Issue 35, Final Fringe

"Odin Learns the Fate of the Gods" and one more poem

by Maryann Corbett Issue 35 06.24.2013

The Outreach Worker Teaches Midwestern Weather

Some came from places where the greenness lies
damp on the land. Where jungles steep in cloud
like teacup steam. Others baked in their crazed
clay fields, dreaming of rain. I need to help them
take in the cold—learn how uncovered skin
freezes in the subzero of a stare,
dead white. And how a stiff wind scrapes away
the last warmth breath that clings about the body
like shreds of the old stories. In pain, they learn.
Learn that the stripped branches of November
are blasted not by the napalm terror they fled,
wailing, but by forgetfulness. They learn
that April comes. That green breaks like compassion.
In time, they will believe they have not died.

Odin Learns the Fate of the Gods

after the Elder Edda

Her image dissolved.    Hollow and distant,
her laugh hung on    above the embers
a moment, then stilled.    Odin stood musing
and stared at the fire.    Had the face been there,
the sibyl’s? He’d conjured it,    crazy to know,
shame though it was    he’d shifted to call on
witchcraft’s help:    a womanish trick.
Already her moanings    had unmoored in his mind.
Hag-ridden saws.    Not what he’d hoped for,
bartering his eye    for the burden of wisdom.
And the way she’d taunted!    Her Would you know more?
spittling his face    as she spooled the tale out.
Her gummed grin.    Her gray chin-wisps.
Droning, droning    the dry-tongued lore
that showed she could see    what the Norns keep secret.
What of the gods?    What of the elves?
He’d leaned to seize her.    But the sag-faced shape
slipped from his grasp    and sang on dully:
Much do I know.    More can I see
of the fate of the gods—    The guts of it now!
But what had she whispered?    The world, wave-drowned.
The sun charred black.    Asgard burning
in the fire of stars,    and the wolf Fenris
fang-mouth huge,    unhinging his tongue
to swallow Odin.    Oh yes. Midgard
would rise from seafoam    and fields ripen,
the Aesir live on.    But Odin was over.
Odin. His knowledge.    His magic, needless,
his kennings dust,    his runes drudgework.
All was waste,    and a woman spoke it.
Winds from the south    would warp all singing,
strange new patterns    stir in the poems.
He knew the future,    and in it was nothing
he valued now.    A vein jittered
in the empty socket    of his missing eye.

Maryann Corbett

Maryann Corbett

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Maryann Corbett lives in Saint Paul and works for the Minnesota Legislature. She is the author of two full-length books of poems, Credo for the Checkout Line in Winter (Able Muse Press, 2013) and Breath Control (David Robert Books, 2012), as well as two chapbooks. Her poems, essays, and translations have appeared in many journals in print and online and in a number of anthologies and have won the Lyric Memorial Award and the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize. Recent work appears in PN Review, 32 Poems, and Modern Poetry in Translation and is forthcoming in Barrow Street and Southwest Review.