by Kyle Muntz
They strung him up, stowed on the balcony,
and beat him with sticks, and beat him with rocks,
and bent his muscles, and bared his insides,
They taunted, “We shall teach you the meaning
of being a man.” Beyond the rafters,
men crowded in many large groups.
They drank blood drained from children,
they drank the rain of distant countries,
they spat bits of spawned children,
they sang fragments of songs the world
had already forgotten. Across the hall,
small animals scurried, breadcrumbs
between their teeth. Blasted by wind,
thunder sheered the clouds. Thousands of miles
away, mountains woke. Hillsides
began to walk, bringing with them
the mountain paths, the many outlying
trees. Beowulf looked towards his innards:
towards soup. To be a man
is to be soup, to be a goat,
to be a sheep, to be an ox,
to be string, to be cattle,
to be an axe, to be wolves,
to be the reek of black dung
in the stables in the evening.
The children have crossed inside it.
Wind settles, winding the fields,
dew hovers, dappling the leaves,
thoughts shiver through darkness,
the hours shuffle, the hour turns,
the calf bleeds, the cart breaks,
the man shits, the man dies,
the boy dies, the boy fails,
the flower curls, the fields cool,
the stove cools, the steel hardens,
and flies settle fitly the remains (of the battlefield).
This, Beowulf thinks, this is the truth
of being a man, to be a life,
a sprouting limb, a scavenging beast,
to die like a wolf, to die like a dog.
I die right now: a dog. There is
no God, there was never a God,
never a battle, never a monster.
He feels a tree fall in the center
of a forest. He imagines for a moment
the animals in their dens. All of them
would eat him, they would. A small
child spits in his face. Children pelt him
with rocks. A girl rears her arms.
Her face is small, her figure is thin.
She crushes him like a crass boulder,
dropped heavily down the rocks.
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Second (mostly final) version. This was an assignment for a literature class; actually working with the verse turned out to be really interesting.