Friday, October 21, 2011

Of Wyrms and Women pt 18

[part 1] [part 2] [part 3][part 4][part 5][part 6][part 7][part 8][part 9][part 10][part 11][part 12][part 13][part 14][part 15][part 16][part 17]

Hrothgar was home. His quest had been a success. Hrothgar the Mighty. Hrothgar, victorious. Hrothgar and his hubris. He boasted, as warriors should. He told tales, and hired poets to sing of his heroics. It was fitting. He was a warrior; he would become king. His reputation was his legacy.

And yet he was not wise, this warrior. He claimed to have conquered the Norns. The Norns, whose weft was time and warp was fate. Even the Gods were subject to their craft. And her husband voiced his disbelief, claiming to spin his own thread, weave his own way. Hrothgar’s boast: the Norns are needless. A dare to shape his doom. Did he not know he was nothing to the Norns?

Wealhtheow scolded “watch your tongue!”

And Hrothgar laughed.

“The Norns know!”

“The Norns know nothing!” he replied. “Those three witches do not have their eyes on me.”

Wealhtheow was aghast. Such ignorance would lead to impotence. “There are not three, but three thousand. A Norn born for every warrior to decide his doom. Warriors die; Norns do not. Do not doubt that they know.”

Hrothgar scoffed. His wife: a woman, a foreigner. What could she know of Norns? He said no more, left Wealhtheow to her lunacy.

Wealhtheow knew about Norns. Her mother had taught her well; to tempt the Norns was to ask for terror. Her husband had mocked the Norns by name. When or where they would bring their doom was unknowable. They would strike not only Hrothgar, but his home, his people. Their vengeance would wreck his reputation; their doom destroy his clan. Wealhtheow could not avert their punishment; the Norns are not usually merciful. Urd and her sisters worked in strange ways; their weird word was worked in yarn, over years. But perhaps, perhaps if she begged and debased herself, grovel before the Norns . . . perhaps the Spear-Danes would be spared. Not Hrothgar, but his home. His people. Her people, her children allowed to live. If the Norns notice, if they choose to acknowledge her service. Wealhtheow would take on the task, attempt to weave peace with the goddesses. The Norns know.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Of Wyrms and Women pt 17

[part 1] [part 2] [part 3][part 4][part 5][part 6][part 7][part 8][part 9][part 10][part 11][part 12][part 13][part 14][part 15][part 16]

It’s winter. The men lie on subway grates, wrapped in flannel shirts and sleeping bags. The sleeping bags look like giant worms ingesting human skeletons, bloated blue or black or brown bodies resting on the edge of the sidewalks, pressed against buildings, squeezed inside crevices between buildings, scattered across downtown. An infestation of night crawlers, growing fat on human detritus. The men’s faces, when I can see them, are gaunt and unshaven, and their facial scruff is usually greying and sparse. These men don’t bother speaking; they have long given up asking the passersby for change or pity. Instead, cardboard signs propped against their bodies give brief explanations: laid off, fired, alcoholic, addict, home repossessed, evicted; please help. Next to these signs tattered coffee cups collect pennies and nickels. I rush past, looking up at the buildings.

Outside of my favourite bookstore, there is a woman. Day after day she sits there, amidst a heap of stuff—odd clothes, bulging plastic bags, empty food wrappers from nearby fast food joints, a stuffed bear, broken juice bottles, a wilted balloon; most of it is garbage. Her hair is matted beneath a knitted toque, and she is engulfed by layers of fabric: two scarves wrap around her neck, a man’s plaid shirt over what looks like two or three tee shirts, a hippie skirt, leggings, and some disintegrating work boots on her feet. A hodgepodge of goodwill attire. She asks me for change as I pass. I don’t have any. I smile slightly, and shrug. I push open the door, and head to the right so that the greeter won’t ask if I need any assistance today. I want a book on mythology; I want to know what Wealhtheow believes in. I’m not entirely sure where to start. I wander the store, and wind up looking at the single bookstand that holds the poetry collection. Three copies of Beowulf, I notice, each translated by a different man. One is the same as the copy I own. I examine the other two. Which translation is the most faithful? How can I tell? I decide to buy one, to compare it with the version I’ve already read. I pick the cheapest, and go up to the cashier. I pay in cash; I will give the coins to the homeless woman outside.

She has been in this spot for a few years now; I’m not entirely sure when she first showed up. This street is slightly tucked away. It has the bookstore, a used music shop, and little else. Perhaps this is a good spot for her; there is only one store entrance on this street so other beggars sit where more foot traffic passes by. I cannot guess her age—she probably looks much older than she is. She could be younger than I am. I have a feeling she’s very skinny beneath her layers, and probably cold as well. Still, she smiles. She weaves her head back and forth. I suspect that she’s disturbed, or on drugs. Her movements are jerky and abrupt, but her head never stops moving. I stop in front of her, hold out the change. There’s no cup set up for collection. A hand with a thin fabric glove appears out of her left sleeve. “God bless,” she says, taking the offered money. She peers at me, leaning her whole body forwards.

“You have a beautiful smile.” I don’t know how to react to the unexpected compliment. Suddenly aware of my mouth, and embarrassed by my thick lips, I take a step back and break eye contact. I hurry away, back into the mechanical pedestrian flow of Yonge Street. I walk over to Queen and catch the streetcar. I dislike streetcars—I’m afraid that one day I’ll step off and be hit by an oncoming car—but it’s the most direct way to get to The Lair from here. I could head underground and loop around on the subway, but then I’d have to walk further once I resurfaced at street level. So I take the streetcar, and bite down on my left pointer finger when I glance out at the street and step off.

Phil’s behind the counter and I don’t see Tia around, which is unusual for the afternoon. It’s warm inside, so I take off my hat and mitts, and shove them into my shopping bag. I go up to Phil and order. As he’s counting my change, he mentions that Tia’s given him my story, my manuscript he calls it. He’s been reading it, and would love to talk to me about it; he knows a thing or two about the medieval period. He implies that he can help me with accuracy.

How could Tia have shown my work to Phil? My private work? Stiff, I turn and walk out. Phil calls something after me, I think, about my coffee. I keep going. I think I should be cold but I don’t feel anything. Staggered, I drag myself home.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Croak by Jenny Sampirisi

A chorus of girls and frogs. Michigan J. and Kermit the. What are all these limbs? How read? How perform? Poetry or? The greenness of pauses. "Ribbit for her pleasure" (laugher) censor bar.

Theatre. Action or operation. Too late for the girls or the frogs who are actually canaries.
Thinking Rita Wong "the girl who ate rice almost every day"--what is IN this stuff? (was the goldfish i flushed dead at the time? why does this question raise that poetry?). chemicals stutter the letters, ras th lttrs add numbrs. for science. dissect the stage. i desperately want to perform this text. i desperately want to pause, to dis-enact it. hop plop stop.

"I hear: Get off already. I hear: shut up." U her: Frogirl (can't think Frogirl without thinking Black girl/natural hair/question: what&how is race in this text? think: what communities are most likely to be harmed by environmental pollution? those with the least power, obviously.)

Mine the connections. Fold the origami ribbiter. Legs and leg goons.

Croak as in. Croak as if to say more. Jump in. The water is.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Of Wyrms and Women pt 16

[part 1] [part 2] [part 3][part 4][part 5][part 6][part 7][part 8][part 9][part 10][part 11][part 12][part 13][part 14][part 15]

The women wail. The King of the Danes is dead. The women wail, keening for the king. The men frame a fire around Halfdane’s stately body. Hrothgar places a jewelled sword wyrm-slayer in his father’s hand. The blaze begins. Gold glints beneath the body. The heat heightens. Metal melts. The Shieldings stand back. Wealhtheow weeps with the women. This funeral feels foreign; there are no chants, no songs of sorrow to sing. Here, the grief is wordless. Here, they howl into the heat, into the darkness. They open their throats, and sound pours over the pyre. The fire grows feverish. It roars, rearing over the crowd. The mourners return the roar. The stench of sweat and wood and flesh fill the air.

The conflagration calms. The activity abates. The men bury the smouldering rubble, stifling the remaining flames. The women wait, wilted. The smell of smoke hangs heavy. Grey grit covers clothes, makes eyes itch. Wealhtheow prays let my husband be regal, a renowned ring-giver. Hrothgar’s kingship has commenced.