TCS: Inexplicable – Poems for National Occult Day

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“When you start to notice the mystical,
the mystical will start to notice you.”

Dacha Avelin


Today is National Occult Day.

“Knowledge of the Hidden” – supernatural, mystical, or magical beliefs, practices, or phenomena.

It’s a broad field, covering everything from witchcraft to that uncomfortable feeling between your shoulder blades that you’re being watched.

So here are some poems to celebrate the things you never think about when the sun is shining – those dark-of-the-moon-things which the primitive parts of our brains still believe in, in spite of hundreds of years of civilization.



by Joyce Carol Oates

the blood-smear across the knuckles:
painless, inexplicable.
once you discover it pain will begin,
in miniature.
never will you learn what caused it.
you forget it.

the telephone answered on the twelfth ring:
silence without breath, cunning, stark.
and then he hangs up.
and you stand there, alone.
then you forget.

and your father’s inexplicable visit:
two days’ notice, a ten-hour reckless drive.
rains, 80 mph winds, bad luck all the way,
traffic backed up, a broken windshield wiper,
and no stopping him.

clumsy handshakes.
How are—?
You seem—!
How good to —!
How long will—?
he must leave in the morning,
must get back.
a gas station two blocks away repairs the wiper.

did he sense death,
and so he raced to us?
did he already guess at his death
behind those nervous fond smiles,
the tumult of memories he had to bear?

nothing we know can explain his visit,
or the new, strange way he moved among us—
touching us, squeezing our arms, smiling.
the visit was an excuse.
the words that surrounded our touching were an excuse.
inexplicable, that the language we invent may be a means
to get us closer, to allow us to touch one another,
and then to back away.

“Occult” from The Fabulous Beasts, © 1975 by Joyce Carol Oates – Louisiana State University Press

Joyce Carol Oates (1938 – ) American writer, author of 58 novels, a number of plays, novellas, short stories, non-fiction works, and almost a dozen collections of poetry. She has won two O. Henry Awards, the National Book Award for Fiction, the Prix Femina Etranger, the Bram Stoker Award for Best Fiction Collections, and countless other nominations and awards. Among her books of poetry are Love and Its Derangements, Invisible Woman: New and Selected Poems, 1970–1982, and Tenderness.


Occult Adventure

by Dilys Bennet Laing

Through every surface of my skin
the needles of the pines struck in.

The blind trees through my pupils could
see themselves:   a winter wood.

With the shared organ of my ear
when the bird cried, the bough could hear.

Sucked dry by every staring bud,
identity forsook my blood.

I was the wood’s uprooted ghost,
the self, half guessed, of that cold host.

Snow fell to snow. I woke.   My skis
shot with my self  beyond the trees.

“Occult Adventure” from Poems from a Cage, © 1960 by Dilys Bennett Laing – Macmillan Company

Dilys Bennett Liang (1906-1960) was born in North Wales, educated in England and Canada, then became an American citizen when she married her husband. She was a poet, writer and artist. She is cited in The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women: Traditions in English. Some of her poems were published in The New Yorker and Poetry magazine. Her poetry collections include Walk Through Two Landscapes, Birth is Farewll, and Poems from a Cage



by Maurice Kilwein Guevara

How many times do I have to tell you  Yes
I wear the black hood of a common saint
following stars and the smell of basuco
straight in my mission as the one bullet
cutting a way through the fifteen years
of your crazy skull   The moon
empties of her marrow in the dirt
I lay on you a dark rose whose stem
cannot hold the petals   Dead One
I walk away
leaving the three spirits
to do their work in peace
as I do mine
Tomorrow is another night   O missionaries
we are brothers on the dark road

How many times do I have to tell you

“Cofradía” from Postmortem © 1994 by Maurice Kilwein Guevara – University of Georgia Press

Maurice Kilwein Guevara (1961 – ) was born in Belencito, Colombia, but his family moved to Pittsburgh when he was two years old. He is a founding member of the National Latino Writers’ Association, and has published four volumes of poetry, including POEMA, and Postmortem


After He Called Her a Witch

by Susan Ludvigson

 Special powers were attributed to the orange in
Renaissance England, Italy and Sicily. It was
believed witches could bring death to an enemy
by pinning the victim’s name to an orange and
leaving the orange in the chimney.

When he comes in, late again,
the whole house smells wonderful,
but he can’t quite recognize the scent.
The fire is almost out, a few ashes
flicker in the absent light,
and suddenly he recalls
his mother holding orange peels
over a flame, the singed skin
curling back like petals,
releasing the fragrance.
She did it daily, all one winter,
just for the pleasure.

He doesn’t see on the hearth
the remains of paper, traces
of his name printed in clear
black ink. He wonders how his wife
knew about sweetening their rooms
with oranges, wonders whether it means
the air is cleared,
she wants to make up.
He breathes the evening in,
Imagining her in bed, waiting for him,
forgiveness on her lips
like the taste of oranges.

“After He Called Her a Witch”– from Poetry magazine, November 1982, © 1982 by Susan Ludvigson

Susan Ludvigson (1942 – ) is an American poet who has published nine collections of poetry, including The Beautiful Noon of No Shadow; Everything Winged Must Be Dreaming; Sweet Confluence: New and Selected Poems; and Escaping the House of Certainty, all published by Louisiana State University Press. Ludvigson is professor emeritus of English at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina


Header: Blue Moon Reflections by Tony Kalemba

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Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for the past 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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