The erotic scent of wood’s decay and earth after rain
fills the primal stand of giant poplars, oaks and elms
and I know I have been coming here always.
The golden one parts the forest as a wing of light.
The dark one pushes through as a ruthless red boar.
They come without armies, without banners
though legions have bled for them, and empires died.
They meet as She who watches loves them best:
as lithe young men in their prime of manhood,
as antlered kings in the fierce season, fighting to possess.
There has never been peace between them,
only a balance that shifts and spills, never still or sure.
They battle now with the arms of the forest,
wielding uprooted trees as spears, as clubs.
The trees groan and sway, taking sides.
The golden one finds the opening for the killing blow
but stays his hand. From his hesitation, the dark king
gains boldness and vigor, and drives a rowan
deep into his brother’s side. Wounded and waning,
the light king drags himself to the mothering oak
and darkness swallows the sun. The dark one
raises a cry that calls hungry ghosts to the feast.
But something restrains him from the final act.
It can only be Her voice, walking through his mind.
If either wins, the game is over.
Without contraries, nothing is created.
It is through your unending battleand its lack of resolution
that the game goes on.
The dark one brings a gift to the wounded king.
A flock of seven black sheep. One of them gags
and vomits up a glowing blue egg.
With his last strength, the light twin palms the gift
and his body is suffused with healing light.
He rises, intact, ready to renew the battle
here, or anywhere that is world.
"The Stand" is included in my collection Here, Everything Is Dreaming: Poems and Stories published by Excelsior Editions.