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Ode to My Heart Book 

                              Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

Where are you? Norway, always Norway.
No, not now—Norway in the Middle Ages.
1,124 pages and more than forty audio hours of sinners
And saints.
Flowers fill the mountain pastures—fireweed.
She is in my neurons, my marrow, Kristin.

On my walks, reading before bed: Kristin.
On my bathroom shelf: a tchotchke resembling Norway.
Any unknown weed in my yard? Must be fireweed.
Is this what happens when you reach middle age?
Drained from seeking to be a saint
I snuggle with my favorite sinner.

More passions than outright sins
(Usually). She does have blood on her hands, Kristin.
Should she follow Brother Edvin, monk turned saint?
Should she flee to Sweden, leave her beloved Norway?
Travel took so long in the Middle Ages—
You had to wait till it was warm enough for fireweed.

It blossoms after fire: fireweed,
Covers the cracks and burned spots of sin.
It had healing power in the Middle Ages.
Spread its red tassles and gold seeds, like Kristin.
The invasive weed of Northern Norway,
feeding reindeer. Its appearance almost saintly.

I can no longer find a saint
I wish to emulate. Give me fireweed:
The cuckoo’s arrow. Give me Norway.
Give me a woman grieved by sin
Who never stops sinning. Give me Kristin.
Settle me in her Middle Ages.

I found her story in my own middle age.
I’ve read it six times. Does that make me a saint?
Started my seventh time through. Kristin, Kristin, Kristin.
If my life came down to one night, would I become fireweed?
Would I heed Fru Aashild, that witch, that old sinner?
Would I oppose Hel for the sake of Norway?

In the Middle Ages, elves and trolls hid near fireweed.
The unseen world of sinners and the unseen world of saints
rested side by side for Kristin, for me, so far from Norway.

— Megan Willomeauthor of The Joy of Poetry

This combination sestina-ode is offered as part of our April theme:
Fabulous Forms

All poems, art, and photos are public domain, creative commons, or used by permission of author or publisher. Photo by L.C. Nøttaasen, via Flickr.

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