iceland

poem (not mine): the icelandic language

The Icelandic Language
By Bill Holm

In this language, no industrial revolution;
no pasteurized milk; no oxygen, no telephone;
only sheep, fish, horses, water falling.
The middle class can hardly speak it.

In this language, no flush toilet; you stumble
through dark and rain with a handful of rags.
The door groans; the old smell comes
up from under the earth to meet you.

But this language believes in ghosts;
chairs rock by themselves under the lamp; horses
neigh inside an empty gully, nothing
at the bottom but moonlight and black rocks.

The woman with marble hands whispers
this language to you in your sleep; faces
come to the window and sing rhymes; old ladies
wind long hair, hum, tat, fold jam inside pancakes.

In this language, you can’t chit-chat
holding a highball in your hand, can’t
even be polite. Once the sentence starts its course,
all your grief and failure come clear at last.

Old inflections move from case to case,
gender to gender, softening consonants, darkening
vowels, till they sound like the sea moving
icebergs back and forth in its mouth.
Indexing:
Lovely poem! After being marooned in the Keflavik airport for nine hours this summer after a volcanic eruption I became fascinated by Iceland and this poem reminded me just how much I want to learn Icelandic and go back for a real vacation.
It's a marvelous place to vacation during the summer--lovely and cool in comparison to the US east coast. If you ever do go (and don't suffer over-much from seasickness), make sure to go whale-watching. And take a knit hat--it's rather windy.