Five poems from Silver (Main Street Rag, forthcoming 2012)

The Ballad of Mani and Sol

If I say I’m the moon,
and you’re the sun,

I only reflect what you’ve done.
There’s no love

poem here about us
not sharing the sky,

but a song about the way
of gravity—you gripping

planets while I paw
at the seas. The ancients made us

twins or lovers or shining cowards
playing a game of “duck-duck-goose”

with wolves we knew
would catch us.

Firstborn ball of lightning,
Second-born ball of dreg—

you shape my image,
even in eclipse. We are

canvas and camera,
gold and silver.

.

When Your Father Is a Trickster God and You Learn to Stand

He will only exist
inside the spell
of hours that claim

the unconquerable sun
and resist its return.
But you will see him

in the chasm of Christmas
photos and wedding
processions, the phantom

seat at graduation dinner.
He will be gravity:
unseen and implied,

a theoretical necessity
to explain the pull
you feel on your spine,

the hand holding you
as you wobble
in place like a baby

star destined to clutch
the universe in its
deciduous teeth.

.

Fenrir Opens His Mouth

Playing catch with Thor was the best.
I knew I couldn’t keep up with his boomerang
hammer as it cut a ring through heaven,
but a good dog gives chase. I hear Odin
has a new wolf now. Two of them, really; they get to eat
from the table. He used to feed me bread and fat, said
he wanted a nice bed in the end. There was no sadness
when he told me the stories about winters without
springs and flaming swords. He only laughed
and scratched my belly until I went to sleep.
How was I supposed to know what would happen

when they showed up one day with chains
and shackles? I could smell the magic, but I thought it was just
another game, the fear in their sweat only a divine illusion.
When the god of bravery put his hand between my teeth, I took it
as a dare. I thought he was showing off, like the other gods
did when they wrestled in front of the valkyries.
I thought it would grow back. I did. His scream is still
in me. His hand is there, too, crawling up my throat
until I swallow it down again; my stomach can’t hold a god.

.

When Your Father Is a Trickster God and You Shave for the First Time

He will leave you
to make excuses
for his absence when you burn

your hand on mom’s radiator
and reset the wobbly ceiling
fan. You will be tempted

to anger, goaded to say your father
is no father, but you will wish
the world away by swearing

he is off fighting the war
that can’t be won:
a battle against history

and gravity and the dark
forces that chain
the universe together.

But these answers will grow
hollow as a raven’s bone,
and you will use your trickster DNA

to steal the senses of the grey
wolf. You will show your teeth
and threaten to consume the sun

if he does not tell you all
that he has seen, you will run
each of the winds through your nose,

and you will catch your father’s scent
on the edge of every key,
see his heel rounding each corner.

.

When Your Father Is a Trickster God and You Have Forgotten His Name

After licking the last inch of earth
and tasting a laugh,
You will find him buried

behind a newspaper,
chewing his pen, mumbling
possible answers for a father

of monsters: four letters.
Whisper Loki, and he will show
his teeth, growl and order

you to stand up straight and
howl like the son of a god
should. And you will

try to respond, but you will find your tongue
has become quicksilver, your spine
curved and fluid from falling

under fences and family
trees, your fingerprints grated off
as you peeled through walls

of adamantine and rumor. You will be nothing
but shadow blocking his light,
and he will offer you a crown

of riddles that promises you
there is nothing in this world
sharper than an open door.

Copyright © 2011 Jason McCall.

Jason McCall retains all rights to this work, granting Fickle Muses one-time, non-exclusive electronic publication rights. Please contact the creator to request permission for reprints or other uses of this work.

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