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Fickle Muses an online journal of myth and legend

Gong by Steve Cartwright
by Steve Cartwright

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Four poems by Cathryn McCracken

in the scrying bowl
before it is lifted up
the fourth goddess takes her tea

she’s precocious this year
the hidden director of all the holes
we have tunneled in dirt
filled with seed
arranged in the dark

there will be only questions
given to questions
a thing made out of nothing
come new to life
curiousity wanting to make
a name for its lust

the fourth goddess rains
upon us from a cirrus sky
when she comes like this
she owns only herself



I’ve gone hagging today
don’t look to me for answers
in the garden
in bed
hovering over your denied

I’ve gone in search of my junta:
in coffee shops
at the vegetable bins
hiking the Crest
down by the bird sanctuary

I watch my sisters arrange
themselves: in plum hats,
in long skirts, in baggy jeans
each one of them fingering time
How much? How much per pound?

I see how they hold
the worlds in stasis
from a quiet power
in deep solitude
in gaggles and couples

palming hope that there
is something left
after the birthing
and the yards and the dishes
after the couplings and wars
and the years spent looking
for truth

old elms lose leaves before July
branches in high winds crack
grow a wild stiff bark in September
sometimes fall when there isn’t a wind
bargain with robins and grackles and wrens

a word which allows us to trade
I will not haggle unless it is with these:
a choosing of words
a need to be free
a watching, a hand which holds not just
love, but memory
a bargain for safety and strength

when a branch falls off my tree
another one grows


Sleeping Beauty

it was like this:
there were no thorns, no men
there was no witch, no apple
I did it all myself.

A woman full of blessings,
around my castle I planted much
in brown feet
in bare earth
beneath a sky I spilt the
seeds, loving each according
to its kind

It all grew.
Over my hands and inside my womb
behind my eyes
my ears were murmuring sap and seeds

they plugged me up and wrapped
me round with cool and ivied fingers
took my face and cradled it in green
long ago:

the stories men told of the sleeping girl
waiting to be waked were believed
and told again and again

there are no thorns and no-one comes
I dreamt. I dream here still.


Sleeping Beauty 2

there’s no where to go
I have trapped myself in paradise
vines have closed my eyelids
and breathe through my heart

(they told me to ask
they begged me to fullness
implored my becoming)

I was eager, alive
bones in me, quick dances
slow-dreaming turns and spins

I paid with sharp teeth
(don’t look behind as you
plant your seeds and the first
shoots grab at your ankles)

I am drowning in fruit
the trees bow down and encompass me

there is no exit
and the trees are dreaming me
as they choose

long ago, I loved so well
and made so much
there is no way out