Five Translations of Jóhann Hjámarsson
You start from sleep beside a spring
just as if you had dreamed you
were searching for frightened people
among the trees
Then come the horses with their bulging
And your blood issues from this spring
just as you had dreamed
The black horses drink from your red, angry bowl
The summer sunsets only give off red and here I extend
my hands that cannot even lift a bayonet
It would be better if I had some power over them
like a daring soldier over his metal snap-together weapons
But I’ve inherited an inadequate vocabulary
and most of the words I’ve lost
on my walks around the block
The sunsets are red and my sorrow and joy
are laid up in them
Blue is the color of distances
that the sunsets rust along the way
The night holds the sun in its mouth.
A spine of tide lifts and the monster opens its eye.
The island splits the encrusted skin.
Blood oozes from the wound and wets the rock face.
Then the soon-to-be carcass flies in agony
over the white fiery tongues of the depths, boats pour
out from its lips and drive toward land shoals of sunlight.
On this night I think about someone from my past
because I have risen to the song of the pearl oyster.
The angel of booze has whispered in my ear
like spinning could mean a pinwheel inside a rock frieze:
You lived the fast life of a shooting star
but could not scatter or plunge into the sea.
I walk below on the beach where Baldur’s Eyelash grows
I see a flash from the sky that falls into a flat sea
and then the golden world of sand opens
I can hear the plashing oars of strange vessels
coming to punish me for this song, warm angel.
With you to be prepared for joy to be prepared
for your eyes for your hands to be prepared
for your voice with you alone to be prepared
With you to be prepared for your sorrow to be prepared
for your lips with your feet to be prepared
for your silences with you alone to be prepared
can I overcome difficulties without shedding blood
is a poet and translator. His book of poems, The Small Mystery of Lapses, was published by Cleveland State University Press in 2006. His translations of contemporary Icelandic poet Jóhann Hjálmarsson won the 2005 Toad Press International Chapbook Competition. And his translation Flying Night Train: Selected Poems of Jóhann Hjálmarsson will be published by Green Integer Books in 2009. He was awarded a MacDowell Colony fellowship in 2003, and a 2006 Witter Bynner Translation Residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute, a 2007 Literature Fellowship for Translation from the National Endowment for the Arts, and most recently a 2008 American-Scandinavian Foundation Creative Writing Fellowship. He is the Literature Director and Communications Director at the Arizona Commission on the Arts.