A Literary Interlude

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S3E7 TRANSCRIPT:----more----

Yucca: Welcome back to the Wonder Science-Based Paganism. I'm your host Yucca

Mark: and I'm Mark,

Yucca: And today we have a really special episode. We have, what was it that you called it? A.

Mark: Literary interlude.

Yucca: a, a bit of storytelling, dreaming and poetry for the spring, which a lot of us are in that place. And here in the Northern hemisphere where we're going into spring, where, Ooh, we want to get going.

We want to, we want to just get out there, but it's still, still a bit nippy, not quite there yet. And so it's still that time of dreaming and storytelling. Getting ready for all of it.

Mark: Right. Yeah, it's that in between time and, and we, we were a little bit at a loss to know what to talk about today. So.

We've, we've fallen back on on poetry and stories and that kind of thing. These are. The poems come from my book a red kiss, which is my second book after the atheopaganism book and is a collection of poems of mine going all the way back to 1993--selected poems, not all of them just the good stuff.

So I'm really happy to share. I write on a variety of different kinds of themes. So these are these sort of go all over the place. So settle in and we'll, we'll start out with an atheist prayer :


Praise to the wide spinning world

Unfolding each of all the destined tales compressed

In the moment of your catastrophic birth

Wide to the fluid expanse, blowing outward

Kindling in stars and galaxies, in bright pools

Of Christmas-colored gas; cohering in marbles hot

And cold, ringed, round, gray and red and gold and dun

And blue

Pure blue, the eye of a child, spinning in a veil of air,

Warm island, home to us, kind beyond measure: the stones

And trees, the round river flowing sky to deepest chasm, salt

And sweet.

Praise to Time, enormous and precious,

And we with so little, seeing our world go as it will

Ruing, cheering, the treasured fading, precious arriving,

Fear and wonder,

Fear and wonder always.

Praise O black expanse of mostly nothing

Though you do not hear, you have no ear nor mind to hear

Praise O inevitable, O mysterious, praise

Praise and thanks be a wave

Expanding from this tiny temporary mouth this tiny dot

Of world a bubble

Going out forever meeting everything as it goes

All the great and infinitesimal

Gracious and terrible

All the works of blessed Being.

May it be so.

May it be so.

May our hearts sing to say it is so.

Yucca: Mark. That was beautiful.

Mark: Thank you. That's the one that I ended the atheopaganism book with actually there's a little one page chapter called what it looks like, and that's that's what's on that page.

Yucca: The, the imagery, I just, just closing my eyes and listening, as you said that, and could just, just feel my. Changing perspective and flying through coming down from the galactic of you into the eye of the child. Just, just amazing.

Mark: Thank you.

so much. This is one called "Blessed". And it's got a dedication: for my people. You know who you are.

Yucca: Hm.


I am among the blessed.

I am of the kind who leaves the glaring tube, remembering

And goes to watch the moon rise silver through the trees

Breathing purple and chill, stinging pine. I am

Among the blessed: I know the acacia, the first daffodil,

The irises unsheathing cream and violet labia in the green wet of May.

I tune for the new music on the radio: I turn it up.

I am among the blessed: I drink wine by firelight, clothes rank with smoke,

Bright silver twisted through my lobes. I know secrets;

They are tattooed on my body where the sleeves can cover them,

They read

Blessed, and only if we are lucky enough, you and I, courageous enough

To shed our clothes together will you read them.

Seeing scarlet leaves drift down,

Perhaps, with ice around the moon, or the steel bones of the oaks against Orion,

Knowing we are among the blessed, that we miss nothing, that we will eat this life

Like a chocolate mango, like Beethoven ice cream,

Moaning our joy with each sweet bite.
This next one is dedicated to my friend, Ellen Lewis. And it's about getting older.

It's about how maybe it's just because I'm very, I'm a very sort of skeptical person, but I always find it a little hard to believe that somewhere, 1975. Isn't still out there; that I could, that I could go to that place again. And those people would be there and it would be that place again somehow. The, the passage of time is kind of baffling to me in a way.

So this is called A FAR COUNTRY.
It comes in moments, thinking:

Oh, that year is still out there somewhere. We could drive

Far into the night and come upon it,

A world of remembered fashions and faded devices.

But then your bones confirm: no.

Those days are gone for always, lost

In the strangeness that is the passing of time.

We are older now.

Remembering, there is always the will to bring

What has been gained on this roadworn way back

On that trip: strapped to the roof like campers’ gear,

Waiting to unfurl and make a new home.

We would have our wisdom and our youth besides then.

No aches and infirmities, and optimism bright as peaches,

Innocence without inexperience. We would have all

We have won by endurance, and cost free.

The far land of the past would take us then, unmake

The failures and embarrassments, take

The work and sorrow from us, the mistakes,

Leaving gold, and we young and beautiful to spend it.

Oh, if it were only so.

But we are not passengers--nor drivers, really:

We calve like ice from floes laid down in bygone snows

Jagged and dangerous, mostly unseen

And float down the currents, rounding


Learning our depths as we diminish until

Blue with history, curved and scalloped

With knowing this great ocean at last

We are melted into the vastness of things.

Yucca: Hm.

Mark: That's one of my favorites actually.

Yucca: I love that last line melted into the vastness of things.

Mark: Yeah. Cause it's what happens Right?

Yucca: Right?

Mark: When our time comes, we get disassembled and melted into the vastness of things.

Yucca: Yeah. Well, and that's, that's what, I mean, we weren't anything, but that's what.

Mark: right.

Yucca: And we're just a piece. We're a ripple in that basket for this time. And then the wave dissipates and returns back to just being part of the whole ocean.

Mark: Right,

Yucca: Hm.

Mark: right. So this is something for the season. This is called SPRING LAUGHS.

It begins with a giggle:

The tiniest white tendril reaching from the secret soil

Like a child’s laugh, the purr of a cat and then

Raising, greening leaves and flowers peal across the meadows,

Carpet even what was once severe, sere,

Frowning brown in summer’s dry thatch,

A deep belly rumble of soaring chlorophyll

Spreading wanton leaves, dangling perfumed sex

Climbing to nod and wave come and get me,

These meadows,

Brazen to the skip of children gathering posies

Bees lumbering slow in the crisp morning air

You, and I, perhaps, gone down to the stream

To lay down in that place, screened by waving rye

And the laughter of the stream gurgling out like a baby’s delight

Playing with our playthings as we do, exploring

The whole world green and gripped with the howl of it:

Spring come at last.

Yucca: That makes me want to get out and be in the spring. Come on spring, be here already. Oh, beautiful. Thank you, mark.

Mark: Thank you so much. And the last poem that I'll read, and then I'll tell a story is a Christian heresy poem. This is called MARY MAGDALENE IMPENITENT.

And so I have become an object lesson to these old, dried men.

A cautionary tale. They know nothing, these friends,

these hangers-on,

They have only their dreams of what was given them,

the longed-for balm,

Freedom from their secret lusts as seen

In the mirror he was for each he met,

As Pilate did. And I.

What they do not tell you in their book fills chests of scrolls

In the library of my heart, will die with me. His sorrow, his rage, his agony

They embrace, they exalt, the old men who think this fire in their eyes is his

—When it is their own—

But his sweetness, his passion, his humanity they choose

to forget, confounded

That a whore held his confidences, that we shared what

they could not,

Who would consume him, tear him to pieces and eat him

to have what he was.

Who will tell that his skin smelled of honey in the sun? That his mouth was red

As berries, filled with juices, alive on me, how long his

fingers were, and gentle,

How his back arched when he spilled into me? Who will

say that he laughed often,

And at little things? That he snored? Loved figs and


But did not care for dates?

Who will remember his fear, his questioning?

I cursed the corrupt old men when they took him from me.

I cursed God.

And I repent nothing. Not even this.

Highly maligned and unfairly treated character. Mary Magdalen. Really doesn't get her props.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: So now along the lines of something completely different, here is a campfire story. This is called POTOK AND THE HUNDRED-THOUSAND YEAR FIRE. And it's for all my pagan friends out there, because it's really about us.
There was a night—long, long ago—when we had captured fire.

This was many years before we knew how to make it. We found it in a tree which had been struck by lightning, carried it in a gourd to where we made a camp.

And that night, we gathered around where the fire was fed to grow fat and snapping. We saw one another’s faces in the flickering light, and felt the warmth even in the dead of night.

It was a miracle. No predator would dare come near. And we were all together, in a circle, about the dancing, magical fire.

One night, meat was plentiful. A man named Potok had killed a cave bear after a fierce battle. Our bellies were full and grease hissed in the fire, and when we had eaten, Potok stood and told his tale: how he had lured the bear and crept upon it, how his spear went deep, and then he leapt upon the bear with his flint knife. The bear’s fangs hung, fresh and bloody, from a thong about his neck.

We cheered and ate some more.

The next winter, Potok died. We buried him with the bear fangs. But that night at the fire, and many nights thereafter, we told the tale of Potok and the bear.

And the tale, as tales will, grew in the telling.

There followed many fires.

We took fire into caves. We drew the bear, and the cave lion, and the aurochs and the bull. Again and again we returned, our torches flaring, to blow ochre against our hands, flattened against the wall, signifying, we were here.

And we told the tale of Potok. We spoke his name over our weapons before we hunted. Before long, we were asking Potok to help us in the hunt. As if he were still alive.

As if he still existed.

And the tale, as tales will, grew in the telling.

There were fires, and fires, and fires.

We brought them into our houses. We built cities and learned to plant crops in rows.

Circles became lines. And Potok was joined by warriors and heroes and lovers and queens and kings and demons and angels and devils and djinn and ifrit.

Until at last they all rolled into one. One hallowed name. And the fires dwindled to tiny candle flames.

But still we gathered. Still we whispered the sacred name. Even as we gathered to kill one another.

Until—gradually, very slowly—we didn’t.

We learned. We brought our fire into laboratories and harnessed it for engines and turbines and rockets. We found that they flew just as truly, even when we did not invoke the name of Potok.

And so many of us left him behind. In growing numbers, the people no longer spoke the name of a Being who had once been Potok.

Which brings us to this night. This fire.

At a time when we are finally forgetting the name of Potok.

This fire is a place for us to remember the look of each others’ faces in firelight. To gaze upward to the Moon, remembering: we went there. To celebrate anew our humanity, our lives on this generous world, now that Potok no longer distracts us from it.

One day, generations in the future, the tale may be told of this fire. Of this gathering.

Of the People Who No Longer Needed Potok.

It is unlikely that our names will be remembered, but the fact that we gathered at this fire may be. The fact that we began to build the culture of those who celebrate living, who revere the Sacred Cosmos, who bind to one another in community and family…all without Potok.

And that tale, in all likelihood, will grow with the telling. For that fire will burn not here, no.

Look up. To the stars.

That fire may well burn up there. Where people will tell their tales of how we sallied forth, armed with knowledge and filled with reverence, to the sky.

Yucca: Thank you mark.

Mark: You're welcome. You're welcome.

Yucca: I hadn't heard that one before. I like it.

Mark: Yeah. Yeah. It's got a happy ending.

Yucca: It does. Yeah. And, and we, we still gather around our fires.

Mark: we do.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: It's it's hardwired in--the fastest way to make new friends on a beach is to light a fire. People will just look like a magnet. People just come on over.

Yucca: Yep. Yeah. And there's that? There's just something deep. So deep in human to sit around a fire and look up at that sky. The stars, the moon.

Mark: Yeah, there sure is.

Yucca: And the quality of seeing their face lit by that fruit, that flickering dancing flame.

Mark: And the smell, the smell of the smoke, all it is just really primordial, just. Gets to parts of yourself that are way below the thinky parts.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: Yeah.

Yucca: Well, I hope that everyone gets to have. Many fires this year, right?

Mark: But no wildfires.

Yucca: No wildfires.

Mark: No

Yucca: Let's, let's, avoid those. Let's do safe fires that,

Mark: Well controlled domesticated fire.

Yucca: yes. That put out well, and, but, but you know, that, that experience right in it in a safe way, I'm sure that our ancestors. Accidentally and often purposefully caused quite a few. But if we could skip that one today, the purposeful, an accidental war wildfire, but the sitting around and, and even if it isn't, sometimes we can't go outside and have that outside, but there's something that the candle still reminds us of that.


Mark: Yeah,

Yucca: It's.

Mark: well, and we're going to get to do that because we're going to century retreat in may.

Yucca: That's all right.

Mark: be leaving there three months from today.

Yucca: That's right. And one of those nights weather permitting. We should be having a fire under the, a lunar eclipse.

Mark: Yeah, full lunar eclipse. It's just we, And this was an accident we didn't, we didn't plan for it We got that retreat center for the only weekend it was available for the entire year.

Yucca: And it happened to be a total lunar eclipse at an, at an hour that most people will still be awake for.

Mark: Exactly. So.

Yucca: So there will be lots of late evening activities during the retreat. But for those of us who can't quite stay up that late, there will also be the option of going to sleep. But the rest of you, I hear are going to have lots of fun in the evening.

Mark: Well, that's, that's certainly the plan. Yes. And you can go to atheopagan ism.org and the pinned post at the top of that is all about how you can register to go to the century retreat. It's in Colorado Springs, from the. I want to S w is it The 13th, through the 16th or is it the 16th through the 19th of

Yucca: The 13th, let me, let me double check that. But

Mark: so, so I'm wrong about our leaving a month from today? It's actually, it'll already be over.

Yucca: Let's see, let me, I'm pulling up my calendar right here. I remember that it's the beginning of may. So let's see. It is the 13th through 16th.

Mark: Okay.

Yucca: Yep. So it'll be that it's the second weekend of may. And we still have a few. So there's a, there's a few spots left for people who are interested in and we'll both be there and we'll be doing an episode from there.

Mark: Yes. Over, over the lunch hour, we'll be interviewing people.

Yucca: Yep. And hopefully we'll be able to be depending on a wifi, hopefully blue people to be publishing that live. But if not, we'll, we'll do it as soon as wifi permits.

Mark: Right, right. But supposedly the wifi is quite good in the dining halls. So.

if they're correct about that, then we'll be able to do a live broadcast and that'll be fun.

Yucca: That'd be exciting. Yeah. Well, I have to practice and figure out how to first, but we'll do it. We'll figure it out. So yeah, that's, that's coming up and we would love to tell poetry, tell stories, and read poems and do all of that around the, the campfire with you.

Mark: Yes.

Yucca: Yep.

Mark: I am. So looking forward to it. I mean, it's, it's just this stacked up layer of wonderful things. First of all, seeing people at all,

Yucca: Yes.

Mark: it doesn't even matter who they are, but then seeing these people around a fire in, you know, you know, a wilderness area, it's, just, it's going to be so beautiful. I really can't.

Yucca: you know, it's Ponderosa pine forest, just beautiful. Just wonderful. I haven't been to that specific place yet, but I know the, you know, it's the Rockies. I know the Rockies and they're just. They're amazing and great time of year, you know, we'll have the full moon and it'll be so wonderful to see people in person that we've been hanging out with over zoom and doing meetings and all of that for, you know, two years now.

Mark: Yeah. More in some cases. Yeah.

Yucca: Right. So it'll be great. And I'm bringing a couple telescopes too, so we'll have that. Yeah. I think that this is a little bit of a shorter episode than the normal, but mark, thank you for sharing those beautiful poems with us in the story and

Mark: Well thank you for suggesting it. It hadn't occurred to me, but it's, it's nice to get my stuff out there. All right, everyone have a wonderful week and we will see you next week on the wonder science-based paganism.

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