Ratatosk Tells a Tale

“Do you think I was alone
when I hung on that windswept
tree nine nights, spear-heavy,
a sacrifice unto myself?”

“Never.”

“Frigga was my altar.”

Images flow through my mind of a young Odin, drenched in blood and wolfskins, Ratatosk at his shoulder as he drives his spear into the carrion of the slain, choosing only the choicest bits to go to Valhalla. The Valkyries carry away the Einherjar in a wine-dark ascendancy in sulfur skies.

The Alfather hangs from a yew. Ratatosk nibbles his one eye. The other is closed, turned inwards, meditative even. The globe of blue and blood will fall into a well, for squirrels plant seeds, and you can drink the gore from and know what Frigga sees from the High Seat, but it will cost you your life, and your tongue.

All it took was the beat of the buffalo drum, and I was under, swimming in a trance as my soul traveled the three upon threefold path. It’s a Valknut, it’s the ladder of runes, it’s just a poem. Yggdrasil blossomed and froze and all there was was the Light Elves, the Dark Elves, Freyr – or was it Balder? – being buried by the squirrel with curling golden locks, pale as death, to fructify the Earth.

“I am the Tree.”

“I am its guardian.”

“I plant seeds of Yggdrasil through all the Nine Worlds.”

Squirrels never shut up, do they? Neither do I. Perhaps the first poet was a squirrel spinning a story over a newly born sprout, urging it to grow, for though fierce and silly, Ratatosk is a gardener.

He chitters in my ear. The Blue Heron comes and says: impatience, but it is not my message. I get Odin again and again. Pretty soon I’ll be singing Ansuz and firing witchlight from my palms.

The visions soften, I awaken, but the Tree is still sentinel over my wanderings.

The drum stills.

Behind every regent, a powerful woman. Behind every warrior, a witch. Behind every dead man, animals planting their corpses into new life in another world. Behind every king, a queen he worships.

But I could just be bullshitting, for I am a squirrel.

Huginn and Muninn

He grew up under wily Odin’s ravens’ wings,
feathers of blackness smoked night visions,
from the age of 5 they perched on shoulders
that were innocent of so much, soon weighed
down by a cross not meant for a son of Odin,
no, Yeshua did not answer his young prayers,
no one but the Alfather with all-seeing eye
spanning ages of wyrd, three decades wanderer
he sought the tongue of runes in dusty books,
in desert playas and nocturnal communion, one
time Gangleri was so close he could taste rain
from Ginnungap that was sweet as spiced mead,
travel half the world and find Asgard’s heart
in holy plants and kith and kin, in dancing
Ansuz and wolves and crows, the drum beats bold
it speaks of lives under Bolverk’s mighty fist
grabbing a soul from the stars to fish for
illumination, Odinsmen never rest, always
search for Northern Lights of knowledge, and
his journey is far from over, but Odin knows
what honor a life in service to Aesir weighs –
it is precious as Freyja’s amber, silver as
Draupnir, heavy as Sleipnir, he crosses Bifrost
climbs the World Tree, finds Frigga perched
in Yggdrasil’s branches, and karmic cycles
can be broken, his fate is the glory of gods,
life for the Alfather’s favor, go search, son
find roses and wine and women, sing my song
for my ravens are ever on your shoulders.

Autumnal Queen

The Mother of Ancestors is cold as Niflheim,
yet in her flesh eye is the fire of Muspell,
in her bone hollow, the bloody Well of Mimir
she presses me to her breast, I drink deathly
milk of marrow sweet, a rib cage lullaby, Hela
wraps me in ice and the waters of Helheim, I
reach under a waterfall and am gifted a ring,
it came from the underworld, pewter scrying
mirror, perfect for the chill of rot, rebirth
in arms of phalanges and pale moon flesh, she
is lavender and lunar water, her altar an icon
pressed against quarters for blue feet, rusty
pennies that smell like blood, snowy trappings
to adorn the Queen of the Night, Mani may be
the moon but Hela is the sky ancestors nurse
upon rich stars, each cosmo a pulsing heart,
the afterlife is above us in spanless skies,
and Hela illuminates all the otherworlds with
compassion, her feast is for all, will survive
Ragnarok, and it is not Baldur who brings light
to my forefathers but the goddess of death, yes,
Hela is half-maiden, half-eternity, all royalty,
I would have no other ending but her embrace.

Litha

Freyr is golden-locked like barley
his eyes the green of verdant moss,
voice a burbling brook, but all his
beauty is deceiving, for he is death
spilling out blood on Nerthus’ breast
to fructify the earth and till tithes
for Vanaheim does not run on mead alone
no, it requires seed and gore and bone
Barri Woods always know lover’s lilacs,
but at midsummer, the flowers bloom red
as Ingvi takes the sickle to his neck
and paints his head on the summer wind
gift for a gift, his manhood swells,
Odin may hang but Freyr is a mound,
and true nobility flows from riches
buried deep beneath the soil, and so
my Golden God pays all Asgard’s debts
and Gerda kisses him back to life, his
true sword serves them well, overflow,
overflow,
spill.

Berserker

We dance in blood and bite our shields
wolf-swift, bear-wild, boar-ravaging,
Odin calls our minds to drumming fury
we sink our red teeth into crow flesh,
chant the songs of the hunt, bellows
smelt our swords and we are dread-ruin
scavengers of the battlefield, ravens
that swoop in on the brink of night,
the killfeast is spread before Asgard
our spoils and murders and pillages
pile so high their fumes reach Bifrost
steaming flesh for the Aesir, burnt
crops for the Vanir, blood for Jotun,
come drink down gore and sharpen eyes
so that you can see the arc of ages,
we peered into the depths of Mimir’s
well, got drunk on the mead, swam
in the blood of the Alfather’s eye
and war-glorious, we return to halls
laden with blood gold and seidhrkonas
honor to Odin, honor to the beasts,
honor to the Tree we hang from.

Spear of Asgard

I drown in the musk of thunderheads –
sensations clash, slash of a spine,
Gungnir impales me, one stark blue
eye laughs as my body hangman jigs,
its companion a waterfall emptiness
socket of creation and devourings
in his brains I see the stars and on
his lips are a thousand of my deaths
I am no shieldmaiden, just a lost poet
who summons storms and raging Wild Hunt
with nine bargains I will always lose
better to be a chess piece than checkers
at least then your fate isn’t textbook.

Gift for a Gift

You ask what price I paid to paint Ymir’s brains
across the cosmos? Sacrifice of hangman’s jig to
my own mortality, morality, I lost humanity come
the gallows, all that was left was ergi sorcerer,
wild wanderer, Bolverk Sly-Serpent questing after
Gunnlod’s mead. What Tyr whispered to the Fenris
Wolf as his hand snapped off is the same I say to
you: a gift for a gift, and your offerings summon
my whimsy, flipping the bird at me is a compliment,
you etched and sketched and drew and quartered me –
don’t think to tame the storm, I ride on thuderheads,
I ate up my forefather’s bones and took Jotun into me
all to become strong, because I could, because I was
there, and the opportunity to be more than ancestral
clash of ice and fire called to me like Frigga’s breast,
Wanderer, Warrior, Wounded King, I am all at once, a
conundrum of clashing seasons, but in truth I am always
winter, and your spine will dance in ice in my hands
so keep playing, sweet child: seek my riddled answers
I cannot promise you a throne but wisdom, glory, pain.