I can’t tell you how long I’ve been obsessed with the Norse myth of the Death of Baldur (if you don’t know the story, here’s the bare bones). Something about it definitely presses my buttons…
This poem is about an early part of the story – the magical oath Baldur’s mother Frigg makes with the world that nothing can harm him.
I’ve got a vague plan to write a (YA?) novel, a modern retelling of the Baldur myth; it would be a modern retelling focus on the relationship between the two brothers in the story (rather than this poem’s focus on on the mother). Still in note form at the moment, I’ll get to it one day.
Meanwhile, while I’m writing about mothers…
The Death of Baldur
When Baldur, her first child, is born,
Frigg’s world collapses to a point,
As if her vision telescopes upon
The locus of his cranium,
Its forty-four new interlocking bones
A half-baked bowl of too-thin clay.
In Baldur’s sapling limbs she sees
Fractures, falls from high green trees,
His taut-drummed chest of asthma whispers,
While the perfection of his skin warns
Of a cut, admitting tetanus or worse.
So they rush in, her fears: the bead,
The button, the rash still visible
Through glass; too much salt, too much sugar
Too much fat; the speeding car, the mad dog,
The bad man.
But she was fierce then, Frigg, and strong,
It was her will that brought it off.
She gathers all the forces of the earth
And at the snapping of her fingers,
Makes them swear an oath:
No being in this world, alive or dead,
Neither beast, nor man, nor stone, nor gun,
Neither blade, nor bacillus shall harm one hair,
Nor viral strand infect one cell,
No fire shall burn him, nor bathwater scald,
No cord shall choke, nor soft pillow smother,
Even the waffled blanket, baby blue,
Frigg orders her infant ne’er to overheat,
And the rough grey gravel she compels
His knees to leave ungrazed.
So every being, every silent rock is solemn,
Eyes downcast, at Frigg’s entreaty;
The asteroid alters its long-held course.
Even the ancient sun averts
The full strength of its UV gaze
From Baldur’s rose-white skin.