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POETRY / The Revenant's Homecoming / Yolanda Barton

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Burn the pillows and reduce his bed

From the double spread of ferns and reeds

To a single, emphasising with apology

That there is no longer room for him,

But that also, nobody has replaced his drunk approaches.

Cut the turf of the wall. Don’t take him out

Through the door. What leaves that way

Can also come back. Now the corpse is through; seal the gap.

His fingers are stiffening; give him his axe.

I’d recommend closing his eyes; his glare

Is unsettling, his lips as blue as the iris now,

But also, those eyes seem - well, you must have noticed -

To follow you about. And whoever thought to take

His best cloak, they’ve done so at their risk.

It’s a poor stroke of luck that the summer night,

Bright as daylight, can’t give him the hint to sleep.

If he had passed on in winter, the ground might keep

His bones, and maybe more than that, since he left

With business unfinished, and his fish-cold glower

Wouldn’t have been welcome in Odin’s high mead-hall.

The first few months are the dangerous time. 

Do not open the door at dusk, do not welcome hooded strangers.

If livestock wander at night, do not search; trust the Gods.

Never follow a dark shadow by the burial mounds. 

Double the rocks that lie above him. 

Hack his name from the runestone at the farm’s furthest gate.


Yolanda Barton is a poet based in Reading City, England, and formerly in Oxfordshire, Nottingham, Taiwan and South Korea. She has formerly been published by Blue Hour, Snow Leopard and in Nothing Books' 'Further into Darkness and Light' anthology, as well as winning Wax Poetry's 'Humorous Poet of the Month' contest for May 2018. When not working or writing, she enjoys aikido, ale, art, metal and caring for her geriatric and angry pet hamster.