October Women by Stephen McNallen
As McNallen says, this is his tribute to Freya, the Disir, and Ray Bradbury, their “special bard.”
Can you hear her? Can you hear THEM? Shut your eyes and listen through the dark.
Rustle, crackle, crunch on the leaves Once green, now brown, like Freya’s cloak. Green cloaks are for growing things, And for tossing on the grass for a love-bed. Brown cloaks, like fallen leaves and bare earth Are for covering and concealing…for October.
Ray Bradbury knows about October. But he doesn’t know about her Or it wouldn’t be his thumbs that prickle When frost circles the moon like her necklace, And it’s too cold to make love on the stark ground. Maybe he hears the ones behind her, and fears The Disir – creaking bones? Dried up skin bags? Wrinkles like old apples in the straw?
But Bradbury’s got October right, At least as far as he goes. Summer’s end, no more long days To run in the sun and play in fields like children It’s adult time now – indoors, school books open, turn pages. Turn inward, and keep the fire lit all night. Falling leaves turn to falling snow But the ancient ladies ignore the chill.
Out in the paddock stand the burial mounds, Stones all icy, but the Disir don’t care. They cackle and call as though the air was warm And flowers bedecked the barrow in the sun. You can hear them better this time of year Without the humming of the insects Or the sighs of lovers moving over the grass. The Disir, those ancient women, call to you.
Mothers, grandmothers, cousins and kin of old They hail and halloo, as though they’d never left the fireside. Remember to feed the animals, the Disir say And brew the fine beer that will keep you cheery. It’s not too cold to take off your clothes under the cover, Especially if you’ve someone to snuggle with. Keep a log on the family’s honor And know that summer lies beyond the snow.
Creaking bones and leathery skin? Wrinkles, cracked voices, age-dulled eyes? Mr. Bradbury should know Freya better than that. October is now, but springtime is forever And the Disir call us from verdant vistas. Their eyes shine brightly and their supple bodies Twist ands weave as they dance in the sun. “You can make it!” they say, and as usual, they’re right!