Friday, February 18, 2011

Chooser of the Slain

Fio proudly presents "Chooser of the Slain" by friend Gary Brandt.

The battle is over
I lie here, amongst the others, in a river of blood
Darkness surrounds me but still I see
A woman approaching atop a white steed
She carries a lance, a raven on her shoulder
A swan by her side, her hair billowing in the breeze
Circling the battlefield looking for one to set free
Choose me, Valkyrie, choose me

In eight sparse lines, Gary moves from an objective, impersonal description to a desperate emotional plea. The poem is simple, stark, and powerful.

"The battle is over" sets the scene. Then we zoom in on the first-person narrator, whom we immediately identify with. Our involvement with him deepens as we survey the the bloody battlefield and learn he is mortally wounded ("Darkness surrounds me").

"But still I see" opens the second part of the poem--the hope. We know his "light" is not yet extinguished because he is able to see a woman riding a white horse checking out the battlefield. (White, of course, symbolizes goodness). The woman carries a lance--a warrior woman! And there's a raven on her shoulder--Odin must be involved. A swan accompanies her--Odin's daughters were often referred to as "swan maidens." Her hair billows in the breeze--she's traveling supernaturally fast.

Now we get to the third part of the poem--why the woman is here. She's circling the battlefield "looking for one to set free," one who is worthy of Valhalla.

The last line of the poem gives Fio shivers as she reads it because the man, whom we have totally identified with, puts two and two together and recognizes the woman as a Valkyrie, which means he is dying. Thus his final plea is not just his, but ours.