Point of origin

Flames burn brightest in darkness,
volcanic truths that sing the end of days.

Mother,

I would write you other than this
handful of platitudes, let your ash
be breath-ed into ember, your sparks scattered
across the midnight sky to bear forth
the sun and other fierce stars.

But I am no god,
and heaven is hot to the touch. There is pain
in the burning.

Judgment
is like nightmare, a woman
with a fiery sword whose heart smolders
until the seas are made new.

 

 

Another in the series of poems for the collaborative Nine Realms project. You can find out more of the myth behind Muspelheim, the Realm of Fire, here. Also, please support this amazing, multi-faceted international arts endeavor (which includes poets, visual artists, musicians & the carving of a real Viking boat)– our Indiegogo campaign ends next week!

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.