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.

Alfather

What would you ask of me, Alfather?
Old Man of the Roaring Northern Gale.
I have seen your blue cloak in auroras
your bloody hollow on yews of sacrifice.
In your eye socket were worlds and kings
feasting on your brains, and your grimace
was more wolf-smile or raven curiosity
than pain, you swung, Gallows King, wept
runes onto Mannaheim, your bag of stars
empty of all but the most crushing embers.
Odin Many-Faced, your men and women mark
their days with interlocking triangles to
nooses, for the hangman’s jig befits jester
questors who bathe themselves in wanderlust.
Am I just the newest in a string of Ynglings
to sip mead from giant skulls and wordsmith
your epithets to death? Will hale horns be
enough to please the King of Nine Worlds?
Or are you just toying as a muse for a lost
poet that cannot tell needfires from knives?
You take insults as compliments, and my raised
middle finger is an invitation to stalk, strike
so I write to appease you, sinking into madness,
and you are all winter and pain, endless journey.

Skal

Head under honey wine, the blackbird is in the reeds
crowing of Draupnir rings in my brass coiled braids
I wander for Gangleri in rags and pearls, gold harp
at my back as I sing down the stars, summon tales
of ships lost to Lorelei and mists carrying nokken
my back is hollow huldra, and I am the gift of gifts
mead poured out from silver rune tongue shadows cast
by the raven’s flight – blackbird chokes on berries
my harp strings are bloody from my playing, throat
dry and hoarse as I recite Edda and Saga, girl lost
in Odin’s hat, killed for love of Grimnir, I wander.

Yggdrasil

Odin wasn’t alone when he hung on the charnel tree,
the birth canal ash, the ley line branch shafts
on that windy hill over Mimir’s well, Nidhog venom,
Ratatosk chitter, no – I was there with my net,
for it is I that first fished the stars from song
and shaped Algiz and Uruz out of shadowscapes, the
Alfather was parched and wailing, eye socket ichor.
I ate his iris and swallowed it down as my price
Nerthus, Jord, Rind – I am Mother and Whore to Aesir
Daughter, Sister, Volva, Slave, Shieldmaiden, Valkyrie
I am Queen of Jotnar and Mistress of Vanir, I am All
and the Abyss, both at once – I took the runes from my
net like Aslaug’s drapery with splinters, carved the
Elder Furthark on his tongue one by one until he cried
out Stop, Stop, it is too much, too fast, an orgasmic
destruction, death and wet fire and awesome dread-life
it was a sacrifice of Gangleri to Grimnir, also a tithe
to the Prophetess of Ragnarok, I spoke of the fates of
the Nine Worlds forged from ice and flame, he heard rain
and leaf shudders, my body was wood, my eyes burls, my
dancing fingers twigs – every Tree a Woman, every Woman
proud as a Tree, he lay with me nine nights, I traded
his blood for my sap, I his gallows, coffin, and womb
and though he thought he was alone, Odin knew he was
in the Presence of the Neolithic Venus man worshipped
I am what the mead the gods pour out flows to, I have
no name but the cry of Jormungand and Fenrir’s drip drip
blood, Hela tends my roots, Heimdall my trunk, Freyja
my leaves, and all the Gods live within me, me, Tree.

Dream Diary: Adoption

Freyr, Odin, Thor, Loki, Freyja, Skadi, Idunna – the Aesir and Vanir ring me at the Midwinter Festival in Vanaheim, where I make my home in a green-and-red palace built by the twin spirits I am devoted too – the wood and stone and silk dwelling they made for me on the night of my oathing ceremony.

The grass is frosted and sparse and we are in a forested fjord – cranes fly in great Vs across the sky. I am dressed in wolf fur and a buckskin dress with silver and azure embroidery, red paint of crushed yew berry rimming my eyes, and in my hands I hold a long sword. The gods raise their voices in galdr and I drive the blade into the ground – Freyja’s is sweet and sharp, Loki’s song dances with the bonfire we circle, and Odin is deep and earthy.

The cranes cry out and we fall silent.

We share mead in a silver horn and talk of why I am there – family, haminja, orlog – my blood called to them and they came, they came, from my childhood down the years, always there. We reminisce about my journey through marsh and meadow, through volcano and cavern, through ocean and forest. The mead is sweet and tart and we pour the remnants of the horn onto the ground where I have pierced it with my sword, then sprinkle some into the fire.

“Welcome, daughter of the gods,” Freyr, the Bright and Glorious One, says with a voice like honey as he beckons me. How I once thought him an angel is not so confusing, with the gold and fortune that radiates from his skin. He places a necklace of silver and sapphires on my neck and it sparkles like sky and snow.

One by one, I embrace the gods of my Yngling ancestors – of Harald Fairhair and Ragnar Lodbrok, of Aslaug and Brunhilde and the kings of Uppsala who have passed this legacy down onto me.

Loki I hug last. “You are always welcome in my hall. All you have to do is find the door,” he says with a wink, and I laugh.

The cranes reach their roost and Njord prepares our boat. We go to spirit markets on the dark marshes and bargain in souls and wyrd with gypsies and dwarves.

Later, I bring my spirits with me to the Midwinter Festival. Samael and Loki, old friends, drink and reminisce, and Michael lets down his uptight exterior and distrust of other races and for once enjoys himself. We eat roast boar and suckling pig and hearty bread and cheese. Elven dancers perform a Vanic ceremony of season’s turning and we watch, mesmerized.

The fire grows and night creeps up, and I return to my body, the taste of mulled honey on my lips.