Loki and the Hunger Time

Hunger time on Asgaard, nothing
to eat. Scrawny deer, scrawny
elk, winter salmon slippery‑thin
at the bottom of icy pools.

Stomach‑aching Loki on a diet
of mice drags wearily along
the trail, meets an old woman
in the middle of the wood,
bulging bag slung on her boney
back.  “Watcha got there Granny?”
Loki leers, thinking bag‑lady

She draws meat from her fat pack.
“Why thank you Ma’am,” sweet
talking Loki shape‑shifts down
the path for more, squirrels four
fat portions in his secret ash
tree stash.

The fifth time he gets fleas
sharp as hunger on his neck, his
hair, down his tricky pants,
and in his hiding place nothing
but four grease spots.  When he bends
to fill his empty gut with water
from a stream, his teeth fall out
like bits of shell.

He stumbles on a house, beautiful
woman spinning thread.  “Make me
handsome as Loki” he spells,
charms some food, though
toothless he can only nibble fat.

While he sleeps in her soft lap
she fashions molars and incisors,
canines sharper than before,
then sends him off to hunt with
her five brothers, men who fly as
strong‑winged swans.
On the way they sing the magic
songs of flight, and Loki, quiet
on the eldest’s feathery back,
learns the tune.  When he sings
too, mimicking the wind, their
power wanes, they drop to the
earth like bulging, wingless
sacks until they toss off Loki
and disappear behind the moon.

“Be a feather!” and Loki floats
down like a paratrooper toward
the trees.  “Be an arrow” and he
zings like a missile.  Shifting
again he floats, then dives,
feather and arrow playing above
the tree line until he calls out
“arrow” twice and plunges headlong
in the ice.

Bitter cold Loki stuck in water,
Black bear‑Loki trying to stay
warm, tail worming in the frozen
stream.  Hungry winter salmon takes
the bait and ticklish Loki squirms,
roaring across the ice until his
tail is gone, the silver salmon
fat and twitching by his side.

Loki‑bear broils salmon in the
hunger time, eats, eats and licks

his shaggy paws.
[Steve Klepetar teaches literature, myth and creative writing at Saint Cloud State University.  His work has received several nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.  Flutter Press has just released his latest chapbook, My Father Teaches Me a Magic Word.]

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