Beowulf in Hell (in Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse)

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.