Hymn of Vesta’s Cleansing

Farewell, flame, and ashes of what once was —
with sweat and prayer, the sacred make new.
Divinity begins with what one does,
and you only, Vesta, are good and true:
watching over and blessing house and hearth,
keeping the sparks of our families alive,
and seeking always the peaceable home.
In your governance are kitchen and garth;
you cause both garden and children to thrive,
and watch our shrines as you watched over Rome.

In our minds, the white-robed priestesses go
altar to altar with brush, rag and broom,
sweeping year-old coals into Tiber’s flow,
and washing marble in each sacred room
where xoanons of divinity stood.
Dust billowed out from each citizen’s door
as mortals renewed their compacts with flame:
“Bring us another year of fire’s good,
a year of feasts, and bounty set in store
against both famine and creditor’s claim!”

With each ancestral image repainted,
with wall re-plastered and courtyards scrubbed clean,
bed linens laundered and gardens weeded,
the house — the whole city — starts to gleam.
At sunset, cool darkness pervades each street
except from one gate, where glowing embers
struck in secret, embark to seek each height,
as carried by Vestals with clean, bare feet.
Even Jove, in Olympian slumbers,
wakes to give thanks for fire in the night.

School is out. Today, I’m thinking about coming up to Worcester for poetry, but I could happily be swayed to some other activity, movie or hanging out or conversation or some suchlike.

Tomorrow, about 9am to 1pm, I’m going to be in Auburn, getting my car looked over and some new tires unless someone is prepared to liberate me. Leave me a message and we’ll work something out. I’m prepared to be in Worcester until about 3:30 pm, but Leah and I have dinner guests, and I’ll have to go home for that.

Saturday, I’m going to be doing a combination of a poetry reading and a poetry-writing workshop at RiverFest in Concord, Massachusetts. Love to see some Worcester folks, Boston folks, or Concord folks for that; I’m stationed at the boat launch from 11 am to 2 pm, and Leah and I might be free for dinner or suchlike afterwards, though we might be booked, I’m not sure. Leave a comment or e-mail me, and we’ll work something out.

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