Monday, June 13, 2016

Matt Borczon writes

Drunken promises

I am
the rafters
tonight stealing
the moon
the spiders
and killing
my history
I am
my ghosts
into the
fire and
belching flame
across memory
across dead
soldiers and
maimed children
across Taliban
detainees who
scorch poppy
fields with
the hate
in their eyes

I am
on a
kill or
be reborn
deep inside
this bottle
of bourbon

where I sit
with what
remains of
my promises
and the
that all
my promises
are lies
I just
told yet.
Raven Stealing the moon -- Carl Stromquist


  1. French structuralist Claude Lévi-Strauss suggested ravens have had mythic status in many cultures because, as carrion birds, they mediate between life and death. In Swedish lore, they were the ghosts of murdered people. Talmudists accused ravens for copulating on Noah's ark during the flood. According to the Qur'an (Surah 5:27-31), a raven taught Cain how to bury his bother after murdering him. Odin had two ravens, Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory) that flew out every day and return at night with news about Midgard (earth). The Irish deity Lugh, whose name derived from a Celtic word for "raven," was the sun god and the creator of the arts and sciences. Raven was a trickster/ creator to many of the peoples of the Pacific Northwest, including the Tsimishians, Haidas, Heiltsuks, Tlingits, Kwakwaka'wakw, Coast Salish, Koyukons, and Inuit. In some stories he was responsible for bringing the world into being, or changing darkness into light. A story from the Puget Sound region told of a bored Raven leaving Bird Land (the spirit world) with a stone in his beak, but he dropped it when he became tired. It fell into the ocean and grew until it became the land where humans lived. In a Haida myth, out of boredom Raven found some timid creatures hiding in a clam shell and coaxed them out; these were the First Men. But he soon grew bored with them and considered returning them to their original home, but he found women trapped in a chiton (sea cradle, coat-of-mail shell) and brought them into contact with the men. (Raven was not bored for long, as the humans began to interact, to his constant amusement. In another tale, the Great Spirit created all things (such as mountains, fire, water, wind, seeds) and kept them separately and stored them in cedar boxes as presents for the animals. Seagull received the box that contained light and refused to open it, thus sharing it with the others, but Raven stuck a thorn deep into Seagull's foot, forcing Seagull to drop the box, and out came the sun, moon, and stars, allowing the first day to begin. Here are two other legends about Raven stealing the moon:

  2. “In the beginning there was no moon or stars at night. Raven was the most powerful being. He made all of the animals, fish, trees, and men. He had made all living creatures. But they were all living in darkness because he had not made the sun either. One day, Raven learned that there was a chief living on the banks of the Nass River who had a very wonderful daughter who possessed the sun, the moon, and the stars in carved cedar boxes. The chief guarded her and the treasure well. Raven knew that he must trick the villagers to steal their treasure, so he decided to turn himself into a grandchild of the great chief. Raven flew up on a tall tree over their house and turned himself into a hemlock needle. Then, as the needle, he fell into the daughter's drinking cup and when she filled it with water, she drank the needle. Inside the chief's daughter, Raven became a baby and the young woman bore a son who was dearly loved by the chief and was given whatever he asked for. The stars and moon were each in a beautifully carved cedar box which sat on the wood floor of the house. The grandchild, who was actually Raven, wanted to play with them and wouldn't stop crying until the grandfather gave them to him. As soon as he had them Raven threw them up through the smokehole. Instantly, they scattered across the sky. Although the grandfather was unhappy, he loved his grandson too much to punish him for what he had done. Now that he had tossed the stars and moon out of the smokehole, the little grandson began crying for the box containing the sunlight. He cried and cried and would not stop. He was actually making himself sick because he was crying so much. Finally, the grandfather gave him the box. Raven played with the box for a long time. Suddenly, he turned himself back into a bird and flew up through the smokehole with the box. Once he was far away from the village on the Nass River he heard people speaking in the darkness and approached them. ‘Who are you and would you like to have light?’ he asked them. They said that he was a liar and that no one could give light. To show them that he was telling the truth, Raven opened the ornately carved box and let sunlight into the world. The people were so frightened by it that they fled to every corner of the world. This is why there are Raven's people everywhere. Now there are stars, the moon and daylight, and it is no longer dark all of the time.”

  3. “Long ago, near the beginning of the world, Gray Eagle was the guardian of the sun and moon and stars, of fresh water, and of fire. Gray Eagle hated people so much that he kept these things hidden. People lived in darkness, without fire and without fresh water. Gray Eagle had a beautiful daughter, and Raven fell in love with her. At that time Raven was a handsome young man. He changed himself into a snow white bird, and as a snow-white bird he pleased Gray Eagle's daughter. She invited him to her father's longhouse. When Raven saw the sun and the moon and the stars and fresh water hanging on
    the sides of Eagle's lodge, he knew what he should do. He watched for his chance to seize them when no one was looking. He stole all of them, and a brand of fire also, and flew out of the longhouse through the smoke hole. As soon as Raven got out side he hung the sun up in the sky. It made so much light that he was able to fly far out to an island in the middle of the ocean. When the sun set, he fastened the moon up in the sky and hung the stars around in different places. By this new light he kept on flying, carrying with him the fresh water and the brand of fire he had stolen. He flew back over the land. When he had reached the right place, he dropped all the water he had stolen. It fell to the ground and there became the source of all the fresh water streams and lakes in the world. Then Raven flew on, holding the brand of fire in his bill. The smoke from the fire blew back over his white feathers and made them black. When his bill began to burn, he had to drop the fire brand. It struck rocks and went into the rocks. That is why, if you strike two
    stones together, fire will drop out. Raven's feathers never became white again after they were blackened by the smoke from the fire brand. That is why Raven is now a black bird.”


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