The Alchemy

by Neile Graham

(read by Neile Graham and James Gurley)

— Georgij Bucanani de Sphaera. Lib. i. in English verse translated by I. C.—

 The tymes of light & shade, Turnes heat to Colde,
And sunne & moone with darkenes doth enfolde,

spark a match to the wick. Light the dark.
This is the small apocalypse we live
each day, our cells dying as we build
ourselves anew. Open the book. Inside it:
black on near-white. Scrawl sprawling, crawling.
Twisting into shapes, growing limbs. Figures,
tree-tall, which become intent. Someone's will
to pass a message to the future. Me. You.

 What sounde, what murmur, thinck you, will resounde
Whil'st the whole Earthe doth walke her hasty rounde,
And all her woodes, rockes, hills so high that ryse
Shall rende the aer: who can expresse the cryes? 

Shouts and yells. Screams. Shrieks. Yelps.
Roars. This language I don't know how to begin
to read. How to be brave enough to sound out
the graceful, furious gestures cedar branches
etch on the air. The words made of scars
of the wind's passage, of the scent of snow:
at first the world's new sparkling skin,
then the choking blanket thinning to rags
to mud in the starvling days before
anything dares to grow.

 All this thou seest arounde, beneathe, above,
With endelesse motion Tyme's softe wheeles to moue
All Comprehending 

of the distant memory of lightning, of want,
of storm, of soil propping the breath
of a seedling, giants sharing sun and rain
to let their sapling grow. Compete, compete —
Concentration shapes them. Words
build the cedars which pass their messages
hand to hand through what seems like nothing
(remember the void?) but never is. What seems
like something is something still. The empty air
the moment before it's dense with rain.
This night sky flashing with light,
the silence thunder fills.

 In this vault are thrust
Fower all compounding bodyes: Earth the firste,
Then water, on whose face the fleete aer flyes,
Then lightest fire, next to the azure Skyes. 

This is what I'm saying now. This is what I say to you.
Night is not a small thing. Nor is what we light against it.
These words beneath those forest trees.
Huddled there: someone, anyone, I see you now
and the message you receive: Let the other hungers
give their voice. And in the silence
they all speak (remember the void).

 Leaue then for shame, your frantique appetite,
My soule bidds speake.

Speak anew.

Neile Graham is a Canadian by birth and inclination, having grown up in B.C. and currently living in Seattle. That, in conjunction with her lifelong fascination with myth and folklore, has led to her working on a collection of poems about the mythic lore of Scotland and the Pacific Northwest, from which these poems are drawn. She has three previous collections of poetry: Seven Robins, Spells for Clear Vision, and Blood Memory, as well as a CD of her reading her work, She Says: Poems Selected and New. Her poems and stories have been published in the U.S., the U.K., and Canada. Her favourite fruits are the raspberries from her garden, which she annually combines with apricots and spices to make jam.

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