Husband, haunt of my dreams
you are like to chop me to death–
for what treason would you cleave my skull?
I set the ship for you
now the axe pounds my shut eyelids
heavier than hammers
on the hardscrabble plain
between two standing stones of the Old Ones
some warrior brought down the blunt side of the axe
and the triumphal shrieks of carrion crows
led me to this place
crowned in blood I found you
Alone I performed the rite
between the stones
one for prow, one for stern
I tore a death-wound to match yours into the adamantine earth
with no tools save two frantic scoured hands.
I did not weep. I had the strength of a giantess.
I gave you to the ravening hollow maw
my blood pouring fresh over yours
the only blanket save earth I had to give.
Stone by stone
I formed the prescribed ship-shape
bone-white under a full moon
and wished you all speed
almost hearing sails bellying with a gentle wind
at my back
Now, tired to death myself
of waking raw with screams
I huddle in the shadow of the prow-stone
waiting to take the winter for lover
The first snow-clouds,
ragged as rotten sails, as my scabbed hands,
rake across a garnet moon
I will welcome a comforter of snow,
a pillow of ice.
I will fall asleep in the arms of the north wind
borne outward across a frigid driven sea
safe from ghosts.
Poem copyright 1994/2011 by Faire Lewis.
As my cleaning project continues I find things that surprise me. In an old box I found a sheaf of poems I’d long thought lost, this being one. It was inspired, if I remember rightly, by a book I read many years ago about those terrifying Scandinavian warriors–the Vikings–who at one period some fifteen hundred years ago buried their dead, not in a ship per se, but in a grave dug out in the shape of a longboat.