Singing of Beowulf

For we would fuck with Grendel, lie with him in the long wheat on mid-summer's nights.
Hold him with our arms outstretched above our bodies, the deeper to take him in. And in
our eyes the moon rose red as the blood our men shed far across the sea.

Afterwards, alone again, we lay bathed in half-light as mice scurried past our ears, rustling
over and under each twisted stalk that made our bed.

Longing for the monster soaked the sheets of our beds, drove us out into the night. All of us,
old and new, virgin and seasoned wife. All of us save the queen, locked behind the wooden
staves, her moans urging us on. We knew she dreamed of Grendel.

When our husbands returned with gold circlets for our arms and highborn slave women for their
pleasure, we brought them drink fermented from grain nourished with the juice of our bodies.
We bound their wounds and sang their praises and warmed them through the long winter's night.
And watched and watched as they drank and grew weak.

Poor substitute for Grendel were they. And we, poor substitute for war. And when they were
gone again, their slave girls sickened and died of the cold of our fields, the ice of our rivers, or a cord
slipped about their necks. Their bodies sank soft into the bog and made the peat smoke sweet.

If we had known, we would have had the men join them.

It would have continued had not the maiden Wulguld forgot to strain the mead she used to wash her womb.
She hid her belly, round and tense, all that summer season. Had we known what would result, we would
have thought to kill her, though she was well loved. For we were fierce with lust.

And when the men returned,  she bore a babe, deformed, with feet turned and cloven, mouth cleft like
a hare's. A monster, Hrothgar the king declared; monster must from monster come, and Wulguld was
fair. And the king remembered through the haze of drink that we belonged to them, and so he called on
Beowulf, son of Edgtheow.

They will sing of Beowulf for ages, rejoice in his victories in the mead-hall. But we will walk among the
mead-seats, passing cups heavy with gold and powerless honeyed drink. And over the years, we shall
become pale and still, our tears unnoticed by the heroes.

And we will never cease to lust for the beast.

Copyright © 2000
Judith Beck