Size / / /

I that am I alone,

cruelest and most clever;

light-hearted, heartless.

I that am flame

without true form, a thousand things in one,

and every one of them a lie:

A fly when I stole the Brisingamen

A seal when I fought Hjeimdall for it

A red-headed man with my lips sewn shut

A red-headed bridesmaid for a thunderous bride

who sows slaughter between the sheaves

Fenris' father

Sleipnir's mother

A leaping fish caught in the net of tears

An old woman who will not weep, ever,

not even for the light of the world.

This is what you let in

as a guest, and more, Odin One-eye—

this is what you mixed your blood with,

who you let marry into your All-family

and live proudly childless

while he bred monsters elsewhere.

Do you not feel foolish?

Even now, pinned beneath mountains,

writhing in my poisoned bonds,

I cannot be contained.

My song goes on and on,

spawning many lines of liars—

Kveldulfr, Skalla-grimr, Egil in his turn:

hamrammrs, poets and killers,

who bend to fit the world around them

only in order to trick it

into breaking to fit them.

Thor Odinsson, mighty one,

when we lay together in the Jotun's mitt;

poor sad Hodi, when I handed you the arrow

of mistletoe, kiss-attractor, to send

your brother's bright face down

into my daughter's clutches—

You felt my sparks dance

across your blind knuckles,

and laughed—admit it!

All of you, in pain or otherwise—

I could always make you laugh.

Look to me, therefore, on that day,

that dreadful time of reckoning,

when my ship made from dead men's nails docks

at the very foot of the rainbow.

I promise you, cousins:

when all my brothers take up stones against you,

when one son takes the sun in his jaws

and the other coils 'round the world's root,

squeezing, 'til your rotten tree cracks—

There will be much laughter then.

Former film critic and teacher turned award-winning horror writer Gemma Files is best known for her Hexslinger Series, now collected in omnibus form (ChiZine Publications). She has also published two collections of short fiction and two chapbooks of poetry. Her next book is We Will All Go Down Together: A Novel in Stories About the Five-Family Coven (also from CZP). Her website is here.
Current Issue
25 Sep 2023

People who live in glass houses are surrounded by dirt birds
After a century, the first colony / of bluebirds flew out of my mouth.
Over and over the virulent water / beat my flame down to ash
In this episode of  Critical Friends , the Strange Horizons SFF criticism podcast, Aisha and Dan talk to critic and poet Catherine Rockwood about how reviewing and criticism feed into creative practice. Also, pirates.
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