My Heliopolis

May 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

You are crisp lines and aging brick
you are the wind whistling through alleyways
you are the graceful equation of the arch
and you are water-worn walls, sun-scorched rock,
ravens roosting on the growth of scaffolding.

The phoenix and the hawk
are migratory birds, all cycles
and the change of seasons,
ever leaving,
ever returning,
burning and evolving
though the core nature yet remains.

Be my place of returning
with your streets full of secrets
your fine architecture, old and new
growing in the ways that cities do
in the turning of the seasons
in the cycles of the sun and moon.

I am my own sun.
I burn and shine of my own light
drawn from the worlds above, below,
without, within,
the joy the pain the inspiration –
I light my own pyres, now.

Be not my igniting fire;
be not my captor, nor my hero.
Be instead my Heliopolis,
a stable place to build my nest,
to perfume with cinnamon and myrrh.
Hold me safe as I ache, and burn,
and am reborn.

Elemental

February 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

A phoenix needs the flame
the sun, the solar flare
drawn to its beauty-bright
the incandescent sear

and burning hurts, it’s true –
too often or too soon
comes the risk of never rising
of burning out, consumed.

But every fire beckons
even with feathers bright and new,
drawn to each dark-shining beacon
to flames toxic and untrue.

It’s strange, this love of burning,
of heat and wind and flight,
when I shy from rocks and running
and the ocean is a fright.

Still, I’d rather death by sunfire
and the chances of rebirth,
than struggling in deep water
or a slow death on dark earth.

Expressing Phoenix

May 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’ve written on what phoenix means to me, and what it means (for me) to be phoenix. I’ve talked about how it manifests in my spirit and mind, the traits within me that I attribute to “phoenix”. I’ve written a great deal on expressing hawkness, on maintaining a necessary balance between hawk and humanity. But what about expressing phoenix?

First, you must understand that – for me at least – phoenix is intensely abstract, all myth and poetry and spirit where hawk is tactile and neurons and heartbeat. It is not something I need to manifest on a physical level, not like muscle and strength and short-cropped featherhair with hawk.

Yet it manifests all the same, merely in subtler ways. In social interactions, falling into the role of mediator, networker, connector, translator of differing communication styles: diplomat. Phoenix expresses when I bring people together, introducing kindred spirits, or when I make a new connection.

It is in the way I greet the sun when I step outside, tilting my face to the warmth and heat and light, drinking it in. Far more than fire, phoenix is a solar bird.

I express phoenix through ritual work. If I go too long heavily shielded and grounded and guarded, bindings upon my spirit and self, shut off to the subtle realm, phoenix suffers – trapped, chained to earth, unfueled. I have done this before, three years of locked-down isolation of my own making, bound in stress and fears of falling into delusion. It did me far more harm than good, a slow suffocation. Beginning ceremonial magic, structured though it may have been, felt like freedom.

The visualization I was taught for the LBRP (Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentragram) involved imagining oneself growing taller and taller, feet rooted to the earth, crown reaching to the light at the center of the universe, lengthening towards it with each measured four-fold breath. I still use that visualization sometimes, but far less laborious and more effective for me is this: sinking into my Tiferet center and launching upwards from there as phoenix, all movement and soaring joy. The first time I did this was sheer ecstasy, flight after so long grounded, freedom to stretch, to move. I/phoenix spiraled up through space and stars to that central light, dove into it, bathed in it, burned with it, dipping and wheeling to catch brightness into feathers and beak and talons. Then a dive back down, down, a burst of divine light at Keter (“ateh…”), streaking brilliance through my body, down to Malkuth and bringing the light of the universe into the earth itself.

Ve-geburah, ve-gedulah, balance points, sitting wholly in my body, ablaze with light and will, connected with the Higher Self that I perceive as phoenix. Le-olahm. Amen.

Phoenix manifests in ritual and magic, though not always the same way each time. I can be a roaring fire, transforming energy into clean fuel, a veritable batter. This is ecstatic, a trance of connection and output, raising power, firebird passion. Or I can be still and controlled, intensely focused, heron-shaped, bennu or feng-huang in an edged Will.

There are physical expressions, too, though far fewer than with hawk. Phoenix is in the hennaed redness of my hair. When I take meticulous care in the grooming of my appearance, this is a little bit phoenix for me, odd as it may seem. Sometimes I dance phoenix like I dance hawk, ecstatic trance to music.

I want to learn fireplay, and firestaff. I want to dance with heat, and I want to light people aflame. I know someone local from whom I can take a fireplay class; it’s on my list of things to learn. Firestaff might be trickier.

Thus I express phoenix and manifest it in my life. Through the social dance and in physical dance. Through ritual and magic. Through precision and passion, hair and style, reverence for the sun, and perhaps someday soon an intimacy with flame.

Soul Portrait

November 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Written in February 2004.

a body bound to earth,
its skin of yellow clay
raked here and there
by sculpting fingers.
hair like grass turned dead
soaked by red ocher and
bleached by sun’s gold.
the nose: misshapen stone
tossed upon a sleep-gray face
above a smear of sandstone
grumbling with the ground.

but beneath scrub-brush of brows –
the eyes
mirrors of the self and sky,
from false-dawn gray to autumn blue,
fixed ever on the clouds –
and can you see?
through fogged windows
the true shape of the soul…

the east wind’s cry
and all the sky
forged into winged form
and starlight stolen
with the moon
just to be transformed
to feathers bright
with silver fire
soaring on the storm –
a phoenix flies
in glory high

– but yearns, and wonders why
she’s trapped within this human shape
of earth
and clay
and stone…

Meeting the Dragon

November 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

The dragon’s lair yawned wide in the eastern face of the sheer mountainside, a stone-toothed mouth of the primal earth. A generous ledge jutted from the opening like a wide tongue, or maybe a long underbite — Yarim could not quite decide. Not that he’d ever waxed poetic on landscape before — but something about this deep cavern cast in thick shadows from the setting sun… well, it was striking.

Morning would bathe the ledge in golden light, glitter off the pyrite flecks in the rock, warm it to the heat favored by snakes and dragons. The sun would draw the dragon forth in a sleepy lumbering spill of scales and wingsails to soak in the light, blinking slowly at the layers of cream-bright walls protecting the city below.

But for now, in the growing shadows of evening, the great beast curled quiescent in his lair.

Thought of the many-walled city drew Yarim’s gaze back the way he’d come, back down the goat path that he’d not deign to call a road. His city gleamed, firelight and the more steady glow of magelight burning from windows, walltops, tower rooms. The city lay half-veiled in shadows from the northwestern mountains, half awash in red light where the sun’s dying rays streaked across the lower plains. To his other-sight, though, the entire city shone: layers of bright shields, spheres, doming over each circle of wall, and he knew–could feel, like a sloping in his skin, that they circled underneath the ground as well. Each tower burned in his subtle senses like miniature suns, runes and strong cords of combined will just discernible if he focused closely enough. Each temple was a spiderweb of many but lesser wills, tied to the direction of the priests, webs stretching over each district, strands connected to the hearts and minds of the faithful, anchored to order by their little beliefs.

Yarim drew in a deep breath of moisture-thick air and turned back to the dragon’s darkened cave. The path–if it could even be called that–ended at a small pool fed by a trickling fall of water. It was sheer cliffs from there to the ledge and cavern. No one would reach the dragon without wings or power. Wings he did not have, not truly–and excessive power was frowned upon, for it undermined the fabric of the realm, let the primal chaos eat it into formlessness.

But Yarim was of Gibnateb Tower, the Eight-Fold Stone. The towers defined the patterns of the city. His tower shone in the back of his awareness, a constant presence. He knew its strength, knew it to be the equal of the other four towers, the dominant force in the districts it shared with two temples. Khafad, the Influence of Gibnateb, meant to keep it that way — and Yarim did what the Influence willed. Yarim was to strengthen their position by a thousand subtle means. This dragon was one of those.

If it took a show of power and will to negotiate with the dragon–and indeed, power was often the only thing the great wyrms respected — then Yarim would use power.

He breathed deep, turning his focus inward to that tightly controlled core of self. So rarely did he release his own power — so rarely did he let his energy stretch beyond the strict confines he set upon it — so rarely did he let go that it took no small effort to do so. Yarim’s strengths tended towards subtlety and fine manipulation, not roaring force, not massive displays.

Yet this situation required it, and so . . . he breathed.

The first tendrils of aura, like fire reflecting off of burnished gold, curled at the edges of his body, flushing his olive skin darker still. A breeze rose up, blessedly cooling, chasing the humidity down the mountain. He breathed, and his aura brightened about him. It flickered to stronger life with each exhalation, like a kindled flame coaxed larger with bellows and breath. Something clicked between his conscious will and his inner center, then, and he gathered his focus tight — bowed his head, mahogany curls loosening from their ribbon ties — arms curving towards his back, like wings half-folded — and the breath whooshed from him in a single forceful exhalation.

His power flared, caught the last rays of daylight in its grasp and became a substitute sun for the twilight. Golden light-that-wasn’t-light surrounded him, stretching along his limbs, vague heron-necked bird-shape overlaying his human body. His fingers were both digits and pinions, his mouth both teeth and shining beak. He blazed the colors of sunlight and hearth fire, golden noon and dark red embers, his power visible even to physical eyes.

It took wings or power to reach the dragon’s lair. Yarim possessed both. He bent low, leapt into the rising night wind, and rose on wings of power in a slow burning spiral to the shrouded ledge above.

He alighted on the ledge with a backwash of light and wind, heavy with the aroma of cinnamon and myrrh. The power drew into his skin just a touch, and his feet flexed for balance as he refocused himself, breathed his aura out again. The practical use of transportation was unneeded now, but there were yet other uses…

A sharp exhalation flared brightness across the rocks, shone into the cavern, solar bright, fire warm. It brought a stirring and a rumbling from the depths of shadow. Yarim inhaled the musty scent of scales and shed skins that wafted out from the cave. The light of his power reflected hot and cold at once off of twin globes, red-gold, slitted — enormous eyes in the dark.

“Purity and truth to you and yours,” Yarim said, projecting from his gut so that his voice carried strong and firm. “I bring word from Kharib abd Gibnateb, Influence of the Eight-Fold Stone. He greets his cousin-on-the-mountain, keeper of the eastern cliffs.”

The great red-amber eyes blinked once, slow clouding from side to side of sliding membrane. There was no reply from within the cave.

Was it a waiting game? The Influence had given him only basic instruction in dealing with dragons. Yarim had to run on instinct and little information… and as knowledge truly was the greatest power, he was handicapped. So he did what instinct suggested. He followed the dragon’s example. He met the burning-ember eyes with his own mud-green gaze, and he held that fixed regard.

A low throaty rumble sounded within the cave, like the shifting of rock before an earthquake. He felt the sound touch the edge of his power, almost physical, almost solid. The great eyes seemed to grow larger. A trick of perception? Mind games? Yarim set his spirit’s anchor to earth and stars just in case, renewed his grasp on that central core within. His power flared hotter in response, pushing back at the otherworldly touch of grinding stone.

Something flickered in the seemingly disembodied eyes, hard to read in such an alien gaze — surprise? Startlement? Displeasure? The narrow pupils constricted. Now the dragon’s questing energy flicked around Yarim’s aura like a scenting snake-tongue, like desert wind. Tasting, testing.

Yarim stood his ground, met the dragon’s stare, and waited.

It felt like half an age, or an eternal moment. In time, with a sigh that smelled of volcanic ash and dank earth, the dragon stepped forward. Its claws clicked on the stone with a sound reminiscent of a blacksmith’s hammer on steel. Something rasped in the background between clicks — scales on rock? Yarim lost sight of the eyes, and when the dragon stepped into the strange glow cast by his aura, he realized why: the great wyrm had raised its head too high for a man of Yarim’s height — indeed, for any man — to see.

He’d seen dragons before, older than this one, and larger — but not this close. Proximity made a vast difference in the impression of sheer size. The scales were like dark emeralds, or the foliage of the part of forests that rarely saw sunlight: a green so deep it was almost black, or a black with green iridescence, flashing subtly between green fire and opalescent blackness in the flickering light of Yarim’s power. The scales on the massive body were as big as Yarim’s hand, and bigger; they grew smaller towards the upper neck and down the legs that ended in wickedly curved claws, obsidian black, obsidian shiny.

The dragon seemed to wear a leather cloak: wine-red, blood-red, the bass hue of garnet. Then it shifted its weight, the cloak lifted to reveal emerald ribbing, and Yarim realized that it was wings. Dark spines decorated the spine, barely visible between the rustling wings; spiked along the ridge of neck and tail, fanned out from the broad head like a hard, sharp version of the layered collars so fashionable in the city’s Wakhib district.

Yarim’s power flickered lower in his half-awed regard of the dragon. I am losing my focus, he thought. Unforgivable. He collected himself. Kharib had mentioned that size mattered with dragons. Yarim could not change his physical size, but he was more than his body. His aura was his banner, the badge of his role as diplomat. In most places, with most people, it granted him diplomatic immunity . . . but would a dragon, especially one unwise to the ways of humans, understand such a thing? Would it respect that?

It would respect power and size, Kharib had assured him. Well, Yarim’s power was not the most impressive, and he was small for his race — but he had a few useful abilities. He drew into himself, into that quiet central place within, inhaled till he contained only air and flame. The whoosh of breath leaving his body outlined his skin with incandescence that exploded outward in a wash of heat and light. It pushed the edges of his aura outward, upward, till he was surrounded by a blazing bird-light, till it rivaled the dragon’s height, till he could gaze out of eyes of fire’s-heart blue at the level of the dragon’s ember-red ones. He could see the creature’s face now, a head that could not quite be called beautiful — there was strength to it, all horned and fanged and fierce, but not refinement, not the near-equine shapeliness he’d seen in some dragons. But it was undeniably striking.

“I am Yarim abd Gibnateb, Guided Voice of the Eight-Fold Tower.” His voice crackled like a bonfire, harsh with the force of his power. “I greet you in the name of the Influence of Gibnateb Tower.”

The dragon considered him for a few thudding heartbeats. It looked into the eyes of Yarim’s banner, ignoring the human shell below. Perhaps the bright display won a response — or perhaps he’d only managed to catch the dragon’s attention. Primal earth, soil mixing with boulders just above magma rivers, rumbled in Yarim’s mind, echoed as hissing toothful words from the dragon’s hinged jaws.

“Some call me Verdant Shadow of the Mountain.” The name — or title, more likely — was imagery and sensation in Yarim’s mind. Cavern shadows, moss on the southern mountainside, ancient trees and older rock.

He felt a deep vibration in his chest and skull. After a moment, he realized it was sound, a bass rumble too low for his ears. It was a draconic chuckle. “What my people call me — you cannot make the sound,” said the dragon.

Yarim’s physical body smiled; his aura’s fiery feathers fluffed. “You might be surprised.”

“No.” The red-gold eyes slitted, pupils barely visible, harder and colder all of a sudden. “You cannot have my Name.”

feather and flame

November 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Try to grasp a flame:
it smothers, gutters,
even as it burns you
in the flash of heat
before it’s gone.

I am fire and coals.

Try to jess the wind:
bottled, without movement,
it is but air
devoid of all that made it
wild, feral, beauty –
and you’ve lost what you loved.

I am wind and feathers.

Put a phoenix in jesses
and we’ll both be
miserable, feather-plucked,
bitten, singed.

Let me fly free.

Don’t try to own me,
don’t try to keep me,
and I’ll warm you gladly
as bright embers.

burn into life

November 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

you burn so darkly

embers sullen beneath white of
ash, snow, skin
but they’re banked
and banked again
passion to melt through bone

how do you stay solid?

and it’s passion i admire
my desire to be bright
the phoenix has one lust alone
one single haunting dream and goal:
the flame
to be consumed

to what?
and to what end?
to burn is all
an end to itself
and who thinks of the ash
when all heart-fuel is gone?

my endurance is not so great
nor my fire so hot to
consume me as it must

and yours?

you are coiled steel
silver gray once
maybe even glowing red
but you’re warmed to white now
incandescence at the core
magma pulsing through your veins
and only outside rain and lunacy cools the surface to obsidian
and shadow

how do you not melt?

all that stoked flame kept under pressure
and you are still not ash
and i have never seen you ash
and i burn with the shared dark glory
of your passion

yeah
the stuff you keep coiled up in boxes and springs
beneath titanium, uranium
ice called out of the spaces between planets
not enough to contain it
not enough to quench it
and it consumes
me

finding my way to burn
by soaring through the heartfires of him, you, her
those who burn with more passion than they can hold
and i cannot quite seem to generate my own fire

icarus had a phoenix heart
couldn’t set himself aflame inside
took the wings to join the sun
the only thing hot enough
to set him alight
burn bright

the stories never tell quite how a phoenix dies
builds her nest
lays an egg
sets a worm inside
but where does the flame come from?

i think she sings the solar flares
becomes the bird-bride of the sun
and the ecstasy of their joining
consumes her into
life

 

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