Saturday, April 11, 2015

Down Below

Down Below

A long run last night
under the Silver Eye
Blood on my hide
but not my own.

Here I lie
where the Red Eye
cannot come, where nothing comes
but Death and the turquoise tide.

Here no sound
of song or voice, no hand, alone;
coppery tongue, asleep on bones
and no one comes.

The longhouse winks
its Yellow Eyes, cruel firelight
alive inside, so many smells
a sound like bells

I cannot make
but feel its form
like dust in my throat,
conceived but unborn.

They screamed to see me,
long tongues to greet me slipped
their sharpened iron; I broke them
then, the rafters dripped---

why shouldn't they die?
Soon someone will come.

~April 2015

posted for  

I Hear Fictional Poets:
Create a poem written from the point of view of a fictional character. 

This poem is written in the voice of Grendel,  the 'shadow-walker,'  monster from Beowulf
".. an Old English epic poem..[and].. possibly the oldest surviving long poem in Old English..It was written in England some time between the 8th and the early 11th century..."  "... Beowulf leaves [his kingdom in Sweden or Norway] to destroy Grendel, who has several times killed those asleep in the mead-hall of [the king of the Danes] after having been disturbed by the noise of the drunken revelers. After a long battle, Beowulf mortally wounds Grendel, and Grendel dies in his marsh-den..."~wikipedia


A favorite tale of mine, retold and filmed many many times.This is my favorite indie movie version.  

Untitled, by Zdislav Beksinski                  
Fair use via
Primitive Man Seated In Shadow, by Odilon Redon                    


  1. Oh, this is an excellent, dark view. When I read Beowulf back in high school I remember after several of us making fun of Grendel for having his mother come and fight his battles for him. Apparently I was a bit too immature (and most likely still am).

  2. Beowulf is possible the single most important testament to the evolution of the English language, and its ancient characters still have words to share with modern man, of caution, of loneliness, of the poor twisted, hateful beasts we all may be.

  3. I so knew it was Grendel!!! That was just awesome!!! :D XXX

  4. Yup, the villain never realizes he's bad. He's totally cool with. Good write.

  5. This was so lushly dark. I love the challenge of the last two lines.

  6. Yikes--I have to confess to having Beowulf on a list that I never seem to get to--I love the silver eye, red eye, and longing. (I must run. but will be back.) k.

  7. Nobody likes noisy neighbors when you are trying to sleep! I like how he feels justified! Always a good read!

  8. Such an intriguing prompt - and a powerful response! I am reading a book right now about a goshawk, so the imagery really resonates.

  9. I know it's silly of me, but I was completely delighted to have known you were talking about Grendel. I really love Beowulf; and every time I read it, I heart from Grendel. Your poem takes us to a place in his mind that makes so much sense. The repetition, his ruthless but still childlike tone... oh, poor Grendel.

  10. Entering the mind of this feral fangy snow-man is a return to the old rules of poetic, what Graves once said was the equivalent of circling around the fire chanting "kill, kill, kill." The blood-rune., sharp as splintered bone. Odd that there's always been pathos for this big ole lug, his killing weal is a given but the pathos of his wound, its weel, is tied to the love of all mothers and the loneliness of death. Or maybe we know enough about the follies of the human tribe to have some sympathy for its devils. The fen is where "no one comes" because no one dares to go there, until, at last, someone -- Beowulf -- does. The distance from human voices is the snow-beast's mind, uncomprehending and obedient to a wholly inhuman love. Yes.

    1. Yes, I think the sympathy that creeps in is our own disillusion with the tale being told by the victors-the enemy is always a brute, an inhuman monster(here literally) and we distrust it. As I say in my reply to Michael, I don't think we can really hope to truly enter into the mindset of the poets who passed this tale down, around that fire where "kill or die" might be an equally appropriate chant. The distance from human voices, indeed--one wonders how 'human' we really were our own selves then.. Thanks B.

  11. Hey Joy, return to this poem just liking its mixture of legend and naturalism. Which I guess is what makes a character particularly powerful. I won't look at new one till I get mine done. Thanks. K.

  12. a friend is reading Beowulf for a grad English class. last week she spoke of writing a paper on it, posing the question, why do modern movies (see, Jolie) insist on sexifying the monster? what does that say about "us" (big quotes, here.) whatever it does, your POV gives him his due. ~

    1. Yes, he is painted as the underdog a lot in modern takes--the original poem certainly makes him an uncompromising blood-thirsty, cannibalistic killing machine--a supernatural force of pure chaos and death. I think we have little insight into the conditions that made the poem--the stark reality of a life where a guttering fire was the only light after dark and which counted thirty as old age. Here I tried to walk the line, between seeing the killer's point of view, and what made him a killer, perhaps, and too much post-modern over-sentimentality. Thanks, M.

  13. This is fabulously chilling and described so vividly, another feast for the senses. And now you've made me wish to see the film.


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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