The Nine Realms
9 months, 19 poets and writers, 22 Artists, 3 composers, 1 Viking boat: a magical reworking of Norse Mythology for contemporary audiences
(the realm of the people)
Mina Polen and Shirley Golden
It is there
by Mina Polen
Can you see it?
It is there with its days and its nights
with its darkness and its light
with its cold and its warmth
with its love and its hate
with its poison and its cure
can you see it?
right there in the middle
right there by the sea
right there being born
right there being destroyed
can you see it?
it is the place that falls
it is the place that rises
it is the place far away from the gods
can you see it?
it is right over there
it is the place
it is there
it is life
it is us.
Duck, Cover, Hold
by Shirley Golden
He’s not a hero. He’s not a god.
The press form a small circle around me, and a larger one around him. He smiles and his eyes glint red and gold. Beneath our feet broken glass glistens in crystal rainbow shards, the bridge between what was and is. Buildings and pavements are crazy with zigzag cracks, hairline splits and yawns. Photographers lean into chasms to take the best shots, the ones that show the magnitude of devastation and include graffiti artwork in the backdrop. They highlight cars, taxis and trams tangled in heaps, discarded toys in the San Francisco streets.
Someone placed a blanket around my shoulders but I’m cold to the core. The medics abandon me to attend more pressing cases. Reporters open notepads and ready pens to construct the story they want to tell, a tall one about a trickster whom they’ll cast as a god.
But it started long before the rumble and shock. He appeared, as if magically birthed from another realm. He was good at talking his way into things, and better at slipping out. He secured his position with forward-thinking, technical skills and a silver tongue. He was expert at delegation and liked to shake things up. He watched us with a keen eye, but never was one of us. There were times I imagined he mocked us all. But I kept my mouth shut and did as he said. One time he told me the end of the world was near, and he shook his fists as if caught by the entrails of invisible bindings, as if they might be holding him from starting an apocalypse himself.
We were in a meeting with the boss when a cellophane sandwich wrapper started to tremor. From flutter to flurry, tremble to quake, cabinet drawers exploded and pictures pirouetted off walls.
The boss said, ‘Down! Find cover! And something to hold.’
The boss squashed under his desk. I crawled beneath the sofa and embraced radiator spines. And he writhed beneath the table and held fast to legs. Pens fired like arrows. The printer squirmed towards the edge of the desktop its progress interrupted by a mangle of wires. The plug broke loose from the wall, and its crash-landing preceded a flurry of blank page debris. The floor abandoned its horizontal certainty. And the desk was carried off by a wave of displacement; the boss sailed with it, tumbling towards a chasm.
I glanced at him. I saw only that gleam in his eyes. I shan’t say he didn’t try. I couldn’t be sure of anything, except the fury of falling apart.
Once the tremor settled, he emerged from rubble.
“The boss?” I said.
“There was nothing we could do.”
He found the best escape route. I was grateful for his instinct of slithering free.
In the aftermath, he worked tirelessly; superhuman in his quest. To the press, he spoke with just the right measure of sorrow and determination. He moved into the boss’s old office, bolted a desk to the floor. Everything slotted back into place. The city rebuilt around us, higher than ever with further to fall.
I remember his knuckled whites, gripping the table leg. How he observed us as our world fell apart. The sneer of satisfaction he thought I didn’t see. Imagined? Perhaps.
He’s no hero. He’s no god. He dwells in a place in-between. He waits for his moment. Advice? Keep low. Cover head. Cling on.
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As always, thank you for your interest.