Loki at Nyssa (pt. 1)

To the memory of Fuensanta Plaza, and to Annamaria Sigyn Estelle Filan.


First fled as a falcon, bedazzled by lightning
after so long in darkness, wings agonized wrenched in widening gyre
Sky-spinning, blow-buffeted, bond-stiffness holding him back as he spiraled
There!  Through the storm-cone, ears popping,
tumbling then wings biting sudden-still air.  For a second
Loki rode the current round the rumbling eyewall,
staring down at the brambles thick round the cave mouth,
then shook off falcon-form.
As an eagle ascended in narrowing circle,
riding the updrafts, flapping furiously, parrying billows
lifted on eddies and as he danced, weaved the storm
dance and wove with him. Faster he fled
toward the cracked ceiling, toward Sunna grey-veiled,
and almost escaped the winds of his making.  Atop Valhalla’s roof a rooster
opened a fitful eye to a gash gold-vermillion
that burned and screamed across quickening daybreak.
He watched it smoulder then went back to sleep.


Loki sat in a crevice, snug in the shape
of a spider.  It was an old shape, one of his first,
the one he wore when he gave them the nets
that brought him to bondage.
Watching the room, many-eyed Loki
saw the old man coming toward the crack
in the wall behind the mouldering bookshelves.
One leg lifted, Loki smelled the lye-bite
of coarse soap, scent of one who eats no meat
and drinks no mead, faint echo of incense and piss-drip
of torn genitals.  With one eye Loki saw
slender frame with round face looming,
patchy beard, vague eyes hardening
as he moved the books.  Loki hid from peering
back to the comfort of tight walls and darkness,
all eyes, all legs keen for escaping,
venom swelled for biting when
his body shook to gently pitying laughter.

“Come out, come out, little Hveðrungr.
You’ve nothing to fear from me.”

The eunuch stepped back, sat down
in the high-backed chair before the window.
Dust motes made a halo. Loki hesitated
then came blazing out in angel-form
and the eunuch clapped.

“Bravo, Loki! One hundred eyes
in a wheel of fire! You’ve read the Scriptures.
But some see the Form behind the forms.
Those long years bound have not been kind to you.
A fart from Luther could blow you away.”

Loki cast off guise, stood in sunlight
reflected through a smog-grimed window.
venom-scarred, vermin-ridden,
ankles and wrists raw with struggling
against the fetters forged from the guts of his child.
Over the eunuch’s shoulder Loki
saw cars moving slowly on a road to elsewhere
past cathedrals under earth,
smelled the smoke of lamb over charcoal,
blowing through the crack in the grimy window
and knew the place was Cappadocia.

“You came late to the party, galla,
The Great Mother likes her daughters beardless.”
Loki smirked, standing shaky on legs
grown stiff with binding.
“The Old Man traded Wisdom for his eye.
What did you bargain for your balls?”

The Eunuch shrugged and waved his long soft hand
with short clean nails and fingertips rounded
with calluses of beads.
“Anthony struggled for years in the desert with devils.
I chose a shorter route.
I looked to my books and found justification.
I had need of my eye and my hand. I sacrificed
what I needed not nor wanted
to One who neither needed nor wanted it.
It was mea culpa. I do not know if it was felis.
They always told me I overthink things.  But come!
You must be hungry.  I cannot give
the Body and Blood even if you would have it.
My ordination was foiled by my…”
The eunuch paused in the next room. “enthusiasm.
But the water here is sweet and the grapes
are excellent. Come! Eat!”


“This is the mansion your Father allotted?
Loki said as he lounged on the great velvet couch,
sores stinging, itching on threadbare grey cushions
concave with long use. “Excellent grapes,
clean water, those I grant you.
But your lodging seems meager even for
a man of your faith.”

“I’m afraid it’s not my mansion,” the eunuch said.
“My bones are in Tyre. I did not wish to stay
in the place of my torture.  I am sure
you understand. This is the house
of my disciple Gregory. I come here
for the grapes and for the water
and for the light shining through the shadow
of the cathedrals.  Some days I go to Caesarea
and converse with friends.  Most of the time
I stay here and read.”

“My daughter’s house has fare just as fine.
Little reward your pale Christ brought you.”

“It is enough.
For some enough is heaven.
For you, I suppose, it is hell.”

Wind shifted, Loki twitched at a far-away smell
neither wolf nor man, faint tang of jackal
and a child with a face between mouth and snout
singing dissonant deep underground..

I can be the dead one,
You can be the mad one
They can make you rip my belly
They can tie him with my guts.

“My boy!” Loki’s voice cracked. “Where is my boy?”

“Vali came seeking Bacchus. This is Nyssa.
Nysa lies three weeks west.  Your people
never could master Greek.”
The eunuch puts his hand on a weeping god’s shoulder.
“I did not send him on that way, of course.
Bacchus cares more for the breaking than the broken.
For a while I brought him food.
Of late that has not been needed.
The field mice are fat round the fairy castles
in the Ilhara valley.
The caves give him shelter from stones and blows.
Each day he grows less lean.
When he can speak he speaks often of you.”

Tie me up in my guts,
tie me up in your guts
Tie me like big brother
Pin my muzzle with a sword.

“Where is my boy?” Loki asked again twice,
first sobbing, the second time
cold enough to make the eunuch tremble,
not cold enough to push him away.

“That would not be wise, my friend.
He would run from you, frightened
that you might forgive him.
He is his father’s child.”

Tie me till the cock crows
Tie me till the battle
Tie me till the morning
When Papa lights the fire.

Singsong and uncanny scent dispersed
to snarling, then sank beneath ground.
Loki smiled and with that smile
the shuddering eunuch let go Loki’s shoulder.

“I know not why you brought me here,
or if you be wizard, monk or sorcerer.
All I know is you have done my boy a kindness.
And I am in your debt.”

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