Smoke & Mirrors


Raised a Christmas Catholic,
I spent Easter, Christmas morning
& the occasional Sunday visit
in church.

I didn’t mind.
Through the shadowed arches
latin rolled with a magic tongue;
the ritual, bells and incense
spoke to pagan memory
interred in my genes,
as the stained glass inspired visions
of a lusty heaven
& the angels rioted over all.

Confession was rough
-I’d make things up
just to have something to confess.
The wafer was dry
& offered little sustenance
to a small child sitting
in enforced solemnity
on a hard pew.


At the onset of my rebellious teens
my mother joined a sect of holyrollers,
who spoke in tongues
when the Spirit entered them.
I found it distasteful & never went.
My sisters, younger,
were dunked in vats of water
before the congregation:
rebaptized, resaved, resworn
& I thanked God
that I had escaped that humiliation.

My mother said I would go to hell
for not accepting Jesus in my heart;
so I set up devil-worship altars
in my teenage bedroom & indeed
bedeviled her whenever I could.
I decided that I was an atheist.
I was too “intellectual”
to believe in an old man
with a white beard and robe
who would send me to hell
for saying Shit or Damn
-who cares?
I was cruel and morally superior
to the poor deluded woman.


During most of my twenties
I was too busy getting through,
surviving as breadwinner
& single mom
& trying to reserve a small
secret place for myself as an artist
to worry about heaven & hell
& the meaning of life.
Paganism and wicca were
romantic, aesthetically attractive
but I hadn’t the time
-or the discipline-
to practice it seriously.

When I was honest, I had to admit
that I believed no more
in God as Earthmother
than I did in God as angry Father.
In times of desperate need
I never prayed, to anyone.

New age books, crystals,
packs of tarot cards
collected dust on my shelves
as I fell from day to day
through the endless progression
called Getting By.
I lived in limbo
between despair and exaltation,
wishing for that elusive More
as the years passed
in their usual mad progression
that takes us all unaware.
Normality. Filling space.

Years pass. Friends die.
Age settles like winter
in the bones too soon.
I look back at myself at sixteen
through eyes lined
by the bird-tracks of time
& feel the need that maturity brings
for Greater Purpose, for Meaning
in a life that seems so shallow
after you come to that realization
that your adolescent dreams
will never come true,
that you aren’t Special or Heroic
or Destined for Something Big.
You find that you just exist…filling space.

There has to be more,
but my search nets no answers.


I would hope someday
to be a magnificent old woman,
living alone in a cottage in the woods
filled with books, paintings, firelight
& generations of cats.
A woman who bears undyed white hair
as proudly as she does
the lifemap etched into her face,
a wisewoman with steel in her bones,
hiking over the hills, staff in hand,
collecting herbs in the dark of the moon.

If nothing else, I would wish
to meet whatever comes
beyond the portal of this life
with directness and eagerness
to see what lies there,
secure in the knowledge
that I may never have been
a great artist, or had a legendary love,
or touched the world beyond
my child, my family & friends
but still-
That I had found God or Goddess
inside myself, where perhaps
is the only place HeShe has ever lived,
& had made of my life
a temple, a place to rejoice
in the simplicity of Life,
or drawing breath in the
green light of the woods,
feeling the sun,
holding a child…
in having known what really matters.

The rest…well, I’ll wait
to see what lies beyond
the curtain that divides our lives
& everything will come in Time.
One way or another, it always does.