The High Priestess

                     John Thomson’s Street Life in London, 1876 (common domain)

She knows the spies and where they hide,
climbs hills away from town; she walks
the unworn paths where she can watch
the ones who watch, she learns their finds.

She slips through alleys and dark streets.
Her hooded cloak of worsted thread
disguises her in spheres of dread;
her art demands that she’s discreet.

She’s seen it many times before —
deceits and lies inscribed in code,
from parchment to encryted mode,
from ages past to this encore.

When power seeks again to crush;
demolishing new growth, they smash
white bones on stones. When zealots trash
snug homes, cold fears shake every bush.

She knows a magic eons old
before the dragons shed their scales;
sent from the stars with glowing tails
their crystals tied in pocket folds.

One tops her aspen walking stick,
a subtle guide that frees her sight
for things unknown. It tracks the plight
and needs of those both frail and sick;

its light unravels skeins of doubts.
Her eyes perceive the dark designs;
details may change somewhat each time
but evil goals remain throughout.

She wends her way by waning moon
to read her texts for new insights.
Then sets the plan to make things right,
she must work fast; make changes soon.

Within herself she summons spells.
The traits she wishes to disperse.
By sublimation she’ll reverse
or try– to quell the fears and ills.

Transformed to primal particles,
she fortifies the frightened folk
with courage, reason, and kind words
to hinder the intolerable.

She’s given all to aid their cause.
The denouement depends on them.
She needs some rest to reconvene.
She hopes and prays against their loss.

© Gay Reiser Cannon * July 23, 2012 * All Rights Reserved

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33 thoughts on “The High Priestess

  1. really nice character sketch in this gay…i like that she is in the end a good witch and her heart one to help the rest…interesting rhyme scheme in this as well….

  2. wow. you’ve said it all here. I am almost speechless. The last stanza works wonderfully, I admit to wondering-while reading-how you would complete such a poem. love it, very much.

  3. Wonderful narrative of a character who can pass through the faery veil in a time that is long gone–or maybe not. The meter and rhyme carry well the feeling of magic healing, witch or tarot card priestess, dressed in antic dress so that it seems her time is over. Rest and return and teach us what you know.

  4. really enjoyed the meter and rhythm of this piece Gay. The high priestess is such a timeless figure, constantly changing as the world changes around her. You’ve caught this so well.

  5. Thank goodness for people like her. Lovely imagery all through this. At first the reader is wondering if she is up to no good, and then we discover she is a good person. Great photograph too.

  6. Oh I’m not sure this form has a particular name – it’s a ballad variation I would guess – just abba quatrains in iambic tetrameter. But thanks guys for liking it. It’s a pretty easy quatrain to sustain for storytelling purposes just as much as abab.

  7. What a wonderful story you wove and with such magic wordsmithing–loved the rhyming pattern, captivated me from the very start–nicely done!

  8. The rhythm and form is mesmerising for me, as well as her tale. The good witch with cure-alls, the midwife…how difficult and courageous these women were…and how they suffered the isolation and lonliness you seem to put forth here. There’s magic, hope, and history here. I like this very much :))

  9. Oh classic n classy. Such a rich voice. I could here the background music to the scenes. I went very unclassical this week, but you inspire me to return quickly. Excellente! Thank you.

  10. A well-woven tale with great imagery, both in the words and the picture chosen. Nicely penned!
    FYI, also really like the photo of the turn-of-the-century street that you chose for your blog, great image!

    • Re the header – had to find something to make me feel wet and cool…how the days’ heat wears me down this summer. I long for clouds, cool rain (not boiling 105degree rain) and greenness! This was from a site on fx showing how to transition 2d into 3d images. Seemed to be a workshop one in common domain.

  11. Wow, this was a pretty awesome story the picture was perfect right down to the banner of your blog. It seem to set the story and even more set her a part.

  12. “Transformed to primal particles,
    she fortifies the frightened folk
    with courage, reason, and kind words
    to hinder the intolerable.”

    yes, we do need her now. fascinating.

  13. I love the flow and sound. It reminds me why I torture myself with meter and rhyme.

    I enjoy any poem that mentions dragons. I definitely think she is someone I would wish to be on my side.

  14. zongrik yes agree that this poem reminds me of traditional midwifery as well as other old knowledge and the courage to be different. perhaps it is too light hearted but i think of terry pratchett’s witch on the chalk helping people.

  15. You’ve done a really wonderful job here of delineating the priestess, whose mysterious ways deepen with each stanza. This is epic in scope and presents a new avenue for experiencing that numinous reality which the priestess invokes. Your masterful lines and stanzas really stand out and etch her image deeper and deeper in the imagination.

  16. This woman is so intriguingly portrayed as are her essential, even magical, services to the folks she care for. The secrecy she had to adopt was real since these wise women who birthed babies and used healing herbs were hunted and killed for generations. Our cultural loss is incalculable.

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