To Cave-Haunting Hermes

This is a prayer-hymn I gave to Hermes this morning in honor of the 4th day of Anthesterion. I had been writing it in fits and starts over the past week, prompted by some journaling from 25 January.

There is a first draft of this poem that is about half the length written in Kaweco midnight purple ink in my diary. My first drafts of poems and prayers are sketches — I don’t take advantage of the imagery and stories I invoke in them. It’s more about getting the rough trajectory down on paper. Sitting with a draft of a poem for a week or two helps me figure out where it is going. It often makes the work longer, especially since I like ten-syllable lines.

But those notes aside, I hope that you enjoy this offering that I gave to Hermes this morning. ♨️🐑♨️

Swift-footed, apt-tongued, wily deceiver,
Hermes born between underworld and sky,
karst-haunting, way-finding, keen diviner,
you speak in the murmur of water-drops.
Liminal realms are yours in abundance:
You know what lies illumined before you,
though many miss your light fingers darting,
thieving, intercepting oracles.
You catch glimpses beyond: Fate keeps her hair
shrouded in purple, but it slips for you,
by stratagem or by design, with ease.
These cavernous places are yours, O Lord,
where water drips down through rock-pores to make
the sacred place where your mother once bathed.
Your first temple is here, shrouded in gold,
incense milling on the vaulted ceiling,
where the cradle once lay, from where you made
your first claims among the deathless on high.
I drink deep from the tortoise-shell goblets
and cleanse myself at your stalagmite gate.
In the shrine, your icon sits, bathed in rich
ambrosial droplets that send minerals
cascading down your chest and face, shooting
light in all directions from the soft light.
Here, I pray that storms will be averted,
that you will guide me, even unseeing,
over the slippery stones, beyond lies.
Here, I pray that I always find correct
decisions, not deceived by the wrong paths,
as one finds jewels hidden in glass piles.
Here, I pray that you bless my armaments:
Those elastic spaces of meaning, words,
who always shift, slide, and metamorphose.
They find their images in ink and keys,
ama-iro and amber, moon-purple,
fast-drying, secret-keeping, drawn by pen,
or clacked out for consumption in spaces
without human touch, without human speech,
changed from alphabets to ones and zeroes.
Here, I offer this poem, written in both.
O clear-eyed wanderer, friend and guide who
offers warmth in the half-cold caves below,
hear me: Protect your devotee as our
world’s bedrock rumbles and the dice roll on.

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