i. Water / ᛚ / Laguz

Approaching life’s end at world’s edge,
     where Atlas unloads his burden
     and Katla’s craggy shores fit like

the dextrous fingers of some desperate
     skeleton’s inveterate keys
     into the moaning sea’s mysterious

depth, we saw bonfires built along
     her southern cliffs, g(r)asping like infants from
     behind the rails of our sulking

ship at their blushing kisses, those glowing
     immortal monuments hanging
     like divine ornaments from some nameless

goddess’ hidden crib, long-faced
     and forgotten ancient embers
     extending a patient father’s

offer with strong arms that feel warm into
     autumn, holding an unwritten
     and unspoken invitation, a song

or poem, an epic saga
     calling home lonelier sailors to sate
     scorching Desire’s hot, ominous

                    ii. Fire / ᚲ / Kaunan

daughter, an ocean’s portent or portal
     no port-of-call for wandering
     soldiers returning fatigued from a war

deserting them, its torment’s wounds
     worse than lost Love’s first haunting, our
     Place of the Skull paced to kill these

aching heads mistaken by thunder and
     unrelenting winds for witches’
     drums, Circe’s cursèd instruments, tempests

pounding cursive anthems into
     reluctant skin forsaken for having
     been stretched over these damaged bones

of such tragic men, this delicate flesh
     we inhabit when we forget
     that pain is what exiles inherit from

ancestors whose denial of
     it damns their sons to carry with
     them forever this thirst, throats and

roads parched by water, fire, stone, and darkness
     we endure until, sighting source
     of its cure, we row toward Vulcan’s mouth,

                    iii. Stone / ᚺ / Hagalaz

our own agape in vain hope that,
     nearing Iceland’s coast, our arrival might
     entice that crucible where, for

ninety-nine voyages around the Sun,
     whining gold he comes, vomiting
     forth with unleashed force something fierce, heat

resembling relief when, deep from
     underneath glacial sheets, Katla’s
     mountain of a sentinel sends

up from Hell, tears of softer then softest,
     hotter then hottest rock by which
     all our troubles are soon engulfed, for this

molten marriage of warriors
     no longer fearless to cowardice in
     the cauldron altar of scourging

courage, we, once daring, embark on our
     final march, swallowing our Selves
     if, by chance, Fate commands eruption to

withstand yet another dormant
     year’s driest spell, until its flames
     descend her hill and we have no

                    iv. Ice / ᛁ / Isaz

more strength and no other choice than to pray
     and await being cleansed, her will
     Heaven’s own and no use going against,

gratified as we should be for
     having even been graffitied on these
     ostraca, the sighing lines of

which memorializing our hurt’s plight,
     storied foresight preserving for
     some future generation’s prying eyes,

carved reasons why the pyres of their
     patriarchs burn bright ever since,
     those most Odysseyian victims

of their own legend’s fable whose final
     night of travel lasted the rest
     of their lives, outliving our myth a feat

less likely than rivers of tears
     blinding unforgiving Time, and washing
     from indifferent skies their signs

of unreliable constellations
     imprisoning us with light that
     lies, taking from brave men what truth survives.