from Flugur

Jón Thoroddsen


      It's raining roses. The angels clap and shout. God Almighty bows and smiles.
      A young, inexperienced angel cannot restrain himself. He flaps his wings and shouts: Long live God Almighty. He lives!
      The heavens shake with congratulatory shouts, but God Almighty pauses, biting his lip. He is eternal. He smiles and bows.

      The archangel Gabríel holds a party, providing the keynote address. He is well-spoken, as usual.
      The actors have cleaned themselves up and changed clothes. They are sent for and wipe their eyes with their hands.

      God Almighty steps down from his throne, and chummily pats the lead-actor on the shoulder.
      You were priceless, he says, humbling himself.
      I don't understand, says the actor. Here it is merry and full of joy, but I came from a place of misery.
      Yes, you were quite good, say the angels.
      I doubt that others could have performed it better, says the archangel Gabríel, and he is knowledgeable about such things.
      The actor jerks his head back in laughter.
      It was a play, he says and whistles. But tell me one thing, God Almighty. Why is it that we don't know that we are acting?
      If you knew, you wouldn't perform. You would sit backstage and watch.
      God Almighty said this, and the party continued.

Vita Nuova

      Outside the day is blue and bright, but inside Sorrow sits and tells tales to the Prisoner. The shadows gather in the corner and listen.
      The sun rises in the sky. The rays, which shoot dancing through the metal-plated window, kiss away the darkness from the cell.
      One of them dares to out-lengthen the others. It dances along the floor, and kisses Oscar Wilde's foot. The Prisoner looks up in wonder. Sorrow stops speaking and smiles.
      Oscar Wilde stands up and walks to the window. He watches a little, blue streak, which the captives call the sky. And he sees a white cloud rush by the sky's sea.
      A peculiar song plays, wakes his imagination. He is an exile, who lives alongside the sea. There he waits for something that he loves.
      You, whom I love.
      I push a boat out from the boat-house, because I am stricken with homesickness. And I call out to you across the sea:
      With a white sail he heads for your shore, the exile, who loves you.


      The poem begins thus, that the tree-tops nod their heads as though they agree with something that I don't understand. It follows that Pan goes about the forest and Pan is a young girl. It's like she has no idea about danger, and the predators do her no harm. She comes to a pool, which is deep in the forest. No one has come there before. She bends the branches to the side and looks down into the pool. And this must be an odd pool. The reflection doesn't disappear when the girl leaves. To where? No one knows. But the trees whisper about it around the pool. They have all arrived at the same thought and they link their branches.
      This, my acquaintance composed and then came from overseas speaking about nothing but forests. He composes poetry about forests and compares them to men's souls. All other metaphors he finds worthless. And when composing, he speaks of frightened hares, which are impossible to approach, or an owl sitting in a hollow tree. He also speaks of singing birds.
      To change the subject, something happened to my acquaintance while he was abroad. He has told me this like so much else that he pretends not to take seriously. He was in the forest picnicking with many people. He danced a great deal, amusing himself splendidly. But while dancing with the most beautiful girl, all of a sudden he noticed another girl standing there beside him. He hadn't noticed her before and didn't know that she was there. He let go of the girl that he was dancing with and went straight to the unknown girl with his hands outstretched, wanting to dance with her. She looked at him, turned away, and went slowly into the forest. My acquaintance was so absent minded, that he didn't pursue her, but watched after her and watched her disappear behind the distant trees. He recovered his senses when the girl with whom he had been dancing laid her hand on his shoulder and asked him why he had gone off so suddenly. He turned quickly, removed her hand from his shoulder and then hurried off into the forest. He searched for a long time, but didn't find her.

translated from the Icelandic by Christopher Crocker