North: A Ragnarok

“A wolf grows larger as you go north.”
Fenrir rises; joints pop and crackle,
slow, pounding, heavy on the ice.
As his eyes open, steel green and frozen,

ice-gray merfolk flash their knife-nails
through the necks of polar bears,
staining pelts brown and scarlet and hot,
oceanic vampires, as much bear

as the bears they kill. They live
in a city of lamentations — Ninety
is rising and rising and rising and rising
and the rising waters lift ninety small icebergs

from their beds. The merfolk wait for steel
and ice to get acquainted, the screech
and scream of breaking, an agonized
echo of merspeech and the walrus-tusk horns

that signal war and the approach of
Jormungard. They know what surfaces
from deep, that death is rising ninety times
over as the Serpent wakes and the seafloor creaks

dirges played on whalebone and bear teeth.
But a wolf can freeze itself a bridge.
He stalks the city pushing into frigid air
with a name the number of wrecked

tankers whose oil ruins the bear-flesh.
Jormungard wraps herself
around her prey, keening
the same awful note as their fortress

that neither she nor her brother can break,
built as it is, of the same stone and shipwreck,
the same cold-glass blood,
as themselves.

[Tristan Beiter is a poet and speculative fiction nerd from Central Pennsylvania. His poetry has previously appeared or is forthcoming in GlitterShip, Bird’s Thumb, and Laurel Moon. When not reading or writing, he can usually be found crafting absurdities with his boyfriend or shouting about literary theory. Find him on Twitter at @TristanBeiter”.]