Járn og gúmmí

 
Kæri járnsmiður,

þú sem skríður hér
milli beðanna
í skugga nýútsprunginna
blóma:

illa má ég
við sjö ára
ógæfu þinni.

Né mátt þú
við allsherjarógæfu
gúmmísólans.

 

 

Blacksmith beetle,

 
you crawl
between garden rows
in newly upsprung
flowers:

I can’t bear
seven years’
of your misfortune.

Neither can you bear
the burden
of rubber soles.

 

 

 

 

Vatnaskil

 
Hugarfljótið
hefur skolað mér
á þurrt.

Úr kallfæri.

Undir nýjum
himni.

Og ég sái

í nýjan
akur.

 

 

Watershed

 
A flood of thoughts
has washed me
ashore.

Out of earshot.

Beneath a new
sky.

And now I plant

in an untouched
field.

 

 

 

Dagliljan

 
Nú glitrar
morgunsólin

í krónu
dagliljunnar.

Hún sem er
í senn

brunnur
sem fyllist

og bikar
sem tæmist

hvern nýjan dag.

 

 

Daylilies

 
The morning sun
glitters

on the crown
of a daylily.

A wellspring
that fills

and a cruet
that empties

each day.

 

 

 

Vetrarhugur

What’s the winter for?
To remember love.
  — Theodore Roethke

 
Það hefur gránað
í fjöll,
og haustvindarnir
æða naprir
milli húsa.

Samt hlakka ég
til komandi vetrar.

Þegar áin streymir
milli skara,
og raddirnar
berast óravegu
í stillunum

milli
okkar tveggja,

í mánuðinum
með járnnafnið.
Þegar orðin eru
einsog kalt stál

og það er málmbragð
milli tanna.

 

 

Winter Thoughts

What’s the winter for?
To remember love.
  — Theodore Roethke

 
The mountain
has turned grey,
and autumn winds
whip sharply
between buildings.

Yet I look forward
to the coming winter.

When rivers channel
through border ice
and voices carry
far away
in the stillness,

between
us,

in the months
with iron names
when words are
like cold steel,

and leave a metallic
taste between my teeth.

 

 

Cold MoonsThese poems originally appeared in Cold Moons by Magnús Sigurðsson, translated from the Icelandic by Meg Matich (Phoneme Media, bilingual edition 2017). They are republished by permission of the publisher and poets.

Magnús Sigurdsson’s spare poems pay rare attention to the minute revelations of nature rather than allowing the crudeness of machinery to bulldoze our sentiments. Through intricate wordplay and a titanic understanding of his native Icelandic, rendered with perfect tone by award-winning translator Meg Matich, Sigurdsson creates tiny but arresting artifacts—fragments that scale an instant to an aeon, and a thousand millennia to a second. Whether describing the dwarf wasp’s one-millimeter wingspan or the roots of a bonsai, he is a cosmologist of language, and Cold Moons is an intimate map of his distinctive universe. Learn more.

 

Magnús Sigurðsson is a prolific Icelandic poet and translator. His collected works include five books of poetry, for which he has won numerous honors and awards, including the Tómas Guðmundsson Poetry Prize and the prestigious Jón úr Vör Poetry Prize. Last fall, Sigurðsson released a fifth volume of poems, Veröld hlý og góð, and is in the process of completing a Icelandic translation of Emily Dickinson’s works.
 
Meg Matich is a Reykjavik-based poet and translator, and a current Fulbright grantee. Her translations have appeared in or are forthcoming from PEN America, Exchanges, Words Without Borders, Asymptote, Aarhus, and others. In 2015, she received the PEN Heim Translation Fund grant for her translation of Magnús Sigurðsson’s Cold Moons. She has received grants and fellowships from the DAAD, the Banff Centre, the Icelandic Literature Center, Columbia University, and others. She is currently assisting with the 2017 Reykjavik Literary Festival. Cold Moons is her first full-length translation.

Header photo of flowers by Lee_seonghak, courtesy Pixabay.

 

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2 Responses

  1. Susan Sampson

    Is there a backstory to elaborate upon a beetle and 7 years’ burden?

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