A Temple of Iron

So there I was, minding my own business, lifting heavy things and putting them back down. I had abandoned the bear cave for an iron temple of my own making. And Brodin had turned his countenance towards this new temple, and he smiled upon it, and he blessed it for the sacred gainz and for the pursuit of the Swole. Wheymen.

And in the building of the temple, I had been especially diligent, and had not forgotten forgotten to honor Freya, the bringer of flax, the one who makes all things on earth move, and makes the sea swell. Goddess of love, sex, beauty, fertility, gold, seiðr. Around her swirl the soft winds of enchantment, ecstasy, and jouissance, and her name means giving. For the new initiates among us, seiðr means  seiðkonur: conjuring, spellcasting, the mesmerising glamour of odylic force.

And I had made an alcove to her in the iron temple, and placed within it a daybed. And She herself had descended, all the way from the upper floors, and had brought fresh linens to adorn the day bed, and paintings to adorn the walls. I particularly liked the languid Erte peacock, framed in gold, and the Waterhouse: Naiad. Now she was relaxing on the daybed, peeling a grape for her own delectation, watching me lift, shirtless. Me, not her. I wish. As if.

“So who’s this Brodin?” she asked, in that ambrosial voice of hers, which always reminds me of spiced honey and lavender flowers. “And why are you building an iron temple with stuff you got off Craigslist, anyway?”

“The swole brother of Odin, Brodin also has one eye, but he has twenty-two inch biceps, and can benchpress four hundred pounds. For it is written, in the sacred scripture, verse nine: “And Brodin said, “Let the virtuous under the sky be gathered to one place, and let them pick up heavy weights and put them down repeatedly.” And it was so. 10) Brodin called this movement “deadlifts,” and the gathered practitioners he called ‘The People of the Swole.’ And Brodin saw that it was good.” Not only that, but it’s the best road to health.”

Then she said “Some of my ancestors were Vikings. But since when have you gone all Norse?”

“Since my brief pilgrimage to the cardiac care unit in April. Never want to go through that again: it was like Dante’s descent, and I was sans Virgil. Thank goodness my Beatrice was with me. Did you know her name means bringer of joy and blessings, she who brings happiness?

“And around the same time my brother did the whole 23 and me thing, and discovered a decent slice of the pie is Nordic. So I’m nurturing my roots. Besides, the worship of Brodin is universal. Have you not read the Bro te Ching? “The Lift that can be lifted is not the enduring and unchanging Lift. The weight that can be numbered is not the enduring and unchanging weight. Therefore the follower of Brodin lifts without straining anything,  and conveys his swoliness without the use of speech.”

“So suddenly you’ve gone from ‘poet with his head in the clouds’ to a man of action and brawn?”

“Me Mongo! Besides, the only change is one of expression. As Kenneth Burke, one of the Thirty Six Lamed Vavniks said, ‘Language is symbolic action. We are separated from our natural condition by instruments of our own making, so the poetic motive may extend to areas far beyond the confines of poetry and poetics.’ Or something like that. There must be a poetry of lifting, since to say anything else would deny the universality of poetics.”

“That’s all well and good,” she said, peeling another grape, and slipping it between those luscious lips of hers, ”but there are literary actions which must also be performed!”

“Like what?”

“Like you’re supposed to announce our 2018 Pushcart Nominations. Don’t make me get out my frying pan!”

So I had to put down the barbell, and remove my lifting gloves. The sweat of exertion blossomed on my shoulders, illuminated by myriad LED beams. But my head was completely clear. It’s an unexpected benefit of doing barbell curls. I sat on the Smith Machine bench, and talked, while she took notes.

“How many contributors can we Nominate?”

“Only six.”

“That’s nowhere near enough!”

“I don’t make the rules. I just enforce them. I think I’ve got one of my frying pans down here somewhere.”

“OK, I propose we start with peacocks. Like so many of us, Angela O’Donnell holds a special place in her heart for Flannery O’Conner. They both have “a penchant for the weird & the wild and a gift for finding beauty in both.” Angela sent us a whole suite of peacock poems. So let’s nominate “Flannery & Poetry,” because it’s only fitting that we should:

“… I try to cage him with words,
with pictures and paint, but nothing
short of feathers and flesh will do,
can contain those suns, that holy blue
head and three-starred crown….”

Continuing the theme, I’m thinking of Daya Bhat, the poet from Bengaluru, India. I always thought of the place as Bangalore, but I’ve been reeducated on the subject. She sent us several lovely works. Perhaps we should nominate one I particularly liked. She calls it “Deluge:”

“… You are no more like the strand of jasmine in my hair. No more a soft thrum on my tiled roof, no more a hint of mystery on my monsoon guest.

I knew you as a turquoise plume on the peacock, a soft rhyming drizzle of my quill.”

Returning to this continent, I’d like to mention Tresha Faye Haefner. I really loved her Beauty Statement: “…The nautilus shell curves beautifully and then opens to the ravages of the sea. My body is Paris. Death is a bird of paradise….” Oh my goodness. We must nominate her poem “How to Deal with Mortality:”

“… a woman who will live forever,
pouting the same eternal pout,
newly made, newly alive, staring
at the lavender blossom stars,
the sandy minefields of the sea,
the first ritual of combs and mirrors…”

Now for a bit of fiction: Joseph Germán Smeall-Villarroel’s “Oh Dear, What an Awkward Situation.” Both the story, which is exceptional in itself, but coupled with his statement on Beauty:

“All assumptions are wrong, but some are useful. An assumption is an active ideal that any self-determined person can accept as a foundation or impetus, from which to realize new, ideally useful, forms. Usefulness is the scope possessed by an object, to afford a subject ​the ​maximal opportunities for self-determination and self-possession, within the frame​work​ of reality.​ Infinite possibilities comprise that framework, the ultimate ​and transcendent one among them being perfection. Where perfection is, there too is reality.”

Erin Wilson  lives in a small town in northern Ontario. I don’t know if there are ‘blue windows behind the stars’ there, but I do know she writes exquisite poems from that snowy place, which must also have fields of endless blossoms in the summer, given the warmth of her work. One of those poems is titled “The Book Of God:”

“Small miraculous acts of creation unfold
and clean my dirty feet
like violets pushing their bruised faces upwards
displacing earth…”

We must also include Devon Balwit. This isn’t the first time her work has graced our humble pages, nor, I trust, will it be the last. This is from her statement on Beauty: “The natural world serves as my most consistent doorway to it–whether through a mackerel sky at sunset, the geometry of garden flowers, striations in stones, the hover of raptors, the myriad shapes of insects, the wind swirling grass, or light playing on water. I’m awed by fractals and iridescence.” I share the same awe: the nautilus cup, the luminous opalescence of abalone shells. And this is from her poem, “Nocturne,” we are pleased to nominate:

“You’d pay a conjure woman blood

for such peace, a bag of earth
and nail parings to hang

from the lintel. My reflection
considers from a discrete

distance, backed by sentry trees,
patient in their peaked hoods.”

And now I must return to my lifting, for Brodin is a jealous god, and while he grants gains, he may also take them away. As a friend wrote me, in discussing the theology of the Temple of Iron: “Praise Brodin brother! For thine gains hath very many a swoldier mirin’. Wheymen.”

“Oh, William…”

“Hey, anything that keeps me lifting. Wheymen!”