Written at 17, from my earliest memories of the Alfather.
“Goodnight moon,” I whisper.
I am three. I dream.
That night my crib opens
and becomes a ladder to the sky.
Stuffed ducks in hand, I climb it,
blanket around me like a shawl.
I climb up to the sky
I float and laugh and dream
playing with falling stars
alone in the beautiful blue,
I sleep in the curve of the moon.
Old Man watches with eyes
the blue of the storm and sea
He watches over me.
His laugh is deep and hearty
I yelp in surprise and blush,
hide like a fawn behind a cloud
But He bids me to play with him
He looks like the Saint Nicholas man
who comes each December and puts clementines in my boots
so of course I have to trust him.
I sing my stories and songs
Wonderful things I made in my head
I crave his adoration.
Old Man listens, more than indulgent
I bask in his affection
And keep on telling them.
He reads me story books
Has the stars dance to send me dreams
He is master of raconteurs and wanderers,
his traveler’s cloak stuffed full of tales.
He weaves things from the wind and clouds,
bringing my dreams to life
I laugh as I dance amongst them,
young, pink-cheeked and open.
When I’m tired, I cling to his knee
knowing he is the safest place in the world.
I love Old Man like a grandfather,
with his stately beard and crow lined-eyes,
laugh lines are etched in his skin,
deep like cracks in the sidewalk.
He rubs me with his beard, and I laugh,
steal his hat, and run off with his winds.
And I, who was almost named Snorri,
have bleach blond hair to my waist
I’m bait for elves and trolls.
I frolic in leaf piles and forest,
wander across cliffs and the sea.
I grow up. I sometimes forget him.
But his touch is all around me
Grandfather’s beard in the clouds
Old Man is the brine and gale.
He is sea and sky and wind.
The North and soft snowfall
At night, he rides the storm.
He is Nereus, Odin, Njord,
The god with the big white beard.
Nicholas, Mannanan Mac Llyr
He wears a lot of hats.
But really, he’s just Old Man.
My Old Man of the Sea
The Elder of the Crossroads
He smells like pine and New England.
He looks like a lobsterman,
The perched crow on my shoulder,
there are riddles and pipes in his beak.
He had bone-aches when the world was born
And now I’m a hypochondriac,
I share my imaginary ailments with him.
“I think I’m getting arthritis, Old Man.”
“Look at how my wrist creaks!”
“I’ve been writing too much again.”
The writing is his gift, I think.
He looks at me askance, smile crooked
“Knowledge is pain,” he laughs quietly
It sounds like thunder behind clouds.
“Trust me, girl, I know.”
We’re in the beautiful blue again,
The stars sing, and I know they’re angels.
I wave at the ones I know.
The Milky Way is his road
he walks it with staff and cloak.
Galaxies dance around us, gods dart to and fro
Squabbling as they always do
Beautiful in their petulance
He smiles at them, then moves on
Always moving on.
I can barely keep up.
His wanderings- they’re like the moon.
“Did you know, Old Man” I say,
“I used to think this place was Disneyland?”
“When I played here as a kid.”
“I thought you were Mickey Mouse.”
He crooks his head over his shoulder,
runs his fingers through his beard:
“Do I look like Mickey Mouse?”
“No, but there was a commercial in the 90s.
These kids wished on a star
To go to Disneyland.
And the star falls into their hands,
and the star- it took them there.”
“When I was a kid,
I’d stare out my window,
waiting for stars to fall.
But you know what?”
“What?” he asks.
“I had it all along.”
He smiles, points at my heart:
A young star dances within,
glowing blue with wonder.
He snaps his fingers. It disappears.
I grin ruefully. ”I never got to go.”
But this place, Old Man? It’s better.
It’s worth all the Disneylands in the world.”
“And I’m going to need your staff soon,
Because I am getting old.
My back will bend like a willow,
And I’ll wear a hat like yours.”
“And someday, you’ll be young to me
and you’ll carry me then, like a child
So I can travel with you
The old lady on your back.”
“And when all my days have fallen,
Old Man, you’ll be at the prow,
and we’ll sail across the sea together.”
“Together, we’ll go home.”