A Coven of Poems
by Christina Manolescu
Illustrations by Mary Fitzpatrick

Room of one's own


In one corner of my room
is a stone caryatid
my muse

she quickens
shifts her limbs, her head
as I glance at her entreatingly

her stone essence softens
to diaphanous
watered silk
to her strong thighs
in each sudden gust

she clasps my hand
and we travel

walls dissolve into wind
my room
this narrow prison
this charmed sepulchre
becomes the world

Golden Calf


Who says this isn't sweating labour?

Ripping through my templed skull
for graven images
long buried;
hack through glittering dross
for promised gold

My vessels swell and throb and burst
to brilliant pain; a mother lode of smelted iron
sinks between my eyes
I am a miner's pit
ochre sandy

Here I scrape and sort and sift
bloodfuriously I claw through
skindeep frontiers
that each moment fester, heal and shut
between the Word Made Flesh
and me

A sunken headstone
marks the accidental path
I stumble on; a mazeland seeping
through the rorschach desert
far flung grains of sand
or points of gold to gather, forge and link;
upon the billion billion images die cast
I stamp this mine

The Ice Maiden


Out on the frozen peak she lies
In a bed of ice and clay
Where the sealing, keening wind from the North
Rings its lullaby of day

They have stained her flesh with the holy dye
With the twisting point of a needle-bone
They have etched it with blood-sacred runes

She is wrapped in the weave of the spinning worms
While the holy widows pray
Frozen tears sting the eyes of the chosen one
As she's lain in her bed of clay

Ill luck
Ill luck to the reckless one
Who should steal the Ice Maiden away

For out on the frozen peak she dreams
On her catafalque of clay
Where the screaming, heaving winds of the North
Have scattered her tears away

Frozen chantress of dreams
She shall summon the stars
Rouse the wind; free the streams
Breathe almighty shapes into the clouds
Roll back the moon and twist
Everlasting night
Into day

Accursed be the heartless one
Who drags the Ice Maiden away

But the centuries pass, now a wanderer comes
To this once-sacred cairn of rubbish and rubble and clay
And he seeks out the bones of the chosen one
Dreaming soundly where she lay

He lifts her out of the tomb of clay
Tho' her lips seem to smile, yet her eyes shed a tear
As he lays her under the sun

Ill luck, ill luck
Will come to the one
Who carries the Ice Maiden away

For the flesh that was seared has all disappeared
And the bones tumble one by one
From the shroud-wrap of silk that is ruined and befouled
And crumbling under the sun

And the bones of her pain resonate where they're lain
Writhe the sky into fire; pound the wind, lash the rain
On her tomb of rock and clay

And dismay fills the gaze of the thoughtless one
Who has brought the Ice Maiden away

Broken chantress of dreams
Let her hurl down the stars
Still the wind; glaze the streams
Breathe almighty terror into the clouds
Blot out the moon and wrench
Everlasting night
From the day

O Death
Death to the heartless one
Who has dragged the Ice Maiden away



Your image is engraved
upon my retina
like a dangerous, yet seductive
prairie sundog
that sun-pregnant rainbow
glittering, dissolving
into the hot-cold Canadian sky...

Then little bits and pieces of you
float apart
then reunite
a lip, an eye; I try
to conjure up your essence
piece you back together
warm and whole, even
to that dislocated crescent knife-edge
of a scar
above your eyebrow
by questions dark, profound, mysterious
or else banal...

I can neither
nor take the measure of you
Perhaps, after all
your smile is chimera
Perhaps there is nothing to form
nothing to feel
nothing to find...



Two highway hours ago
You sniffed the scented needles
Drily fallen
To the ribbed forest floor

Now wet dusk is racing past
Your crushed neck
Your thin hind bones are splayed
Unlovely Looped
Across the windshield

Decapitated Queen
Hooked to the varnished mantelpiece
You grace the fireplace unlit
Faked out in knotted pine
Your doe eyes
Brown and brimming deep
Through wavering forests seeped
In unspilt tears