Seven Poems by Gyrðir Elíasson
Translated from the Icelandic by Megan Matich.
This is part of our special feature Facing the Anthropocene.
FROM THE ISLAND MELANCHOLIA
There are deep-cut valleys,
narrow and untraveled.
No grass grows here,
only ashy gray moss
of molten tin streaming
Somewhere in the forest is a clearing.
Somewhere in the clearing is a man.
Somewhere in the man is a spark.
That spark creates worlds, and
leaves them in ruin
Umbrellas and grass flutes
Clouds anchor the sky where
I stand, the same spot
I stood last year, then in sun.
A bench just ahead in
the lyme grass. A path climbs
above the village.
On the beach, somebody has
planted an umbrella in sand –
as a parasol. It’s too
tightly strung. The wind
bends it back and forth as it plays
a refrain on the grass.
A man with a cane
comes walking and
sits on the bench.
The grass flutes have played
to exhaustion. It starts
The way down to the house is nearly
overgrown and the stones on the shoulder
are wet from the rain. A snipe
flies up out of the grass and vanishes. You’re
standing in front of the house. You who cannot
be there, you are there, looking
You cannot be there,
nobody can be there
The mountain presides in silence
over yellow and red roofs, fields
of paling grass, strong gusts flattening
the stalks, dark paths
winding up from the sea. Gray-coated groups
make their way to the shore, and
bonfire smoke climbs
to the low-hanging cliffs.
They walk slowly,
and in single-file,
while the sun’s fire starts to cool
SUMMER NIGHT NO. 1002
When Scheherazade finished
her last story, the river took over
for her. It babbles incessantly, but I
can’t understand the first word
it says. But I can see that the fish
are listening, and that the sheep
have pricked up their ears, with their
backs turned to the valley fog. I
can tell that the stories are
about a black dog
Photo: Gyrðir Elíasson, Private
Photo: Meg Matich, Private
Published on May 2, 2017.