A Charm, A Salve…

In honour of Samhain – or Halloween, whichever you prefer – I offer up an incantation, my imaginary friend. This marvelous poem, written by Alexander Hutchison, is indeed called Incantation, and is best spoken aloud, at midnight or whenever you prefer – perhaps as a kind of primal scream of beautiful language to banish trolls and goblins and other such wicked manifestations. Hutchison said “while wishful thinking doesn’t do it, a proper determination can make the cosmos perk up and take a bit of notice.” Here is my determination…


I have a charm for the bruising

a charm for the blackening

a charm for cheats and impostors.

I summon from the cold clear air

from the bare branches of the trees

from worms coiling under the ground —

charm against cruel intent

charm for neglect

charm against wicked indifference:

may it lie on the white backs of the breakers of the sea may it lie on the furthest reaches of the wind.

A salve for those who would grudge against the poor a salve for those who would harry the innocent a salve for those who would murder children:

may it lie in the stoniest stretches of the hills may it lie in the darkest shelving along the shore.

A salve for those that would cram

whatever life they have with possession — for the rage of owning without entitlement for the desperate murderous possession of things:

may it lie on the cloud-banks that range across the sky may it lie on the face of Rannoch Moor in its remoteness.

A charm against mystification by doctors a charm against deception by the self-appointed a charm against horrific insistence:

from the breeze that stirs the last of the yellowing leaves from the slanting of the sun as it falls through the window.

a salve against grasping

a salve against preaching

a salve against promises exacted by threat.

              Grace of form

              grace of voice

              grace of virtue

              grace of sea

              grace of land and air

              grace of music

              grace of dancing.

A salve against the uselessness of envy

a salve against denial of our own best nature a salve against bitter enmity and silence.

              Grace of beauty

              grace of spirit

              grace of laughter

              grace of the fullness of life itself.

A salve to bind us

a salve to strengthen heart and happiness:

may it lie in the star-blanket there to spread over us may it lie in the first light at the waking of day.


The vast sorrow and fear of the past few years has threatened to overwhelm us at times, many of us, my imaginary friend. And also for many of us the particular and personal grief of losing loved ones has taken place in a stormy sea of collective anguish that has made the personal seem self-indulgent, somewhat. But today I learned of your imminent death, my friend, and it does not seem my sorrow can be contained.

The remainder of your life will be measured in weeks, but you took the time to have a long conversation with me about your death, and how you have orchestrated it – your palliative care, your request for medical assistance in dying, your family and friends who are spending time with you, a dozen other small details which illustrate the grace with which you approach your death. You have not had many days to come to terms with this yourself, but your love and care and concern for those you will leave behind is evident, as is your courage. Our conversation ended with my telling you I needed to go cry – though if I could take those words back I would. I did shed a few tears, but here is the thing – you are still alive and you are choosing and you are shaping a vision of your death just as you did with your life. It feels as if the least I can do is to save my tears and express my deep appreciation for that grace and courage and a wonderful conversation that explored the meaning of life and death in a way that can never be forgotten.

I told you not so long ago that we would be friends until one of us is no more, but I think we will always just be friends. Half a lifetime of adventures together, from the silly to the profound and everything in between, have shaped our lives and the lives of those close to us in ways that cannot be observable or measured, but that shall reverberate still. We are stardust, in the poetic, the cosmic, and the very real sense of what we are made of, and I shall choose to think that you and I will return to that vast ocean of collective love and oneness with all beings.

And so I propose that we meet up here, my friend.

image Credit & Copyright: Digitized Sky Survey (POSS II); Processing: Utkarsh Mishra

The witch head nebula, in the constellation of Orien, about a thousand light years from earth, I believe. I don’t know when I will get there, but until I do I will see brightly shining Rigel and think of you, and hold you in my heart as tightly as I can. I can see you striding that constellation with your sense of wonder and curiosity…

Merry meet, and merry part, and merry meet again. Blessed be.