We awoke to seagulls, crying, circling
Round night shore-fires, lost in cold
Mist, swooping overhead, landing in
Huddled flocks upon rocky beach, no
Sight beyond leaping flames, sea-clouds
Of descending drizzle upon our Viking
Homestead, rams and ewes, close-clinging,
Thick wool rain-wet. By chamber fires,
We gathered warmth, glowing hearth
Coals, we slept fire to our backs.
Next morn, having rounded dark head-
Lands, longboat beach-rested, none of our
Clans, foreign sails and shields, they too,
Like weary gulls, lowered wings, taking
Solace of our firelight. One of shipboard
Twelve, age-bent Norseman, bow-waiting
For acknowledgement, guesting upon our
Shores and generosity, we took them for
Able Icelandic seafarers, wave-riding to
Hospitality of our broad sea-firth.
Upon seashores desolate and stark, old
Mariner broke strained silence. “What
Land is this, shield-maiden, to whom
Does it belong?” his accent thick. “We
Call it Markland. It belongs to no one.”
“Not even to itself,” he replied, evoking
Nods, half-laughter. “Beautiful misery,
We call it,” I returned. At distance, we
Trusted the other but no closer, fearing
Folly of swords as blood-fates willed.
Yet, they seemed satisfied to rest near
Our fires, mist-smoking, wood needing.
For this reason, I left for gathering, arm-
Load, dried-cut. On return, their ship
Mist-vanished, only sand-indented keel
Drag, few foot prints where old Norseman
Stood, words exchanged, voices upon
Wet air. Family told, we beach searched,
Twelve bodies found, aged Norseman
Beach washed, ship-wood and flotsam.
“Sea-storm spirits you have encountered,
Words conversed,” father advised. “Still
Ship-clinging, life and death connected.”
Sea’s dark deeds, death blows delivered,
My mind vexed to explain this Norseman
Apparition. Perhaps he knew not where
He was, weary soul where land belonged
Not to itself. Eventually, cold mist gave
Way to bright sun, keel drag sand indent
And footprints were wave-washed away.
Poem of thick sea-mist and apparitions of sea-drowned Norsemen.
Written whilst listening to “Don’t Go” by Hannah Georgas.