Four Poems


“Give thanks . . . for the flesh and bone
The smoke from the cooking fire, the warm pelt
And the strength of your arm.”

-Carved runestone in the Valheim Meadows

It’s hard not to imagine the beeches
and seawalls, the way all those calluses
meant I got to learn your hand new

so many times. The seasons reaping
with sickle nocked on stalks as against
a cheek, and oh, honey, the bees

are sleeping later so we can start
the morning warm. I can’t touch
these beams without seeing your nails

digging into garden dirt, the logs already
corded and dried so we could just stay
inside and let the days roll gentle

past our grass. The sunlight hides
how few breaths these torches have left.


“Pluck one thread and the whole weave will move.
Chop down one tree and all the wood will know.”

-Carved runestone in the Valheim Black Forest

How few breaths these torches have left
keeps me there in the sloping knolls
past dusk, hewing-head or hatchet reeling

out from these hands like a fly rod. Heartwood’s
heavy on the way back, cart stacked high
so each step digs into the soft moss, the copper

veining dirt across the hilltops. All for a hearth
bathing a room in orange and ochre, heat
suffused through the hall, and the way it hangs

between rafters waiting for dawn. Sometimes I sit
dockside and watch them wander the ramparts
as if they were still dazed from waking, bright

eyes pinholes of spring evenings. The ground sinks
under the rain, under the streaming moonlight blue.


“Great cities do not rise of themselves
Harden your heart, settler in a strange land
Build from the ground upwards”

-Carved runestone in the Valheim Mountains

This cold will starve. Tell me where we have left
to lay down foundations, where trees have never
heard our names, and we’ll go. Take all the furs

and blankets, the old hides and charcoal waiting
for winter, and bury the stakes where the wolves
won’t reach. Stone on all sides, we can sit up

at night and listen to the wind wail at our walls
while a fire smolders bedside. I have washed
the salt from your hair after sailing, set bones

after breaking, and what I know now is the sound
of a house planted here springing up like a seed
if we tend it. We’ll fence in this garden, terraced

rocks and lumber, and make of these stark peaks
somewhere worth bringing you home to.


“Now my last battle must be at hand.
When I sleep this time, where will I wake?”

-Carved runestone in the Valheim Plains

Somewhere worth bringing you home to
is the most I can ask. I thought we’d never
have a house with bread or wine again, gold

grain littered against the skyline, but we’ve come
so far for it. We’ve cut across this place in pickaxe
scars and stakewalls, stumps left like stray hairs

in the dirt so dark and distance couldn’t hold us
back. We have mapped this land, stretched sails
over the open ocean, to find a place worth keeping

in forgelight, in tender amber morning, but I’ve known
for a time I would not find it. Here, I have learned
home is an act of returning, of knowing a set of shores

to call harbor. Sometimes, when I see you there,
it’s hard not to imagine the beaches.