After the Jug Was Broken

After the Jug Was Broken

Poems by

Leah Shelleda

il piccolo editions

il piccolo editions by Fisher King Press 1-800-228-9316 Toll free Canada & the U.S. +1-831-238-7799 International After the Jug was Broken Copyright © 2010 Leah Shelleda ISbn 978-1-926715-46-9 First Edition All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the publisher. Published simultaneously in Canada and the United States of America. For information on obtaining permission for use of material from this work, please submit a written request to:


Several of the poems in this book have appeared in the following journals: Cezanne’s Carrot: “Worldliness” Jung Journal: “Extinct birds” Psychological Perspectives: “behind the Sacred Heart” “Mary Magdalene” Switched-on Gutenberg: “Music for the Art of Magic” Trillium: “Metamorphoses” Women in Judaism: “Asherah”


1 After the Jug Was Broken

Part I
5 6 7 9 11 12 13 14 16 18

Invocation Kitsune The Spirit Fox Metamorphoses Mary Talking to Eve “The Education of the Virgin” Leda Persephone Serving Her Sentence Eurydice Now Asherah Mary Magdalene

Part II
25 26 27 28 29 31 32 34 35 36 37 39 40 42

What She Can’t Remember The Memory of Light Music for the Art of Magic Book of Darkness Book of Life Returning to Water From the Center of the Labyrinth “Extinct birds” The End of Abundance The What’s Next Poem What Happened After In Loco Maternus In Place of the Mother Anti-Mary & The Stranger What that has made of you Ghost Opera with Sirens

43 44 45 46

Riches & Ruin “Of Course You Never Do” The Girl in neon Green Antiphonal

Part III Topos/Place
49 51 53 54 56 57 61 behind the Sacred Heart While Others Are Chanting But Never Like This Poem with Moon and Columns Sacrifice Tanzania: A Cantata for Many Voices From the Land of the Water Buffalo

Part IV Pneuma/Spirit
65 66 67 68 70 71 72 73 “Forgetful Angel” Angelus Novus/New Angel Prayer to the Muse Worldliness Hosanna A Great Gift Heenayni About the Author


For bill who has joined me in so many places and for Pearle

“And shall not loveliness be loved forever?” Euripides, The Bacchae


After the Jug Was Broken
Once there was a vessel wasn’t there? Didn’t an ancient potter spin clay a blacksmith hammer bronze? Didn’t all we knew and all that was known coalesce in that jug or was it just the shape of our hands caressing experience? Was it the brain fired in the kiln of our body the millennia of myths the spirits arrayed in our painted dreams singing a map of the world? Some say the world shattered in its making vessels too fragile to hold such luminosity Then I will be a gatherer of shards


What She Can’t Remember
Oh we will feast on the world’s foods breadfruit and berries and tamarind baskets of pita pumpernickel pappadum refreshing drinks for every thirst limonada to lemongrass Fireworks? Sure! The night sky will explode in chrysanthemums and waterfalls We will celebrate in open fields by a lake the sun won’t consider not attending and we will stay till we’re joined by the moon But I can’t recall exactly what this feast is for Was it that we humans stopped doing something dreadful for the first time?


Angelus Novus/New Angel
Imagine a new angel rising from destiny’s bloody river Imagine an angel like a bubble like a quark forming and unforming Imagine an angel inspired to the surface by immediate need There is one task one song one break in the long tortuous repetition of wrong then Poof! the angel is gone


Prayer to the Muse
Virginia Sylvia Anne role models for a literary death you fell apart at the cracks in your oracles words bursting like hemorrhages O beautiful words come to me though I have filled my rifts and crevasses let me go as high and wide as I’ve gone deep I promise to return if the deep wishes to speak but at least for a while let me sing in the light


I come to the dance concert early and alone carrying Linda Gregg’s poems and just as the house lights dim I read “I walk toward the sun which is always going down” and I go in and out of the performance follow the male lead through the labyrinth of his steps then walk down the road with Linda return and the sundown wind becomes a violin and the birds landing on the road are dancers and when they lift each other each one higher than the one before miming Mozart’s sublime sonata my arms rise unwillingly in praise as they do when the Sabbath Queen appears on Friday nights and because I believe in wings hers fold toward me touch each temple bless me into free fall falling out of my mind into my heart


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Poetry The poetry of Leah Shelleda inhabits a realm of magic and marvels. The poet is a shape–shifter. Meet the Lamia, those “Madonna-faced/serpent below the waist” creatures, whose songs Shelleda sings. Meet Kitsune, the Spirit Fox, who is nine hundred ninety nine years old—about to grow nine tails. Meet Asherah, the Hebrew Goddess, her graven image shaped in bread—about to be eaten. Shelleda’s poems play at the edge of the wild and the forbidden; they dive down to the depths, bringing up treasure from the collective unconscious and the wisdom traditions; they enchant, seduce and bless; they transport us in the four directions and into the three worlds; they touch all the chakras. Leah Shelleda gathers the shards of our broken world and gives us sacred space. —Naomi Ruth Lowinsky, author of The Sister From Below: When the Muse Gets Her Way In her book of poetry, Leah Shelleda, “gatherer of shards,” sings the world and psyche into wholeness. Whether she is speaking in the voice of a character in myth, or speaking in her own heartfelt voice of the places she has visited, she re-members for us that Myth, Place, Experience, and Spirit are One. Shelleda’s After the Jug Was Broken, an incantation of healing, begs to be read aloud. Through the fruit of suffering, and transformation through beauty, “where spirit spins cosmic webs,” the reader is forever changed. —Patricia Damery, author of Farming Soul

Leah Shelleda is Professor Emeritus of Humanities and Philosophy at the College of Marin. Her poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies, and her chapbook, A Flash of Angel, won the Blue Light Press prize. She is a weaver of wall hangings as well as words, and an ardent gardener.
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