Sunday, December 06, 2009

Echoes of a past life: My Seven African Powers

I published a small edition of a hand-made booklet for friends and family in 1993. Entitled "My Seven African Powers" I published it under the Six of Swords Press imprint: it had a color xerox cover (a rarity back then) and illustrations that combined found objects, original photos, appropriated art scans, weird typography, and a series of poems and brief epigraphs I had written over a few years, tied together with a natural fiber ribbon cut from a grass skirt.

Like most of my writings, the poems covered both political and spiritual subjects, and were arranged to loosely correspond to the 22 trumps of the Tarot deck, starting with the The Fool. Some are doggerel, and some I'm very happy with. Several of the poems had their origins in Pagan rituals that explored expressing life experiences in a sacred manner. My Tarot teacher, Cayte Jablow, (also my co-leader of Queer Pagans and of our smaller private "coven") was working out an experiential three-dimensional study of the Tarot and of Aleister Crowley's version of the Qabbalah; her vision of personal intimacy with the images of the Tarot was a spiritual revelation to me that's all over this short booklet. The title and cover art are references to the syncretic "7 African Powers" prayer card of spiritualist/botanica-style Santeria: the Orishas of Yoruba religion are combined with iconographic Catholic saints in a way that manages to be both cartoonishly simple and a profound statement about the universality of spiritual experience.

Here are a few of the poems. Perhaps the omitted ones will make an appearance here later. With the benefit of many years hindsight, I've edited a couple of these. They're my poems; I'm entitled!


My Seven African Powers
by Ian Scott Horst
Six of Swords Press, 1993

How odd and wonderful it is that we each walk that path anew, and sometimes, when our feet land in stony fossil indentations, we say, "Aha!" thus remembering, until the glint of a golden sun blinds us to all but its shining presence.

Each moment is a crossroads--
there we dance
possibility and danger
promise and regret,
hope and forgetfulness.
There the past is not relived
nor the future predicted--
instead the sweaty brilliance
of the now is embraced
its dizzy terrifying vertigo
revealing steps,
in pattern yet unknown,
on solid earth and level grade,
that in their steady fall
guide each beating heart
to its content
(February 9993)

With heart of amber
And lens of amethyst
I reach for the mirror
Emerald fingers
Wrapped in silver
Rivers of hot indigo
Animating glassine flesh

Inner visioned eyes tilt
Balance fails...I shudder

And golden tongues, shimmering, dancing,
Change yearning to black dust

No longer reflected
But real.
(January 9993)

It begins like fever,
Wet hot skin heaving,
breath short quick, quivering.

The pulse-kindled flame that
Spreads outward
Engulf hips
Dizzies legs
Shuts eyes inward
Reaches, grasps at things that cool.

Transformed, I am one
With sad, inebriate madness
With visioned and welcomed fate.

Bitter tears tasted
Reveal edges felt,
And tested skin, like tight gloves
Stretched, regretfully confined
Now in this brief combustion
A delirious rhythm graces
Feet bare and feeling.

Beat-beat pause beat-beat.

My heart, wild and cruel,
lies throbbing on stone.
I grasp it.

One, in this red hot
Driven blur
Dancing fire that eats need
Gives birth to love.
(January 9993)

I hear electricity. The waves roll and bounce.
I see, as in a mirror, a chrome and plastic lie, blue-tinted.
I touch glass and metal, reading, brailled, not the thing but its ghost.
I breathe raspy, wet and shallow, acrid piss and vivisected flower.
I taste ash and thirst.

I dance in concrete fields. My legs break and snap. I sink into shimmering, rainbow-shining mire.

And shit and
blood and
bottles and
rinds and broken
things become my
sustenance. And my
arm, rising, is blackened, ashen.

As in a memory, I saw a circle.
What was taken, was given back.
What was given back, remained to be shared again.

The memory wrinkles.
The mirror splits and grates.
And the bloom turns to poison,
acid, bitter, sad.
And I am witness.
(Samhain 9992)

And suffered pains
And griefs give way
On the dawning of that day

These weary shoulders,
Their secret burdens released
No longer shrugged nor stooped
Now move in breath's
Steady rhythmed motions

For this journey shuffles
Mud-caked souls to the embrace
Of some remembered destination
And yields...

(Winter 9993)

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