When the men of Skarð saw the horned moon,
perched on the mountain above the village,
they talked amongst themselves, saying,
“if we can only capture the moon and cage it
in our central square, its silver light will keep us
through the long winter dark.” So they climbed up
with fishing nets and ropes, stepping cautiously
over the loose talus so as not to spook the moon
with clattering rocks. When it began to edge away,
they tried coaxing the moon and promised it every nice thing —
butter and sugar, salted cod and rhubarb preserves —
if only it would stay. But the moon would not listen
and skipped away to the ridge of the next island
just as they reached the peak.
A Place on Earth
It is at least possible, that this life
contains every possibility of life after.
Behind the illusion of islands greening
in the grey indifferent salt, of knit sweaters,
and nectarines, the latent truth of the thing itself—
fibre and rock, sea and sugar shot through
with being. Today the harbour was full of cars,
a long line queueing for passage to Denmark.
While tourists snapped pictures of the ferry
and fisherman sold enormous slabs of fish,
I walked the quayside head down, head full
of noise, half-seeing. Then for a moment, I saw light
over Nólsoy, smelled the stink of fish entrails
shucked in buckets. It lasted only a moment,
but just then I did not want to leave this world.
For so long I thought that love happened to us,
that it waited beyond the bend of the particular.
I am tired of believing this. I am so very tired.
So let the kingdom of the everyday show itself
in all its mundanity and beauty, seen afresh.
We will call it heaven. It will teach us to stay.
We took the searoad / past the glass-clad hospital and dry dock / where a huge Russian freighter lay, split-keeled, / spangled with Cyrillic and rust. / Jetty lights blinked out / red-green, red-green. / Movement in the island-coloured underbrush — you said foxes / but it couldn’t have been foxes. / Here, nautical miles from the nearest landmass, / the mountains showed their delibility, the slow faith / of rain returning basalt to salt sea. / There were no foxes dogging our steps / toward that basement apartment, / toward the aquavit and undoing / though I heard later that once there were foxes, / a half dozen or so escaped from a fur farm. They lived on the lam / a few months in the mountains before being shot. / That was a long time ago, long before we fell / asleep on that kitchen floor in Argir / after the bottle and three Beatles records and woke together, / a tangle of limbs and headphone cords. / I want there to have been foxes / so I could keep the blithe beginning in mind: / the two of us following the bay’s parabola / into a future still left / uncertain. I would describe copper lit shadows, / a slinking in the verdure, / a rumour of flame, instead of a grey-washed morning / reality and the regret of knowing / how irreparable and irrecoverable a life can feel / how distant a wife, how cold / the salt-thrid Atlantic, how urgent, how immediate / a warm body in a far country / utterly bereft of foxes.
Matthew Landrum's book Berlin Poems was published in March 2019 by A Midsummer Night's Press. His poems and translations have appeared in Agni, Image Journal, Michigan Quarterly Review, and Clarion. He lives in Detroit.