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.


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