Elf Counsel

Country of Origin: United Kingdom

One of a sequence presented at the Eisteddfod (a competitive festival of music and poetry centered in Wales, UK) for a local, bardic chair. Bardic is a pseudonym used in Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany by poets and other artists, and the chairs are both honorary titles and artisan-made, embellished wooden seats that are awarded to title holders. This poem is on the given theme of Flood. My poem dealt largely with the Viking invasion at the time of Alfred the Great.

Poised high the moon pools silhouettes
of hedgerows on the milky ground,
Alfred pulls his cloak around
steps out onto a reedy shore.

In his mind’s eye, the ponies of the Danes
the day they plunge into the flow,
Crack the ice, invade this island home.
He will re-make the chapel.

Midday is born in the middle night:
a candle quivers in the dark
on hen-scratched floors, in smoky barns
with waters rising to the hearth.

A woolen mitt goes to his sword.
Anglo-Saxon king, on his word,
he’ll touch a fire every holt,
shore up again Jerusalem.

He thinks of Dharma, God the Crane,
woken by a nearby dream, shaken
from the brakes, his ink-dipped wings
in wetlands known from India to Dorset.

Elf Counsel was his given name –
and he would make his son-in-law,
the outlaw chief, a Christian;
baptize him in the spring.

A Dane so young, his rings depleted,
unraveled by small token gifts
chain all eaten up, he would help him
raise their people from the mud.

Time gives to those who reckon
charity the road to heaven,
a sovereign so long ago
accepting all must pass.

Thank you to Tia Credle for their inspired edit on this piece and everyone else on the Fiction team.

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Dominic James, Glos UK, is widely published at home and abroad, soon with Dodging the Rain, Dreich Magazine and most recently with Pulsar. He follows poetry meetings up and down the Thames River Valley and has hosted events in his local town, Stroud. His work has been called atmospheric, warm and well-crafted. His second collection, Smudge, was published in 2022 by Littoral Press.

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