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~ By Courtesy of Others ~


It always begins with the chill
starts at the feet my digits numb
bound by hands that pull me down
strong but gentle, insistent
the eyes roll back and for a moment it feels
my lungs are frozen the heart speeds and all drops
like anchor plunging the breathing constricts and burns
It is like sleeping on a bed of ice draped in a cloth
Once my lips turned blue fixed in a mocking grin
Those who were with me that day could not warm the hands they held
or recall to my fingers greying the life hue
Gone I was comfortable in cold clay
looking upwards as I fell I saw not the startled faces
but passing shades of all I loved
endless evergreen spires reaching to touch
the cloudy fingers of the sky.

I am in ragged clothes and furs
Fine once Jord altered them for me
but my shoes are still good for crossing Hel's bridge
Wide and welcoming I will not stay but as a guest
There are no screams
Just silence like the early morning of a day in the
dead of Winter
I feel my friend behind me Bird-headed reminder of former days
I was young once a new soul
but like so many others I trod the dance
all Paths of the Dead are familiar to me
for I have supped and rested
The Jotun maiden greets me Garm rests at her heels
The grim maiden formed it seems of living ice
with eyes of flint nods her head at me
I am a familiar guest
dedicant of Odhinn I offered myself as daughter
when I was young
How I love the Hrafnfadhir
No lodging nor bed for I
sacrificed daughter of the Grim One, Baldr's father
in whose name my business I pursue.
I give them a gift and move on the guard's job is
never easy

Sometimes I see her the Queen of this Realm
I tell her of the news above
Half-rotting Hel listens and smiles
She knows what is done but does not cease the conversation
easing back into her chair she smiles.
But I move on seeking the one they asked me to find
The Halls of the Dead are not so grim as quiet
In the distance I see horses a bird flies, switching forms
here and there lay hung the remnant banners
that decorated the place of Baldr's feast
now gently frosted and hung with the embroidered
grace of icy nimble hands

Here sits a man with another pondering what has yet to come
he is not cold but warm his clothes gently faded
his beard moves with his words as he tells stoires
to those who would rest
They still pray, leave offerings, and are heard
Some leave this home to move on
But I seek the mound woman.
Her hair a hoary braid She sits in a tall chair
churning butter and singing charms
She bids me take a seat as I take up her chore
She wipes her hands on her apron pushes back her
hair and asks me about all manner of affairs
She thinks her later children are lazy
They do not leave her enough of a portion at Yule
But she loves them regardless of the fact she will
chastise them later
Just because she is dead, speaks she
"doesn't mean I don't enjoy my old gossip".
I ask her the questions and she answers
"They don't pay you enough".
Candid, this Old One.
She leaves momentarily returns with a bowl
taking up her task she removes the butter and salts it
And I am back.
I sit up my friends look at me
as if I had been gone for days
I take up my Runes and before casting say
"Next time leave out some butter with the bread."

2000 Jessica Blalock (Herwodis Brusse)

Image: "The Prophetess Libuse" (1893), detail, by Vitezlav Karel Masek, Czech.(1865-1927)

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