Original Woodcut by  Gustave Doré, to illustrate Dante Alighieri‘s Inferno 

On the edge of Oslo, I fell into the fog,
where lights were snuffed out
as the barrows cooled from the ice,
drowning in it.

I was lost in the wild,
trees piled up as roots snaked around
cawing ravens waited on a dying tree,
on wiry and gaunt branches stripped bare.

It moved,
followed by the snap of rotten wood.

Owl eyes glared through pleats of snow
its irises rimed with black ice,
the soul’s gateway frosted with its thin veneer.
A frozen tongue hissing a dead language.

   Snublende tull på landet mitt, og leter etter taket mitt!
   Jeg skraper av hodet ditt, tar kjøttet ditt.
   Og begrav markene dine i denne min grav![1]

Bones clattered as the barrow-lord moved,
a screech as its sword was unsheathed—
battered blade levelled square,

its totems chimed as the thing rattled through the moor—
This wild belonged to heathen myth.

[1] Stumbling fool trespassing on my land, stealing my hold’s hoard!

I’ll scrape off your head, peel your flesh.

And bury your marrows in my barrow!

© Thomas Gallimore Barker, 2021



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