Two Poems From Iceland

Whale Watching Off Reykjavik Harbour

where rain and ink mix
we have our sealegs

our limits an omniscience of mountains
our playground a fiction of sea

a pod of dolphins
mocks our quick recalcitrance

their limits an analogy of consequence
their playground an accident of show

minke whales surface
winning streaks of solitaire

their limits a bail of playtime
their playground an unlimitude of port

leave prints on the water
brief saliencing order

their limits a tenacity of surface
their playground an acumen of thing

remind me mammals
that we can’t drink salt!

play in the liminal
wake up home


Hallgrímskirkja is the main church in Reykjavik, built (so a tour guide told me) to resemble a glacier. Construction began in 1945 but was not completed until 1986. The top of the tower affords great views of the city at a cost of 700 ISK, but cash-strapped travellers should know that payment is ‘optional’ since there’s no-one around to check tickets (I learnt this the expensive way).

outcropping fauve homes and playmobil modernism
the northerly God-face rises
His edificial visage
a semblancing sheet of stoned cement

His shoulders staggered pixels given mass
His hair a freeze-frame glacier exploding
in a crucifix hat
His ears dark drums, grilled and lobeless

His eyes: clocks – forty-eight gold measures
projecting His order onto ice-capped vistas
His nose many small glass squares through which no heathen scent shall ever pass
and groomed to crown the light, His pane-stained moustache

His Holy mouth a mighty metal door
adorned with runes and a carved red shield
(top lip trembling paragraph of runes)
It is open. He is hungry. He eats tourists for breakfast.

On Nicolas de Staël’s ‘Composition, Undated’

I want to touch yr paint so bad
I want to run my fingers thru yr paint
I want it on my lips
I want my lips the colour of yr paint

I don’t want reverence
I want passion
Wrap me in yr canvas
Put yr paint all over me

Now I think I know how the French woman felt
Who kissed the Cy Twombly a few years ago
This is not a desire for transgression
But paint, and love of paint, and love, and paint