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Poetry

Black Sea

By Magnús Sigurðsson
Translated from Icelandic by Meg Matich
The dark kaiser’s ship, / deep-keeled, cuts the water

In memory of
Jónas Þorbjarnarson (1960-2012)

1.

The dark kaiser’s ship,
deep-keeled, cuts the water
from head
to head,

breaks
and sinks.

       *

The one who
is here to tell us
what it means
to drown

also knows
the miracle
of lungs filling
anew
with air

when the body
shoots up
to the surface,

treading water,
gasping for breath.

2.

It seeps into the brain,
the black sea:

            the hold fills.

I am below deck
and run up the steps.

Out of the porthole,
a leviathan

              *

an enormous sea serpent
like those
half-submerged
on medieval Icelandic maps.

When seafarers
feared such creatures.

             *

I am not afraid of them,
Jónas.

            *

I am afraid of drowning.

            *
In a world without miracles. 

English

In memory of
Jónas Þorbjarnarson (1960-2012)

1.

The dark kaiser’s ship,
deep-keeled, cuts the water
from head
to head,

breaks
and sinks.

       *

The one who
is here to tell us
what it means
to drown

also knows
the miracle
of lungs filling
anew
with air

when the body
shoots up
to the surface,

treading water,
gasping for breath.

2.

It seeps into the brain,
the black sea:

            the hold fills.

I am below deck
and run up the steps.

Out of the porthole,
a leviathan

              *

an enormous sea serpent
like those
half-submerged
on medieval Icelandic maps.

When seafarers
feared such creatures.

             *

I am not afraid of them,
Jónas.

            *

I am afraid of drowning.

            *
In a world without miracles. 

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