In Search of a North Countrie

by on Oct 4, 2011 in Poetry | 2 comments

by Amal El-Mohtar

for Caitlyn Paxson and Jessica P. Wick

North of the Trent, they say,
we give our eyes to ravens.
Where they fly, so do our looks,
and their hunger is our hunger,
and we feast on slain knights,
their would-be brides
with their bellies full of children.

Is this a knife I see before me?

North of the Trent, they say,
we are a hard and hardened lot;
we cut stone with our teeth.
Our women thread needles
with nettles, sew us shirts,
and we never feel the itch.

Is this a knife I see before me?

North of the Trent, they say,
we break bodies into instruments,
bend breastbones into harps – and know
that harps are never strung with hair,
but scraped and scoured gut.

Is this a knife I see before me?

Who can say? Who, but you,
blithe river-forder, seeking adventure,
seeking giants to cut down like ripe bean stalks,
with your weak and whimpering wit?
Stories drew you—a desire
to draw yourself in story. Well.
North of the Trent, I say,
we are known for hospitality. Let us see
if we may not yet find you a place
among the beaks of our ravens,
the roots of our nettles,
the frames of our sturdy harps.

More from Amal El-Mohtar:

Amal El-Mohtar is an Ottawa-born child of the Mediterranean, currently pursuing a PhD in English literature at the Cornwall campus of the University of Exeter, sharpening her quills for the hunt. Her short story, “The Green Book,” was recently nominated for a Nebula Award. She is the author of The Honey Month, a collection of poetry and prose written to the taste of 28 different kinds of honey, and is the winner of the 2009 and 2011 Rhysling Award (both times for Best Short Poem). Her work has appeared in many print and online venues, including The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities. She also co-edits Goblin Fruit, an online quarterly dedicated to fantastical poetry, with Jessica P. Wick, and keeps a blog somewhat tidy at Voices on the Midnight Air.


  1. I just lurve all your words.

  2. Gorgeous, and full of rich thoughts.

    Now to read it again, more slowly…


  1. Catch-All Award Eligibility Post: Nebula, Rhysling, Hugo | Amal El-Mohtar - [...] “In Search of a North Countrie,” in Apex [...]
  2. The Green Book | Apex Magazine - […] In Search of a North Countrie […]
  3. Turning the Leaves | Apex Magazine - […] In Search of a North Countrie […]

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