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Nidhogg -- poetry by Zhihui Zou

Born from the same flesh, fed by the same tree,

The gods, giants, humans, elves, dwarves sing—

While he curls into the small space beneath the nine worlds, alone.

He cannot fight back, for not even Odin can defy the Fates,

Even if his scales are impenetrable and his fire melts metal.

His squirrel, Ratatosk, is not a loyal friend,

For he eats his limbs and the tree’s alike—

The four stags are no use, too, for the leaves taste better than friendship.

Being restrained beneath Yggdrasil is his fate;

Gnawing the great tree’s roots is his life.

In the finite stretch of time,

Loneliness adds to his fire—

Isolation sharpens his claws.

By the time he reappears,

He realizes that he is feared by everyone.

Everyone is his enemy:

Gods, giants, humans, elves, dwarves—

For they had listened to the Fates at the beginning of time.

He is the ghost appearing in their nightmares;

He is the monster haunting their worlds.

He does not lose a fight;

He does not spare a soul—

Ragnarok is the name of his loneliness.

His only companion

Is his eternal and unparalleled power.


Zhihui Zou lives in Southern California. He has published a sports novel, and his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Short Fiction Break, Heavy Feather Review, Melbourne Culture Corner, Lanke Review, and elsewhere. He is also an editor at Revolutionary Press. During weekends he likes to play tennis with his friends.

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