The Poetry of Ellin Anderson


Ellin Anderson

My heart and my beloved cad
Were joined together on Black Hill
In autumn, when the woods go mad
With fire, and the need to kill
Desire, like I’d never had
To bind my freedom to his will.

In a dell of copper beech
Where the deer come down to drink,
Our hands were fastened, each to each,
With rings that made a stronger link
Than lantern-light that tries to reach
The fickle moons that rise and sink.

Madness of the gorging bear,
Frenzy of the roaring stag;
Passion left him unaware
That night the goddess-moon turned hag,
And I would see him sit and stare
At nothing, from a barren crag.

Generous of heart and purse,
He turned miser; and for me,
The madness of a woodland curse
Doled out my share of misery:
He said gold leaves would reimburse
My hours spent on sorcery.

If I’d not brought him to Black Hill,
I think that he would love me still.
We blessed the woods when love began,
But now he’s just a pumpkin-man,
And though the flame of love is dead,
A candle flickers in his head.


© 2015 by Ellin Anderson. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be copied or used in any way without written permission from the author.



Ellin Anderson

It was due to his burden of sin and guilt,
Because of that weight of sin,
And the warmth of the red barn, newly built,
Where the animals bedded down, sheep with goat,
That they let the Scapegoat in.
And they scraped the mud from his shaggy coat
Where it soiled him to the skin,
And they washed, and they dried, and he would have died,
In the autumn drought, on the cold hillside,
If they had not let him in.

And the children fed him with grain and fruit
That he ate with gratitude —
Seen through their creed, his ferocious greed
Could be anything but rude.
And they gazed at the goat and said, “He’s so cute!”
As he ate and ate and ate:
The Goat of Azazel was theirs to feed,
As what they thought was a kindly deed,
On more than his share of water and food
Once thrown as ice and hate.

And the goat grew fat, and the goat grew sleek,
And he grew them fine soft wool;
And they doted more on him, week by week,
Till the Hunter’s Moon grew full.
And by its brilliance, the farmer’s wife
Went out alone to the shed,
And she saw the Scapegoat walk like a man
On two long legs, and as straight as a knife,
While his goat-eyes burned bright red,
And she screamed to the sky, and ran.

And the goat breathed fire, and burnt the barn
And the house, and all within
Of the Christian creed, for he had no need
For food, when he fed on sin.
And hellfire melted the ice on the tarn
Where the full moon seemed to bleed,
And when all were dead, the goat raised his head
And laughed like a fiend as the moon turned red,
For he’d passed along his sin
To those who had let him in.

© 2015 by Ellin Anderson. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be copied or used in any way without written permission from the author.



Ellin Anderson

Beyond blue mist, the sky looked warm,
And then we saw the firestorm
Of lunar lava on the heights:
A summit for October frights.

As orange as a pumpkin’s glow,
But bigger than the sun, and slow,
It rose above the pasture where
The cows still drank the autumn air.

It seared the sky with amber flame
That put the maple trees to shame,
And where the stars were late to shine,
It burned the cornstalks in a line.

Through clouds that buckled with its heat,
It burst like broken bittersweet,
And as we drove, however far,
It seemed to watch and chase our car.

With cavern mouth, and rolling head,
It roared enough to wake the dead,
But when we reached the edge of night,
The moon looked small and plain and white:

A milky lantern in the deep
Black sky, to gently light our sleep.
For night has ways to drown our fear,
No matter where bad moons appear.

© 2016 by Ellin Anderson. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be copied or used in any way without written permission from the author.



Ellin Anderson

No poet can resist the call
Of apple orchards in the Fall
The rasping music of the crow,
The sighs of wind-borne leaves, the low
Sweet thrum of crickets touched with cold
Must lure us to the phantom gold
Of harvest haze that lingers on
The Isle of Apples Avalon.

Dust mounts around a rising hum:
In metal ships, the pilgrims come
Across the suburbs for a day
Spent apple-picking, far away
From gleaming toys that hold no spark
Of life to batter back the dark
When golden Autumn draws us near
The shadows of an ancient fear.
Up the stony road I go;
The white horse whinnies for hello,
And there two lovers walk apart,
Yet share an apple, like a heart
That's nibbled to the bitter core
You understand the metaphor.
The lady greets me as I pass,
And throws the apple on the grass
(A fruit she had no right to pluck;
Stolen apples bring bad luck).
Here come the cars so now I'll rove
Within the leafy apple-grove
And climb the footpath up the hill.
I have a little sack to fill
From trees that offer to the sun
A hundred hearts instead of one.
And what a dazzling choice to make
What a range of spoils to take
Green orbs smooth as celadon,
Moon-globes that might beam upon
The glades of the Hesperides
Straggling sunburned families
Wander dazed among the rows
Of laden trees, or sit and doze
Where purple stars and goldenrod
Drain the apple-nourished sod.
Ample beauty for a poem
How much will they carry home?

Sun and rain have made the crop
Ripe and sweet enough to drop;
I like the ruby windfalls best
I find them where they've tumbled, pressed
Against a mound of emerald clover.
Carefully, I turn them over
Apples meant to quench our thirst,
If wasps and deer don't find them first.
Above the summit, kestrels wheel;
Below, the river shines like steel;
And from the bright October blue,
South-winging geese add bell-notes to
The shouts within a sheltered glen
Where half a dozen rugged men
Stack the bonfire that will soon
Rival Halloween's full moon
And paint the hills with golden light
When days embrace the reign of Night.

Weatherbeaten and forlorn,
Guarding pumpkins, gourds, and corn,
The blind-eyed harvest oversoul
Looks eastward from his rough-hewn pole
Through parchment stalks to sapphire skies
Where the waxing moon will rise.

On violet nights no longer warm,
Fall's gleaner, the October storm,
Sweeps down the hills with raking teeth
To comb the orchard's lacy wreath
Of twisted trees now nearly bare
Except for apples here and there.
We'll add more color to this scene,
Because tonight is Halloween:
They're planting torches all along
The winding road, to light the throng
Of revelers who'll take a ride  
Through haunted groves where goblins bide.
The wagon-mistress, tall and brown,
Rides the white horse up and down
While goblins, just let out of school,
Make sure that every fiend and ghoul
And jack-o-lantern, witch, and ghost
Will grimace from its proper post.

As the witching-hour draws nigh,
Droves of families come by
With children of an eager mind
To leave their SUVs behind
And listen for the screech-owl's trill
Around the bonfire on the hill.
They pay their fees, then tumble in
Against the hay and we begin
Our wagon-trek across the field.
Behold!  A pumpkin moon's revealed
Between two veils of misty grey
That spectral fingers whisk away.
As sunset's last candescence dies,
A thousand orange fireflies
Fade in among the withered sheaves,
And in the trees, now shorn of leaves,
Where hordes of jack o'lanterns grin
Like demons contemplating sin.
The brown-and-white draft horses swerve,
And there, around a clockwise curve
A score of hanging bodies twitch
The season of the Salem Witch
Rides on within this grim tableau.
We pass another scene of woe:
A host of children, deathly pale,
Are offered, more or less for sale
To work in noisy factories,
Or picking cotton, if you please.
Just as the driver cracks her whip,
A pothole makes the wagon dip
And as we pitch, we nearly fall
Within a scene that must appall:
Three beggars, dressed in filthy rags,
Their worldly goods in garbage bags,
Come slinking forward and what's worse,
They block the cart and start to curse.
We throw them coins and lurch away
Towards the next unholy play,
Which stars a TV-addled grouch,
Who lounges on a vinyl couch,
While his poor shackled helpmeet cooks.
Her clothes catch fire.  He never looks
Around at her, but merely turns
The channel, as she screams and burns.
Next door, the angel of the house,
Who drains a man, and leaves a mouse,
Stands gloating in her vampire cape.
She took the kids.  He can't escape,
Or pay his bills.  There's only one:
Solution:  he picks up a gun
And puts the barrel to his head
I shut my eyes.  Above the tread
Of hooves, a waltz drifts through the glades,
As breezes stir the colored shades
Of paper lanterns, in whose glow
Fiends waltz with angels, to and fro,
Revolving like twin planets do.
A great horned owl flies up:  "Whoo-hoo!"
She cries, and skims above the track
That stretches out towards the black
And silver summit of the farm.
In answer to the owl's alarm,
The torches flicker into life
And make the road a golden knife
That cuts the moonlit slope in half.
I hear the screech-owl's ghostly laugh;
Through silver cloud-veils in the East,
The yellow moon lights up the feast
That's waiting for the wagon train.
Beside the pyre, I see a grain
Of match-light, cupped in someone's hands,
And suddenly, the blaze expands
And towers upwards.  We strike camp
Around the fire. A pumpkin lamp
Lights rows of apples, candy-red
Marked with a smile-face or skull-head.
Relaxed, and too content for words,
The riders huddle like black birds
Against the light, and warm their toes,
Drink cider, or toast marshmallows.

I ask a boy with purple hair
To grill a hamburg, extra-rare,
And then, when I sit down to eat,
There's someone leaning on the seat.
It seems that our Oktoberfest
Includes one uninvited guest:
The orchard scarecrow, poor old guy,
Upstanding when the corn was high,
Has fallen down and come apart,
A victim of the hailstone's dart,
And of the harsh Nor'easter's lash.
Around the fire, children dash
In circles, and to cap their games,
They toss the scarecrow on the flames,
Which leap still higher. I gasp for breath,
To see him crowned with fire King Death.

He smiles as orange flames consume
His rags and patches.  Now the gloom
And cold of winter rise and sweep
The hillside, sowing thoughts of sleep,
And as I have no mind to talk
To strangers, I decide to walk
Alone, back to the cider press;
The wagons leave, one person less;
The embers flicker night grows colder
Then a hand falls on my shoulder.
Slowly, I turn around to see
The blackened scarecrow smile at me.
"Do you know who I am?" he asks.

"Old conjurer, your many masks
Take wing upon the graven slate
Above plain words that mark the late
Lamented loved ones paid for toil
With twelve square feet of acid soil.
When harvest days achieve their end,
You show yourself the poet's friend;
Give half the matter for our art
When we're alive; when we depart,
You lend your wings to those who've sung:
However old, forever young."
And so, I don't take fright at all,
But sit with him upon the wall
Of fieldstones and our time ends well:
The chiming of the All Saints bell
Puts Night and Hell and Death to flight,
And when the first November light
Gilds stubble-fields the frost has kissed,
The Reaper swims in amethyst,
And makes his way towards the West.
I choose a road the dawn has blessed,
But pluck an apple from the tray
To keep the dark and cold away
With thoughts of sweetness that will grow
Only through dreams beneath the snow.

2008 by Ellin Anderson. All rights reserved.
No part of this work may be copied or used in any way
without written permission from the author.

St. Patrick's Day
Tiger and Blue Jewel

Winter's Hill
Maple-Key Song
November in Camelot

Wassail Song
The Rooster at Midsummer
Liberty Enlightens the People

The Leap
The Goldfinch
Three Bears
Song of the Lily
White Tree at Twilight
The Christmas Tree

Grand Bois du Nord
The Owl
Moth Summer
The Little God of Joy
Photographing the Moon
A Rabbit
Rose, Do You Know
The Two Pining Bachelors

The Harvest Chorus
The Maple Mask
Ghost Cardinal

The Little Heath-Rose
The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Song for the Harp

The Spinner
The Prayer of Cephalus
Circe and Ulysses
The Black Arts
Tristan and Isolde & Jupiter's Two Casks

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More Poems by Ellin Anderson

The Little Mermaid
Anne's Hearth