Selected Poems from "Hidden Gazes:" Feminist Reimaginings of the Old English text "Wonders of the East"


The following poems are taken from a larger collection I composed as a creative expansion to my "academic" work on the Old English text Wonders of the East. This text is a part of the more famous Beowulf manuscript, which you can read more about here: https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/beowulf. However, you don't need to be an expert on Old English/ early medieval literature to read these poems. Wonders of the East was only one of many inspirations for these pieces. They are, above almost anything else, deeply influenced by my personal feminist roots. They are stories about the people who inhabit the margins of texts, the peripheries of lands, the outer edges of imagination. I draw strength from these people's resilience and survival. My deepest gratitude to them and all those who have fought the good fight before us. 



The saintly and savage Cynocephali[1]

Call me what you will: Opener of ways,
protector of tombs, patron saint of safe travels.
Only I know my true name, and I’ve devoured it.

I watched you tear my desert to pieces, scatter
shattered remains to the winds. I laid dormant,
waiting. But you knew in your guts I would return.

Now, I am here to show you what fire can do to human flesh
and human bones. I will carve you apart, rip your heart
from your chest and build a temple from mixed sand

and blood. Then I’ll burn your head like a prayer,
eat your body up.





A Donestrarian Abecedarian[2]

After all, even I surrendered to my
broken heart. Learn from my mistakes; he
came from a place west of the setting sun.
Do not ask me to remember the name.
Each one sounds exactly the same. He
fingered soft skin beneath my kneecaps, drew
ghostly echoes of the shoreline along my skull.
Hi cunnon eall mennisc gereord.                                                                 They know all human speech.                                            
I whispered dark magic as our teeth clacked like
jewels too long in the dirt. In the moon shine, we 
kissed, filled silence with fleshly embraces. Our 
lips and tongues sprouted blood flowers on pale skin. 
Mid leaslicum wordum hine beswicað.                                     With lying words they beguile him.
No more lies. They may call me monster, cannibal
or Lilith’s little sister. But I am more than they know.
Þan hi hine fretað ealne butan his heafde.                After, they eat him all up except for the head.
Queen of fire, golden maned monarch of good will.
Remember my face when they paint it in carnage.
Sittað wepað ofer dam heafde.                                                      They sit and weep over the head.
The truth: I loved him like a lantern loves light. Please
understand. He eclipsed me, left me no choice. So, I
vocalized my grief in a blaze of violent words turned
violet gestures, until he breathed his last breath. Every
xquisite love song ends with death. Save yourself.

You may judge me, but I do not belong in your literary
zoo. There is no language for this, for me, for you.



After a Thousand Years

Her crested head brushes bright the sun,
kindles fate with a cinnamon sigh.
This is the end of all ends, the beginning
of time. She prunes plum plumes and weeps.

She kindles fate with a cinnamon sigh,
nestles into the layers she’s made
of time. She prunes plum plumes and weeps.
Tears fall like balsam from wounded bark.

She nestles into the layers she’s made
of perfumed myrrh and spikes of nard; a home.
Her tears fall like balsam from wounded bark
as she rises from the embers of ashen pasts.

Perfumed myrrh and spikes of nard; a home. 
This is the end of all ends, the beginning.
She rises from the embers of ashen pasts,
her crested head brushing bright the sun.


 Image result for early medieval phoenix


Dance of the Pleiades

“And there are two lakes there, one of the sun and the other of the moon. The sun’s lake is hot in the day and cold at night, and the moon’s lake is hot at night and cold in the day” – Andy Orchard (195).

I sit on a bed of twin lakes
and trace lines of thyme through hallowed
ripples widening to waves. On my left, the sun
swims laps around its reflection, while the moon
swirls shadows on my right. It’s twilight – both pools
are the exact temperature of a human tongue, wrapped tight
with lucent words. The sky is a bruise deepening into an absence
of stars. I sit and splash, left – right – left – right. In a few hours,
the night waters will boil the skin of my right foot, chill the left frostbit cold.

I wait to die by the loveless hands of seven sisters
dancing the heavens sore.

Image result for pleiades




An Almost Elegy

“He killed them because he could not capture them alive, because they have offensive and disgusting bodies” – Andy Orchard (201).

Rage eclipses my grief like a blood moon. My heart
pops poppies of wrath into bloom, keeping rhythm
with your underground chants. If I could, I would
unbury you, cook you in the kiln of my stomach
and burn breath back into your bodies. Then
together we could revive him,
just to kill that devil twice.

Instead, I wear your memory on my skin
like a blistered brand of vengeance.


 Image result for wonders of the east


By: Brittany L 



[1] “The Saintly and Savage Cynocephali: Complex Lives of the Monster Dogs.” EsoterX, 30 Dec. 2012, esoterx.com/2012/12/30/the-saintly-and-savage-cynocephali-complex-lives-of-the-monster-dogs/.

Cynocephali are noted in cultures around the world. They have human bodies and dog heads. Some of the most famous Cynocephalus include the Egyptian god Anubis and early Eastern Orthodox depictions of St. Christopher.

[2] Orchard, Andy. Pride and Prodigies: Studies in the Monsters of the Beowulf-Manuscript. Cambridge: D.S Brewer, 1995.

The Donestre are the inhabitants of an unnamed island in the Red Sea. They speak all human languages and use this skill to seduce and then consume humans. An abecedarian is a type of poem arranged alphabetically, where the first line begins with an “A” and the last a “Z.”

[3] Orchard, Andy. Pride and Prodigies: Studies in the Monsters of the Beowulf-Manuscript. Cambridge: D.S Brewer, 1995.

Orchard translates this as “black men,” but it can also be translated as “dark men.”  

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