Burnt banners and crooked steel.
Plate armour, dulled by blood.
The battlements of a sleeping castle.
Only a horse survives the combat.
Snorting in the fog,
It drifts to the hinterland,
Fire uncurling from its nostril.
The ghost of a butchered knight trips
Over the body it once occupied.
The horse gathers speed,
Its mane swirling,
The road blistered by its hoofs.
The wind hisses.
Shadows manacle the trees.
Smoke tinges the grey dawn.
It was a sight you may never witness:
A horse without reins or bridle
Hurtling through the sierra,
As a vespers bell clangs a dusky refrain,
Monks intone a prayer to the vast emptiness
Of their church.
And the horse, absorbed in its flight,
As if to outpace the horizon.
The kindling. The cremation begins with brushwood. I know this.
The ship is made for burning, forged in the name of immolation.
The mast is without a sail. The stern is without a rudder.
Together, we nock arrows, smear the bodkins with oil, and set them alight.
The ship drifts past, and we fire a volley at her.
Our arrows shrill the morning mist, and the keel is spattered by erupting flame.
The mast becomes a rod of thrashing gold.
The smoke’s stern, furious perfume clots over the bay.
Carrion sparks. Funereal aromas. The Celsius swelling in thousands. The wind
whisks the flames, and they roar as lamenting with us.
The blaze hovers, kinder than lit candles. A flaming chapel, neck feather of smoke,
flailing at the dawn like a convict, warming our faces up, though the pyre has drifted
far from the coast.
Beads of rain stud my tongue. The Northern sea is calm, greyly calm, awaiting all
Our ruler’s hands are clenched with mortis. In the drab glare of dawn, death
toughens him, clamping his sword in his fingers, his breastplate a husk of old steel.
No longer the scourge of coastlines, he’s just another corpse, polished for his sendoff.
Our own swords are piled about him, as a salute, along with trinkets and oil. The
ocean can take him. It’s high tide, the coastline bubbling with surf. Neither the flames
nor ocean care who he was, how feared he’d once been.
The blaze hasn’t yet quaffed the prow.
It protrudes over the waterline, like a lookout.
It is neither dragonhead nor horse-head.
His shield is buckled to it, catching hints of sunlight as the ship lurches, scratching
Through what unpolished waters had that ship crawled? What waterfronts had she
preyed on, out of what fog did her prow slither, oarsmen raring for the plunder?
Countless stories burn with her, all crooked and abandoned as the flames.
We’ll scratch them down on scraps of parchment, blackbird’s blood drooling off a
quill, in rare night-time moments, with only candles for company.
We’re men in need of myths, after all.
We’ll go mad without a vicelike story to rouse us.
For now we are leaderless, grown men sobbing religiously, our boots falling apart.
Daniel Wade is a 24-year-old poet and author from Dublin. He is a graduate of Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology, where he studied English and Journalism. His poetry has been published in Optic, Limerick Revival, Wordlegs (e-publication), The Stony Thursday Book (ed. Paddy Bushe), HeadSpace Magazine, the Seven Towers 2014 Census, the Bray Arts Journal, The Sea (charity anthology in aid of the RNLI), Sixteen Magazine (e-publication), The Bogman’s Cannon, Iodine Poetry Journal, Zymbol, The Runt, and the Hennessey New Irish Writers’ page of the Irish Times.
He has also featured as a guest on Dublin South FM’s Rhyme and Reason poetry
program, as well as on Near FM’s Writer’s Block. In June 2015, his radio drama, ‘The Outer Darkness’, was broadcast on Dublin South FM. A prolific performer, he has also read his work at various festivals, including the Electric Picnic, Body and Soul, Noeliefest and the West Belfast Festival. In March 2016, ‘The Collector’, his first stage play was staged at the New Theatre in Dublin as a rehearsed reading.