The Ordeal

Nine days suspended,
bound and breathless,
thirst a dying name
trapped on my tongue,
heavy and heaving,
eyes swimming in blood,
Barbarous Names thundering
in my inner ears,
head on fire, heart insistent,
body clinging to life —
stubborn in its anguish.

Just like him.

I cannot say I did this
willingly, but somehow
everything Willed
me here — and he watches,
right eye lit with thought,
left eye given to memory,
smiling as I dangle there,
a gaping fish on a short line,
hook in my cheek,
suspended, life-clock ticking
relentlessly in circadian rhythm
and all else is stunning silence.

Nine days, but I do not see
the end, or the great Mystery
unfolding, just the dead ground
swinging beneath me
and the sky in flames
above. He watches,
the Allfather — smiling
as I curse the fire
and the ice and
all the empty space
between.

Will you not See?
He whispers,
stroking my tangled hair.
Will you not See?

And I know I have only
but to reach —
and then to fall
and fall and fall.

[Shoshana Edelberg is a journalist, writer and musician based in Atlanta, Georgia. She lives in a witch’s cottage near a lake, with her son, two cats and two rats. In her spare time, she studies the Finnish language, even though it hurts her brain, takes care of raptors at a wildlife rehab center and sings English and Appalachian murder ballads (the bloodier, the better.) Her current projects include a series of poems based on the stages of alchemical transformation.]

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