Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

The Gokstadt Ship

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

The Gokstadt Ship

Article excerpt

Viking Ship Museum, Oslo

I can imagine you on it. The museum placard

declares it able fit for dozens

with a keel spine longer than these other boats

combined. Under sail, its oar holes could be snapped

closed, sealed by sliding flags of oak.

I can imagine us both on it. It's black.

Night-hooded from time or swabbings of tar, thick fillips

of dark wax? We are both on it,

We are both watching ourselves make love on it.

The clench nails thick as men's thumbs, one

for each inch of plank. No embellishments

beside the enormous scything upward stempost,

parrel-clipped mast-staff ensconced in rings;

whale-bellied, purse-sleek, only the slightest fin-

like boss to suggest the boat, beached in concrete, could sail.

You push me up against its rails. I push you on your back. I lied:

there are embellishments: one rudder steeled

with recessed heads, a dragon-headed hasp.

This was not a pleasure craft. The entire thing

was built for death: here's the burial chamber raised

like a bed on deck. My skirt falls. You part my legs

With your mouth. I can feel your teeth

And breath. For 24 hours, the crew both rowed

and bailed, operated sail and leechlines and steered.

There is no evidence food was cooked on board. You tug

my hair in one white fist. You move too fast. I think I smell her

woven into your neck, the sweat of your back.

The yarn-spun sail, unfurled, let the craft reach twelve knots.

It would have been enormous. …

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