Artio with Otso*
I nursed you lazy, honey-pawed one,
golden apple of the forest.
Your gold cradle slung from fir trees,
our nest forest sheltered.
I denied you teeth and claws
as your grumbled and grew
until you promised, Pride of the Thicket,
never to use them in bloody destruction.
I lead you into your winter sleep.
Men, full of bravado, whisper your names
even when you slumber.
Roll over and the days lengthen.
You rise hungry and forget your promise,
my truculent foster-son.
You and Man tussle like untamed children.
I bid them to make you the bridegroom,
the honoured guest at your own death,
hang your skull in a sacred clearing,
imbibe your strength with bone totems.
You both must walk ever wary
of this reluctant peace.
*Otso and other phrases are circumlocutory epithets for the bear, Artio is the Celtic wildlife goddess
Now a twisted sea hag, I tell you my youth was wild, a daughter of Athena, spear-planted into this earthquake-crumpled island. I rode the tsunami that washed away bullish Minos, dug my roots in against Venetians ships, Germans and the constant Turks. I withstood them all. My marriage to a tsounati domesticated me, but I still dance, tossing my silvered head to the music of the grinding stone press. Though my heartwood withers, I shed my blessings on your Games, a millennium after that first race from Marathon. A long vigil as witness, my oil lights your procession from home to cemetery in urns of painted black geometry. Gift of the goddess, my children, my fruit cannot be cleaved from your history. Find here shaded rest from its turmoil. *Elia Vouvon is one of the oldest olive trees in the world, between 2000-4000 years old. Bio: Gerry Stewart is a poet, creative writing tutor and editor based in Finland. Her poetry collection Post-Holiday Blues was published by Flambard Press, UK. Totems is to be published by Hedgehog Poetry Press in 2022. Her writing blog can be found at http://thistlewren.blogspot.fi/ and @grimalkingerry on Twitter.