What If the Universe Is Shaped Like a Cow?

This may not make
a lot of sense
but I was sitting here thinking
about life, death, and the
eternal verities…
and the thought came dancing in,
“What if the universe
is shaped like a cow?”
And I thought about astrophysics
and hypotheses piled on top
of knackerty knotions
all sparkling and bright —
except when they are black holes.

I thought about people
being born and then dying —
the ultimate in absurdity.

What if the universe
is shaped like a pig
and in its heart of hearts
it says, “Oink!”
Or shaped like a peacock
that screams Skreeeee!”
and has eyes in his tail
made of ring galaxies?

Would it make any difference
to you or to me?
Well, it might make us laugh
more often.
Or take ourselves less seriously.
Or turn to the person beside us
and say, “It’s all so absurd
that I can’t help
but love you.”

© 2016 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.







Dream (or Stuff I Write at 3 AM)

I blew around the airport.
I’m too old to run
so I let the wind
of other people’s travels
blow me past,
swooping low, soaring high,
tumbling in swift spirals.

There would be an airplane
somewhere for me
in this wild place of portals.
I passed one gate
and could hear a plane outside
whispering machinely,
“Come on, hurry! Come to me!
I’ll take you somewhere
filled with delight
and suffused in wonder…”
But I blew on past so fast
I couldn’t even see its destination.
It wasn’t my gate anyway.

At last the wind dropped me, lightly
on my feet, slightly tipped, but
I soon straightened.
O, yes — a flight to Iona…
does Iona have an airport?
No……….. but…
I could get there from here
if only I knew the names
of all of the ancient stones.

And then a cat jumped on me
and we fell the rest of the way
out of the airport
and into my bed
Home. Warm bed. Cats.

Still, I did tell the cats
(when I fed them at midnight)
that I didn’t want to be
wakened early this morning,
certainly not at 3 AM
for their morning riot.


Home, warm bed —
the best place of all.

Lineage & Hands

Megan’s Hands On My Altar Stone

Here I am this morning:
reading Mary Oliver,
having fits of ecstasy
at the beauty on the page —

and feeling that
I have wasted my life.
I am 75 and still
cannot write so exquisitely!

It’s all about seeing,
looking past the surface
into the layers of kinship
and deep story.
And yet —

my granddaughter and I
sat in my garden and compared
our hands, the shapes and lines,
hers, young and smooth,
no more than a tracery of
the dominant pattern —
and mine, old and full of living,
a spider’s crazed web
between the main lines —
yet those deepest ones
forming a pattern
quite like Megan’s.

Once, many years ago,
I did that with my grandmother,
and we, too, found that our hands
were uncannily alike.

When Megan was birthing
and I was rushing
to be there to greet her,
I heard a voice say,
“She has your hands.
You women are like
pearls on a string,
and the lineage endures.”

I told Megan this yesterday. She is ten,
and her eyes grew wide as she listened,
as mine had ten years before
when I saw a line stretching
back and back into the mist
of pearls and hand prints —
healer’s hands.

So, perhaps it was
not wasted after all, this life,
but simply a pearl to be found on a string.

© Copyright 2013 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.

I Give You Fair Warning…

This Sunday morning, after nine hours in the emergency room Friday and a day of recovering Saturday, I am thinking about age and about who we become. I have been reminded of a quote from Joseph Campbell: “I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.” I remembered this poem, which I wrote some years ago, and I’m checking my list just to see where I am.

When I grow old, really old,
I shall be eccentrik.
I shall wear long silken skirts
that sweep in the dust
and keep Abyssinian cats.

I shall speak clearly to the cats, of course,
but to other people I shall speak
only in symbols, codes and cryptograms,
and let them think
that they understand.

I shan’t knit.

My garden will be wild and rich, and
I shall plant tall stones
in suitable places. I shall make
potions of flowers and light,
and I shall keep bees.

With my knobby old knees
and sagging breasts, I shall
dance naked under the Moon,
and I shall sing to Her
with the cats.

I shall carry a blackthorn stick,
and frighten small boys away from my apples –
they’ll like that —
and I’ll tell tales of the goddess
to small girls so they will know who they are.

I shall say outrageous true things
to people, anyone at all,
and make waterfalls and small pools
in wild places.

I shall have a deep, deep well of silence
in myself, and it will fill
with the love flowing through me
like a wild underground river.  My hair
will be very white and unmanageable –
rather like a dandelion.  My roots
will grow to the heart
of the Earth, and the horned god
will be a personal friend of mine.

That was then; this is now:
I don’t have the bees,
though I still want them,
and god/dess knows, they need
all the help they can get.
I have the dandelion effect
well in hand — it was inevitable
and I deserve neither credit nor blame —
but all the rest
is a work in progress.
I can say that I truly
have and I am
alive and gratefully

Photograph © 2011 by Tom Linton. All rights reserved.
Poem © 1988 & 2013 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.

Gateway to Avalon

I know where the gateway to Avalon lies
hidden in the mists.
You can’t get there from here… unless
you are guarded, unless
you are guided, blind through the mists,
by Those Who keep the Way.

Their touch is so gentle,
their whispers so faint—you have to be watching,
you have to be listening,
you must be awake and aware.

You can only go blindly, journey in darkness,
beset by shades that chitter and slither,
touching you here, touching you there. Surrounded
by memories like blood-hungry dragons, we travel.
And yet, all the while, a sure hand guides us—
if we trust it.

I know where the gateway to Avalon lies,
hidden in the mist—in the curl of a leaf,
or the touch of the thorn,
the pattern of stone,
the arch of the hill—you have to be watching,
you have to be listening,
you must be awake and aware.

I have to keep watching,
I have to be listening,
I must stay awake and aware.

© 2006 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.

Earth's Daughter

My roots run deep
in the earth.  They make me slow.
I don’t skip through life like a flat stone
spun over water.
I need to be still.

My joy lies deep,
like an underground river,
its surface untouched by winds that blow.
No bubbles, no froth,
just flowing, still water.

My strength rests deep
in stillness, and when I am still,
all of my silence fills up with power,
as wide and as strong
as the roots of the mountains.

My rhythm is slow,
like the heart of the hills,
and Earth’s slow dance is the beat beneath.
I need to be still,
being Earth’s daughter.

© Copyright 1998 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved. First published in Earth’s Daughter by An Lios Books.

Celebrating Imbolc

Many years ago, I lived on a another hill—one of the seven hills of Bath—and on an Imbolc eve it was raining. It was raining as if the Winter Cailleach had dumped her own bath upon us.

Tomorrow would be Bridghe’s day, but that night before was darkness-filled-with-sound—rain rattled on the roof, sang in short-lived streamlets around my warm, dry home—Brockham End, a home of badgers too—and I hoped they might be dry in their setts.

I lit a candle and talked to the Lady in her aspect of the Welcoming Dark, the safe and protected womb, the welspryng of life. She listened to my hopes, my plans, my dreams, and there in the light of her flame, she blessed the seeds I hoped to grow.

I slept well. And in the morning…
there were wild springs
and ephemeral waterfalls.

Let there be a few dry days and they would all be gone. But let the rain come pouring down and the little falls and rills come rushing, like children on sleds at the first snow.

The wild springs come leaping up in unlikely places—like the one in my kitchen floor. (My landlady had warned me “the kitchen is sometimes damp.” This was four inches deep with a small fountain spouting between two tiles.)

For a wild thing,
this welspryng seemed quite at home
in my kitchen.

How remarkably auspicious!

We sat and laughed together, and I thanked her for coming to visit on Imbolc. And I asked her, too, for a blessing my seeds to help them grow. Then I wondered aloud if she might be happier out of doors, free and with more room to run. And I thanked her again.

A welspryng in my kitchen
on Imbolc
is a wondrous gift.

When I came back an hour later the floor was nearly dry—only a little damp in the cracks. But I could hear her laughing beyond the outside wall. So I went out in the rain and sat on a wet rock beside the strong, swift rivulet she made, and we laughed together until I was as wet as she.

Today, years later, in Washington—another watery name in another wet clime—I again await Imbolc to the music of rain-on-roof and wind-in-tree. I wait, remembering long ago seeds, grown to flower and to fruit, some even grown to trees under which there is shelter.

Tonight, I’ll light another candle in Her honor and again ask a blessing for my hope-filled seeds.

I resolve
that on the morrow’s morn
I shall, however rainy it may be,
plant more seeds,
and leave them to grow
free and wild.

© Copyright 2013 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.

What If?

what if
every magic sword
ever made lies hidden,
somewhere in darkness,
awaiting the hand
to wield it?

What if
every charm ever cast
is still active, waiting
to be triggered again
by an unwary passerby?

What if
the lines in your palm
point unerringly
to your destiny,
unknown and ignored,
yet waiting for fulfillment?

What if
magic surrounds us
like water around fish,
unfelt, unseen
by half-blind eyes
focused only
on the dirt?

© Copyright 2013 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.

Another Winter Solstice

I’ve been trying and trying
(as I’m wont to do
at this point on the wheel of the year)
to figure out
what I need and want to achieve
in the coming dance around the Sun.

It always helps
to have a plan
or at least an intention —
or so I’ve believed.
It took me a long time to see
that this year is different.

Standing on the crest
of the moving wave of time,
I realize that simply
being here
is tricky enough.
Keeping my balance
is a full-time job.

With one new knee
and one old knee,
my two legs are trying
to learn to work together —
balanced, but flexible, adjusting
with poise, serenity,
and a certain easy nonchalance
to constant time travel.

And, it seems, that this applies
to everything in my life.
There is no stasis
in the realm of time.

Mindfulness is the only way.
Mindfulness of the whole picture —
of all of the forces,
all of the pressures and urges and needs,
all at once —
surfing the crest of the time’s wave.

And if I fall, plunging to the depths,
I must be mindful of that as well —
and then be sure
to at least find
a different error
for the next time.

I had wanted to set goals
but I’m told that, if I keep my balance
in the moment, what to do
and when to do it
serendipitously and synchronistically
becomes obvious.

All things make themselves known
in their proper season —
indeed, at their precise second.

That degree of mindfulness
doesn’t sound easy, but
it will be a fascinating way
to try to live.

Jessica Macbeth
21 December, 2012
© Copyright 2012 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.