Grendel and the Slayer
I am in their dreams
…saw me coming
too late, the stuff of Hrothgar’s house, the tribute
of thanes, the silver ingots...
their reeking hides chewed,
mare’s-milk drinkers, their sour blood
spewed across fires, the last guard awake
with me now, his heart, bird-fluttering
bursts in my mouth.
The canopies of war carts jingle,
their rattles set against demons, what use, gold thread
on garment edges dragging in mud
as they flee.
Their horses, thin, little horses
I eat in mouthfuls. Hrothgar’s slack mouth, too,
makes king noise
that I understand him,
that we were as one, in other dreams,
our shared vastness of flies
under a noose of black sun.
Hrothgar, who knows the spear’s weight carried
over hoof-beats, Hrothgar,
his neighbours for a fleece.
Hrothgar I spare,
to consider my return, under empty sky
the earth with it creaking.
From ice-floes, the steady beat of oars,
its sails, its ropes a winter crust
to landfall, between the Scylding hall and the path
meeting waves turned in fog.
sword-arms broad as iron pots.
Lean, timber-wolf look of one −
their chief, his eyes cold, who stares into the fire
as boasts are made, seeing through the lake
of snakes, the deep,
into the bone filth of the cave, in his mind
calling shape to atoms,
The old king sleeps, but no longer dreams.
He has tasted dreams.
Grendel, dreaming, sleeps the sleep
It was always the same door, in this dream
not a dream, the same sound
of forged bands of hinges rent, but now
his weapon’s edge not melted in the touch
of this mere-walker,
the creature’s limb staved from its helm.
Blood washes the world.
The poem that told it slips from the harp
and scurries, rat-like through rotten straw.
In the hall, in high rafters, a pet hawk, stirring,
keens its yellow eye.