Theresa Donnelly

Ship of the Dead

Waking from a fitful sleep where

he dreamt he reached the coast;

leaving behind so wretched a place

where dusk now but a ghost


had camouflaged the landscape

in shades of grenadine.

Morning exposed its true light

of burnt hut and blackened beam.


Sword in hand, he clawed his way

to the river’s edge.

Blackness overwhelmed him

as he slid from the water’s ledge.


It startled his flesh into consciousness.


Branded wine-coloured scars

imprinted along his torso

as numerous as stars

stood to attention like warriors

upon hearing the beat of the drum.


The fatal wound between his ribs

began to seep, throb and burn.

The river pulled his body

beneath tendrils of olive-green moss;

caressing and lulling him further below

with a song of enduring loss.


The wild magic of the water

lured him into a trance-like state

which he fought against with tooth and nail

but his blood loss was too great.


Alongside moaning columns

which had once been cowardly men;

their voices hushed by the river’s rush

never to be heard again.


Odin’s booming bellow

pierced his death-like state

echoing words of warning; not

to be lured to the commoners gate.


The twelve handmaidens of Odin

took him into their care

sweeping him from the riverbed

carrying him forth on the air.


They could see the fiddlehead carving

of his ship’s bow on the wave.

A Viking’s final resting place

should be no riverbed grave.


They laid his body on board the ship;

placed his faithful sword in his hand

then setting the ship ablaze

they severed the anchor’s strand.


They would escort his soul to Valhalla

between the yellow moon and the tides

where all brave warriors feast and fight

in the Great Hall where Odin resides.



Theresa Donnelly is an Irish/Canadian poet who spends her time between Waterville, Co. Kerry and Brooklin, Ontario. Her poetry has been published in the Brooklin Town Crier, Surfacing Magazine, The Copperfield Review, Beret Days Press, Red Claw Press, Ink Bottle Press and The Caterpillar Magazine. She is the author of two poetry books ‘Moon Witch and Other Scary Poems (juvenile) and Recurrence of Blue. She is a member of The Ontario Poetry Society and a founding member of The Brooklin Poetry Society.
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1 Comment

  1. Lovely flowing narrative.

    To me it seemed at once scary and soothing, sad but drifting to resolution.

    I hadn’t read Theresa before. Time now to seek out more of her works.


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