Of Wood and Water
Two Poems by Jeff Diehl – reproduced with kind permission
The Man in Kristwood
Hidden deep beneath layers of memory, lies an ancient forest bathed in golden sunlight.
First remembered in a youthful dream, I must recall it ere it slips away.
So framed in radiance was this place, that I saw not the suffering figure of a king standing amid the trees.
When my gaze first fell on him, he had the antlers of a stag rising from his head. Seeing this, something from my subconscious began to tickle, teasing me with glimpses of a dim past now long forgotten. Were my astonished eyes witnessing the one eyed Green Man of old? Had I entered the realm of Herne the horned god of the hunt? Was this then the same woodland father who centuries apart, sired both Merlin and Robin of the Hood? If so, he was the living spirit of every forest.
On some deep level his horns called to me. The two antlers were a distant echo of the real prize of the Wild Hunt. In an archaic language recognized only by my soul, they spoke of Eden’s…Odin’s twin Trees of Knowledge and Life.
As I marveled at the splendor of his kingdom, a gentle breeze playfully rustled the autumn leaves, sending an organic fragrance over me. Yet amid such beauty the forest lord’s sadness touched me.
When he slowly drew closer to me, I beheld him with more clarity. The small branches protruding from his head had ceased to resemble horns. With a poignant stab of realization, I saw what they had now become. The long sharp thorns mockingly shaped like a crown were embedded in his radiant brow. An old tattered scarlet robe draping his tired shoulders did little to hide the welts underneath.
As I sadly pondered the injustice of anyone abusing so gentle a man, the corners of his bruised mouth turned upward just slightly.
I was beginning to understand who stood before me. This man was, perhaps, once known by such names as Balder, Lemminkainen and Mabon. Indeed these noble designations would one day again be used. Yet I had not erred in thinking him a king of the wood. He had the look of a carpenter.
Looking past him far into the trees, I saw the shadowed world that exists under the forest’s branches; a world untouched by the golden splendor around me.
It has been said that Merlin lived most of his life in such a forest. A living embodiment of the Horned One, he had played the role of his father well. But had the enchanter performed this part too well? In the end he had trapped himself inside an ancient oak forever. Reaching deep into the earth, this oak’s roots drew life from an underground stream that silently trickled through a vast crystal cave. Had Merlin descended into Hel? Had not this man in front of me done the same?
Somewhere in this sacred wood grew the World Tree of Life.
Swinging from Windsor's oak, Herne had died in a trunks dark embrace.
Odin on the ash, reaching for runes hard won, had screamed.
In the form of an eagle did Lugh perch on a branch, dropping his flesh to the swine below.
In the shaded distance I spied a lone cedar.
Now he extended his hand as if to lead me to it. Looking at his offered hand, I saw with much sadness that he had been nailed to it. "What is this horrid thing which makes you suffer so?"
He answered with a playful look of surprise. "You should know it well enough. For you too have suffered on its branches. It is the cross of matter. It brings all things into existence."
"Was I born on it?"
A sly smile, "Our story is the same, you and I."
Now for the first time I truly recognized him.
Taking hold of the wounded hand, I entered the sacred forest.
He knew the way.
Keeper of the aquatic place
You reach up to the tall mountains
and tease me in pond, brook and lake
Your fingers touch my face with rain
Like calm water trickling down
your spirit flows from stream to sea
Mary Virgin Sea of Matter
the Sacred Breath hovers over you
Sailing the formless unconscious
a fisher king casts his net
Craving the sparkling Christ unborn
he draws it forth from your depths
Lady of the Lake I thank you
for the Excalibur I need
but I yearn for its sheltered source
So when I must return the sword
let me follow it below the waves
to a baptism of tranquillity
Guardian of Manannan's gate
let me dream on your coral bed
I fear not the sea's power
for I have already drowned
in that Mid-March pool of beauty
Fair mermaid of the ocean realm
let us swim in Aegir's Kingdom
I'm sure the sea lord won't mind
for I too am of the water
and wish not for the world above
Oh siren of the hidden land
let the tides sing your lullaby
Your eyes betray the secret
of the deep oceans mystery
Did Atlantis sink just as I did?
Rhine maiden work your weal and woe
we will see what is left of me
The whale road leads me to you
I long to be in the garden
of my Guardian of the Sea
J.W. Elric Diehl
(copyrightc2000 by Jeffrey Diehl. All rights reserved.)
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