Nights are endless in Jotunheim, fires crackle
in Utgard’s great hall. There is mead and mirth
and a tumble of games. Wrestlers crash against
the ice walls, sending chess men flying and
great cats stretch themselves along stone floors.
The blood of giants burns, their women laugh
like coming storm. I know these things, saw them
when I traveled there with my brother Thjalfi
the fool, and a pair of deluded gods.
Swift as he was, Thjalfi could never outpace
Thought, nor could the god with the twisted smile
eat as much as Fire, who devoured meat and bones
and serving trench. The brawny god with little brain
almost drained the sea and wrestled well
against Old Age, the crone who brings all flesh
to humiliation and the grave. He stumbled
in the end. Then he strained and his face turned
red, as he almost lifted a paw of the cat who was
the World Snake in disguise. How the earth
trembled as a great darkness rushed to the borders
of the sky! How blind they were, those men
who never see what’s plain before their eyes.
I could have told them every game was rigged,
but they never heard me anyway and all they ever
said to me was “Roskva, make a meal, clear away
the food, scrub the pans, lie beside me with your hair
of golden flame.” I am old now, my brother dead
a dozen years, fallen drunk into a fjord trying to race
a will o’ the wisp, my children’s children grown
and my voice a whisper, telling the old tales until
wolves swallow sun and moon and the night sky
turns bright with Surt’s fire as the old world blazes to its end.
[Steve Klepetar’s work has received several nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Flutter Press has recently published two chapbooks: My Father Teaches Me a Magic Word and My Father Had Another Eye.]