sunnudagur, desember 30, 2007
laugardagur, desember 29, 2007
miðvikudagur, desember 26, 2007
mánudagur, desember 24, 2007
sunnudagur, desember 23, 2007
laugardagur, desember 22, 2007
miðvikudagur, desember 12, 2007
föstudagur, desember 07, 2007
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
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
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
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
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:
- Spring Keld
- Selly Hall
fimmtudagur, nóvember 15, 2007
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
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
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 www.messybeast.com.
þriðjudagur, nóvember 06, 2007
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
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.
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
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
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 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 GylfaBut how did the antipodal Zealands get there? What did they yoke up to pull them and from where?
glöð djúpröðul óðla,
svá at af rennirauknum
rauk, Danmarkar auka.
Báru öxn ok átta
ennitungl, þars gengu
fyrir vineyjar víðri
valrauf, fjögur höfuð.
þriðjudagur, október 09, 2007
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
miðvikudagur, október 03, 2007
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
sunnudagur, september 30, 2007
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
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
sunnudagur, september 16, 2007
I hadn't known there had been more:
Only Pchelka and Mushka did not survive their mission.
fimmtudagur, september 13, 2007
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
þriðjudagur, september 04, 2007
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
sunnudagur, september 02, 2007
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
þriðjudagur, ágúst 28, 2007
fimmtudagur, ágúst 23, 2007
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
þriðjudagur, ágúst 07, 2007
laugardagur, ágúst 04, 2007
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.)
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
sunnudagur, júlí 29, 2007
miðvikudagur, júlí 25, 2007
þriðjudagur, júlí 24, 2007
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
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 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
miðvikudagur, júlí 18, 2007
mánudagur, júlí 16, 2007
laugardagur, júlí 14, 2007
föstudagur, júlí 13, 2007
þriðjudagur, júlí 03, 2007
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
laugardagur, júní 23, 2007
föstudagur, júní 22, 2007
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
"Sæhestur nemur land í Straumfirði." Skessuhorn, 21. júní 2007
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
sunnudagur, júní 10, 2007
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
1 seize and carry off by force.The word has not be carried far from the meanings of its root:
3 fill with intense delight; enrapture.
O.Fr. raviss-, prp. stem of ravir "to seize, take away hastily"Enchantment and a sort of rapture is no later than 1430; rape comes shortly after in 1436.
Reconstructed Vulgar Latin *rapire, from
L. rapere "to seize, hurry away"
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
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
föstudagur, maí 25, 2007
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:
Be gone from my house!
mánudagur, maí 21, 2007
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
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
miðvikudagur, maí 16, 2007
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 springaStröng 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.
Kongurin seg undrar --
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.
föstudagur, maí 11, 2007
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
mánudagur, maí 07, 2007
In the back seat I justified my grammatical misstep to wishful thinking: I had wanted to have been home already.
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
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
þriðjudagur, maí 01, 2007
miðvikudagur, apríl 25, 2007
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
mánudagur, apríl 23, 2007
fimmtudagur, apríl 19, 2007
Horfðu á MánannÉg 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.
Eldur í öskunni leynist
Ó borg, mín borg
þriðjudagur, apríl 17, 2007
sunnudagur, apríl 15, 2007
laugardagur, apríl 14, 2007
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
þriðjudagur, apríl 10, 2007
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
sunnudagur, apríl 08, 2007
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.
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
fimmtudagur, apríl 05, 2007
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
mánudagur, apríl 02, 2007
laugardagur, mars 31, 2007
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
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
fimmtudagur, mars 22, 2007
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
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
sunnudagur, mars 11, 2007
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
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
... 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
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
She wants to shuck it off like a salt-encrusted boot.
miðvikudagur, febrúar 21, 2007
(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
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
miðvikudagur, febrúar 14, 2007
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
mánudagur, febrúar 05, 2007
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
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
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
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.
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
sunnudagur, janúar 14, 2007
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.
miðvikudagur, janúar 10, 2007
mánudagur, janúar 08, 2007
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
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
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
þriðjudagur, janúar 02, 2007
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.