Dying and Rising in the Kalevala*

While reading in the Kalevala about the swan
of Tuonela, and Lemminkainen’s mother
and what she did, a shout went out from me
toward what or whom I cannot say.

Hacked into pieces by the son of Tuoni,
who threw the eight parts of Lemminkainen
into the river, here came his mother, carrying
a rake of iron forged by Ilmarainen. With it

she raked the reaches of Tuonela’s river until
she recovered all the fragments of her slain son.
Bones fitted, she chanted a magical song
for weaving of veins, for stitching of sinew

and flesh. Still no breath. She sent the prophetic
bee to gather salve from Jumala’s** pots. Rubbed
on his body, it would raise her son from dreams
of evil to life and speech. A mother defying

the story as told by someone else, she would
save her son from powers that bade him ill.
Her name Lempi, her action her identity as
Lemminkainen’s mother whose love prevailed.

* Finnish epic
** God

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