HYNGRAN(after Beowulf) by Oliver Smith


She has scimitar claws like a tiger mother.
She has the iron teeth of a dragon mother.
She has the swollen belly of a wolfish mother.
Cold Grendel sleeps on the poor lake bed
entangled in mother’s pale-green gluttony:
six swans, five ducks, four fish and three dead
Danes lie under azure ice; Mother Hunger scolds.
Mother Hunger holds him in her black-as-blood eyes.
“Cruel child,” She says, “do you want me to starve?”
Her slick lips shine grey with a warrior’s grease;
her teeth still chew on a too-tender heart.

He doesn’t like Mother in a hungry way.
He doesn’t like her raw, bloodthirsty way.
He doesn’t like her gory, greedy way.
Fathoms deep swimming with the fishes
at his heels hang the scavenging eels .
With Mother Hunger insatiable, food stocks diminish:
On the hunt, he rises like breath’s silver bubble
from the dark cold depths: his small store
of hard won bacon was stolen by pike!
With food thieved by fish he will have to feed her
on tough old Jarls. Not what Mother Hunger likes.

She says, “Could you find yourself a nice girl?
Marry and bring her home to Mother, the girl?
She could make us a roast dinner, your nice girl.”
He knows Mother Hunger would eat her up.
She only keeps him to bring home the Danish.
He could be vegetarian, but Mother Hunger loves
the Geats; eats them tail to toes, nose to feet.
He would rather grow green cabbages
or, if only Mother Hunger would eat them, catch fish;
but Mother Hunger will only have meat.
So he slices, cooks, and carves his way deeper into myth.

Oliver is inspired by the landscapes of Max Ernst, by frenzied rocks towering in the air above the silent swamp, by the strange poetry of machines, by something hidden in the nothing. His poetry has appeared in ‘Abyss & Apex’, ‘Liminality’, ‘Rivet’, ‘Strange Horizons’, and ‘Sylvia Magazine’. His poem ‘Better Living through Witchcraft’ was awarded first place in the BSFS 2019 competition and ‘Lost Palace, Lighted Tracks’, which appeared in ‘Eye to the Telescope’ 32, was nominated for the 2020 Pushcart Prize. In 2020 Oliver was awarded a PhD in Literary and Critical Studies by the University of Gloucestershire.
His website is at https://oliversimonsmithwriter.wordpress.com/

Published 5/6/21

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