All Their Voices

Words and thoughts in devotion to the Divine


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Dedicated

Hail,

lady of the lifelong secret;

You who whispered words to

the God of Poetry that said:

“I am Yours.”

Golden were the apples you placed

upon His shrine;

none who knew you, not family, not friends,

knew of your hidden devotion;

they thought your faith

and your worship only for

the desert god,

not He whose name and face had been

all but forgotten for centuries;

but to Bragi, wordsmith,

songmaster, skald,

you poured out your poems, songs, and prayers,

leaving the fruit His wife Idunn bore

to the Aesir and Vanir

as further offering to Him.

All your life, you paid homage to Him

in His own coin,

that which He liked best,

and only now, when you have passed beyond

to the hall of the poetry-maker,

Odin’s son,

do those who were closest to you

–and those who did not know you at all–

learn of the depth of your reverence and devotion to Him.

Therefore, sing, o skalds!

Praise her whose name we may never know,

but whose deeds shine bright as Sunna’s rays,

no longer hidden by stormclouds.

Sing, o skalds, for a life spent

in silent and secret adoration,

pour out mead in her memory,

she who sits among the bards and sages of the oldest times,

in the presence of He whom she honored.

Sing, o skalds, in honored awe

of one who gave us an example to emulate:

may we ever be as pious, as dedicated,

and as virtuous as Bragi’s most faithful.


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By the Sea

In the end, she chose me

because my feet were the prettiest

(to be honest, it had been awhile since fair Baldr,

who she really wanted, had trimmed his toenails);

it’s not a man’s feet that a woman looks at in bed,

nor what another man looks for, either.

So the mighty huntress was stuck with me,

and don’t think she was happy with that, you bet.

Even before she saw Nóatún, my sea-home, she found

little enough to like about me.

She wanted Baldr, but she might

have been satisfied with my son;

Freyr is not considered to look upon,

or share a bed with, either.

(My son and daughter weren’t thrilled with

the idea of a stepmother,

but they respected her well enough,

although she and Freyja were never going to

share any girls’ nights, no.)

But I am an old man, with grown children and a wife already;

I would not have agreed to take a second if

I found that thought a burden,

but all we did was fight.

She could not bear my home for

the shrieks of the gulls,

nor could I stand hers with the howls of the wolves.

Don’t get me wrong;

I don’t hate her, nor she, me;

we simply weren’t suited for each other.

Bu twe gave it a fair try,

then parted amicably enough.

She went on to bed Odin–

funny, they almost all do

(him and Jotun-maids, don’tcha know!)

–and had herself plenty of children,

big and strong,

and she seemed content with that.

As for me, I wager I learned something.

Having the prettiest feet is not necessarily an advantage.

Maybe I should let my toenails grow out a bit.


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The Golden

Thrice-burnt.

Thrice-pierced.

They thought to keep me down,

cast me under:

          end me,

          erase me,

           eradicate all that I was–

my magic, my power, my voice

No.

Transfixed by metal, there is blood:

the shafts of the spears dig into my breast,

dimpling the flesh, puncture the skin,

bore in, probe deep, drill, thrust, split:

           run through my chest,

           my heart,

           my breath,

           my liver and lights–

Penetrated by a forest of shafts, still I would not die.

Borne on spear-point to the pyre,

thrust into the flames,

feeling the heat melt flesh and calcine bone

rendered into ash,

still. I. rise.

Three times, they tried to kill me.

Three times, they sought to destroy me.

Thirty times three would not have succeeded.

Three hundred times three would not have sufficed.

Three million times three and still I would have risen.

You cannot kill wisdom.

You cannot kill power.

You cannot kill freedom.

There is more to me than mere meat:

I am Gold-Bright, I am Gold’s Strength, I am Gold-Drink,

and like my namesake, fire only distills me,

           concentrates me,

           improves me,

so that all impurity might be seared away,

leaving me only strength and surety.

I am wisdom and I am will,

and they could not winnow me from the world so easily.

Woe to those that thought thus.

They say I ‘corrupted’ the women–

HAH!

What you call corruption, I call education.

I shared my knowledge with them, taught them,

gave them such gifts as the Aesir knew not–

well, the men.

And when they thought me dead–

dust and dirt, dross on the embers,

I rose again,

taking a new name, a new face, a new life.

I am the brightness of the sky,

the Sun bright as gold,

my power flowing out like that light to all women,

           seeing the future,

           speaking with spirits,

           weaving our way between worlds,

and that is no gift nor power to take lightly.

Drink of the mead I offer,

the Gold-Drink that corrupts and liberates,

that frees the mind.

Drink and listen to the words I speak,

the wisdom that strikes off chains.

Drink and know the power within you,

the power that flows with the brightness of the sun,

and the heady heat of blood spilling to the ground.

Drink and know why they fear me,

why they will fear you.

Drink and know, as I teach you,

as we speak with the spirits,

that you too are part spirit,

and spirit cannot die.

Yes, you may say, no wonder they feared me.

If you knew one tiniest mote of what I knew,

those around you would fear you, too.

For Gullveig.


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Love Letter for the Lie-Smith

All Their Voices

Thank you for clearing away the deadwood in my soul;

Thank you for your tough love and your lessons,

painful as they sometimes are;

Surviving them makes me stronger,

and strong, I believe, is what you want me to be,

strong enough to survive any tragedy,

any catastrophe,

any hurt,

any trauma,

any grief.

I try not to let these torments kill the gentler parts of my soul,

and I dream often of your smile,

though I have only ever seen it in my mind.

Your bright eyes, the smell of ice and smoke,

the gleeful fire of your hair,

your deft and tricksy hands.

These words may be a love letter you do not want;

if so, I apologize, but

after all the dreams in which

you danced through my sleep,

I cannot help but feel a closeness.

Others tell me not to trust you,

that all affection on…

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Waltz with the Wily One

All Their Voices

Sometimes,
it feels like you’re
looking over my shoulder,
watching me
but never there
when I spin to see you.

I can smell something in the air,
the scent of burning,
charred woods and cloves,
autumn leaves dying,
rain turning to snow:
the scent of change.

I sometimes think
I can almost hear you whispering
feel your breath
hot against my ear
and the back of my neck,
a deliberate hiss of air,
as tangible as a kiss.

It almost feels like we’re dancing,
a step closer,
a step away,
whirling until I’m dizzy and ready to fall.

Is this an invitation that you offer to me,
hand held out to take mine,
waiting for my answer?

Are you waiting to see if I accept,
knowing how knowing you
has the potential to
transform or destroy a life?

Or do you think I will back away in fear,
too afraid…

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Conversations (Part One)

All Their Voices

Most think You only cleverness and mischief,

if they know of You at all.

Others still get what they know of You

from fiction, thinking You a blue-skinned mini-monster

with bloody eyes and bloody hands.

But ‘giant’ doesn’t always refer to size;

sometimes it indicates the height of Your ambitions,

or the vastness of Your reach;

I do not pretend that I know Your plans,

I only know that they are not for those like me to know.

Jotun You are, blood-brother to He who owns me,

and I pay attention to His demands and desires,

and things laid out in the lore;

at first it was only due to duty

that I poured out offerings to You

when I made them for Him,

but of late there is more to it than that.

I am not seduced by the pretty face worn by the

fictional ‘You’, scarlip;

Beauty cannot…

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Spoiled for Choice

Of course I love the broken ones.

I leave the shiny and the pretty and the shallow

for others who can’t accept anything

other than surface perfection–

perfect tools, perfect people.

Me ,I would much rather have someone

with a broken heart,

a body that betrays them,

a mind others might find flawed;

they understand what it is to be considered

‘less than’ in a world where you are expected to

          fit in,

          fit a mold,

          be fit;

they understand the scorn heaped on your head

when you don’t look or sound or act or think

exactly like everyone else;

they have worked out ways around

what the rest of the world sees as problems

and they only know as life;

          learned patience,

          learned humor,

          learned cleverness,

          learned ingenuity.

How could I not prefer them?

They are my children all,

my brothers and sisters,

my lovers, my friends.

Give me the one whose mind runs along different channels,

the man the world insists is a woman,

the one forever untrusting and heart-scarred

from mockery and abuse,

the boy whose legs won’t hold him upright,

the one who thinks sideways,

the old, the halt, the sick, 

the girl who walks in an eternal cloud of sorrow.

I am nowhere so eager to turn them aside or

throw these away as the rest of my

brethren might be,

even my blood-brother.

Instead, I know these to be the best of the best,

all the more devoted and loving

for having been turned away so many times,

all the more clever for having been derided as stupid,

all the more stubborn for having so many give up on them.

These are the companions I choose,

family not of blood but of love,

who love me despite those who label me as evil,

who pledge their loyalty even when all others warn

I will take advantage of their trust and do them harm.

It’s worth a laugh.

They call me the god of lies,

but what I ask from them is that they never lie to me

or to themselves,

for ours is a relationship built on

the razor edge of honesty,

and if you are to trust me,

then so too must I be able to trust you.

That is all I want, after so long,

an understanding between us,

and once we have that,

we may dance our way back to the edge of the abyss,

but I will never let you fall.


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Loki’s Lost Children

Nobody ever asks me if I loved them.

When people talk about my children, they mention

the mount Odin gained from me,

the serpent that encircles the world,

the daughter who rules over the dead,

and the wolf that will devour my blood-brother

when all things end.

Very rarely do they think of those other children I sired,

laying with love in the arms of my wife,

begetting two sons within her body,

watching them grow up strong and swift and sound.

When they are mentioned, in learned debates,

it is only as an afterthought:

“He was bound with the entrails of one of his sons,

who was torn apart by the other,

after that one was transformed into a wolf.”

Never more than that.

No one talks about me watching the babes

slide from my beloved’s body,

wet with the fluids that they floated in,

watching them take their first breaths,

watching them open their eyes to see me for their first time.

They do not think of the first time I saw them

suckle at her breasts,

taking their strength from her,

cradled warm in her arms,

swaddled in soft blankets and crib-clothes,

taking their first steps,

saying their first words.

They do not think on their growing years,

playing alongside the sons and daughter of my friend Thor,

taking their occasional bruises and tumbles

as children sometimes do,

or coming to me for a hug when they finished their play,

and asking for a story of my travels with him

after dinner, before bed.

They call me ‘Trickster’.

They hardly ever think to call me ‘father’.

They do not think of how I screamed,

when my son Váli’s body began to twist, to sprout fur,

when he was transformed against his will

as I was held captive to prevent me from saving him;

no one thinks of how I shrieked when

they loosed him on his brother Nari,

flesh tearing, blood splattering the ground,

tearing his brother to shreds.

No one whispers about how I wailed

when one of those I had fought for,

worked with, laughed with,

loosed an arrow to destroy the remaining son,

my now wolf-son, covered in his brother’s blood.

No one speaks of how I wept when

they dragged me underground and bound me in place

with the entrails of the child I had created,

the boy who had looked up to me,

          trusted me,

          loved me.

Nor do they mention the screams of my

wife, my beloved Sigyn,

as she watched her babes so horrifically slaughtered.

In a world where there are those

who chose to punish a father

by destroying his children in such a manner,

and those who would honor such vile monsters,

how dare anyone call me evil?


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The Sound of Your Voice

Thunder is owned by Thor,

but You–

You are not a sunshine and rainbows sort of god, are you?

I hear you loudest,

feel you most strongly

on days of long rain and skies grey as your traveling cloak and hat,

hearing your voice in the hissing of water against the ground.

Those are the best days for study and quiet contemplation,

a blanket over my lap,

a cup of tea, a book,

candles flickering with flames like

the light in your single eye.

I surround myself with things that remind of of you:

maps and a walking stick for travel,

skulls and bones for death,

books for your insatiable desire for knowledge.

These things comfort me; I know when I see them, touch them,

that you are ever close.

Sometimes it is hard to discern what you would have of me,

other than everything:

you have said that you will never stop testing me,

and I have been told by others

that you say you love me,

and I cannot decide if I want either of those things.

Your love is its own form of bondage,

and I have chafed against your expectations of me

more than once;

They tell me I can tell you ‘no’,

but it has never felt that way to me;

I practice saying it inside my head,

and even just in practice,

in that place where there is no sound but is never silent

(So. Many. Voices!),

I can hear you laugh and laugh.

Why would I give up what is mine, you ask me?

Why would I let you go?    

Why indeed.

I only wonder if you refuse to release me

because you truly value me,

or because owning me has become

something of a habit,

just like a hoarder will refuse to part

with old receipts and broken tools,

and toys that might be fixed (with time and effort),

and books already read a dozen times–

a comfortable story, to be sure,

but no more to be learned there.

I have never been able to determine

whether I want to be owned or free;

I might have an easier time deciding

if I knew why you kept me.

I would be less inclined to tug at my collar

if I knew I was not just a habit,

gathering dust on a shelf somewhere

in the back of an unlit room.

Everything in my head is quiet now,

          is quiet now,

          is quiet now,

          is quiet:

The rain has stilled,

the book is set aside,

the candle gone out,

and if you are speaking to me now,

your voice is so quiet

I cannot hear it.   

How odd, to find that I miss it.

You have become a habit for me, too,

or maybe an addiction,

something I can no longer live without.

How odd.

How curious.

How wonderful.

I nestle into my warm blanket

and wait for the sound of the rain to return.