Sunday, January 16, 2022

New Poem in Mudlark: AllHallowTide





Remedios Varo - Justine's Halloween



I’d like to thank William Slaughter, Editor of Mudlark, and author of The Politics of My Heart and Untold Stories, a book of poems and essays, and Older Men, an e-chapbook, for publishing this poem, and for publishing many other poems of mine (long ones!) in Mudlark over the last fifteen years. You can find a 2020 interview with him in The Review Review here.

Allhallowtide was written around Halloween and the Days of the Dead in the Fall of 2020; a reflection on my own sometimes insightful, sometimes beautiful, sometimes frightening, sometimes painful, and sometimes confusing, communication with those I’ve known who have died.



When I say “communication”, I do not mean that I believe I am speaking directly with spirits of the dead. What I mean is that I am in dialogue with the memory of those I’ve known who have died. People I loved, still love; people I loved and maybe I still resent or am angry with; people with whom my relationship still remains confusing or frustrating; people I did not love, even disliked; and some I barely knew (but who had a tremendous impact on my life nonetheless).


I think it’s important to have some dialogue with the dead. Maybe not on a daily basis, but at some point during the year. I find that, because large parts of the world are engaged in this practice during Allhallowtide, it can be sometimes more powerful and effective during those days (for me, at least). When I practice speaking with the dead during Allhallowtide, it never fails to surprise me when and how they answer back.

It can sometimes be emotionally intense, but I encourage everyone to try this.


Leonora Carrington - the unicorn & ghost in the wall

Michaela recently reminded me of a meditative practice that can be helpful to decrease stress/anxiety, reduce physical pain, and help bring the brain back online after highly stressful days/weeks/moments.

It’s called Lovingkindness Meditation or Metta meditation (a type of Buddhist meditation – in Pali “metta” means positive energy and kindness towards others). I think it can be helpful to adjust the practice slightly in relation to communicating with the dead that still reside inside us.


Remedios Varo - Meeting

Metta Meditation with The Dead

Find a place to sit in silence. Relax your muscles. Sometimes it helps to do a body scan or progressive muscle relaxation (starting with feet or crown of the head and slowly move up or down slightly tensing muscles and releasing them).

If there are parts of your body where you cannot release tension, simply acknowledge where there is tension and move on to the next part of the meditation.

Imagine someone you cared about, someone who cared about you, standing in front of you. Let the image settle, then say to them:


My you be safe and protected.

May you be healthy and strong.

May you be happy and free.


Then - and this is the tricky part for many of us, because it’s so uncomfortable to care for ourselves - allow them to say it back to you.


My you be safe and protected.

May you be healthy and strong.

May you be happy and free.


Imagine this exchange with as many or as few people as you like.

When you are done, put your hands, one over the other, on the center of your chest, over your heart area, and say:


May I be safe and protected.

May I be healthy and strong.

May I be happy and free.


Then, expand this practice to include all beings:


May all beings be safe and protected.

May all beings be healthy and strong.

May all beings be happy and free.



Here’s the opening of the poem:




The graveyard-shift moon

crests the eastern ridge,

shines through the faces

of those waiting to enter

the Penny Soul Arcade.


A bus passes: blue light

ignites my cheek bones.

Promises made at birth,

made before birth, retreat

beneath parked cars…


(The rest of the poem can be found here.)




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