The Love Song of C. Suzanne Cooney
To Beowulf:
On Whom I Have
A Spectacular Crush

by C.S.E. Cooney

Beowulf was waiting (I will not say, "tamely")
With polite quiescence on my bookshelf
I didn't trust him
I thought him a Norse man's Hercules
Another Conan, a drunken killer

"Surely," I thought, "surely
Beowulf's been had
By everyone who would have him
My guilty interest will not add
To his glory
Besides -- I am not a man...
I won't understand him."

What have I to do with another hero?
Fair of face, rich in fame
Wrapped in olden gold
And bitter steel
Carrying a linden shield?

Beowulf, unexcited by my doubts
Invited me out swimming
Seven days at sea
We were salt-bare, joyous --
Nothing but our naked daggers
Gripped in wet fists

As in certain dreams,
I could breathe underwater
I thought this was a shark's trick
Like a merman's kiss
Before he drowns you

No, though -- Beowulf and I
With full lungs and underwater songs
Dispatched us
Some deep-sea villains
Seven, eight, nine
Down there in the brine
Before the ocean spat us out again

Had not I heard him laughing --
By moonlight
I might have thought him boastful
A braggart
Oh, but he surprised me
Not a liar, no, not at all
A prophet
A poet

His hands were so hard
They broke every sword
He carried into battle
Imagine him
Trying to wield a fountain pen!
Imagine what he did to men

After he tore off Grendel's arm
I grew complacent
"Top that, you great Geat!" I yawned
Replete with his heroics
I pondered that perhaps he'd end
In pettiness, downfall by betrayal
The machinations of a friend
I waited (I will not say, "tamely")
For treachery
That never came

Grendel's Mother

A word on women:
Aside from a few wise queens
Denmark, in those days, had a dearth of daughters
I felt quite exposed
Standing there
Dripping Ocean and offal,
Wearing no clothes
Until I realized only Beowulf
Could see me
And he was much too busy
For side commentary

He never expected to live through the morning
That is what he meant by glory

I gave him what comfort I could
Paltry efforts: let him sleep
Through Esher's vivisection and
Consequent consumption --

"Sleep, my Beowulf, sleep
Regain your waning strength
Lo, you will need it all
For tomorrow's battle
Your epic fight
Against the water witch
Bog bitch, were-hag, marsh-wolf
Terror of the Moors
My rival -- Grendel's Mother

"Sleep, sleep, my Beowulf
For indeed, she does look hungry
And I can't really blame her for eating
That Danish man
A girl's gotta do --
After all --
Whatever she can
For attention"

Drowning for a second time
With him
I sank more than swam
Into darkness...
Into the murk of...

Okay, I admit it:
Watching Beowulf wrestle
That female fiend
In her sub-lacunar boudoir
Turned me on a little
More so
Than his grapplings with Grendel did
In Hrothgar's Hall

Truth is, I envied that death waltz:
His hard hands
On her awkward furs
Their passionate grip
The way they grunted
Artifacts of giants
And a scarlet chandelier

Beowulf --
I am not fragile
It’s just -- I have few illusions
Our first kiss
Would have snapped my spine
In half
Your desire would have powdered me
Made diamonds of my bones

Beowulf --
To bed you
I'd require iron-plated thighs
A dragon's tongue, a dragon's molten sighs
To melt your skin of stone, make you realize --
By my side, on my couch --
You would never be alone
A whisper, flicker, flash of blood
Lash of tail, lick of chrome
Then, Beowulf, at last --

Then I'd call you home

The wit, whimsy and whatchamacallit of C.S.E. Cooney can be found in magazines and anthologies such as Subterranean Press, Doorways, Goblin Fruit, Killer Works, Hell in the Heartland and The Book of Dead Things. She recently won first place in Experimental Fiction from Columbia University (Scholastic Press Association.) The Arizona Women's Theatre has selected "Love Song to Beowulf" to be performed at the forthcoming Pandora Festival. (She still likes pomegranates and cranberries best.)

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