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

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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.

Your heart

full moon

 

 

 

 

has grown old.
worn down by the lonelinesses
of a hundred empty homes,
sunken in
like fingers
fallen too long asleep
in a hot bath.

how else
do you show me
the moon,
its silky-
ink silhouette
stained on our back door,
and not kiss me?

there is no monitor
that measures
love. tell me: when
was the last time
it leapt?
got a running start
and just

jumped? heedless
of chasm, of canyon,
of distance?
of the finish,
the fear, the flatline?
your pulse
plays its thud-thump

through limp veins,
forgetting
how to thunder.
if i could see you
the way the lightning
sees, from inside the storm,
i would find it

damp and dark,
with slow rivers
and huddled walls,
a crumpled fist
written with little scars
but untouched, too,
by moonlight.

Moving the grains of our hillsides

…it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways…

–from Mary Oliver’s Song of the Builders

–for c.

if i parse out my hurt
into couplets, throw

it a title in bold, will
you be able to read it,

then? the picture frames
stand empty, the lust

poems all curled up into ash, soot
smeared on the back of my left hand

like sad ink as i reach
to light the last of the candle.

the government is selling
off lighthouses, up East

in Massachusetts, out
West in the Great Lakes.

maybe you
could find beautiful there.

we have not come very far, here,
after all: the same lonely feel

in the upstairs window,
the same lonely matching scars.

i can’t afford a lighthouse.
the child’s tower built from old brick

in the backyard
has nothing of beauty,

is no house for light.
if i unmake it

and hand you back the bricks
one by one,

i want you to know
what they can mean.

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