laugardagur, september 30, 2006

að hausta

Tekið að hausta. It's beginning to be autumn. Or, if you like, fall. Haust can be a verb in Icelandic---hausta---to be getting into fall. Falling, maybe.

It is a harvest word. I seem to remember that the root has to do with gathering-in, but I should check up on that. It is a gathering, of course, of whatever fruits of the summer will stand salting or drying or lagering in cellars, whichever of them can sustain us through the coming cold months.

(Here it is a harvest of yellow and brown leaves, a few frantic moths caught between the screens and the storm windows, and a leak in the kitchen ceiling. I doubt these will be of much use.)

I rather like the idea of it being, also, falling, though it is not the cheeriest thought.

fimmtudagur, september 28, 2006


Make your bed. Lie in it. Wonder, staring at the ceiling, if the sharp corners at the foot that you neglected to have rounded off have any symbolic significance. Reconcile yourself to barking your shins on them in the middle of the night, starting the day already bruised.

miðvikudagur, september 27, 2006


Every night now she unplaits her hair before sleep. It rests on the pillows behind and above her head. Quite possibly, it gleams in the dark. The strands curl around her dreams.

One night in sleep she descends into the sea and into the house of the Mother of Sea-Beasts, She is not a sea-beast herself, but she wants to give her honor, and so she says, Greetings, Mother. The Mother of Sea-Beasts receives that honor courteously and says, Greetings, daughter.

She sees that hair of the Mother of Sea-Beasts lies on her breasts in two thick plaits woven with ornaments of ivory and bone. You hair is very fine, Mother, she says. She says, One of my lovers has newly visited me, and he combed and and ornamented my hair. And she pats one of the braids with her fingerless hand.

The Mother of Sea-Beasts sees that her guest's hair floats about her head in the water. She asks, Has no one visited you, Daughter, and combed your hair for you? She answers, When I have a lover, if my hair is not in plaits, it will wind around his neck. For that reason I go to bed with my hair braided. When I do not have a lover, I have it combed and loose upon the pillow. The Mother of Sea-Beasts asks, And do you comb and plait your own hair, Daughter? Yes, Mother, she says. I do.

Then she swims upward and wakes in her own bed with her hair upon the pillows.

mánudagur, september 25, 2006


I hear the summer has been unusually dry in Finland. No mushrooms. Few berries. Your suddenly middle-aged Finnish mother (you know, that one) claps her hands together and bewails the scarcity of homemade preserves that must inevitably follow. The bears are hungry, sniffing about the bushes that have always offered forth tiny, sweet berries, their black lips and snouts finding nothing on the branches and under the leaves.

Here I have a few mushrooms, chased around a sautee pan, peppered, and spread over some pasta. I don't imagine they will be enough to get me through the winter either.

föstudagur, september 22, 2006


I know no other name for the color of the flesh of the canteloupe but melon. This is not true of all melons. The honeydew is green and yellow. So, I think, is the galia. The canary is nearly white. The charentais is the same color as the canteloupe, which is interesting, but brings us no closer to an independent name for that color.

It is not even, as things are sometimes described in English, flesh-colored. This is perhaps the most short-sighted and racist color term of them all. Flesh---actual flesh and not skin of any shade---that is to say meat, kjöt, is of course red. At least the proverbial weak flesh (as opposed to chicken, frogs, crab) is red. That we can all agree on. The color of people beneath the skin is a great human commonality.

But the flesh, the kjöt, of the canteloupe on my kitchen table is not meat-colored either. It is still that creamy-seeming orange-yellow-pink called melon. It is a few days old, though.; biting into it, I am reminded against my will of flesh.

fimmtudagur, september 21, 2006


She wonders if all highways are the same at that moment in the evening when the clouds go chalky black but the sky is still blue, barely.

Once that moment was hours long in a fading summer, driving against the sun (against the stars, the moon) from Mývatn to Reykjavík. The clouds were black, but the sky, here and there, was a faded aquamarine. She could feel, out in the darkness to her right, the Vestfirðir passing like a spoke. The car was still and the black earth turned under its wheels like a great, flat disk.

No, that is wrong: the wheels of the car turned the disk of the earth, like the tread of a pit pony turning the wheel that drives the bellows that pumps the air to the miners, deep in a yet blacker night below.

miðvikudagur, september 20, 2006


Svefn. Sofa. Hún sefur; Hún svaf; Hún er sofandi.

Draumur. Dreyma. Hana dreymdi í nótt.

She no longer seems to sleep through the night, but dreams continue to dream her.

þriðjudagur, september 19, 2006

við veginn

After hour upon hour of numbering, sorting, and coallating version after version of The Vanishing Hitchhiker, La Llorona, and countless narratives of white ladies and ghost dogs, she calls it a day. The sun has gone down. It is raining. Pouring. She has no umbrella and no raincoat. She didn't drive in that morning, but walked. Nothing for it: homeward on foot. She splashes through curbside puddles, and no one stops to offer her a lift.

föstudagur, september 15, 2006


Little bird on the walk like a wee tubby businessman: sooty black overcoat, neat gray suit, white shirt (pressed cuffs poking out), and a cheery yellow tie. I am suddenly so sorry that I do not know your name or what to call you, little thing, there on the pavement with your head smashed open.


In African-American folklore, dog ghosts sometimes appear in personal narratives. The figure seems to be peculiar to that specific ethnic tradition. Dog ghosts are generally benign and even helpful. I learned this only a little while ago.

miðvikudagur, september 13, 2006


I thought it was sad that Pluto, having been reclassified as something not a planet, should lose its name. But maybe it is worse for its moons, Charon, Nix, and Hydra. Charon got its name in 1978, recently enough, but the other two were discovered and christened only in 2005. How sad to have a name for only a year!

Charon was of course a psychopomp, the boatman who ferried souls to Hades, realm of the dead. Hydra, too, was a guardian of an entrance to the underworld at Lake Lerna. Nix (an alternate spelling of Nyx) was Night, the mother of Charon. Mothers ferry souls into the world of the living, but perhaps Night -- the realm of sleep, and sleep being so close to death -- perhaps Night also stood before the land of the dead, if not as a guard then as a watchman.

Somewhere I read that the first thing the souls of the dead lose while crossing in Charon's boat is their names. I do not remember where I read it.

sunnudagur, september 03, 2006


Barking dogs. How did that happen? Wolves don't bark. How did that start? Was it territorial? A result of competition for the scraps around human habitation that the earliest dogs scrabbled for and ate? Is the bark at base: "My garbage! Mine! Mine! Mine!"

Or is it (and this is a fertile idea) an imitation of human speech? Is it a mimicking of people yelling at those same dogs? "Get out of there! Get! Get! Get!"

föstudagur, september 01, 2006

with spots of fresh rain on his shoulders

Along and over the Mohawk. Onward, onward. I don't find that the road hypnotizes or lulls me to sleep. That's good, of course. But it's eerie the way the rest stops are identical always, differentiated only by the name of the local county. All of them are Native American names. Oneida or Cayuga or others. Even the squalling kids and the parents wolfing down Sbarro pizza seem identical from one to the other.


I saw hundreds of crows on the way here.

Hundreds? That must have been impressive ... a flock of 200, 300 crows, all black and wheeling around and cawing.

No, no ... not a flock. Just one crow at a time, by the wayside. Sometimes two. No more than that. You see a black bird stepping along in the grass, and you think, 'oh look, a crow,' and you don't think much of it. And you don't think much about any of the other crows you see, either. But hours later, you realize you've seen hundreds of crows that day.


There was an old radio show. I had a tape of it. It wasn't the Twilight Zone, I think, but it was something like that. The Inner Sanctum, maybe. I don't remember. There was a 40-minute episode in which a man driving cross country sees a hitchhiker while leaving his hometown: a man in a tan raincoat, the first drops of the incoming shower visible on his shoulders. He drives on, taking the old Route 66. Every hundred miles or so he sees him again. Always he is dressed the same way, and always, even in the middle of the southwestern desert, there are spots of fresh rain on his shoulders.
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