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.