Winter, 2005

Velene Campbell

Three Poems

Moon Poem

When the moon first appeared
in the ebony void
people saw it
and began to worship
the god of light.
It had risen
from behind the hills
and in the darkness
we saw its face
as the tip of a flame
lighting the shadows of trees.
The black water
became a resting-place
for its reflection
and because it mirrored
the face of a god,
we drank this water
and began to store it
in holy vases
which were placed in our homes.
These vases, carefully made
of white jade and ivory,
contained pieces of silver light
which we could pass on as a memory
of our first vision of the moon.
We used these vases
to teach our children
that though things may become
invisible to the eye for a time,
they never the less remain
solid and hard
and do not disappear
beneath the thick darkness.
This is the thing the moon
had revealed to us.
After a time
the moon lessened its image
and became three-quartered,
and a few became afraid and forgot
what it had taught them
It had risen from behind the hills
and part of its face was gone
These few worried that others
had discovered some way
of cutting it
and hiding its light
They thought that perhaps
the night was more powerful
than the moon
and was eating it
as death eats men.
They told their families
and when the leaves moved
along the ground,
and the hoots of owls
became like the cries of ghosts,
these few said the voices
came from the water,
that these sounds
were the cries
of the drowning moon
Many began to believe everything
They saw the onyx smoothness
of the water
as the god of the dark void
that eats all light.

It was then that people
began to form numbers
that went in a straight line
We used these to count days,
and to see if our own
numbered longer
than that
of our neighbors.
We began to watch the animals,
began to suspect
the fox,
the bird,
the snake,
the dove.
We thought the beaver
might be stealing
the roots of trees
to hide the moon's reflection.
We watched the bird
and wondered if it might be gathering grass
to hide the moon in the trees.
We watched the snake shed its skin
and believed it had eaten the moon,
that it grew new skin so the silver light
could not escape from its body.
We thought the mouse had taken it
in the middle of the night,
and had run to hide it underground.
We thought the dove had swallowed it
because we heard it in her voice.
Then we began to make weapons.
We shot the dove and opened her
We killed the fox
and the beaver
and still the moon remained partly missing.
We found the snake, the bird, and the mouse,
and we skinned these animals
and put burning twigs in their skulls.
We found our neighbors
and killed them,
and put lightning bugs in their mouths.
Then we lit candles and made churches,
and we prayed that the souls
of the dead
would return the moon to its original fullness
and make our own days numberless again.

And I looked up
and saw that the moon
was now halved in its light.
I believed that my ancestors
had made the moon wane.
They had taken the water
and had swallowed it at night,
and the light of the moon
had passed
into the bodies
of their unborn.
I began to worship
the god of spirits.
I began to make large wars
to release the hidden light
from the moving limbs of the living.
I remembered the vases
which contained the moon
in the same way the body
encircles light,
and I took these vases
and opened them,
and saw
that my own reflection
had disappeared.

The moon rose quartered
and I thought the air
was eating my face,
that it had taken my reflection
from the dark water
I went to my house
and hid.

I noticed the ants,
began to worship them.
I covered the ground
with large buildings
that protected me
from the day
and night.
I created my own light.
I made boxes
that reflected my image
back to me.
I saw stories of the great wars
I had won,
and stories with straight lines
that tied together so neatly
nothing was left hanging.

By the time we had forgotten the moon
except as something to conquer
and put a flag on,
it went dark.
We watched the world
through only one eye.
We believed we could create
Not many noticed
the missing moon.
Powerful men had themselves frozen
before they died
so they could return
when we had learned to kill death itself.
We made glass cities which shone
with the similarity of our faces,
and we tried to discover
how to grow metal limbs
because we wanted to replace
those that still bled
when they were cut.
We believed that power
came from the blood of others,
and in our self-worship
we even began to believe
that eternity was a measurable distance
which could be crossed.

And because an idol was known
to be the face of a god,
I held mirrors up to my face,
and in blindness to anything but my own image,
I licked myself clean of age and earth,
and entirely disappeared.

The Rock

The rock was very old. It had lived in the river for many years, and its belly had become as smooth as that of the water that held it. It had traveled down the river, and had seen many things, had learned much. Each year it would go a certain length, and when winter came, it would become covered with darkness, and then would sleep. The ice would cover the river like a blanket, and the rock would feel at once like falling, like sleeping. Then it would only dream of the past year, and would remember what had happened. In this way the rock could learn, it could remember, and make a part of the past year its own.

Within it the rock had many things. It had the green of the trees, the bear's sweet tongue, the scales of the fish, each of them a rainbowed mirror of the earth above. The rock saw all of these things, and many more, and had become each thing that it had seen, carried them within itself, until it was many things, this small rock.

It had started out a large mother rock, perhaps the mother of all rocks, but it could not stand to think that it was alone, that it was only this one great thing. It could hear, every day, more and more, different voices talking, different voices than its own. Some of them wanted to be in another place, perhaps on another side of the rock, some of the voices talked only of stretching, perhaps even of stretching to the point of accidentally breaking off. But these voices knew that to stretch was to crack, and eventually fall off into who knew what. But when the rock was one great thing, it knew that it was still apart, that it was, or perhaps could be, different. It knew it in its rock self, and could not know what it knew now, it was still too young at the time. Then it only knew that it heard other voices within and without its great rock self. It knew of the river, and would look down. It knew of the wind, could hear its different voices. It knew of the rain, and that it fed the river, it knew that there were others besides itself. It knew of these few things.

Now it was very old, and had seen and become many things. The lichen had talked with it, had joined it, and made the rock its home. The leaves that fell and died in the river told it their stories of the winds and insects, and the rock had become them all, the many snow-covered winters, many summers, the many different springs and falls. It had become the stream that had become the
river that had been swallowed by the great salt sea. It had fallen deeply asleep beneath the great depths, had been carried by the mother tides, until finally, within itself, it felt many little voices, and the rock then remembered its beginnings.

These voices knew that they were not alone. Some wanted to be on the other side of another small voice, some wanted very badly to stretch, and the old rock heard them all, many small, frightened voices, all afraid of cracking, falling off into who knew what. But these small voices all knew that they were not alone, and at the same time that they were different.

Then one day the rock felt a little pain in its smooth side, felt a little as if it were, perhaps, dying. It felt a small, very small, perhaps, crack. It hurt, but the rock was not afraid, it loved its small voices. The rock felt within itself, and remembered, for it had slept and dreamt for many winters. It remembered itself, and knew that it was still the great mother rock, who knew that to fall, even apart, was to go on to see and to become many different things. Then as the rock lay on the sand, deep beneath the great sea, it felt at home, knowing that even though it would be different, it was not alone.

All that is above

Also is below

What The Goddess Did

She was hungry, so she made food to eat.
She was thristy, so she made the rain.
She was at first, so she made the many.

Then clouds became clouds because she wanted to see them,
The sun because she wanted to feel warmth on her skin.
So then she made snow, to feel the difference,
The difference between heat and cold,
And the wind because she wanted her breath to be felt,
That's why there are all kinds of birds,
To do this.

Before she was thirsty for life.

Alone she was thirsty for life,
She wanted to be a mother.

She made each thing different,

Drops of water,
Sand grains,

Mouths to feed.

Then in the palm of her hand
She gathered these things,
Her breath in everything,
Crystals, green gems, rubies
And fire; in her hair insects crawled,
Made webs in her hair, and she
Wore them like emeralds,
They were related;

Her breath in clouds
And rain her spittle.

The clay gods spoke to her then,
Made mud. From out of the mud
She made a husband.

It rained a lot, didn't stop.
It still hasn't.