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.
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