Longlisted Poem 2012

Peter Ratter

Brae High School, Shetland

Hjaltland

From the rattle of rivets, forged from raw iron,
past sunset they sing, sailing southwards swiftly,

travelling in bleached timber. Torvik orders them onwards
as their ship nears the shoreline, sifting a thousand salty eyes.

Lightning unlatches the boom, berserkers bustling and burning;
cinders singe the sail, embers kiss the keel.

The watchman warns of a wave-rider, rushed under ocean.
The vessel sinks and smoulders, swallowed by sea-swell.

Torvik tussles between tides, iced-eyes stare skyward;
some descend into darkness, drowning in gusts of shadow.

Awash on a beach, axes strewn across a sliver of sand,
survivors venture towards Torvik, slathered in moonlight.

Strangers stride beside them, coursing through corpses;
they ooze of innocence, slow and slender and crooked,

and glow in the gloom, guiding Torvik’s tide-crawlers,
like wavering wisps, grass looming under leather.

Darkness deludes the horizon, hills smothered in dawn;
sky-flame mumbles above, where blackened ashes seep.

Around an orifice of fire, Torvik observes the lupine villagers:
steadings of stone undaunted, glowering women in their wake;

locales cleared for sailors, silence sought by the native leader;
the crowd stumbles still, before warriors raw and restless,

before brandished blades, black and belligerent,
iron rising to rupture bone, bodies bludgeoned, bespattered.

Then Torvik spies his sword: the bloody hilt and haft
like his new homeland, honoured with the name ‘Hjaltland!’
© Peter Ratter

Project Details

  • Date January 9, 2015
  • Tags 2012 Voyages - Longlisted Poems