Poem/Song: Being a Tailor

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This spring (or early winter, really), I learned a new song from the folks in a band called Windbourne.  It’s called “Being a Pirate is All Fun and Games…” by Don Freed. (Words here, and him singing it is here.)

I love making up words to songs. And tonight as I worked on a sewing project, I kept losing tools. The pin cushion, the scissors, the tailor’s chalk, and so on.  I wound up composing a song to the tune of “Being a Pirate”.

Being a tailor is all fun and games, until somebody loses his chalk.
He hunts high; he hunts low, “ye gods! where did it go?!
the house elves are planning to balk!”
There is fabric to mark, there are seams still to sew,
Now Facebook is starting to talk!
Being a tailor is all fun and games until somebody loses his chalk.

Being a tailor is all fun and games, until somebody loses the pins.
He throws up his hands, all in ruins his plans,
he debates drinking all of the gins.
He scans all the tables, he cries to the gables,
“this is punishing all of my sins!”
Being a tailor is all fun and games until somebody loses the pins.

But… it’s …
all part of being a tailor, (a tailor! A tailor!)
you can’t be a tailor with all of your to–oo–lls!
It’s all part of being a tailor; (a tailor! A tailor!)
you can’t be a tailor with all of your tools!

Being a tailor is all fun and games, until somebody loses the shears.
He sighs to the roof and he feels like a goof,
and it grows his collection of tears.
He checks all around him and then it astounds him:
like magic, the scissor appears!
Being a tailor is all fun and games until somebody loses the shears.

Feel free to sing it while you’re waltzing around your sewing room.

Tai Chi Poem on Amazon

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I’m pleased to report that the Tai Chi Poem I composed in 2015 is now available for Kindle from Amazon.com.  All sixty-two sonnets in order, together with the diagrams I composed for the poem, are now in a single digital document and available for $4.49.  You can go through the back entries of this website and find all the poems — they were composed in 2014 and published here — but now they’re available as a convenient download.

The Tai Chi Poem

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In 2014, I composed sixty-two sonnets describing the process of moving through the tai chi form that I first learned in 1998 in northeastern Connecticut.  That sonnet sequence is now available as a downloadable Kindle file from Amazon.com.

Like most of my sonnets, these are Shakespearean or Elizabethan sonnets, in iambic pentameter with a rhyme scheme running ABABCDCDEFEFGG.  Some portions of the sequence may be useful to tai chi teachers for creating effective mnemonics for their own students, but I don’t recommend trying to learn tai chi from reading the poems aloud or reciting them.  Some things are better left to professionals rather than me.  I also think the poems are quite beautiful on their own.  My goal, overall, was to create something akin or in the tradition of the traditional martial arts and tai chi manuals, a combination of simple diagrams and poetic descriptions of the movements. The work is dedicated to my teacher, Laddie Sacharko of Star Farm Tai Chi.  The tai chi poem will always be available exclusively from Amazon in print form.

Other Works

The Tai Chi Poem also joins my other book, Poems for the Behenian Stars  for $9.99 on Amazon.  This second book, a poetic exploration of the fifteen stars of H.C. Agrippa’s list of the major stars of the northern celestial hemisphere, is also available as a PDF download from Etsy for $10.  I earn more royalties from an Etsy download, but I understand that Kindle grants me access to a wider audience.  Feel free to tell your friends!

31 DoM: Free Day

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Today’s official 31 Days of Magic post, for the Strategic Sorcery community around Jason Miller, would be to cook a magical meal. But I won’t be home until tomorrow night, so that will have to wait until then.  Today is a “free day”, and the action in this case for me is to “write a poem”.

This evening, I’m acting as the giver of the toast at a combination dinner, dance, and ritual for the EarthSpirit Community at their annual “Stag King’s Masque” at Feast of Lights.  The old hotel where this event used to be held has closed, and as a consequence it’s being held at the Hotel UMASS in Amherst, Massachusetts. And for the first time in forever, dinner is included as part of the celebrations.

The feast is nominally the winter ball of the Stag King — annually chosen and annually feted at this Masque, which celebrates midwinter, wildness, and the growing light as the darkness of the winter solstice is left behind.

Sometime shortly before this post went live, I stood, and called the assembly to attention, and brought them to their feet, thus:

Ladies and gentlemen,
beings of grace and power and purpose,
masked revelers, honorable courtiers, and nimble-footed dancers:

Come, take your feet, rise in honor of our gracious host,
The Lord of these winter revels. 

Here we stand, in the very garden of mid-winter,
with the blossoms and sweet scents of icicles in our nostrils.

We feast this night under spreading branches,
but there in the distance, a growing Light,
glimpsed through the shadow of mighty Antlers!

Beings of grace and power, attend!
Grant him health, long life, prosperity!
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Stag King!

Poem: Unto Distant Shores

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On Friday night at the retreat-festival I go to every July, there’s a spoken-word event called Soul Expressions.  Every year, the community’s poets, versifiers and word-smiths perform for one another in an event which is, as deeply as I have seen anywhere, about what Bill MacMillan called “sharing, not stage time.”  This year’s offerings were particularly good, and I’m deeply honored that there’s such a wonderful collection of colleagues; I just wish we were able to recite for another more regularly.

As a poet, I’m increasingly bored by the experience of writing. I still do it, I still think it’s important to write down your work. But increasingly, I try to make at least some of my work improvisational, on the fly.  This piece was trying to assemble itself all through Soul Expressions this year, out of two highly disconnected stories.  It was not written down in the moment, but came together in that space and at that time.  What follows is not at all what I said, but merely the best of what my memory can assemble, some time later.

Unto Distant Shores

One morning, when I was four or five years old,
my mother came into the bedroom and put her hand on my forehead.
“You’re sick,” she said, “Very feverish. No way you can go to school today.”
I protested. “I’m not sick,” I said, “I feel fine. Not feverish at all.”
But Moth would have none of it.  She called the school, told them I wouldn’t be in.
But of course, this didn’t mean that I would stay home. No.
“I have to go to work today,” she said.   “You’ll just have to come to my office,
and read in the corner or something.”
She bundled me up so that I was far warmer than I needed to be,
and we walked from our apartment down fourteenth street,
avoiding the drug dealers in Union Square, to her office.

Mom worked as a book designer.
In an ugly office in an ugly neighborhood,
she worked daily to produce beautiful books
that followed the rules of Vandengraff and Tischschold,
with typography by Caslon and Bookman.
The English translations of Nobel lecturers crossed her desk,
with its steel rulers and compasses and sheets of tracing paper.
All morning she worked, while I sat in a corner, reading from the young adult books
quietly pretending to be sick.

All at once, she rose from her desk,
scooping me along in her wake, “come along, Andrew, we’re going to lunch.”
With a hurried nonchalance that fooled me not at all—
this is my mother, after all, her “quick, come quick,” belying our lunch date.
we avoided people and boxes on the way to the elevators,
so that we were standing there, waiting, as two cars left without us.

A man came along, well-dressed, red tie.
I looked at him without much curiosity, looked away.
My mother glanced at him, recognized him with gentle surprise,
like an old acquaintance in an unexpected place.
“Oh, hello, Mr. Collins.  Mr. Collins, I’d like you to meet my son.
Andrew, this is Michael Collins.  He’s been to the moon.”

••• [astonished silence, wide-eyed face]

Thirty-seven years later, my town is snowed in
and there are broken power lines over the sidewalks.
For ten days, we’re trapped at home,
no school of course, no power,
frequently without heat and with shattered trees all around,
as plows and power crews try to clean up.

Running low on supplies after five days,
I venture out through waist-deep snow,
five blocks to where a friend meets me on cleared streets.
Three hours of difficult travel take me seven miles from home,
to a nearly-empty grocery store and some fresh supplies.

When I return, treading over ice with my four bags of groceries,
I encounter one of my neighbors,
an African-American man about my age,
with two young daughters. I don’t even know his name.
He stops shoveling, looks at me with the face I made to the moon-man
so long ago.  “You’ve been to the grocery store??”
I know that the face looking at me is the face I made
to Michael Collins by the elevator.  I see his astonishment, his wonder, his fear.

Remember, that on that trip, Collins never landed.
He stayed on the Apollo 11 while Armstrong and Aldrin went down to the surface,
and stayed in radio contact with Earth.
Collins kept going, around the far side of the moon;
and every so often, in utter silence and darkness,
he was farther from home, farther from safety, farther from any other human contact,
than anyone had ever been before.

And I find myself wondering:
“How is it that the grocery store is more unreachable now,
than the moon?”

I do the only thing that it’s possible to do in the moment.
I hold out my right hand, and offer him the bags of groceries I’m carrying.
“Here,” I say. “These are for you.”

I have no idea what groceries I have given him,
whether the food will be adequate for him or his children.
We will be unable to drive for five more days,
and neither of us know it.
Until then, this faint human contact will have to do,
until the cold ends, until the lights come on again.

Poem: Sunflowers for Healing

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A friend of mine is quite ill at the moment, and she’s asked her community of healers and well-wishers to imagine a field of sunflowers as a place from which she can draw strength and healing energy.  Many have sent her photographs of such fields; I chose to send a poem.

The greenery overhangs the fences,
the railings shielded behind lancet leaves;
each leaf absorbs sunlight and condenses
sugars into a stem of woody greaves
that reaches skyward to support a Sun.
Earth thus stretches upward to touch the sky,
and in this field, a nursery’s begun—
a nebula, from which new stars shall fly.
Broad the field where ten thousand new stars bloom,
each itself a sun—each a source of strength,
shining yellow even in twilight’s gloom,
facing the Sun across the meadow’s length.
no flower blocks light for another’s seeds—
but each spreads its shade to starve out all weeds.

I ask you, readers, to read this poem in particular aloud, to allow the shape of your breath to help you connect your breath temporarily to this image of the field of sunflowers, and to imagine that field as a place of health and healing.

Hymn to Juno, Queen of the Gods

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Jason Miller’s students are doing a global rite in honor of Juno, the queen of the gods, over the next few days, as part of his cyclical training of new students.  I’m not aware of any formal feast day for her at this time, other than their honoring of her at this time. But I have a hard time resisting an occasion for a good poem.  Or even a poem of any kind. I already wrote a poem for the Feast of All Heras on another occasion, which can be used as a supplement or a replacement for this one.  Here’s a 3-verse hymn or ode in honor of Juno, written today for the students of Mr. Miller to use as part of their rites if they wish:

Hail to thee, Juno, great mother and queen,
protectress of marriage, garden and hearth!
Your glittering raiment of peacock sheen
gleams fulgent with divinity and worth,
for you keep house with diligence and care,
well-ordering the lives beneath your roof,
and you see to the feasts and health of all.
The garden fence you keep in good repair;
you manage money with good sense and proof
of purchase; and true power is the shawl

upon your shoulders broad, which bear the weight
of mighty deeds and noble chores with ease;
for your will keeps families in happy state,
and your love unlocks, with jingling keys,
stores of cloth, food, and gossamer treasure —
of kind neighbors, good government and schools,
the warp and weft of both kindred and friends.
These you dispense, in judicious measure,
as though unwinding bright ribbon from spools—
for well-wrapped gifts make peace, and make amends,

and make acquaintance — and alliance, too.
Juno, be my friend, and teach me your way
to grow, to thrive, to manage and make do,
with one eye set on what I have today
while the other glances at tomorrow.
Maturity and Wisdom keep your house—
One cooks the meals while the other one cleans;
A cup of this sugar, may I borrow,
and the recipe for your type of grace—
the happy home that lives within its means?

Update: Found this poem useful in some fashion? Consider buying my book of poems celebrating the Behenian Stars, available from Amazon (kindle) or from Etsy (PDF).

Poem: For Mars and Venus in Conjunction

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This morning, Mars is dignified by term and face, according to my friend C.T.; and it’s also in conjunction with Venus, which is in exaltation in the sign of Pisces.  This is a pretty good combination, in a lot of ways. While Mars is normally the Lesser Malefic, he gets along fairly well with Venus, and while dignified in this way, it’s a good time for poetry of an astrological bent:

Hail to you, divine lovers in your bed,
twining around each other under sheets:
Mars, the shining locks of your tousled head
suggest that you’ve done more than martial feats
in the hours since Venus called you near;
and Lady, on pillows languidly draped,
indulgent in bliss, in beauty shining:
you are the laughing queen whom all revere,
of luscious skin, adorably well-shaped;
before you, awe-struck and barely breathing,

we lower our gaze and avert our eye,
knowing your divine and matchless beauty
to mortal glamour, shows the mirror’s lie.
And you, muscle-bound Mars, fit for duty,
cabled with pure strength and well-armed with brawn,
recline and rest a while from your deeds —
for a warrior in languor is rare.
Tis not your watch; sleep cozy well past dawn,
nor take up arms, nor buckle on your greaves,
nor settle your helmet over your hair.

Great Mars and Venus, twined in union sweet,
beauty of Man, and Woman’s strength and grace,
may your lovers’ couch be your royal seat,
and hear my petitions with kindly face —
be most doting and liberal in your mood,
and forbearing in forgiving my slips
and welcoming, despite my intrusion.
In this time, may your good wishes exude
fragrance like roses and dragon’s blood pips,
and your bounty like wine in profusion.

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