sunnudagur, desember 30, 2007


The web bursts with videos of dogs "talking," most of them proclaiming love to the world. I conclude from watching several of these not that dogs have the power of human speech (though I have no doubt that they love and love unashamedly), but that dog poetry must be syllabic and that spitzes are fine tenors.

laugardagur, desember 29, 2007


Should it surprise me that there are multiple Rip van Winkle's, each from a different age? This one is from 1896.

Maybe what is remarkable is merely that these images should resurface today, but that is the last thing that should surprise anyone.

miðvikudagur, desember 26, 2007


It was a nothing dark on the tarmac, a nowhere dark. The air contained nothing in particular, not even the shocking empty clarity I have seen elsewhere. I could see the baggage handlers, and then in the air, lights.

mánudagur, desember 24, 2007


Hastings, and a teenage boy in an orange shirt is running along the opposite platform with his arm outstretched, palm towards the train. Someone is on her way back to the city. I can seem him clearly as he flashes by under the platform lights. I cannot see her. She must be in my car, her face in one of the other windows, smiling back at him.

sunnudagur, desember 23, 2007


Charm me back! It is terrible barely being able to remember the timbre and rhythm of your voice. You used to howl around the corners of the house, even though it was a featureless, Soviet-seeming blokk. You used to call after me, I think. I didn't always answer, but I miss it now.

laugardagur, desember 22, 2007


Eastward, the sky is striped in narrow horizontal bands like I once saw in Denmark, but orange. And there is no bælt here. I miss the gray line of sea. There was one here once, the only trace today the wide invisible expanse of limestone underneath everything. Caves wind through it, I understand, where rainwater has bored its way downward and back in time. Still, I am having trouble working up any nostalgia.

miðvikudagur, desember 12, 2007


When they finally gutter out, a streamer of smoke suddenly rises: the white flag of surrender.

föstudagur, desember 07, 2007


Í mánaljósi á ís yfir malbiki ég reið,
skrikuðu hjólin á snarpasta skeið;
en viðsjált, viðsjált er á vetrardegi veginn að ríða.

Framhjólið spólaði, sporum fer úr,
spáði ég illu mér um þennan túr.
Því viðsjált, viðsjált er á vetrardegi veginn að ríða.

Snjókornin fauk yfir frostþakið golf;
fákurinn – andskotinn! – snerist á hvolf.
En viðsjált, viðsjált er á vetrardegi veginn að ríða.

Bið afsökunar, Grímur.

mánudagur, desember 03, 2007




laugardagur, desember 01, 2007


How did they smell? The warm, waxy, purple ink had a special smell. I can't quite bring it to mind, and that bothers me. Wasn't it a little bit sweet?

That machine was always called the mimeograph, but apparently it wasn't one. It seems that no particular smell attached to mimeographic technology. The old name must have carried over in common use. The warm machine with the rotating drum must have been what I have just learned is called a spirit duplicator. I can only imagine how that name would have worked on my younger imagination.

I remember being given the special treat of drawing on my own two-ply master, allowed the pleasure of seeing my thicket of curlicues and dragons and dog-headed figures reproduced -- even if only once -- in fuzzy aniline purple. Maybe, even in ignorance of the machine's proper name, I sensed that they were intangibly magnified with every turn of the spirit drum.

föstudagur, nóvember 30, 2007


Do laminating machines still exist? There was one in the supply closet, next to the mimeograph. (Mimeography! I'll resist the temptation to write about that now.) The fresh laminate had a weird, plastic smell, just as you'd expect it to. The laminated sheets came out warm and quasi-sticky. It was like running things through a steamroller that was also a toaster.

You were not restricted to paper. You could send through autumn leaves, new-fallen and red orange purple yellow with fingers of green still running down their veins. I liked the tri-colors. And the deep bluish-red ones. You could catch them under clear plastic like the first thin layer of ice on the pond. A sheet might contain eight of nine of them, and you'd take a scissors and cut carefully around the edges, leaving a half an inch of plastic all the way around.

It was an amazing thing: the corrupting air was kept out, and the leaves retained their brilliance for weeks, months, years. Is there still a box of them tucked away somewhere? I hope so. I'd like to see them again.

mánudagur, nóvember 19, 2007


Strategies for getting through the day may include rising late, lighting a candle, putting cream in the oatmeal, and/or donning whimsical socks. Mine are striped black and purple.

I just padded downstairs in them to the kitchen to throw together a salad full of garlic (this, also, might be helpful), and when I turned on the last step I saw that the candle had burned down and out. It bothered me, so I lit two more before coming back upstairs, black and purple, black and purple.

föstudagur, nóvember 16, 2007

þar, þá

Extraordinary place that was. Every house and wall was rust red native stone. The cold had burned the grass on the slope to the same color. The moss was green, though.

The fellward wind smelled of salt and the seaward wind of sheep on the heath. The calm smelled of coal smoke rising from every sandstone chimney. I had never been among fells before. Kills, yes, but not a landscape stamped with names like these:
  • Skafell
  • Wastwater
  • Seascale
  • Ravenglass
  • Eskdale
  • Wasdale
  • Spring Keld
  • Selly Hall
I've shown my tracks now, and you can go there too. I will try not to be jealous.

fimmtudagur, nóvember 15, 2007

í kránni

Oh, aye! Oh, aye!

Never before or since has anyone been so pleased to learn that I, too, knew the old Brythonic name of Kintyre: Pentir. The pen means "head" (oh, aye!), the same pen as in pendragon (just as you say!). Kintyre is a headland. Somewhere else it might have been a nes or, still elsewhere, a höfði.

He was a Scot from just that promontory of ancient Strathclyde. He spoke with rolling, hospitable burr even though he was not our host. That's a trick, that. He had come south for one week of winter to the northwest shoulder of England, old Norse land and not Danish.

He plied us with cider and whisky, and he did not spur the conversation forward but nudged it along with the gentlest pressure against its flank:

Oh aye! Just as you say!

mánudagur, nóvember 12, 2007


There's no lining, so the olive green wool is itchy on the inside, and it will catch on your clothing if you wear the wrong shirt. It's best to wear a scarf with it to keep the collar from rubbing a red line around your neck. If you believe the lettering on the inside, it was made in 1941 for issue to a serviceman in the Canadian Army. I can't imagine the soldier for whom it would have been meant. He would have to have been a very small man. It fits me perfectly.

I've worn pins on the left lapel and pocket for years, the same three for years. One is a flag. One is, by pure coincidence, a military insignia. One is a traditional quilting pattern done in enamel. It's time for me either to put a new one on or to take all the old ones off.

föstudagur, nóvember 09, 2007


I did not know there were any canids I did not know. (I understand that is how ignorance works.)

The Falkland Islands once boasted its own dog-like species, the warrah. More fox than wolf but still neither, it was observed by Europeans in the 17th century and variously named since. It has been the Antarctic Wolf and the Falkland Fox, and one Colonel Hamilton-Smith called it an Aquara in 1839. It became Dusicyon australis, the foolish southern dog, which sounds more like a Shakespearean insult than a scientific name. I think of the soft southern dogs of Steeleye Span's song about Robert the Bruce. I think of Henry V and "Pish for thee, Iceland Dog! thou prick-eared cur of Iceland!"

Now the warrah is no more.

This is too bad. I wonder if the warrah would not have liked to make the acquaintance of Iceland's only native prick-eared cur, the arctic fox. I imagine them having a lot to talk about: nibbling puffin and penguin and discussing ice and island life, how much things changed since outsiders starting settling there, and all those sheep.

Due credit to

þriðjudagur, nóvember 06, 2007


This year as well:

Hereabouts little mumming if any, though I did set a few fires. Not for Guy, of course, but the usual squat candles in squat gourds. The clustering of mumming holidays interests me. Why should so many fall right around this time? I wonder if the vetrarnætur also called for costume and procession.

It's all academic here. As I say: no festivities of note. Come midwinter I'll get on to missing the Three Wise Men and the Wren Boys. I doubt even carolers will put in an appearance.

föstudagur, nóvember 02, 2007

S/2004 S 19

I have only now learned that Hyrrokkin is also a moon in the Skaði subgroup of Saturn's irregular retrograde satellites. She is new: her discovery announced in June 2006, named this April, the name corrected only this July. She is 18 kilometers across. I cannot find any images of her -- perhaps there are none, only measurements -- so I cannot say whether she is shriveled and black as her name would suggest. She courses about at an inclination of 153.3° to the ecliptic with a host of giantish kinsmen: Þrymr, Suttungr, Ymir, Mundilfari, Narvi.

She is nafni to the giantess who launches Baldr's funerary ship. The gods are set to put the ship to sea; she comes riding on a wolf. Odin's berserks knock it to the ground when she dismounts. She is the only one who can shift the keel and push the boat out on to the water. No one knows why.

I cannot help but think of her younger sister doing something similar. What else is out there orbiting Saturn in retrograde? What grim vessel is Hyrrokkin pushing before her out there in the dark?

fimmtudagur, nóvember 01, 2007


I miss that place.

So do I. Here it's a little like living in S--, near C--. Flat. Vaguely urban. Grotty.

Grotty. Is that an adjective or a verb?

It's an adjective.

Grotto-like? Grottoid?

I always think of it like gritty, but with bigger, greasier grit that's worked its way into everything. You know: grot.


Like in other people's showers.

Grit grat grot groat.

I had never thought of it, but yes.

I understand these things.

Yes, you do.

miðvikudagur, október 24, 2007


Spires, ramparts, cobbles. There were leafy bushes going a brilliant red, and my camera without a battery. Is there northern light like that in France as well?

Dozing on the plane, fragments still go through my head: defense, but, tirer, rue, verre, terrine, cidre, rive, sucre, Zuaves, parcours, porquois, porte, Saint Jean.

miðvikudagur, október 17, 2007


Would you like some tea? I would. I have a little iron pot here steaming with gently bitter grassy tea. Would you?

Old English beodan "offer, proclaim"
Proto Germanic *biudanan "to stretch out, reach out, offer, present,"
compare German bieten "to offer"
all from the Proto Indo European base *bh(e)udh- "to offer, present."

How very civilized.

See also Sanskrit. bodhati "is awake, is watchful, observes," from which buddhah "awakened, enlightened." Old Church Slavonic gives us bljudo "to observe," and I wonder whether there is a liturgical sense to the word. See then also Lithuanian budeti "to be awake."

I hope so. I have things to do before sleep, many of them. Tea is helpful in such circumstances.

See Old Irish buide "contentment, thanks".

I don't mind if I do.

Credit due to Douglas Harper as so often.

mánudagur, október 15, 2007


I am admiring islands on the map. I see now Java and Borneo, two Aleuts, Newfoundland, Ireland, one of the Faroes (might it be more?), Hokkaido, Sri Lanka. Could that be Lofoten? The Canaries? I wish I knew what island that was west of Chile.

I see the North and South Islands and I think of old Zealand, pulled from Sweden with four monstrous oxen. As Bragi the Old had it:
Gefjun dró frá Gylfa
glöð djúpröðul óðla,
svá at af rennirauknum
rauk, Danmarkar auka.
Báru öxn ok átta
ennitungl, þars gengu
fyrir vineyjar víðri
valrauf, fjögur höfuð.
But how did the antipodal Zealands get there? What did they yoke up to pull them and from where?

þriðjudagur, október 09, 2007


Night cycling.

The sky is black, the road is black, the lanes branching off to the right (there, there, there) are black. Here there are streetlights. Further back there were none. Tracks on the left, now warehouses and off-the-high street businesses. No storefronts. No housecats zipping across the road. The fluffier rodents would appear to be asleep in their burrows and knotholes. The pavement is black, black, gray. The crazing of winter frosts spreads leftward from the curb, buckling the macadam and making your wheels rattle on their axles. You hold yourself above the hard saddle as best you can, imagining that the pedals are stirrups.

fimmtudagur, október 04, 2007

heyra í sér

  1. I was thinking of you, too.
  2. It really helps - I couldn't begin to tell you.
  3. Not sure what else to say, really.

Later, in the dark, I'll say something to you, and you'll say something to me.

miðvikudagur, október 03, 2007


The animals next door seem lonely. The other-side-of-the-wall cat is always on the stoop, turning herself belly-side out and belly-side in over and over again. The other-side-of-the-wall dog wandered straight on in a few days ago as I was bringing my bike in off the porch. He bears himself so humbly, this dog. When I stood my bicycle against the dining room chairs it slipped and clattered to the floor, and instantly he dropped his head a little lower from his shoulders, looked away with evident chagrin, and turned to pad back out.

I called after him and told him that it wasn't him - ! That loud noise wasn't anything he'd done wrong. Everything was okay. He brightened up immediately and came back over, put his head up under my hand so I could rub his ears. He is a sensitive creature.

I have suspicions about who they are looking for. It isn't me, and that's too bad.

mánudagur, október 01, 2007


This Sunday morning she slept deeply but lightly, a few feet above the mattress, buoyed by the early-morning visions tangled in the coverlet alongside her legs.

sunnudagur, september 30, 2007


Night driving southward again, about to climb the long, barely-tipped slope from the lake. Music is still resounding in my head, and the conductor still jumps and gesticulates in my mind's eye, but I am almost sleepy.

But no coffee for me, thank you. I'll have a chocolate bar instead, one of those with the shredded coconut center. Its surface is chalky with cocoa butter -- god knows how long it's languished in that gas station. That's hardly the point. Under the pitiable chocolate is the white I am looking for. It is so sweet in my mouth that it is cold, and now I am alert again with sugar flashing through my brain.

laugardagur, september 22, 2007


Can this be right? I've seen this derivation before, sic (or sick, which I would never have written myself) from seek. The idea is logical-seeming enough: that in saying sic 'em you are exhorting your dog to seek him. I should be satisfied - no? - seeing as English seek comes in large degree from ON sækja, but I think this is folk etymology.

My instinct is to spell it sic, past tense sicced, not sick and sicked. Seek him sounds reasonable to me until I remember that one also sics a dog on someone, and that seems more of a stretch as an extended use of seek. Though I know that verbs may slide back and forth between strong and weak forms, I am also troubled that sækja and its derivative seek are strong - sótt, sought - while sic is weak.

I think the single c is etymologically correct. There is what must be an Icelandic cognate: siga. It is weak: siga, sigaði. It means "to sic," i.e., to set (e.g., a dog) on someone, as in siga hundum á einhvern. Orðabók Menningarsjóðs glosses it with etja, to whet or encourage. Older uses include siga mönnum saman, which is something like "to whip people up into a group," and siga einhvern upp, "to whip someone up," "excite someone."

It's an old word. Óláfr Tryggvason sends his hound Vígi after Þórir hjörtr by means of this verb. Cleasby and Vigfusson cite it in other texts, glossing it as to excite dogs by shouting 'rrrr!'

Perhaps I am both wrong and right, and siga is also from sækja -- I have ordered Alexander Jóhannesson's dictionary to find out -- but sic must be related to siga.

Addendum 28. júlí 2008: Wm W. Heist agrees with me in American Speech 42.1 (1967): 65-69.

þriðjudagur, september 18, 2007

lost dogs

The etymology of the word dog is completely unknown and famously so. The word shark is similarly mysterious. There are several species of small shark known as dogfish, which is apparently attested as early as 1475. Another word for dogfish in British English is huss --origin unknown.

sunnudagur, september 16, 2007


I had only ever known about Laika. I had always felt sorry for her. Today, for some reason, I felt awful. I tried to imagine that she'd died of cold or of CO2 poisoning, just gotten sleepier and sleepier until she set her head down on her paws and drifted off. That wouldn't have been so bad, I thought, but the launch must have been terrifying.

I hadn't known there had been more:


Only Pchelka and Mushka did not survive their mission.

fimmtudagur, september 13, 2007


Apparently, the scapegoat is a translation error. We may blame Tyndale, who (Douglas Harper informs us) rendered caper emissarius thusly in 1530. Others may blame Luther, who gave us der ledige Bock, or Symmachus, who offered tragos aperkhomenos. All of them, however, would blame Jerome, for it is Jerome who misread azazel, a demon, as ez ozel, "goat that departs."

It's a reasonable error. Who could blame him, really? I'm sure the handwriting was awful and the lighting worse. Is it such a tragic mistake?

Blame Jerome anyway. He will only blame someone else.

fimmtudagur, september 06, 2007


The extraordinary thing about Jón Indíafari may not be that he sailed around the Cape of Good Hope to Madagascar and India but that he sailed back. He had even gone as a free man --unlike Ólafur Egilsson, abducted by Algerians and taken to Barbary in chains. Jón went freely and returned freely.

þriðjudagur, september 04, 2007


There is a moth the size of my thumb clinging to the screen. I have, it is true, small hands, but he is still a large moth.

He might be a Corn Earworm Moth. If so, then he (or his kin) is a likely contributor to the thinness of the chowder I made yesterday. I had set aside five ears of corn. I was looking forward to scraping the knife judderingly down their lengths and seeing the kernels pop off onto the cutting board (and some, inevitably, onto the floor). But the tapered end of each was either dried or rotten, dessicated or worm-eaten. There were, at least, kernels enough left for me that I did not have to give up the soup entirely.

I should be irritated. I could flick my index finger with my thumb against his underside where he hangs by his hooked feet on the screen and launch him indecorously into the dark, but I do not. He is so delicately furry that I can feel no rancor towards him.

mánudagur, september 03, 2007


  • white
  • cream
  • gold
  • red
  • black
  • brindle
  • sable
  • fawn
  • apricot
  • blue
  • silver
  • mahogany
  • brown

sunnudagur, september 02, 2007

takk fyrir síðast

Last year she was driving, passing crows and barking dogs. The sun set and nameless planets turned overhead. All things were lonely -- lonelier, in fact, because not entirely alone. Shadowy canine forms kept pace with the car long after the sound of barking ceased. Every few miles the headlights skimming the gravel shoulder would catch something: a little still clump of feathers, maybe. Dim figures flashed by at the side of the road, beyond the sweep of light. Hitchhikers? Ghosts?

She stayed awake at the wheel, but dreams came to her anyway. The air above seemed as black as coal still in the mine and as heavy. The pedal under her steady foot felt like the pedal of a bellows; she could force air over the tiny fire by pressing down through resistance as satisfying as the firmness of fruit under a good knife, the taut skin of a berry between your teeth. She drove on like this until she got where she had been going, lay down there to sleep, dreamed herself below the sea with her hair in the cold current. Later she woke, achy and new-aware of the strangeness of everything.

And then it was autumn.

fimmtudagur, ágúst 30, 2007


Something out there is squeaking.

þriðjudagur, ágúst 28, 2007


The air by the river smells like tadpoles. I had had no idea that I remembered the smell of tadpoles, but I do. I remember other things. At this time of year (pokeberry time, not yet acorn time), she would scoop water out of the river near the bank where the roots of the damp trees twisted down and carry it back, and later it would turn out that the water swarmed with little things swimming and creeping. We pressed up against the glass sides of the tank. It was amazing to us that such wild and alien life could be found so close to where we walked every day, obliviously swinging our lunch boxes. It was as if someone had pried up a slab of sidewalk to reveal a herd of gazelles springing over the packed earth.

fimmtudagur, ágúst 23, 2007


Gliding along, not so much a svaðilför this summer as a sleipiför. (Let's put an asterisk on that, shall we?) Of course it's time sliding by, án þess að láta vita af sér, just moving on without you like that damned bus driver up in Hólmavík who didn't seem to want to drive anyone to Ísafjörður.

No, not at all like that. Steingrímsheiði is a bouncy ride, I'm sure. More like a clutch-free rental car (clutch-free, I was assured, and not clutch-less), little blue toy car fishtailing around on the loose gravel. Fuzzy little seabird hatchlings diving off the road in both directions. Like that.

The grammar, too, has been fishtailing. No other word for it. You know you're sliding into the wrong case, and you just have to steer into it. Don't haul the wheel around trying to get the thing into the dative. You'll only spin out entirely, total the vehicle, and (once regaining consciousness) open your eyes to find yourself resting in an uncomprehending ovine gaze.

It's because you aren't as sleip í málinu as you were. Do you suppose you can buy a little tube of tungumálsleipiefni? The apótek must sell it, or if they don't they ought to. A linguistic lubricant would make reentry into the language much more comfortable for everyone, to say nothing of more pleasurable. Until then we'll go on using the product made by ATVR: alcohol. Góða gamla.

See? There it swings around around and zooms past. The stereo is blaring a pop-tune from, what, 1997? Can it possibly be so long ago? Zzzzzzrrrrm. Even with the doppler you can make out a few words:

slike ting får minnene på gli når sommeren er forbi

þriðjudagur, ágúst 14, 2007


Tink, clenk. Mugs do not ring like glass does. The ceramic is, at, base, stone, and stone makes a poor bell. But then the chime of bronze post-dates other, older signs of the tiny realm of men ringed about by the great Wild. Is this like the sound of drinking in an ancient hall? (--less the clamorous voices; we are hard at work in our books even as we hear the coffee on its way.) Re-read Beowulf and watch for it: the cold heath stretching to the horizon, the flicker of warmth beneath the roofbeam.

þriðjudagur, ágúst 07, 2007


  • Apple (cored, halved, sliced)
  • Tomato (cut into wedges)
  • Flatbrauð (a half-round, folded over on itself)
  • Cheese
  • Household bread
  • Hangijköt

laugardagur, ágúst 04, 2007


Á Kolaportinu:

Já, takk ... ég var að spá í Flateyjarbók hérna, en mér fannst hún svolítið dýr.

Dýr? Nú. Það finnst mér ekki.

Já, sko. Hún er ekki fágæti, þessi útgáfa.

Tja. Hún selst oft fyrir meira. Fyrir 16.000.

En þessi útgáfa hefur ekkert fræðilegt gildi.

Það eru fjögur bindi.

En það ekki ekki hægt að nota hana í neinu fræðilegu samhengi. Ólíkt til dæmis Heimskringlu hér, sem er útgáfa Finns Jónssonar og er notuð ennþá í dag. Og þær eru á sömu verð.

Báðar fyrir 16.000.

Mig vantar nefnilega ekki Heimskringlu.

Það er mjög sanngjörn verð.

Hún fýkur ekki burt úr hillunni heldur. Þessi hefur staðið hér í þrjú ár. Ég kem alltaf að öðru hvoru, og hún er alltaf hér.

Nei, nei. Þessi er ekki sú sama og fyrir þremur árum. Ég er búinn að selja eitt eintak á hverju ári í þrjú ár.

Er það, þá? (Hefði átt að segja: Þá er hún engin fágæti.)

Áttu Njálu?


Þessi er mjög skemmtileg útgáfa hér.

Já, og eldgömul. Vel þess virði að borga svona mikið fyrir útgáfuna frá um miðja 19. öld, sé maður nógu ríkur. En þessi Flateyjarbók er ekkert gömul.

Hún selst mjög oft fyrir 16.000.

Mm. Hvað með 8.000?

Segjum það, já.

(Sjitt. Hefði átt að bjóða 6.000.)

fimmtudagur, ágúst 02, 2007



miðvikudagur, ágúst 01, 2007


  • the grooves in the asphalt from studded winter tires
  • the worn dip in the wood from thousands of hands pushing open the locker room door
  • the smooth, blank faces of the keys from hours of typing
  • the sueded patches on my boots from the scraping of lava
  • the streaks down the flanks of Esja and Akrafjöll

mánudagur, júlí 30, 2007


I am rinsing shampoo from my hair when suddenly I am filled with affection for the encrusted minerals on the hot water pipes and for the nascent stalagmites I saw that morning on the pavements under the row house eaves.

sunnudagur, júlí 29, 2007


Years ago, I was sure I saw fish in the shallowest part of the Tjörn, not even the Tjörn proper but the pool over the City Hall garage. They looked like trout or at any rate laxaætt. Now I know that they weren't there, that there have never been fish there, but I am still not sure that I didn't see them.

miðvikudagur, júlí 25, 2007


These fellows are from Kiev. I like their striped hose. They are very stylish.

þriðjudagur, júlí 24, 2007


There it is, by the side of the brook. It's been a long time since she has seen it, here or anywhere. It's he, actually. He used to be here almost every day, cropping the grass. The water would reflect the sunlight onto his belly, dappling it even more. It is happening now. She watches him.

She used to cluck to him and ease her way in his direction with her hand outstretched. Sometimes he would ignore her. Sometimes he would lever his neck towards her and investigate the palm of her hand with his mouth. She was always keenly aware of his great, flat teeth just behind the moist white fuzz on his black lips. He never bit. Sometimes he spooked -- at what, she was never sure -- splashed away over the stream and vanished for days.

Today it is hot. The sunlight buzzes. A cloud of gnats expands and contracts in the air between them. He flicks his tail. She doesn't move at all. Slowly, then, she begins towards him through the grass. He picks up his head suddenly, and she thinks he is about to bolt. He only stands with his ears pointing at her. A few steps more, and she can put her hand on the side of his neck. He tosses his mane and bumps her arm with the side of his head. She runs her hand along him as she steps past, and then she skips, grabs the base of his mane, swings herself up, and holds on as he leaps away, hooves splashing.

mánudagur, júlí 23, 2007


I had always through that the northernmost ocean was mare septentrionale as the seventh of seven seas. I am incorrect. The seven are the oxen hitched to the stars that mark the north. The Arctic Ocean belongs to the Great Bear, but mare septentionale is the ocean of the seven oxen that pull the Starry Plough.

Gefjon drew Sjælland out of Sweden with four oxen. It takes three more to pull the earth around the axle of heaven.

laugardagur, júlí 21, 2007


The bungee crane was sometimes parked out in front of the Cathedral on late weekend nights. I haven't thought about it in years. The streets swarmed with thin blonde girls, already tall, on enormous black platform shoes. Their jeans were tight and cut hem-frayingly long. The boys wore gel in their hair.

The crane was not for bungee jumping. You were not meant to leap out, fall into the pull of the elastic, and bounce back to your point of departure (or near enough). Instead you stood awkwardly with your drunk friends looking on and laughing while the bungee operator put the harness around your legs and waist. You mimed discomfort with a sexual suggestion that wasn't there.

The operator clipped you to a cable that anchored you to the ground; he clipped you to the end of the bungee that hung from the crane. He tightened the buckles and tested the straps, signaled the man in the cab, and the arm of the crane rose steadily tac tac tac tac tac. Lit from below against the dull black, it looks paranormal. Everything taught and stretched, your friends hunched forward slightly, spenning. He pulled a cord and you were whisked upward, raptured, taken bodily into heaven like Elijah or the Virgin, up into the dark above the rooflines, the bronze statue, the shrieking sixteen-year-olds, the hotdog wagon.

Afterward you all got softis in cones. It was not your idea, and the sweet, cold, white cream could not match the stark taste of the cool air over the cathedral.

fimmtudagur, júlí 19, 2007

annars manns

Hér vorum við og hér fórum við. Everyone's North is different, but everyone's North is also the same.

miðvikudagur, júlí 18, 2007


Einhvern stað verða krákur að sofa. Crows must sleep somewhere. In the dark you cannot see them. When dawn comes they will be so raucous that there will be no need to see them. Right now they are invisible, hundreds of them, hunched over the branches of the pines and dreaming crow dreams of bits of paper and fish heads.

mánudagur, júlí 16, 2007


There must have been eighty of them barking. One of them saw me crossing the compound -- their compound -- and said Ooo ooo ooo. I looked back at him and said Ooo ooo ooo. Next he barked at me, but only after giving me a very strange look.

laugardagur, júlí 14, 2007

hrafn og örn

A guest in someone else's beloved North, I am welcomed by ravens and eagles, familiar people and unfamiliar mountains. Glaciers did not scour this land as smooth, and they pierce the eternal clouds like teeth. It is green with rain. The stones are quieter here: they do not chant old poetry but instead whisper of gold and jade.

föstudagur, júlí 13, 2007


The rain sounds and the waves slap. Diesel fume from the grinding screw drives our noisy, shallow-draft hull. Meantime, only the breath of that great, black body beside us can be heard. It blows vapor, draws air with a rush: a titan's bellows. It rises to the surface and slips back below, slick and silent, draught like a ghost, tail like a wing a parting salute.

þriðjudagur, júlí 03, 2007


I heard once that when the Allies bombed Dresden they overshot.

Bombing runs are dangerous also for the bombers. They are shot at from the ground. Inevitably, the sallies get shorter and shorter as the pilots turn sooner and sooner, and the de facto target drifts off its mark. The phenomenon is called creep-back. I'm not sure whether it's meant to be hyphenated.

The way to account for creep-back and assure that the majority of the bombs in fact hit the intended target is to set the official drop location further away from the bombers' point of departure. Apparently, there is some sort of algorithm for calculating the ideal location.

The tragedy at Dresden (a tragedy at Dresden) was that the Allies underestimated the discipline and courage of their pilots. They started out in the far suburbs of the city, and the bombing proceeded back to the city with with terrible slowness.

sunnudagur, júlí 01, 2007


Huge moon. It comes in the windows, first this one and then another. The dim outlines of everything are cast on the floor, creeping about their axes, sweeping moonwise not sunwise. One of the shadows making its circuit is spindly-legged and four-footed. I'll hear its toenails clicking all night.

laugardagur, júní 23, 2007

milli trjánna

The road slops to the right and the orange moon skids into view between the trees, low and huge. It's at half, tipping on its bulge. I am afraid it will spill and fall into the pines. It is something to do with its being so low, the way a full teacup high on a bookshelf inspires fearful expectation, even though the cup would be no steadier on the floor than high up, and the moon is no more precarious for swinging where it does tonight.

föstudagur, júní 22, 2007


I'm looking for maps. I don't find any.

Someone once laughed at me for wanting a driving map. "There's only one road! It goes around." There was nothing else to say; circumnavigation is the only option past Djúpavogur, Höfn, Skaftafell, Kirkjubæjarklaustur.

Now I'm headed for an even smaller land of cod, where there is only one road and not even a ring. It spirals out, it spirals in, and that is all -- past names always in the same sequence. Driving past sand and scrub you are a train passing through stations of memory.

fimmtudagur, júní 21, 2007


They haven't yet found the owner of the horse that came ashore in Straumfjörður á Mýrum. He is unshod, which does not surprise me at all. He is, of course, a gray. Such horses always are.

"Sæhestur nemur land í Straumfirði." Skessuhorn, 21. júní 2007


Here there are fireflies in the warm dark. If I think about it, know that I believe it is in the nature of warm dark to have fireflies in it. It's a belief from childhood.

Somewhere else the dark is cold -- some of it air and some of it water -- and broken only by a few bright points, barely a line: the fishing boats out at sea.

mánudagur, júní 18, 2007


She has been sleeping in the forest. It has been almost a year since she came out here and bedded down. The forest is very beautiful, but mostly her eyes are shut and she is dreaming something else, somewhere else. Now and then she drifts back here. When she comes awake -- just before she comes awake -- she moves her hand (it moves itself) to make sure it is still there. It always is. Then before too long she drifts off again.

sunnudagur, júní 10, 2007


Summer is back like an uncle you haven't seen since you were a kid. He's just the same. His forearms are thick; you used to wonder at the ropey muscles moving under the skin. There are black hairs on his arms and on the back of his neck that run into the collar of his shirt. Whether he is tanned from the sun or just swarthy you were never sure.

The sun has gone down finally, and you're both sitting on the porch steps. You can see fireflies in the next yard. He is telling a story you heard him tell when you were little. There's a rasp in his voice like a staticky radio; when he laughs it's the crack of the bat.

mánudagur, júní 04, 2007


Ravish (Oxford tells us) has the following senses:
1 seize and carry off by force.
2 rape.
3 fill with intense delight; enrapture.
The word has not be carried far from the meanings of its root:
O.Fr. raviss-, prp. stem of ravir "to seize, take away hastily"
Reconstructed Vulgar Latin *rapire, from
L. rapere "to seize, hurry away"
Enchantment and a sort of rapture is no later than 1430; rape comes shortly after in 1436.

I hadn't known that Wotan's intended curse on Brünhilde was so brutal. Her magical sleep could have been broken by any common villain. She is to lie unprotected on the rock, a slave in waiting, any man's abject wife to be. Only after she begs on her knees does he relent and raise the flames around her stoney bed. To think that he is her father.

I give in after Die Walküre. My own Act IV comes the next night when a dream bears down on me. I did not see his face.

miðvikudagur, maí 30, 2007


Wine, wine, and I am caught spinning in a miniature mælstrøm of nostalgia. I am on line reading an old review of a nightclub that closed already in 2003. I used to go dancing there in 1995 with a man who rumbled about dårlig lydkvalitet and whose black t-shirt was suddenly pricked with glowing points when he moved under the black light.

He had the most extraordinary golden hairs on the backs of his wrists. He had a swirl of the same downy wires on each shoulder blade. They made him seem like a hatchling griffin.

I am halfway through a letter to him, but I will leave it spin for a while, cork the bottle and put it back in the cool of the refrigerator, wait until I have slept and dreamt of something else before I send it off to him as he is now, from me as I am now.

mánudagur, maí 28, 2007


A profusion of eggs. A whole basket of them, hand-colored, delicate-seeming, but the old rag paper is deceptively sturdy. Pages of calm geometry, shapes speckled and tapered, eggs of guillemots razorbills plovers sandpipers gulls terns auks. A Guide to the Birds of Britain has been dismembered and its plates slid into individual mylar sleeves for individual sale. I want to buy them all, but I would no sooner buy the feathers of birds of paradise.


A dollop of olive oil poured into the heavy sauce makes a spot the green-yellow color of a cat's eye through which the silver of the pan is visible.

föstudagur, maí 25, 2007


Twisting my finger around after a grip, but it is slick and taut against the little crossbars. They are three times their proper size, wound thick with hair and whatever else is in the drain. Scrabbling, picking. Get an Exacto knife and hack at it a little. Wonder whether parts of it are dropping away into the depths only to find root and sprout elsewhere.

Grab a little fatty tuft of it and pull. Stink of swamp, of used skin, of castings. Parts of the body sloughed off and washed away but not down. They cling, mindless zoophytes, slaves to some weird tropism.

Pull more. Feeling roots break, a black, tapering, swaying mass of it comes free:

Homunculus! Mandrake!

Be gone from my house!

mánudagur, maí 21, 2007


She likes being able to write in the third person. It allows a bit of distance. Sometimes she wishes the grammar were even more spacious. There are other things she might write if she were able to use fourth person, fifth person, sixth person.

Today she saw a robin bouncing along the pavement and then standing suddenly straight up. Also chalk on the sidewalk and honeysuckle in a tree, but that is all she can say.

sunnudagur, maí 20, 2007


The Moon and Venus. Most of the others I have to look up.

I've written about him before.

I think I named someone in a story Talitha once. I may not have bothered to write the story.

Almost a forgotten Finnish hero: Menkaläinen. Elias Lönnroth did not collect his runot, and they are lost.

Can there really be a star named black? Like Talitha, it is in Ursa Major.

A Persian hero? A city in Dunsany?

Wonderful name! And in Virgo. I want it to mean "mother of winds" even though I know it does not.

föstudagur, maí 18, 2007

sama gamla

Sama gamla tunglið, hármjótt og kringlótt, hvítt og nýtt, hangandi í himninum. Sama rímið, enda felst í rímum að vera alltaf eins. Það er sama tunglið sem hengur í öllum dægurlagatextum og í rímunum þeirra og sem svífur milli orðunum.

miðvikudagur, maí 16, 2007


Stramme. Strengja. Ströng.

Is strong from the same root? It seems not, and yet, how strange. Einar Tambarskelvir's strength lay in his bow, for all the good it did him or the men of the Long Serpent.
Allir hoyrdu streingin springa
Kongurin seg undrar --
Ströng to me sounds like something bound tightly for support, to strengthen the joints of it, to make it fast in the face of what might come.

sunnudagur, maí 13, 2007


(f., móður, mæður)
Modern English mother (obviously) from O.E. modor
Also siblings O.S. modar, Dan. moder, Du. moeder, Ger. Mutter), all from Gmc. *mothær;
Cousins L. mater, O.Ir. mathir, Lith. mote, Skt. matar-, Gk. meter, O.C.S. mati;
All of them, all of them from
PIE *mater-.

Apparently it has always meant what it means.

Same column, further down: móður
(m., -s; ON móðr)
I find this difficult to gloss. Orðabók Menningarsjóðs gives reiði, geðshræring, both rather negative, but also ákafi, báráttuhugur, kapp. My alien ear hears its whole family:

O.E. mod "heart, frame of mind, spirit, courage"
(The Modern English has drifted, on which more below.)
Both OE and ON from Gmc. *motha-;
Some brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces: O.Fris. mod "intellect, mind, courage," M.Du. moet, Du. moed, O.H.G. muot, Ger. Mut "courage," also Goth. moþs "courage, anger."

In the mythology, Móði, the son of Þórr, whose name is a weak form (grammatically speaking only) of courage.

English mood is a weak form (semantically speaking) "emotional condition, frame of mind." Oxford English specifies that the frame of mind be temporary one and gives also "a fit of bad temper or depression" and "the atmosphere of a work of art."

All these relatives clamor, and I cannot help but hear them. Kapp, it is kapp and báráttuhugur, pride of self when it surfaces and stands against challenge.

Origin unknown.


Wind. The temperature dropped with the sun. I let the windowpanes follow. Outside the air is moving. Only the tossing branches can be seen.

föstudagur, maí 11, 2007


In Webster's dictionary of 1828, stereotypes are only things used in printing: "a fixed metal type; hence, a plate of fixed or solid metallic types for printing books." Stereotype printing was that "done on fixed metallic plates." The verb meant to make such plates or to compose a book on such plates. The example sentence is: "certain societies have stereotyped the Bible."

By 1913 there is a figurative meaning as well: to fix, to make permanent. The citation is from 1887: "Powerful causes tending to stereotype and aggravate the poverty of old conditions" (Duke of Argyll).

Now the Oxford English tells us that a stereotype is "a preconceived and over-simplified idea of the characteristics which typify a person or thing."

This idea is not so fixed as one might have thought.

miðvikudagur, maí 09, 2007


Lóan er fyrir löngu komin, og krían líka.

mánudagur, maí 07, 2007


Expatriates, flakkarar, and other migratories like to recount stories of having misspoken in amusing or embarrassing ways. I remember throwing myself into a cab í miðbæ Reykjavíkur, the culmination of an unnerving late-night chase scene. Ég vil heim, ég vil heim, ég vil heim ein ... I was shaken. I pulled the door shut and then gave my address in the dative, þágufall -- the case of stationary location -- rather than the accusative, þolfall -- the case of motion towards. The driver didn't care. He ignored my error and put his foot to the gas. We spun away out of the downtown.

In the back seat I justified my grammatical misstep to wishful thinking: I had wanted to have been home already.


I am told that porcelain's connections with pigs, porcellus, go through cowrie shells and cunts. In Icelandic, porcelain is postulín; its apparent affinities, at least, are with the apostles: póstular. Rubbing grime from the slickness of a china chocolate pot found in an antique store, I am left thinking of the Magdelene.

sunnudagur, maí 06, 2007


Basalt takes its name from Gk. basanos, "touchstone," a stone used to test gold.

Four words for basalt columns:
Webster's 1828 dictionary speaks beautifully of basalt:

A dark, grayish black mineral or stone, sometimes bluish or brownish black, and when withered,the surface is grayish or reddish brown. It is amorphous, columnar, tabular or globular. The columnar form is straight or curved, perpendicular or inclined, sometimes nearly horizontal; the diameter of the columns from three inches to three feet, sometimes with transverse semi-spherical joints, in which the convex part of one is inserted in the concavity of another. The forms of the columns generally are pentagonal, hexagonal, or octagonal. It is sometimes found also in rounded masses, either spherical, or compressed and lenticular. These rounded masses are sometimes composed of concentric layers, with a nucleus, and sometimes of prisms radiating from a center. It is heavy and hard. The pillars of the Giant's causey in Ireland, composed of this stone and exposed to the roughest sea for ages, have their angles as perfect as those at a distance from the waves.

laugardagur, maí 05, 2007


Walking out I passed a gathering of young people spilling from the porch onto the lawn: tan-legged girls in denim miniskirts and bare-chested boys in caps. I see a punch thrown, hear knuckles against cheekbone. One staggers from the porch and his attacker flies after him. Now they take his windmilling arms and hold him back. I flip open my phone and press the three numbers, let my thumb hover over the green button. Do I have to call? I shout. No, no; they say they're all right.

They aren't. Purple blooms around the struck boy's eye, his head weaves and he cannot stand. He flops out of his tiny girlfriend's embrace into the arms of his friends. I hear useless snippets: "ice," "all right," "something cold." I am about to press the button. Just then I see it all become real for one of them. He scoops his friend up in Achillean arms and bears him off. I do not leave until I hear "hospital" and see the car pull out of the drive.

Walking in on the same street this morning I had seen a squirrel on a windshield, head down, its body curled gently inward. Empty beer bottles below it and above it on the hood and on the roof. A sad place to be dead. I didn't know who to call.

fimmtudagur, maí 03, 2007


It's not important how you got rolling in the first place. The wheels turn and you pick up speed. It's a long slope down. Watch for crosstraffic. Try not to involve other vehicles in your headlong progress. Aim for the flat. If you can brake the thing without flipping yourself over the handlebars, so much the better. Once you've stopped, you might consider chaining it to a parking meter.

þriðjudagur, maí 01, 2007


The air hangs on you when it's like this, like someone's put a steaming towel over you. You're in first class, it's been a long flight, some well-meaning flugfreyja has dropped a little roll of terrycloth into your hand using a pair of tongs. You feel the landing gear being deployed. The local time is summer. You may wish to adjust your watch.


til baka
aftur á bak

miðvikudagur, apríl 25, 2007


I remember she hated beets. No, she didn't hate anything, not even earthworms when they suddenly appeared in the scape of her gardening trowel. But she didn't like beets. She would usher them to the edge of the salad plate with the tines of her fork. She said they were too sweet.

Oddly, I've grown to like them. I eat them with raw onions and mustard dressing, but I don't suppose that I'm fooling anybody.

þriðjudagur, apríl 24, 2007


Thunder is coming. The forerunner of rain -- the vardøger, fylgja, fetch -- has already entered without knocking. Vapor of rain. It's wafted in like someone else's soul abroad in the world (ML 4000; E721.1). It's a good smell. It is a challenge to the frantic early-summer scents that trail cacophonous chattering in their wakes. Perhaps they are good and bad angels.

mánudagur, apríl 23, 2007


She looks for him there anyway.

fimmtudagur, apríl 19, 2007

þrjú lög

Þrjú lög í tilefni stórbrunans í miðbæ Reykjavíkur:
Horfðu á Mánann
Eldur í öskunni leynist
Ó borg, mín borg
Ég var akkúrat að hlusta á Hauk Morthens og hugsa tilbaka til borgar fortíðarinnar, sveitar fortíðarinnar, gamla Íslands sem ég fékk aldrei kynnast á annan hátt en í bókum og söngtextum, en sem ég sakna eins og maður saknar afa síns sem dó áður en maður var fæddur.

þriðjudagur, apríl 17, 2007


I didn't hear the shots from here. They were too far away, and I was upstairs and behind a door. But when I walked outside I heard the echoes.

sunnudagur, apríl 15, 2007


Who are you? You've gone around the other side of the gray trunk, but not before I got a look at you. Bright eyes. Trim black beak. Herringbone jacket. Smart red cap. Melanerpes carolinus, yes! How nice to see you here too.

laugardagur, apríl 14, 2007


In Old Norse legal texts, a law that obtains everywhere is valid even "as far North as a Finn stands on a ski."

And there, things are:

dáppe here by me
dieppe there, over by you
duoppe over there
doppe way over there

The o gets longer and longer and the place gets further and further away. Doooooooooppe.

fimmtudagur, apríl 12, 2007

a warning may be needed



þriðjudagur, apríl 10, 2007


Just now I try to think of some Norse cognate for narrow. Strand is strönd of course. All strands in my North are narrow, but I find no narrow there. Can that be?

It seems so. West Germanic and nothing else: *narwaz. And "of unknown origin" yet. Did this word just wash up one day on one side or another of what I've just learned were called the narrow seas? Would the Dutch be nauwstrand? I've made that up, and I hate it when other people botch that kind of thing. And could there ever be a narrow Netherlandish strand? It seems unlikely in that low land.

All this because I am tired, because for a moment I cannot recall where I am.

mánudagur, apríl 09, 2007


Tonight will not lie flat. It must be pounded and felted, waulked and fulled if it is to be any use at all. I understand that this is women's work; the men should be chased from the room if they dare to look in at all.

sunnudagur, apríl 08, 2007

AT 1676 b

Told by Anna van de Weij in Joure, Frisland in 1892:

Er was eens een jongen die bij zijn makkers als zeer driest bekend stond. Allerlei waagstukken had hij reeds voor hen uitgevoerd. Zijn grootste daad zou echter zijn, als hij te middernacht, een spijker op een kerkhofspaaltje durfde slaan. Ook dat durfde hij. 's Nachts om 12 uur gaat hij gewapend met een hamer naar het kerkhof. Het moet gezegd worden, op dat uur, alleen op den doodenakker te gaan, 't werd hem wel wat bang om 't hart. Met zenuwachtige haast slaat hij een spijker in het paaltje, en keert zich terstond om om het op een loopen te zetten, maar o wee, hij kan niet, hij meent dat hij door een doode vastgehouden wordt en valt van schrik dood neer. Hij had een slip van zijn jas mee vastgespijkerd.
nr. CBOEK102

What a treasure trove is to be found in the Nederlandse Volksverhalenbank. I stumbled over it by accident, read into the wee hours, and was sure to mark my place before leaving.

föstudagur, apríl 06, 2007

góðan daginn

Hello! Hello. The tiny lick of air between the end of your muzzle and my hand is humid, and I can feel on my skin how velvety your lips and chin are even though you do not quite touch me.

fimmtudagur, apríl 05, 2007


At night she lies on her back to wait for sleep. She rests the knobs of her thumb joints beside the points of her hips and lets the backs of her arms sink against the bed. The cords of her neck slacken; her legs fall gently open. Her breath deepens and slows.

When sleep comes he comes up from the foot of the bed. He pauses a moment to look at her face before he slides up over her and lowers his weight onto her body.

þriðjudagur, apríl 03, 2007


It is not spring lightning. It is only radio masts flashing a-rhythmically.

mánudagur, apríl 02, 2007


til og með
af og frá
með og án
við og við
með og á móti
af og til
norður og niður
út og suður

laugardagur, mars 31, 2007

góðan dag

I heard the meowing before I was fully awake. The other-side-of-the-wall dog was tapping back and forth on the other-side-of-the-wall floorboards in concern, I imagined, for the other-side-of-the-wall cat, whom I imagined having wedged himself in above the refrigerator. Once I rose and came yawning down the stairs, I found that he was on the porch, suddenly transformed into an other-side-of-the-door cat.

Perhaps I should not have opened the door, but it seemed rude not to. Maybe he had only only wanted to borrow a cup of milk. He darted inside.

He has a white face, a gray hood. The end of his nose (pink) angles downward. He has completed his circuit of the premises and rubbed his cheek against every imaginable object. He is on the table now, apparently considering drinking my coffee.

I have no idea why he is here, but he clearly has no intention of leaving.

föstudagur, mars 30, 2007


They knocked down that great sycamore. It's not so many days ago now.

A small solemn crowd had gathered and stood watching from a respectful distance. Two of them took photographs. Hard-hatted people had brought a machine on treads up to the base of the tree. The machine had a great jointed arm with pincers at the end like a lobster's claw. They'd used it to tear great holes in the trunk, low down, and then push against it higher up, where the largest limbs branched away in all directions.

The tree fought valiantly in that non-violent way trees have. The hollow trunk twisted as they pushed it with the claw and then sprang back when. Cracks spiraled up the turning wood. I winced to see the white and rosy inner wood come into to the light. I don't suffer from pangs of sympathy in woodshops. I have no visceral reaction to sawdust. But I eat meat, and I do not like seeing animals in pain. Living flesh, then, is the matter.

When the roots finally gave, the crowd dispersed. A few of them exchanged glances, both pained and sympathetic.

mánudagur, mars 26, 2007


Driving hours in the dark you fantasize that you don't know what country you are in. You do know, but what if you should forget, just for a moment? Lights on highways sweeping away from you look like lights on any other road receding into the cramped space of perspective. Those look enough like the lights on Miklabraut seen from Kringlumýri. The thrum of the car against the road is the same here as elsewhere. You could have anything in the CD player, and what you have now is southern rock, but before the sun went down you were singing along: Þú skilur, þú skilur, þú skilur á milli ... Too many trucks, too many lanes, but you know this little port town sprawls further every year, you can pretend to hope that those lights ahead are the city creeping up onto the heath.

fimmtudagur, mars 22, 2007


Sometimes I dream of my favorite library. You could be lost in the stacks for days, unaware of the passage of days and nights. The only meaningful passage was your own, weaving between the shelves. The darkness might be pitchy. You'd grope for the chain and yank a buzzing bulb awake to illuminate the nearest volumes. The iron shelves extended uninterrupted from the basements under the earth through several storeys to the roof high above. If you put your forehead against the bindings and peered down, you could see them falling away a hundred feet into the darkness below. The floor was not a floor but a walkway suspended between the towering slabs of ordered books. It was made of thick white glass. If you looked up, if there were another questing reader stopped just above you, and if he had tugged the bulb above him a-light, you could see the outlines of his shoes through the glass floor.

Today was the equinox. Tonight I imagine fish looking up through the thick, translucent ice at the slow increase of light.

laugardagur, mars 17, 2007


Winter is leaving, but his flight has been delayed. He's come back here to wait. It isn't far to the airport. We're lounging on the sofa and eating wafers and little squares of dark chocolate.

When it's time to drive out again he'll get his hat, we'll put our shoes back on, go out to the car, flick the headlights on, get on the highway. At the airport we'll check him in -- no, only one travelling today, no bags, window. I'll walk with him to security.

Could he do something for me before they lift off? (He'll tip his head to one side the way he does.) Could he snow in the first floor and make a thick, glittering crust of ice at the sills of my bedroom windows? Barricade the house against the panic of spring, pollen, heat, memory? He'll smile and brush the side of my head with his fingers. Then he'll turn to go.

I'll drive home alone, let myself in, ready myself for sleep. I'll hope for dreams of Karhide, Thule, Zembla.

fimmtudagur, mars 15, 2007


It's coming in the windows. Early summer air is wafting in, seeping in. Outside it's dark and cooler now. When the gray-quartz-smelling air comes in it runs down the wall and pools on the floor. More comes in. The rooms begin to fill with it like water glasses. You imagine the rising level is visible from the outside, a transparent meniscus of summer creeping up the panes. It smells like stone. It sits on your chest at night and is heavy.

sunnudagur, mars 11, 2007

að láni

She's having someone else's spring evening in the car, rolling down the main drag playing Geislavirkir, loud, with the windows rolled down, singing along with Bubbi and hoping that the people on the sidewalk can hear it, can hear her having someone else's spring evening in the car.

She's thinking that when it gets hot, she'll borrow still someone else's summer evening. She'll get in the car and not go anywhere at all, just sit in the coolness of the air conditioning and listen to the game on the radio.

She always feels a little sheepish borrowing these things, almost as if she were worried that she'd be caught. But she doesn't feel too badly. It never seems like anyone has used them any time recently, and she always puts them back where she found them.

föstudagur, mars 09, 2007


Apparently orphan is from PIE *orbho- "bereft of father," or, interestingly, "deprived of free status." In fact that makes sense in the context of archaic heroic society. By definition, slaves have no kin; kinless folk are like slaves, like the unfree, because they have no fathers, uncles, brothers to act on their behalf, bring legal suits, avenge their deaths.

Heartening, maybe, but also sad is the relationship to Ger erbe, OIr orbe, OE, ierfa, ON arfr, erfð, erfðingi, all to do with heirs and inheritance. Or merely OE earfoð, hardship. (Further on, Germ arbeit, but that goes without saying.)

The base is *orbh-, having to do with changes in status and allegiance. I think of fardagar, moving days, when it was permitted to cut ties with one farm and attach yourself to another. Longer ago, when it was permitted to shift official loyalty from one goði to another. The orphan would seem to be the one who unhitches (or is unhitched) from one fast point only to feel himself swinging suddenly, horribly, free ---there is nothing for him to bind himself to anew.

laugardagur, mars 03, 2007


If she is quick, quick, she can get a word in:

... the cud of memory
so literally familiar:
crushing the past in her teeth

again and again
and never swallowing
allayed for once, arbitration
of the feud placated,
en þú kunnir aldregi

bera tilt með tveim
imagining those under the hill
Dimmur er hesin dapri dagur
niður í mold at fara.

disposed like Gunnar
who lay beautiful
inside his burial mound,
though dead by violence
hræðist þá ekki frægðarhetjan góða
óvinafjöld, þó hörðum dauða hóti:

daring has never wanted

and unavenged.
Men said that he was chanting
verses about honor
just now she mis-typed:
anger for honor
and that four lights burned

in corners of the chamber:
which opened then, as he turned
Gunnar horfir hlíðarbrekku móti,
with a joyful face
to look at the moon.
and she imagines his face
full of silver mercy

Dimmur er hesin dapri dagur
niður í mold at fara.

(Begging pardon of Seamus Heaney, scion of the poetic dynasty in service of the North, and Jónas Hallgrímsson.)

Before he turned to the moon, he turned towards home; it had seemed to him too beautiful to leave. Of course it would pull so. The fading age tugged at him, the age of honor, not pettiness but the natural nobility of behaving well. Maybe he stayed as much for love of his princehood as for love of home. He stayed at home in a past he could never survive instead of pushing off with the tide, pointing the prow out and away.

She has been too long under the earth, coiled jealous on her honor like the dragon on its gold. Hún fýsist í brott, hún fýsist út, she would leap into the dark and looping pull of the moon.

mánudagur, febrúar 26, 2007


It itches and crawls. Tonight she wants to peel her skin off and hang it on a hook, drape it over the back of a chair, fold it on top of the laundry pile. Any of these things. Would she float about like a mist without her skin or flow shapeless onto the floor? She isn't sure.

She wants to shuck it off like a salt-encrusted boot.

miðvikudagur, febrúar 21, 2007


There, between the slabs of concrete, floor and ceiling, a stripe of rain and fog, dark tree branches against it and through it.

(memories from the train on the bridge from Slagelse eastward, the view across the Bælt a claustrophobic stripe of Audenesque grays between water and cloud that made all Nordic minimalism snap suddenly into place---or is it always like that when you are traveling to the sickbed of a loved one?)

For a moment the soft gray is mist clinging to the hill, hiding houses, lush trees, the ridge above, all invisible in the wetness of it. It is a glimpse of a familiar unseen sight, a blind man's vision of home,
until the eye adjusts to the sheeting water and sees there is nothing behind it. The gray and rain goes on over trees and unfamiliar buildings and empty fields.

sunnudagur, febrúar 18, 2007


I loved those stacks.

The basement level contained treasures. I once laid hand on a leatherbound copy of Landnámabók with facing-page Latin translation; it had been printed in Boston for the King. Books that old didn't circulate. This was probably another way of telling us not to attempt walking off with any jewel from that hoard, lest the coiled serpent that rested there huffing and steaming leap into the air and wreak firey doom upon the town.

laugardagur, febrúar 17, 2007


It was the sound you noticed first, coming out the door, not the sight. You'd seen the snow through the window upstairs, feathery, neither wet nor dry, falling onto streets, footpaths, sidewalks, grass. The streetlights shone down onto it and it shone back up, illuminating the faces of the bundled people walking briskly on their whitened ways. So quiet, and every footfall creaked, the footfall of easily a hundred hurrying walkers. It sounded like a hundred windows creaking open on on oil-needy hinges, opening onto another place, and through those windows came still more snow.

miðvikudagur, febrúar 14, 2007


It's coming down sharp and wet under the streetlamps, making a crust over everything. You have to stamp your foot through with every step.

Earlier it was sugary, floury, light. Now it is sharp and wet; it is making new shapes at the edges of things. Where the trunk of a car curves downwards it has cut the snowcap into glistening angular pillars, white stuðlaberg.

mánudagur, febrúar 12, 2007


Two black bowls, radishes in one and eggs in the other. One of the eggs is brown; the rest are white.

mánudagur, febrúar 05, 2007


The snow lies on the streets here differently from anywhere else I have been. I am not sure I could tell you how.

Coming in from the wind, the tiny, striped muscles of my irises are too chilled to relax or contrast, and I cannot focus my eyes.

When the winter air gets inside is so cold it feels like water.

miðvikudagur, janúar 31, 2007


Admire the perfectly roasted fowl.

Not expertly roasted. You are not an expert. If you were, the perfect roasted bird would hardly be noteworthy. This is an inexpertly but still perfectly roasted, crisp-skinned, moist-fleshed, golden bird. Miraculously, too, the sweet potatoes turn tender just as the dark meat of the legs reaches that right degree (the perfect degree) of doneness.

You carve off pale slices of breast meat onto a colored plate. You swirl the wine and lift the glass to your nose, having no idea after what you are sniffing. (You think of a sometime host who did this.) You slice thin rounds of yam onto the back of your fork. (The unthreatening sweetness of it reminds you of children's simple palates.)

You have a perfectly, perfectly lovely supper.

You set down the silverware and wipe your mouth with the napkin. Return to the kitchen. Cover the carcass with water. (You think of the infinite thrift of a hostess who did this.) You simmer it all night, low blue flame under the the heavy pot keeping the water roiling gently while you sleep.

sunnudagur, janúar 28, 2007


The gas furnace thrums away in the basement. The front room never gets warm. Cold air spills in over the threshhold even when the door is shut and bolted. Walking through it is like stepping into a puddle on the street.

She makes tea and crosses the floor, thinking of socks or Sir Walter Raleigh, turns to go up the stairs. The ceiling is low here, slanting up to the second floor, and already on the first step she feels the warm air flowing upwards along it. It moves past her head, just stirs her hair.

She thinks waterfall, millrace, wonders what invisible things ride the current to the upper floor --or else swim against the current, fighting their way downstairs to their ancient spawning grounds on the kitchen ceiling.

laugardagur, janúar 20, 2007

leggja á

Grettir Ásmundarson vs. Glámr. The famous scene in the moonlight, the wrestling match, the grim tug of war in the gap of the door. The black and bloated revenant pulls with his feet braced against the frame. Grettir does the same. Glámr pulls outwards; Grettir pulls inwards. They are equally matched, and Grettir can feel it. He cannot break Glám's grasp and he cannot pull him into the house. So he lets his feet slip, and Glámr tumbles backwards onto the turf with Grettir on top of him.

It is a clever move, and Grettir does defeat Glámr and behead him, but he never gets free of the curse Glámr lays on him during the fight: eternal outlawry, solitude, terror of the dark.

She is photocopying the passage for a class. She hasn't opened this edition in several years. The cardboard cover flaps away from the title page. A bit of paper is stuck to the flyleaf, a note:
I'm going home. Call me after the meeting--!
and a little scribble of a name.

She feels a little tug. Then she lets go of the book and it falls back onto the desk.


Not only to procyonids precede canids --- they don't, particularly, but that is the idea behind the name --- but Procyon precedes Sirius. This I learn just today. The brightest star in Canis Minor turns, of necessity, ahead of the brightest star in Canis Major.

I did not know there were two Dog Stars until now. Are there more? If every dog has his day, does every dog also have a star? Are they all Dog Stars, then?

Or should I be thinking of this the other way around? There was just a procyonid here on a visit, a handsome specimen of moderate size. Age perhaps 2 years. Distance appox. 2 m. Mass perhaps 6 kilos. Apparent magnitude somewhat greater owing to a luxuriant pelt. Proper motion likely 'ambling.' Rotation only when agitated.

Then I am unsure: Luminosity? Temperature? Declination? Parallax?

fimmtudagur, janúar 18, 2007


She does not have summer flings; she has winter love affairs. Their colors are rich, not so bleached-out. They are less dry and dusty. Winter can have its own dryness, but if her hands crack from cold, a winter lover will rub them with white butter and beeswax. A winter romance smells of snow, fire in the grate, batter becoming cakes. This winter her romance is with the color of blackberries baked into a soft yellow crumb, luxuriously purple and mauve.

sunnudagur, janúar 14, 2007


Rattle, crash, and now each of us is a bit of a fix.

I do not want to make matters worse by writing something about how a piece of the wild winter's night has paid me a visit this graying dawn or anything like that. The burgler's mask. The twitching black nose. Et cetera. It seems disrespectful. No wild animal is ever a cliché, not even when it is only a raccoon that has crawled through the disused heating ducts like a thousand thousand raccoons before him only to lumber into a peanut-butter-baited Hav-A-Hart trap. (Which explains the fix that you are in.)

I will try to address you without falling into any of the obvious traps myself:

Hello. Sorry about that. And I'd like to say that I admire how you have carefully placed your triangular snout just in the corner where the slanting door of the trap meets the floor. I wonder if you find the geometry soothing.

í sofanum

The sofa is pale blue and small, but you can sleep on it if you hang your feet over the far arm. I did. It rained all night. I'm sure there were puddles of water outside. The light from a streetlamp reflected from the surface of one of them and shone a liquid parallelogram on the ceiling. Every time I opened my eyes (at 3:02, at 4:15, at 6:07) I saw ripples expanding outwards from each raindrop. Closing them again, I saw other things.

miðvikudagur, janúar 10, 2007


She bought a silver pitcher. It stands on little four-toed feet. It matches the coffee pot, or nearly so. (The coffee pot has only curls of foliage in place of toes.) They both have round, swooping shapes, streamlined, bottom-heaved and beaked. They have a pleasing physicality in the way that ducks do. They are not egret-elegant. But silver duck-pitcher and silver duck-coffee pot are oblivious to such æsthetic concerns. They stand perfectly unruffled and practical, their spouts pointing off towards the back of the dining room.

mánudagur, janúar 08, 2007


This is in my head this evening:

Eit er frøðið um Nornagest,
tú tarvst onki ráð geva í vanda
tílíkum góðum gekk han næst,
hvør ein sveinur geri so
oksar tólv vóru leiddir á torg
og so fram á fríðu borg
Hvíta tjald nívir niður frammi.
Enn gellir lúður í stavni,
Kallur kom heim við ungum syni,
Kelling situr so hákonu blíð,
Hvíta tjald nívur niður frammi.

It's wonderful that it should be frøðið um Nornagest, that Nornagestr should become one of whom kvæði are kvøðin when most of what he did was to ganga teim næst who were already thus famous. Long may his fame be uppi.

I will do my part and chant his kvæði in the shower tomorrow morning.

laugardagur, janúar 06, 2007


She saw it yesterday for the first time. It's always been there: an asymmetrical patch of skin on the back of her neck. Her hair was pinned up, and she happened to turn her head while walking away from a mirror. She had never realized that it was slighty pinker, redder, than the surrounding skin. Of course she had known it was there. It is thinner-feeling, the texture (slightly, very slightly) more crepe-like. It is recessed as if embossed.

All this she knows from having reached behind her neck herself (in thought, perhaps) and from feeling lovers' fingers brush past it.

It is not important, but she wonders why none of them had ever told her of its pale rose color. Was it always too dim to see? Did they think she already knew? Did they not think it was worth commenting on? And really it isn't.

fimmtudagur, janúar 04, 2007

í næturskógunum

Anyone can have nightmares. Borges had dream tigers. I picture them (and I blame Wm. Blake for this) glowing like ingots, stalking through the trees, the hot flicker of them lighting the undersides of dark leaves. Maybe they leave a ruddy path on the forest floor, crossing and crossing again until it gleams a dull red like in Kjarval's Skógarhöllin.

Maybe the tigers have just passed.

(Sometimes I see horses like this, but only from far off. I am on a plain, and in the not-too-distant distance a smudge of forest is visible. It is only a line of green-black, but I know it is a deep forest. Under the edgemost canopy I can see the horses moving about. They are burning with high orange flame, but they are not consumed, and they do not singe the boughs above them.)

miðvikudagur, janúar 03, 2007


Do old lovers remember our bodies? Do they remember the contours and weights of us? Do they think of us in the dark or in the daytime? Do phantoms of our physical presence loom up before them on certain days of the year? Do they remember how it felt to touch us and how it felt when we touched them, and which would we have them remember if we had to choose?

þriðjudagur, janúar 02, 2007

í stað

Steady, steady ---

I have only just noticed that this word contains the old word stead, place, Icelandic staður. It's rare now in English. Of course, it is in the word instead, which is not so dissimilar from Icelandic í stað (fyrir), Norwegian i stedet for or istedenfor.

(I've never understood the matter of gender there: is it et sted or en sted? Elsewhere in the language it is et sted, but that doesn't accord with the masculine gender of Old Norse staðr. What happened? Has there been, dare I ask, a shift?)

Instead is about coming into the place of something else and that something else leaving. Steady is about moving as if one were not moving, as if one were staying in one place. Isn't it curious that the venerable stead should have stuck in words no longer about place?

Then there is steadfast. No one uses that word anymore. But, then, everything moves, jerkily or steadily, onward, and new things come to replace old ones.

mánudagur, janúar 01, 2007




"There! Did you see it?"

"I'm not sure."

"Oh ... it was beautiful."
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