Askeladden’s Conversation With Death
Askeladden meets a flaneur
one afternoon, on the boulevard.
Silk scarf, hat on three silver hairs,
he nudges the chestnut husks aside
with his polished toe like a new conker.
Askeladden returns his nod
and says, have we met? You seem a stranger.
I always do, says the rustling voice,
dry as dead leaves. My name is Walker,
yours will be, soon. A pretty pass
for most, but our lad’s not lost for an answer.
Askeladden, he smiles and says,
you think a man can be gone for ever?
Don’t hold your breath. As long as a story
can hold a name, folk will remember:
you can’t get rid of the likes of me,
for I’m a need, a luck-piece, a lure.
I am the green sycamore key
that seeds in the mind, unlocks adventure.
I’m like the grapes that are crushed and trodden:
taste the good wine and I’ll be there.
A name comes round in the ballad’s burden,
barley leaps up in the field each year,
and I’ll be back, says Askeladden.