“To those alive to the order of reality which they embody, the old symbols will live again; it is not they, but we who are dead.”  — Kathleen Raine, Defending Ancient Springs, 1967

Remember a time
when words mattered?

When you strung them
like pearls on a slender thread
and you were tutored in your beadwork
by spirits invisible, who
spoke through the
holes in the words
and played them
like a pipe?

How can you forget?

When did words became cheap
and formulaic?
When did the mold get made?
When were words
put to work, melted,
poured into forms
and mass manufactured
as vessels for profit?

There was a time when
I would spend months
on a string of lines,
When words floated up to me
like bubbles from a deep well
holding moments from antiquity
that burst in the air
with piercing recognition

I longed to be
only there, stooped
over the dark pool

Words have not lost their magic,
they rise to me still,
sometimes, but not
unless I’m waiting,
and I’m not the
patient I once was….

The earth spell has
hardened me,
it has almost entirely
taken my innocence

Yet I know my holy place
is a well conjured word,
for if a word
matters, so does my soul
but without words that
matter, I am lost

That’s the reason I write,
to be found, to find you,
to be reminded
there are still things
no man can violate

Places that can’t
be found on a map
knowledge that can’t
be pursued, Beauty
that can’t be seen
unless She finds us

War makes this clear to me,
wasted lands and lives
bloodshed and poisoned rivers,

Foul air makes this clear to me,
drives me back to where I belong
opens me like the lily to
whispered inspiration
breath from the underworld,
from the dead and the yet-to-be-born
who rise to us, in our holy places,
when we’re driven out of time.


Poem by Michelle Tocher, artwork by Virginia Lee



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