Thursday, July 8, 2010

The distances which are left us

My thanks to Martin Duwell for sending me this poem on Iceland by Eugenio Montejo - it follows on nicely from my last post on Auden's journey there, and performs that easiest of tasks, making me feel homesick.


Iceland and the distances which are left us,
with their frozen mists and fjords
where they speak dialects of ice.

Iceland so close to the pole,
purified by nights
where the whales suckle their young.

Iceland drawn in my exercise book,
the illusion and the tragedy (or vice-versa).

Could anything be more ill-fated than this longing
to go to Iceland and recite its sagas,
to traverse its fogs?

It’s the sun of my country
which burns so much
that makes me dream of its winters.
This equatorial contradiction
of seeking a snow that preserves heat at its core,
that doesn’t strip the cedars of their leaves.

I will never get to Iceland. It’s very far.

Many degrees below zero.
I’m going to fold the map over and bring Iceland closer.
I’m going to cover its fjords with palm tree groves.

Eugenio Montejo, The Trees: Selected Poems 1967-2004, translated Peter Boyle (Salt Modern Poets in Translation).

A excerpt from the original:

Islandia y lo lejos que nos queda,
con sus brumas heladas y sus fiordos
donde se hablan dialectos de hielo.

Islandia tan proxima del polo.
purificada por las noches
en que amamantam las ballenas.