An Alchemical Angel
Prose poems by Stephen Larsen
(dedicated to Robins muse)
Alchemical Image I
She who made this image,
touched fur today
picked up an irridescent wild turkey feather
guarded children from
the stamping feet of horses
(whom she also loves)
The fire in their eyes,
their weight and power
harnessed to an antique
brain, their wildness also,
These her children too,
all these things she loves.
It is a bright day today;
bronze the color of His irridescence
on my beloveds hair,
dark with golden highlights.
He numbers all our days.
Sun, though I know to touch your liquid fire
would be annihilation, I bathe in your rays,
and enjoy the way you open buds in
these April woods.
In the dark when the moon comes forth,
she is quiet, so she can hear, I think,
silvery laughter playing about the moonbeams.
Any creature without merely earthy form is target for her pen,
horses with spirit fire in their nostrils or joined to a man,
in this realm she is a "Watcher and a Holy one," I think,
all may get caught in her spirit traps.
I think of liminal places where a limb,
or the brake of a wing breaks into
something else altogether; what is human
here, bestial and angelic there;
she loves the eyes of feathered serpents,
in the magic cranebag of her little book
These forms all newly made of ink and magic pigment,
that now walk, fly, writhe accross these pages have no
recognizeable names (no "Tom, Dick, Harry,"
Nor "Ferdinand, Olga, Jesus,"
Nor even "Mooncalf, Barnacle, Periwinkle, Nod,"
clings to them as of yet.)
But stickily newborn they stand just so,
the veil of divinity upon them,
as they peer wetly back at me.
Sometimes Im so solar
I wonder at the luminosity which lets
all mystery with soft edges into this dreaming
sublunar world; lets the hard edges of mortality
and limitation blur for me and her I love.
In this alchemical vessel a tiny king and queen for a day,
stand in the crucible of all our transformations.
Listen shaman, love well this one, these ones,
within the circle of my arms in these,
our times together here
Darkness and light,
Darkness and light,
marking our passage,
guarding our flight.
kindle our genius,
let spirit shine bright.
Alchemical Image II
The Green Man and Melusina
The Green Man and Melusina,
scales, leaves, feathers, flames,
"Elementals sheathe themselves
in irridescent mantles," she said
"Scales speak of the water,
the leaves are the earth,
the feathers are the air,
and the flameforms are the fire,
all my drawings move in these ways,
through the elements."
"Sometimes the earth is represented
by a pig with a serpents tail; then there
are the fishy creatures from the watery
abyss, Milarepas "dancers in the element
of water," and I love putting wings on horses
or unicorns, getting them up into the air
and I love even sometimes,
the tips of the wings where it seems for a moment
that an airy being bursts into flames."
Green man I see you there
as if behind a latticework of buds
of this backyard ash tree
all bursting with the tenderest green
this primaveral day.
Green man I see you there
in the eyes of my friend who
makes good things happen
and tries to be loving
with everyone he meets.
When Osiris walked,
the legends say, on the dark soil
of that Nile delta,
greenness sprang up in his footsteps
(tender vernal faces smile waving at
the disappearing form of the god who
brought them into being,)
No wonder Isis loved him.
Green man, I see you there,
wherever flourishing flourishes.
La floresta says my mystical friend from the Amazon,
--waving his hand vaguely
at this (indescribable) riot of green life--
La floresta, the flowering.
Green man, I see you there, beginning,
whenever a man or woman wears the title
"green thumb" but I also see you in
the shadow of creative souls,
whose afterimages through life vibrate in colors,
and who exhale the scent of paradise.
"Their works of love leave words
that do not end in the heart"
(Green man I see you in the poet Vernon Watkins
who penned these words.)
The spaces in the latticed leaves
are cavities in a poem.
Between the structured veins of the words
lies a place for spirit,
for imagination to flow in softly,
for implications to imply
(Green man I see you in the implications of all things.)
Christ was hung on a tree
Jesses green shoot on the ancient root
(the medieval mystics thought)
of Adam and Eves most sinful sin
in that great green garden
at the beginning of everything.
But ah the green mans sap
flowed red, now drunk with
cup and cross and sign,
sacrament to a broken, wounded world
(come to the green man ye fruit and branches
to whom he would be vine.)
In drinking, know the sap will rise and fall
as we celebrate this sacrament,
in the lattice of our veins and nerves,
wake symbol and spirit over all,
And quicken the fleshs own fire,
releasing the soul from stones old mineral lode
(no more its thrall)
soaring on wings of desire.
Melusina and her Apparitions
For children they are the most magical,
sporting on Hans Christian Andersons fountain,
The mermaid; a creature of capture;
nixie smile, long hair veils alluring breast,
but oh that fishy tail!
Come on Ill take you down,
down to where the sunbeams slant on galleon hulls
and those are pearls that were his eyes.
In this world where the medium that birthed us
is so dense the rays of light are made visible in it
everything seems to glow with its own inner radiance;
the idea of a world of self-luminous forms has
been apprehended by some fundamentalist fish;
who, eyes on stalks, glow eerily, seeing and shining,
seeing and shining.
Here now! Im in training to be an apparition,
sneak up on you and give you intimations of divinity;
phosphorescent jellyfish, electric eels, even the plankton
seem to get the idea (apparitions love to get our reaction
to the sudden manifestation of a luminous being).
When they graduate to the realm of air they practice as
will o the wisps, marsh hants, even St. Elmos fire, crouching
on masts, ball lightning rolling down a table to select
some unwitting diner as heyoka, magic man
selected by lightning.
Finally, and only after many lessons,
do apparitions in training get to wear the guise of angels,
appearing to shepherds on hillsides,
or hovering over mangers.
Its years of practicing translucence,
letting in the light to a darkened world
that equips them for the job.
(Why not see messiahs in those glowing fish in the depths
where forms fade in and out of each other.
Surely they know, they who glow,
who rise from the common
fabric of this dream,
and shine beyond all other
forms, how divinity would seem.)
Teach me, mermaid muse, to train my gaze
to this source-realm of all mystery,
your mermaid world, where you and I are neither
this nor that, not fish nor woman, beast nor angel,
but each and all, the world where mind and its form
interchange and let light through;
the world where symbols come home,
take off their shoes,
climb into a nest, and
imitate the cosmic egg.
It is said to be quite restful.
This one is a muscular angel
professional flyer, like the guides
at mountain huts who walk with strong legs
into the bright mist to where the sound echoes.
Phanes, apparition who shines,
erupts from depths or comes from so far
the dewdrops sparkle on sturdy interstellar wings.
These, I thought, are wings for
the great vacuum where distantly is heard
(whispering gallery of vastness)
the crystal music of the stars
But this one brings no vague rumor,
it will be a certain message.
He twinkles with the self-knowing humor
of a luminous apparition
popping into somebodys life
(bearing benison or caveat) getting noticed,
hoping the pious wont grovel, wondering
about the skeptics spiritual cataract
that makes him miss you
But then, sometimes there are those
who are awake to the dream.
"Ho there, I salute you, messenger!
Ah I see you have flown far;
but your needs first, friend--a cup of nectar?
A little prana or ruach left over from this
Steely, fathomless blue eyes from the other side
meet mine; oh what a wonder
a brother from the beyond.
At this point the cones touch
(worlds meet in a gaze) and of course
the message rushes through
without heraldic fanfare
just an unmistakable knowing.
As we gaze, eyes interlocked
I realize I suddenly am female
the angel male (its message must have
been male, so strongly and sweetly it came into me.)
Then, playfully, the roles reverse,
androgynous this angel, or feminine
wings diaphanous, smile irresistable
will you lead my soul?
The maleness in my spirit rises up,
but careful, shaman! Dangerous, that
fundamentalistic earthly lust that
mistakes holy longing, blinds the symbol
and stains the spring of vision;
and the goddess doesnt like that improper
lascivious look, oh no, youre lucky if you are
torn apart by your own hounds--still, thats better than
being turned into a mass of big and little
snakes, libidos worms all writhing within itself.
But here now, this now, is truth
through your doorway, messenger
I sense your source; the sender beyond gender
for whom a whirling wheel of fire full of eyes
and tongues and portents is merest metaphor,
just another angel, order ophanim
Blazing with love and wisdom,
and so I say, Namaste! to my angel,
"I greet the God in you!"
The messenger, suddenly
is gone, leaving only this image on the page.
Caught within the endless
of my mind
I sense the fluttering breath of the spirit.
The eyes of time have
as on a peacocks tail
cauda pavonis, multicolored
Eye of God woven in the
fabric of a living thing
Does the mystery see me when
I see it?
If I circumscribe an open shape,
bound by curvelinear
form, what then, who then,
will come to fill it?
A ghost attracted
to an empty space
Oh wait, rushing impermanent
semblance of what I shall become.
The idea seems absurd
and yet perfectly sensible like most things we
A cipher of yarn and twig, color and shape
symbol and sign, feather and claw; allure of mandalic form.
Help me, star made of string and beads and earthly things;
help me ink of black and silver and gilt
to catch something not of this world.
Sometimes I think this world is full of holes,
like wormholes in a science fiction thriller;
else from whence
erupt the monsters that haunt and follow us in basements
and cower the tiny child at night?
Maybe theyre like those pneumatic tubes in banks
that carry away your check with a whoosh
and deliver back cash, the dividends earned by soul.
Would angels use the same songlines as demons?
And would the demons passage down a songline
render it corrupt or tainted;
Would they, could they, mess with the mail?
I set my trap for some very small angels,
not that I could imagine holding even
tiny luminous beings for more than long enough
to learn a little song, catch a whiff of inspiration,
or exact a blessing;
but Jacob wrestled one
till it sweated drops of spirit, and winded, gave
him what he asked.
But today all I caught was one little bat-winged fellow
face of fur and teeth and an insane shriek
I questioned him all day before I learned my fear
was his mother.
And so I happily gave him back to the night.
Rubedo in Late Summer
In this mortal sphere
love must gradually detach itself
from possession, so that afterwards
awhile all it holds is
evanescent image, that still
breathes with soul
and then maybe, it seems, nothing at all.
Time the great destroyer
Yet for no small reason
Goddess the creator broke herself
up so small, into teeming, flourishing
fragments of herself, to
enact this great hide and seek
of finding, losing, loving, creating together--
so she can never be bored.
(We, her children, squirming in the great
puppy-pile of incarnation.)
Our love is nurtured with warm bodies
each others smell,
animated conversation, the sparkle
in her eyes, these mortal eyes that
laughing answer mine. (And knowing
that we lose all, still we love.)
Oh divine gratuity, overflowing, so
that love and loss are woven in
the fabric of all becoming, and
in the tangle of all my loves and fears.
Into this vessel I invite
bright Phanes, Eros, Spiritus Sanctus, divine light,
and the green light of nature, phosphorescence
of the forest floor.
These lights I weave into the fibers of my being,
the moist cellular birth of my mortality
Lumen naturae cum lux aeternatis
(light of earth and light of heaven mingled)
So doing, all transforms, as in the glow
of a late-summer sunset, and each event
of life and love, as it unfolds, visible
and distinct, jewel-like,
breathing the divinity
of its existence and a meaning that may
be witnessed but never fully spoken.
rubedo, the glow of each thing,
finite in infinite suchness.
It is this reddening,
this cooking of transformation in which I now conspire.
Come forth in ever-new birth!
These things I hold in my embrace are for loving,
not keeping, times children
to awaken the light within the heart.
(Existence gently holds its breath as I ask
this blessing:) Infuse, I beg you,
the soft light of eternity into this vessel,
and purify this love, granting
The Crucible of Lives
We stand in this crucible
while all around, shadows
of angelic wings brood over
The vegetable glass of naure is
clear today, so that silver
fruits appear to sparkle on all
the leaves (their legacy the juice of many rainy days.)
The sun is bright, and last nights
moon left a glistening dew.
Each thing I love is with me in this glass now
all cooking in the alembic of life.
What sweet alchemy this is
that has its bitter phases:
putrefactio, dissolutio, nigredo,
but then albedo, rubedo, rosy dawn and
beyond a promise of a light that shines like the jewel
on the brow of some great wizardly form
looking in on us here.
Silmaril, cintamani, emerald that fell from the sky,
philosophers stone--rays of awakening
in the very heart of darkness.
It is nothing less than divine love, my love,
that should bind us all cooking together,
now, here, in the crucible of our lives.
© Stephen Larsen
Notes on the poems by Robin Larsen: The quoted lines in the first two verses of "The Green Man and Melusina" were my response to Stephen when he
asked me to talk about the images in the series, in particular their elemental references (æther-fire-air-water-earth); so they apply to the entire series and, to some extent, to
all my work.
"Messenger" was inspired by a sketch of an "Angel" which never got literally into any of the final pieces, but the closest to it is probably the less-muscular guy in
"Alchemical Tryptich I: Genesis." On the other hand, it could describe a number of the winged forms. "Angelus" simply means "messenger." The whole series
is about this in a way, in the way a shaman acts as messenger between the three worlds of human society, of spirit(s), and of all the other societies of four-leggeds, many-leggeds,
no-leggeds, wingeds, et alia, as the First Peoples have it. By the way, the foliage in the center includes two of the plants that are combined to create ayahuasca.
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