Hel on a Headland

Yclept Hel
I am the get of gods,
              the graft of a giantess.
Born of steam, of smog, of striving piston.
              Spawn of the stride of the connecting rod.
Such are the stresses and falls of my song.

My sire is a flame that smuts the filthy chimney
              My dam is a coal mine.

Hunger is my bowl. My bowl of dust.
              Climate crisis is my knife. Bitcoin the blade of my lance.
Plague and pestilence
              powder the straws of my broom.
The sweepings across my threshold
              are small griefs, sorrows,
              ash and scourings.
Cancers and cankers consume;
fluids flood the empty spaces
              (Inside you and outside you
              Inside earth and outside her)
              that once held air.
My sire is a pustule.
              My dam is a spillover, a spore.

The cold world turns.
The hot world burns.

Out of a season of cold and swirling mists—
Out of a deep well a booming echo—
It was full, my realm, but you have made it hollow.
Your gift to me is room to grow.

These are my gifts in return:
              From the frauds of liars, to bring adversaries in the open.
              From the burn of poison, to show you your enemies.
              From the suck and hiss of waves, to sieve the truth.

The truth will not change you. You are the revealed enemy.

The green creeps over.
The green chokes and strangles.
I bring to you my verdant jungles.
              Kudzu, porcelain-berry,
              burning-bush and bar-berry
my ticks, amoebas, and mosquitoes.
My sire is a hothouse.
              My dam is the ice rolling back, the ice breaking open, the flood that follows.

Glutted on my gore the gnat drills in turn
              the fleshy worm of Midgard.
Rabid beasts raven.
The world-tree is a scaffold. She decomposes from the root
              spalted with black fungus
              raddled with borers.
Crows call, and the ravens
              strip skin from skulls
              and from the long bones they tear tendons.
My sire is the disease of cattle.
              My dam the infection of fowl.
              With rot my kinsmen are riddled.

The earth boils and bubbles like a deep cave overflowing:
              we are jammed in.
The weight of the world and a wealth of decisions lies
              above us
                            and behind us.
By preference we descended.
There is no returning
              now the record is written.
Now the cascade has begun.

I am Hel
on the headland
surf about my sandals
the lamp in my fist
If under my shoes the stone melts,
if I sink into the climbing water,
all still,
all come to me in the end.

The ocean rolls over your home.
The ocean rolls over your bones.
Crab claws clutch flesh-fragments
              Scuttle in shallows, freshet-seek.

I can wait.
I need not wait long.

A rising tide


Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear was born on the same day as Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, but in a different year. She is the Hugo, Sturgeon, Locus, and Astounding Award winning author of around 30 novels and over a hundred short stories.

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