Ode for the Terminalia
In Roman times, the year began on the first of March, and so a series of festivals near the end of February functioned much as our holiday Christmas season does now. They were a time to renew old friendships, celebrate past year, mourn the dead, and settle accounts. Part of this festive time were the three festivals of 22-24 February: The Feralia, for making peace with the dead on 22 February; the Charistia, for making peace with the living on 23 February; and the Terminalia, for renewing the boundaries of the community, on the 24th.
Hail to you, fuzzy boundaries of my thought.
Greetings to the sharp world’s sharper edges.
Hail, new notions, in webs of custom caught.
Greetings to chances beyond high hedges,
not quite hidden from latch of garden gate
where known safety ends — yet beauty begins.
Where is grass greener but over the wall?
The same thing does not always satiate;
who feels it not when normality thins
to waking nightmares, as bitter as gall?
Terminus, boundaries have purpose and place.
Remind us of that when we come too near an edge
that opens too fast on infinite space
or drops among rocks from crumbling ledge.
Yet help us to cross imagined frontiers:
those borders we erected in our hearts
on lines of hate our ancestors engraved.
Open long-locked gates rusted shut with tears;
Though we would defend against the worlds’ hurts,
by bulwarks and redoubts we are not saved.
Today I set new boundaries for my heart,
and learn to regard the Earth’s four quarters
as a garden where I must do my part
to nourish herbs and waken lush parterres.
Today I open gates slightly wider,
and mend fences in hope of making friends
with intimate and infinite alike,
though mountains prove a mighty divider.
Spirit watching over the worlds’ ends:
help me raze walls that stand for the wall’s sake.