because while some truths lend themselves to equations, others are best described in verse

Latest

If all things should weep

The James in winter

 

 

 

 

 

even through the thickest ice, redemption
may bubble. don’t call it the realm of the dead.

say instead: that cauldron from which every man
springs, and will again return.

pull up fistfuls of last year’s leaf-
mould; wade the bitter waters;

sift the cold from the thaw.
this is not another poem

about what to feed your dragon.
serpent-sister, i no longer fear judgment,

have seen the green from your high walls.
atonement is made from yeast-drops

and pomegranate seeds, shimmers,
effervesces. remember

the life-beneath-frost, your nascent
breakings, the roots planted in winter.

remember the strength in those you have loved,
the gentle rain lost to the mists.

~*~

This poem focuses on the figure of Hel and Niflheim, the “Mist-home” or Realm of the Dead. According to some sources, Niflheim was the first of the nine worlds in the Viking mythos, and home to Hvergelmir, the “boiling bubbling spring” protected by the dragon Nidhug and origin of all life (as well as its final destination).
Hel is the daughter of trickster god Loki, sister to the wolf Fenrir and Jormungandr, the serpent that circles the world. She has dominion over all who die of sickness and old-age, determining their ultimate fate. The high walls and gates of her land are cited several times in the Poetic Edda.
The dead are not necessarily condemned to Niflheim, but can also pass through Nastrond’s (Shore of Corpses) poisoned streams to be cast back into Hvergelmir. Other sources say Nastrond and the feeding of Nidhug therein is reserved for those guilty of murder, adultery or oath-breaking.
The title, “If all things should weep” references the fate of Baldr, son of goddess Frigg, who sends an emissary to Hel to try to ransom him back to the land of the living. Hel replies that the love of the world for Baldr must first be tested:
             “If all things in the world, alive or dead, weep for him, then he will be allowed to return to the Æsir. If anyone speaks against him or refuses to cry, then he will remain with Hel.”
When one refuses to weep for Baldr, he is forced to remain. The story is reminiscent of the Greco-Roman Orpheus, who also journeyed to retrieve a loved one from the land of the dead. Other sources have linked Hel variously to Proserpina.

Today

your dragon purrs, earth-

quaking, scaly metaphor

made heavy flesh, a serpent

 

that circles your world. you,

its catspaw to bat and squeeze

and toss gray skyward

 

where you seek snow

to pillow the hard gorge of falling,

or a hero, a hammer-wielding

 

savior to break the cage of winter.

lift a cup with me, drain the ocean

of ache and illusion. every season

 

has its ending, every Goliath

its David, every snake its eagle.

 

 

 

This poem is the 3rd as part of a collaborative project at artipeeps. The poems center around the nine realms in Viking mythology. The third realm is that of the giants, Jotunheim. “Today” plays with the language of a story wherein Thor and companions are tricked by the illusory magic of giant Útgarða-Loki.. Among other things, Thor is challenged to pick up a gray cat but can lift only his paw; it is revealed later that the cat is actually Jormungand, the serpent that encircles the world. You can find the entire story (which is a part of the Poetic Edda) here under “Fighting Illusions.”

All the world needs is another blonde princess

platinum or ash, like a contemporary horse
of the hanged, pale
as the sky when it was new-made.

kids these days, she murmurs.
like the missionary, eagle-feeder
is an equal opportunity position.

disney girls with thumbs
for waistlines and puffed-
sleeve pasts

valkyric lips chewed
dry with lust too long on the vine,
she cuts and she cuts, Frija,

sighing sloe-eyed
after another fox-headed
ape. even (fore-)

hacking at the umbilical cord
that will separate her from
doomed Troy.

knowledge has dark corners.
no heart(h)-fire burns constant,
untended and everafter.

 

 

***

A little about this poem, and the project for which it was written. This is part of a 9-month long collaboration among poets, artists, musicians and other creatives focusing on the Norse sagas and cosmology. The first month’s assignment was based on Asgard, one of the 9 realms according to Viking mythology, and the home of the warrior Aesir gods.

Read more about the project’s scope and a brief overview of Asgard here.

Frigg, (or High Germanic Frija– not to be confused, as she sometimes is, with the Vanir goddess of love/fertility Freya), was the queen of Asgard and wife to Odin. She seems, from my brief researches, to be somewhat equivalent to the Greco-Roman Hera, and is the goddess associated with childbearing, relationships, etc.

Other non-incidental Viking things in the poem:

The primary sources regarding Asgard come from the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by the Icelander Snorri Sturluson, and the Poetic Edda, compiled from a basis of much older poetry. In Snorri’s prologue, he initially proposes the earthly location of Asgard to be Troy, the center of the earth. (Snorri later changes his mind about this, but I thought it was a kinda fascinating construct.) A version goes that Odin had a son by Troan, one of Priam’s daughters; the child was called Tror (Thor in Old Norse).

Also according to Snorri’s mythos, the gods hold court at the Well of Urd, in the center of Asgard, beneath the fabled ash tree of wisdom, Yggdrasil. The etymology of Yggdrasil is from “Ygg” (a name for Odin) and “drasill” (horse); in the Poetic Edda Odin is described as sacrificing himself by hanging from a tree for 9 days to gain wisdom. This tree could then be called “Odin’s gallows.” “Gallows” might also be referred to as “the horse of the hanged” (see kennings, below).

Structure & nod to Norse poetry.

One of the distinguishing traits of Old Norse (and later Icelandic and Anglo-Saxon) poetry is the use of kennings, circumlocutions that employ figurative language in place of a single concrete noun. (“Eagle-feeder” for “warrior,” as an example.) There are varying degrees of kennings, some being further removed from the original noun than others. I have tried to sneak in a few here for flavor.

A goal of this project is to embrace the orality and rhythm–the bardic nature– of Norse poetry. I am not sure how well I have achieved that. The piece is intended to be read both from left to right, verse by verse, and from one column to the next. You can hear me read it aloud over on the project page.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 571 other followers