Read Write Poem Mini-Challenge Poem #5: The Shaman Speaks of Alchemy


Wisdom of the Shaman by J.D. Challenger

This poem is the fifth one written for January 2010’s Read Write Poem Mini-Challenge (to write six poems about starting over in six days). For this, I went symbolic — the shaman, the myth of the Phoenix, and the concept of alchemy snuck into this poem. I hope you enjoy the read.

-Nicole

P.S. To see the other mini-challenge poems that I am writing this month, click here.

Note: You can listen to this poem on Podbean.
————————————————-

This is how I work. First, I tell you about the
last time I journeyed into the nightmare, how the
sky hummed like it was going to seize me by the wrists
with lightning bolt hands and
shake me loose from my body. How it
shoved its face down to mine and threatened to shrink itself into
fuzzed rainbow serpents that would slide into every orifice, into
every pore. How it
demanded the right to divide in two and
wind up my spine in demented double-helix fashion and then
curl itself into a cosmoramic expanse, smoky-skinned and diamond-dotted,
inside of my neck. It would have been
a perfect replica of night itself, with
black zephyr pushing the air out of my trachea and
stars scratching their names into the walls of my throat,
ripping away tiny letter lines made of red velvet and
leaving blood monograms in their place. Next,

I turn my back to you and
walk away, cleansing the air clean of
your buzzing, your questions, and your sighs
like hope trying to escape your chests and
relieve the aching pressure behind your eyes and
in your throats. I leave behind
no epistles, no instructions, except for
an azure forlorn wearing a red dust cloud. It hangs in the space
where my songs of rattle, chant, and
drumbeat feet once were.

Now, this is when I go
into the crevices of mind and chaos. You tell me that these
are places where you do not want to go. I begin by
walking forward, face first, into melted fire. I let it
cling to my arms, my cheeks, my chest – and I can feel it
ripping me off of myself, dropping my skin away
without the unclenching of zippered teeth. I am a
a being of prickle and flame,
a suit of burning on a bleached skeleton. The anguish
escapes me in screams that
claw and swipe at the sky to rip away its skin
with vengeance. I look back and see
a trail of gold and scarlet feathers lying scattered behind me,
their barbs curling upward into blades of living flame –
and for a moment, I laugh, soundlessly,
in spite of my tears. I have always suspected
that we had wings.

Then, the fire dies. I fall
to my knees, clothed in void. They land on
Nothing, a spent crucible which has
risen up and wrapped itself around me like a black womb. It
merges with me. I collapse into a floating fetal ball,
suspended and drawn inside, my back
closing into a concave fold and my limbs
curling backwards into me like ingrown
sorrow. And I’ve been robbed of
the music in my throat, chords ripped out of it
and burned after my last scream. But it is
then

that I am reactivated by light which
gently pours through me, through this void, as a
single strand. It winds around me like a hand, a branch of being
with pale empyreal fingers of starlight borrowed from itself. It is
lucent incense smoke, curling and wrapping itself around me to
open me up and bequeath itself into me, into my
dead and cold umbra. It draws me into itself, and I drift
upward, unfolding as I go. The black around me
thaws away, dissolving into the azure and rock
that I had just left – and with limbs like water, I
rise up from the ground. I feel clean, and I can
sing again. It is then that I come back to you and
bless you with the same light that now pours out of me where the
lunatic demon rainbow had threatened to pour into me
before. This is our light. But

someday,
when the dust grows dark on my insides and
threatens to turn me back into lead, I will
need to do this again. I will
burn, out of the reach of your eyes. Just like
last time. This is a work
that can only be done alone.

Written 1/21/10
© 2010 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.

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About ravenswingpoetry

I am a 38 year old writer from Columbus, OH and the creator of Raven's Wing Poetry. I am a poet, seeker, fellow traveler, and autistic.
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2 Responses to Read Write Poem Mini-Challenge Poem #5: The Shaman Speaks of Alchemy

  1. And of course, a shaman would be the type to illustrate this process using poetry. As I’ve said before, even more than my amazement at the richness of your language and choice of themes, I’m constantly awed by your ability to sustain the brilliance of your work and engage the reader. I just keep reading and reading and wanting more and more. “A suit of burning on a bleached skeleton”… nice! Excellent interpretation of the prompt for the challenge.

  2. Hello Joseph:

    Sorry that I’m a little late in responding. Thank you again for stopping by and reading. :) Of course, I have to compliment you on your craft and ability as well, evidenced when I go read your works.

    I wrote a poem with a shaman as the speaker earlier this year, but it remains unpublished, as I will probably rework it. But he’s been hanging out in my head, needing to say something. And I’m rather fascinated by the concepts of personal transformation and ego death….so you could say those led me in this direction for this poem.

    -Nicole

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