Post Road Magazine #29

The Conversion of the Vikings

Mark Jarman

One year they're killing monks on eye-white beaches.
The next they're setting up as lifeguards there.
One year they plunder reliquary jewels.
The next they're building churches for their plunder.

And centuries ahead a quiet life
is enjoyed by landscape painters, their descendants,
who peer out in a friendly way from shop doors,
worried by weather that hangs on too long.

What made them all repent?  Some kind of magic
that filled their sails or cured a fevered child?
A spell that may have risen from that blood
they spilled on beaches of crushed cockle shells?

And now they burrow in like cuttlefish,
wanting to be left alone by seawrack
and all those portents that they used to live by,
kill by, too. They met the faith of islands.

And it seduced them.  Or they seduced themselves
with silhouettes of landfall, pale blue accidents,
each promising a place to take and hold
for the world's untethered traveling murderers.


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