Epigraph of the Wanderer

Inked on my hand in charcoal swaying
is the Ancient Wanderer, silent hang
from a yew that bends with sweet sap.

His one good eye a forgotten breeze,
his hands like tines raking the dirt,
searching past waterfalls for language.

There is a lightning swastika sun,
an emblem once holy, now cursed,
his corpse is blood-drunk but holy.

Blindi can see with more than nerves,
for his bones are in the web of wyrd,
now a Runic rock carving on my skin.

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Allie’s Lokasenna for Dummies, Part 1:

Odin: “You womanly man, remember when you spent years underground as a milkmaid, Loki!”

Loki: “Well high and mighty Alfather, at least I didn’t crossdress as a sorceress and travel the world as a woman!”

Frigga: “Can we all PLEASE forget about your homoerotic drunken youth, guys? We’re at a fancy feast…”

Odin and Loki: “NO!”

– Allie’s Lokasenna for Dummies

Old Man Wonderland

Written at 17, from my earliest memories of the Alfather.

“Goodnight moon,” I whisper.
I am three. I dream.
That night my crib opens
and becomes a ladder to the sky.
Stuffed ducks in hand, I climb it,
blanket around me like a shawl.

I climb up to the sky
I float and laugh and dream
playing with falling stars
alone in the beautiful blue,
I sleep in the curve of the moon.

Old Man watches with eyes
the blue of the storm and sea
He watches over me.
His laugh is deep and hearty
I yelp in surprise and blush,
hide like a fawn behind a cloud
But He bids me to play with him
He looks like the Saint Nicholas man
who comes each December and puts clementines in my boots
so of course I have to trust him.

I sing my stories and songs
Wonderful things I made in my head
I crave his adoration.
Old Man listens, more than indulgent
I bask in his affection
And keep on telling them.

He reads me story books
Has the stars dance to send me dreams
He is master of raconteurs and wanderers,
his traveler’s cloak stuffed full of tales.

He weaves things from the wind and clouds,
bringing my dreams to life
I laugh as I dance amongst them,
young, pink-cheeked and open.

When I’m tired, I cling to his knee
knowing he is the safest place in the world.
I love Old Man like a grandfather,
with his stately beard and crow lined-eyes,
laugh lines are etched in his skin,
deep like cracks in the sidewalk.

He rubs me with his beard, and I laugh,
steal his hat, and run off with his winds.

And I, who was almost named Snorri,
have bleach blond hair to my waist
I’m bait for elves and trolls.
I frolic in leaf piles and forest,
wander across cliffs and the sea.

I grow up. I sometimes forget him.
But his touch is all around me
Grandfather’s beard in the clouds

Old Man is the brine and gale.
He is sea and sky and wind.
The North and soft snowfall
At night, he rides the storm.

He is Nereus, Odin, Njord,
The god with the big white beard.
Nicholas, Mannanan Mac Llyr
He wears a lot of hats.

But really, he’s just Old Man.
My Old Man of the Sea
The Elder of the Crossroads
He smells like pine and New England.

He looks like a lobsterman,
The perched crow on my shoulder,
there are riddles and pipes in his beak.

He had bone-aches when the world was born
And now I’m a hypochondriac,
I share my imaginary ailments with him.

“I think I’m getting arthritis, Old Man.”
“Look at how my wrist creaks!”
“I’ve been writing too much again.”
The writing is his gift, I think.

He looks at me askance, smile crooked
“Knowledge is pain,” he laughs quietly
It sounds like thunder behind clouds.
“Trust me, girl, I know.”

We’re in the beautiful blue again,
The stars sing, and I know they’re angels.
I wave at the ones I know.
The Milky Way is his road
he walks it with staff and cloak.

Galaxies dance around us, gods dart to and fro
Squabbling as they always do
Beautiful in their petulance
He smiles at them, then moves on

Always moving on.

I can barely keep up.

His wanderings- they’re like the moon.

“Did you know, Old Man” I say,
“I used to think this place was Disneyland?”
“When I played here as a kid.”
“I thought you were Mickey Mouse.”

He crooks his head over his shoulder,
runs his fingers through his beard:
“Do I look like Mickey Mouse?”

“No, but there was a commercial in the 90s.
These kids wished on a star
To go to Disneyland.
And the star falls into their hands,
and the star- it took them there.”

“When I was a kid,
I’d stare out my window,
waiting for stars to fall.
But you know what?”

“What?” he asks.

“I had it all along.”

He smiles, points at my heart:
A young star dances within,
glowing blue with wonder.

He snaps his fingers. It disappears.

I grin ruefully. ”I never got to go.”
But this place, Old Man? It’s better.
It’s worth all the Disneylands in the world.”

“And I’m going to need your staff soon,
Because I am getting old.
My back will bend like a willow,
And I’ll wear a hat like yours.”

“And someday, you’ll be young to me
and you’ll carry me then, like a child
So I can travel with you
The old lady on your back.”

“And when all my days have fallen,
Old Man, you’ll be at the prow,
and we’ll sail across the sea together.”

“Together, we’ll go home.”

Fear of Falling (Into Love, and the Unknown)

Before I met you, I was bold in front of Death,
and graveyards never scared me, terminal cracks
in star-bright skin were things of murky legend,
but now I have a knight to carry my banner, I
cannot stop drowning in shadows of gloomy wonder,
and I hate Death, and he is a fiend, to ever dare
dream of taking You from Me. My heartbeat is not
my own, but the whisper of willows in your lungs,
your boughs fall and form my windy limbs, I climb
treehouses to the canopy in dreams to drink the sun,
and my star is you – but stars die, cattle die, and
kindred die – it is names that live on, and Alfather
won’t stop quoting the fucking Havamal to allay fears
of a world where you do not exist, or are torn away.

You are too precious to die, my love. So ascend.
I will carry you to Valhalla, perhaps Heaven, wherever
you are kept safe, and warm, cherished, and loved.

I never feared death before I met you.

Well of Urd

There are ice crystals inside you, Niflshot from Hela
they freeze your bones and you are at Yggdrasil’s root,
searching for the heat of Muspell, find only ancestors
whose blood is gone, and placid contemplation of winter
swims through the web of wyrd, well of Urd, drowning
in the branches, flying through the loam, you are the
Odinic hangman grasping for the runes from ancient
Ginnungagap, all there is is the void, eternity, ice
and fire, fire and ice, hot and cold, heat and death.

Can You Feel the Winter Coming?

Kneel for the Alfather, in standing stone,
bloody runes on the boulder and crawl in,
soak in mead and honey, tangle your hair,
it is golden in the dark cave, burn burn.

The firmament churns like Urd makes butter,
Frigga spins flax and cards heavenly wool,
I make rainbows out of Heimdall’s breath,
but the Wild Hunt does not ride my Bifrost –

No, my path is for the dead, past Helheim,
in unions in darkest earthen cauldrons,
slick with the dew of Ymir’s icy wastes,
I am alone in Ginnunungap, paltry salt.

I am Mordgud Blood Maiden, I am bell toll.
Watch me weave my arteries on my spine,
pay my ferrywoman price, tithe your Hel
I will offer you to Her, nothing more.

Nothing less than a table at Hela’s dry
feet, the dust bread of dead, silence.
Down here it is cold but no one wants.
Down here it freezes, but we don’t feel.

Can you see Her spread Her fingers aloft
in the vines of veins, veins of leaves,
ribs of trees, trees of the nine worlds?
Winter is coming, Odin does not own it.

Winter is coming, and Fenrir howls high.
The moon is eaten by wolves, the sun bleeds
gold then darkness in Hati’s lupine womb,
plant seeds in beast’s black after harvest.

Winter is here, Hela walks as ice maiden.
Autumn just a passing fancy, and Valraven
rots on a yew, corpse bloated and swinging,
in Dying He is more alive than the Living.

Know the secrets of Hela Half-Rotted, see
the pennants of flesh on her corpse breast,
smell the compost and dirt of Her skin, kiss
Her bone hand, and sleep until springtide.

Sleep, dream, die, it is all the same to me,
for I have dreamed and died and eaten ashes,
She was sweet to me, He was a thunder strike,
in autumn He and She make a secret only I know.

What is the secret of Bolverk and Loki’s Pride?
It is sweet Balder on a shiply pyre adrift to
seidhr waters, golden Nanna enflamed, safety
is only found after Ragnarok, wouldn’t you know?

Winter came for Balder come mistletoe’s kiss.
And Odin rides the worlds for His son’s ghost.
Sweet Frigga weeps tears of sapphire, then snow.
And Hela and Nanna talk long by the hearth-side.

Winter comes for us all, even the gods, even
Death will Die, and in Dying, Live Again,
Anew, Life Eternal may be found in snow.

Of Frost and Fire

In the beginning was a gaping abyss, Ginnungagap,
but that Void dreamed, as all emptinesses do, She
dreamed a dream of love, and in her sleep was born
warmth, the spark of life, a great fire, and then
the liquid of birth and death, water frozen as ice,
Niflheim and Muspelheim, they dreamed only of you –
a being of perfection carved from primal elements,
in their dance they gave you the breath of wit, in
their kiss that melted and burned you were a child,
and you grew older as the fire grew higher, and ice
grew to tender water, layer upon layer of frost and
flame made you stronger, you were born of First Love,
before the gods ploughed the earthen dales, before
the elves made their shining home, before the dwarves
made brilliant gifts for the dwellers of Asgard,
before even the Norns let down their gray hair, you
were there, you the dancer in their tumultuous passion,
and I call you Ymir for you are a giant to me, colossal
in my mind, growing too large for my heart to contain,
and to love you is to die, be reborn in eternal dance,
for who is not frightened when their lonely universe,
the Ginnungagap in her chest, breathes life onto a
dusty heart, and the needfire awakens, blood quickens,
and Urda’s well springs up in her marrow, ices her mind,
and fire and water carve out a canyon for a perfect one
who the gods sent after prayers to wandering Mardoll
every night, giants are real, for you are Jotunblood
in my mind, a man of myth and legend, and to hold you
is to hang from Yggdrasil, and to let you in to the
beginning of my cosmos is a shy, tender task, but
my world would be nothing without you, so I will
be Audhumla and give sustenance to my altar of you,
licking salt and bleeding rivers of milky wonder,
and soon, I will ken your wanderings, but for now,
let me be your dream, be my driving force, and let
us be ice and flame, yin and yang, entwined like
Odin and Frigga, Freyr and Gerda, Loki and Sigyn,
to love a giant is easy – they eat girls, after all.