of body, Medusa is the perpetual feminine monster. In those regarding the Universe as perpetually polarized between the good and the bad, the feminine became associated with evil: with deceit and beguilement, with treachery and trickery, with insincerity and disloyalty… It’s a very long list, all the Evils of the world.

Out of these attitudes, naturally flows the reshaping of the feminine from being respected as an equal partner to the masculine, and possessed of particular female powers, to being chattel of the male: from a whole, inherently valuable person to an object having no value except as men define it. Humanity has been deformed and crippled by this dysfunction since the rise of patriarchal supremacy. When life became about conquest and physical domination, the values of insight, of healing, of the powers of gentleness were diminished.

It isn’t about how individual men are, or specific women: It is about foundational assumptions and beliefs throughout a culture in its defining of maleness and femaleness. It is about the essence of the masculine and of the feminine. It is about unexamined notions and forgotten roots. It is the belief in what we are, male or female, in our deepest, most inescapable selves.

How do we heal this dysfunctional family, humankind? It has to start with awareness, with questioning what has been accepted, even unwillingly, as normal, with looking back to beginnings, to the most ancient times before the beginnings, to seeing a world without this dysfunction. It requires realizing where beliefs come from, where these beliefs came from, at their very roots.

When we recognize that the original notion–that women are less than men, that female power is less significant than male power–we can consider what information our ancestors possessed, see how the mistaken or misunderstood or simply missing information led them to such a conclusion. Finally, we can admit that it has always been wrong, and assert what we, generations and ages later, now believe.

We know so much more now, we understand so many things better than our ancestors did, or could. Our philosophies have grown far more sophisticated. We have better psychological tools for making this descent into our most profound past. It is in our power to refute, to redefine the ‘truths’ of our ancestors, and knowing better, to do better, as Maya Angelou said, to make the necessary shift from benightedness to revelation.

Who?

I look for you
your sweet face gleaming
on the very edge of dreaming,
I seek you, yearning
to believe,
to know
that you are real…
that we are in a world
together loving,
touching, laughing,
waltzing
on a harlequin ballroom floor,
chequered black and white,
smooth and perfect
in a forest glen,
beneath crystal skies
and lit by
dancing fireflies…

Privilege

I walked a path today, 
a path I’ve passed
oh, many times before,
because it led up-hill,
and looked like work…
But today, I walked it anyway.

I was rewarded by
a twisting tree I’ve never seen,
and  colored textures in the trail
and a gated fence with signs:
“No Trespassing” and
“Private Property… No Entry”–
all on the far side of the fencing
facing outward to the busy world.
Wow, I thought
with more respect
For this park in which I walk
any time the urge is on me.

Octopus

Lurking
loosely,blobbishly
unrolling,
your enormous
bulbous head
a-lolling,
with a kind of
neckless grace
as you come pouring
down the face
of rocky coves
and coral caves 
that shimmer
with a most enchanting glimmer
through the roof
of pulsing waves–
Gem set in a jewel…

Red or yellow,
white and polka-dots
or maybe cobalt blue:
Loosely committed to your shade,
your shape also defined
sort of
by whatever space you fill…

And yet, in you
a hunter’s will…
And truth be told,
you’re really rather smart and bold:
Gravity’s your bitch
and physics, too,
and even literary art
as suddenly, you’re
outofhere!
with jet-assist,
and last-word mockery
expressed
in ink.

2007

LOBSTERS ON PARADE

Across the abyssal plain,
in waters weighted with the entire ocean
and as utterly black as night can be,
lit only by the thrashing sparking flaring
of creatures bizarre by any notion
of ourselves, the lubberly kind…

Across these heavy deeps
in measured tread of little feet crustacean,
they march, determined in their quest
with thoughts in mind, if there is any thinking,
of dancing fandangos in slow motion
with lady lobsters, fair and fine…

Across the rippling sands
the lobsters march in single-file profusion
parading to their dancing grounds
driven by intent of reproduction
with no digression or confusion
Miles of lobster swains divine…

February 2005

Muse

Under branches reaching
for light of stars
and solitary moons
and wanderers across the sky…

Always
I am here–
another tale unfolding,
a flower held in both our hands
unbudding
to an unexpected bloom…
The light of all these skies
shines–
between our eyes…
Never fear–
I am here.

Seek me,
seeking you–
in campfire shadows…             
in corners of your heart
known
but unexplored…
In imagination’s sparkle
just beyond the circle
of its light, am I, waiting
for your call
your coaxing tones
and love
and ears to know
what I would teach
that no other being knows…
Softly, softly,
gently,
powerful
are we.

Nocturne

This midnight restlessness of mind
that drives me room to room
is once again awake:
when all the world is dark and dreaming
it drives me softly,
something seeking…

A child in the window frame
gazing out on night-times’s day,
held in thrall
by lunar light
that casts the night-lands
soft and fey…

A girl enwrapped in arms,
entranced,
over moths
that dash and dance
about the silent night-light in the hall…
our fascination
for the solitary spot
of misplaced sunlight
shared…
It is our secret,
the moths’ and mine…
Yet tensed against
the sudden gaping door,
harsh light
indignant questions
and I answerless,
will be cast back
aggrieved,
ashamed,
alone
to fade into the heavy dark
that holds no sleep nor magic
nor any ease of mind…

The years of passing childhood,
the girl approaching womanhood
enduring countless days
beneath the caustic eyes
of the ones who criticize,
who daily torment and despise…
The one night’s daring
loud despair
replied to with
two aspirins’ warmest love…
I could not tell them
when they finally came
where the real pain lay…


Now, when I, restless,
rise and roam from room to room,
I know the one who sleeps behind me
neither questions nor condemns
My wanderings are mine, again,
my wonderings
that will come when they will…
and in all the hours of darkness
the nightlight burns as brightly
as any dancing moth could ask.

1975

Night Running

Under a sky
netted with stars
like gems
in the sweeping waves
of holy tresses…

Wind sighs
like divine breath
of the world around
and with it
I also breathe…

Running, running
kinless
under the sky
Moon, the lantern
full as a pearl,
a heart,
the senses
on a night like this…

In such solitude
alone and yet
by all the world embraced
I wonder,
Where in all of it
are you?

2014

Solitude

Wandering–
flickering quietly
a fragment of my soul
in peaceable night,
eternal playground
of gods and planets,
stars and dust and dreams…


Hearkening–
to a thread of tone
a music simple
and profound
and not entirely
unknown…

Wondering–
Shall I follow?
Cast my curiosity
upon the solar winds
tack this way and that
until I come
to find
the instrument,
the player of this theme?


Or–
wander on–
embracing solitude,
and safe?

November 2009

November 2009