For Every Purpose

Think back, Odin One-eye.
Have you truly learnt nothing of me?
Do you not recall
how I mixed my blood with yours,
who swore you would never drink mead
unless it was offered me first?
How I mixed my blood
with your puling family
through that hostage woman,
that war-prize, then mixed it again
with a woman of my own kind,
that strong sorceress,
unforgiving, obdurate,
and bred monsters to shadow
your children’s happiness?
Or how, lastly, I snuffed the world’s light
for spite alone, as a prank, a jest—
or perhaps to prove wyrd cannot be unspun,
to bring about this whole
corpse-bred cosmos’s ending.

Allfather, do not look at me thus —
it is no great secret, after all,
that the glory your children know you grew
from the bones of my first forefather.
Did you think there would be no recompense?
Or did you merely think justice
your provenance alone —
that what your nights on the tree bought you
was the right to tempt fate forever?

Well, you know better. This is a final shape
I can stand to live with, however long it takes
for the poison basting me to eat
this rock quite through.
Released, I assume my place at Naglfar’s prow,
unleash my daughter, Hel, under a swallowed sun.
And then
my black blood will tell, at last:
crack deep snow wide, raise ice, rend time.
All clocks will stop, together.

When you see that great world-ash of yours
lie broken at its root, therefore, remember this,
if nothing else:
That every trick I played, however mirthful,
was only to guide us here.

[Award-winning horror author Gemma Files is probably best-known for her Hexslinger series (A Book of TonguesA Rope of Thorns and A Tree of Bones, all from ChiZine Publications). She has also published two collections of short fiction (Kissing Carrion and The Worm in Every Heart, with Wildside Press). Her poetry has appeared in Goblin Fruit,Not One of UsMythic Delirium and Strange Horizons.]

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