The Golden Bough

by Annette Marie Hyder

“I beheld fate looming for Balder,
Wooden’s son,
the bloody victim.”

If it’s true that I took my soul
and put it into an external object
for cherishing and safekeeping,
it is also true that this protection
has grown tusked
bars, has kept me half alive
and never free.

“There stands the mistletoe
slender and delicate,
blooming high above the ground.”

In Winter, mistletoe stays green
against the leafless oak
and grows not from the ground
but perches, like a verdant soul
upon the branches of the tree.

“Hod shall shoot it, but Friga
in Fen-hall, shall weep over
the woe of Wal-hall.”

The very sprig of my vitality
blindly (is love always blind?)
let loose against me
unstrings my heart
which crumbles golden
like withered mistletoe.

And mistletoe is ever harvested
in this way, situated between heaven
and earth, never allowed to touch the ground
but cut by pith scythe and caught on white cloth.

Weave for me a crown of thorns,
green flowers, white berries, cloven
from the golden bough that grows
on soul’s-desire tree–
weep amber tears and kiss
in remembrance of me.
From “The Real Reason the Queen Hated Snow (and Other Stories)”

Note: quoted portions one, two, and three are from the Elder Edda: Voluspa, in which the Norse Sibyl sees and describes the tale of the mistletoe.