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Image: Bonfire, posted at Flickr by Lee Haywood under a Creative Commons License.

How close do you dare hold your feet to the fire, if you’ve already paid a ransom for your stride?

“After Selling Your Soul to the Trickster God” by Sara Norja is a segment of time, cleaved from the orange of the world, held to the reader’s gaze for an object lesson in payment, in consequence. The poem’s speaker has done precisely what the title says: a bargain has been met. The contract is already drawn up, and we meet the speaker on their last night of freedom. The present-tense second person in which the poem is told seems all the more urgent, since we know that tomorrow the trickster god comes knocking, her fingers curled in mandatory invitation. There’s no refusal when you’ve signed yourself into service.

Music and movement are the speaker’s last solaces before what nebulous, possibly grim future awaits. We aren’t told into what kind of service our speaker will be pressed, but we imagine it to be a world deprived of melody, constrained in range of motion. Why else reach with such plaintive need for the rough chords that gouge skin, the juddering dancers who twirl away? I like this poem because it has selected words and contexts with the care of someone performing last rites — and what could be more fitting? Finality is no less final when it’s speculative: you may doubt, for example, that the blue-skinned debt collector is the one foreclosing you, but you can’t contest that your house has been sold.

The poem also pays judicious attentions to movement and stillness: we see our speaker go from muscles burning and sweat rilling, to the stasis of an unforgiving earth, a binding bargain. This business of being god-sworn takes you close to the fire, but how you’re burned is up to you.

Read “After Selling Your Soul to the Trickster God” here.
Sara Norja’s poetry and fiction have appeared in multiple venues. Visit her website here.

bon voyage.jpgThis is the twentieth installment of Other Kinds of Men, a speculative poetry reader in honour of Ursula K. Le Guin. Speculative writing, which encompasses the major genres of mythology, fantasy and science fiction, has often given voice to the most relentless and ungovernable urgencies of this age, and any other. Le Guin understood this: that to write about dragons, ice worlds and other seeming oddities was, in fact, to write into the messy, riotous complexity of ourselves. Here’s to dragons, and here’s to Ursula.

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