Loki Bound by W. G. Collingwood (1908)
Loki's Wife by Ros Barber
I hold the bowl over my husband’s face
to catch the drip of venom, this drooling snake
they fixed up over him. A bitter waste
of man, my man, for a simple prank. I ache
for the god in him, tied down, immovable
as fate. For my husband’s sake I give up me,
for my husband’s sake I stay. My hands are full;
my devotion now his only sanity.
I hold the bowl until it brims, then run
outside and pour the acid through the dust.
As long as I’m gone, my husband screams and writhes,
the corrosion eating deep into face and eyes
I used to know. But we are both changed: by sound,
by sight, by the daily rhythms we know by rote.
I’m bound by duty, just as he is bound,
the cords not at my wrists, but in his throat.
I hold the bowl, empty the bowl. This chore
that brutalises, sanctifies. And the dish
between us shields me too, from glimpsing the raw
shells of his sockets, his sores, his ravaged flesh.
But I must face the snake, cold-blooded beast
that spells it out: we are all meat beneath.
What did I do? How did our lives entwine
that his eternal punishment is mine?
I hold the bowl. No one in their right mind
would do this forever, watching the thrust and twitch
of muscular flank and spine, one creature’s writhe
reflecting the other. Memories flake and itch:
my husband’s hands before they were bound, the slake
of his lips pre-blister, his shoulderblades, his sleaze.
All I have left is the soft shank of the snake,
tormenting me with possibilities.
I hold the bowl. Each time I go outside
it takes a little longer to empty. This
venom, its milky sweet-sourness. And the wide
mouth of the serpent dripping like a kiss.
But the venom, its acrid scent, remember me,
it says, remember nights mopping your thighs,
crying for more? The snake hangs patiently,
its mischievous eyes soldering on to mine.
I hold the bowl limp at my side and watch
its contents scorch into the earth. What for?
This is not the life I chose. I can’t ignore
the taste in my mouth, the absence in my crotch.
And suddenly, I’m miles away, my feet
bleeding with joy, my nostrils thick with musk.
The wind in my lungs croons to the fading beat
of his blindness calling, calling, through the dusk.
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Loki's Monstrous Brood, from D'Aulaires' book of Norse Myths, 1967.
Loki, the God of the Jotun Race
When Odin was still young - before he had hanged himself on Yggdrasil and drunk from the Well of Wisdom - his eyes had fallen on a jotun named Loki. He was graceful and handsome, not uncouth and misshapen like most of his race. Many jotuns could change themselves in wolves or eagles, but Loki could take on any shape he wished, even female ones. Nimble-witted and bright, full of clever ideas, Loki was like a flickering, shining flame, and Odin was so taken with him that he asked him to be his blood brother. Loki gladly accepted the offer. So each cut a small vein in his arm and, letting their blood flow together, they solemnly swore to be as true brothers from then on. They would stand by each other, defend each other, and never accept a favor unless it was also offered to the other.
Thus Loki, the jotun, became one of the Aesir and moved up to Asgard, where the great and holy ones welcomed him. Thor especially liked to have cunning Loki at his side, for Thor was not quite as quick-thinking as he was fast-acting. Loki helped him out of many a scrape, but he also got him into some.
Odin gave Loki one of the goddesses, Sigunn, for his wife. She was loving and kind and very patient with her fickle husband. But in Jotunheim, Loki had another wife, the dreadful ogress Angerboda. She was a better match for him, for, as the Aesir soon found out, Loki was really vicious and spiteful. He loved to play mean tricks, and it didn't matter to him whom he tricked. Neither Aesir nor jotuns could trust him, and he was always causing trouble.
But Loki was so quick-witted and honey-tongued that the Aesir always forgave him his misdeeds. Besides, Odin's blood flowed in his veins and no one dared to harm him.
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