For Scott Fray

Listen. In the gloaming, a dog is barking, a frog croaking.

Ravens gather at the wood’s edge. Light thickens,

And its very thickening invites you to attune your senses,

To empty your mind, to push your fear to the extremities

Of your corporeal being and make of it a weapon.

Your navel is a fulcrum. You wait and watch.


This is the moment for which all else was but preparation.

This is the borderland, the gateway, the door, the crossroad,

The mouth of the cave, of the canal of the second birth,

The entrance to the labyrinth, the liminal interstice you’ve glimpsed

Between daylight and darkness, waking and sleeping.


She will test you beyond all imaginings of the tellers of tales.


When you face the monsters fashioned of yourself,

Of your every pettiness, failure, betrayal, cowardice,

You will wish it were only your flesh being torn asunder.

She will throw against you the whole phantasmagoria

Of shape shifters and demons, but all her glamour will not prevail.

For you will experience, as at a distance, the serial foes, the tricksters

And riddlers, the press of battle, the penultimate melee and discord,

The final spiraling downward toward the logos.


Even at the threshold, it is done.

That you stand ready is sufficient,

For the end is in the beginning.


In your veins flows the dark blood of the mother.

That Hecate/Phoebe hides her face but reminds you, seek her.

She is eternally present, at the core of being, even when unseen. Most when unseen.

She is the center you seek, the culmination, the goal, of the hero’s journey,

Of the birth into knowledge.


What treasure will you return to your undeserving fellows?

On your return, we shall carry you to the place of honor,

And we shall feast and drink your glory and shine by your borrowed light,

And when night falls, our children will listen, rapt, en-couraged,

Awe full, by the fire, under the maiden moon, to the tales you tell:

“Listen. In the gloaming, a dog was barking, a frog croaking.”



[1] Terroir is a term from viticulture for the characteristic soil and climate of a place, which combine to give the grapes grown in a region, and the wine from these grapes, particular characteristics. The dog and frog were sacred to Hecate. The ravens and the thickening of the light are portents from Macbeth, Act III, scene ii.

Copyright 2009, Robert D. Shepherd. All rights reserved.


Art: “Creation,” by Bob Shepherd. Copyright 2006. All rights reserved. This piece incorporates a public domain photograph by W. E. B. DuBois.

For more poems by Bob Shepherd (and for essays about the reading and writing of poetry), go here: https://bobshepherdonline.wordpress.com/category/poetry/