by Rafaella Del Bourgo
Returning to the apartment I rented in Reykjavik,
I drive west past the fishing village of Hofn,
its channel to be navigated with care
due to the shifting patterns of the shoals.
The rocking boats, and the seafarers,
safe, for now, in the harbor.
To the edge of Jokulsarlon, the bay
where the glacier calves off into icebergs,
some small as travel trunks,
a few the size of a room.
Some are a celestial blue, some are banded
with dark streaks of volcanic dust.
The lagoon water licks at them;
the tidal pull draws them slowly
under the bridge
and, much diminished,
they sail off to be lost at sea.
Past the black sand beach at Dyrholaey
with its lava pillars rising up from the water,
and an arch stretching out past the waves,
which gives the area its name:
“the hill-island with the door-hole.”
Two a.m. I return to my temporary home.
I push aside heavy drapes to see how
the “midnight sun,”
mountains to the north
with a light, relentless and alien.
by the landscape — at times
bleak, at times beautiful,
always unfamiliar —
I collapse on the couch.
Crawling into my lap,
the resident cat I agreed
to care for during my visit.
Like my tom back home,
he is heavy and orange,
brushes his face against my hand.
I lean my head back.
I am a visitor here,
far from my home port.
This cat is my anchor.
NOTE: Iceland is an island country in the North Atlantic, with a population of about 365,000 and an area of 40,000 square miles, making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. The capital and largest city is Reykjavík. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active, with an interior consisting of a plateau characterized by sand and lava fields, mountains, and glaciers, and many glacial rivers flowing to the sea through the lowlands. Icelandic culture is founded upon the nation’s Scandinavian heritage—most Icelanders are descendants of Norse and Gaelic settlers. Icelandic, a North Germanic language, is descended from Old West Norse. The country’s cultural heritage includes traditional Icelandic cuisine, Icelandic literature, and medieval sagas.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I’ve traveled quite a bit. This poem is autobiographical, and was written in the last five years. I have family by marriage in Iceland, living mostly in and around Reykjavik .
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rafaella Del Bourgo’s writing has appeared in Puerto Del Sol, Rattle, Oberon, Nimrod, and The Bitter Oleander. She has won many awards including the League of Minnesota Poets Prize in 2009. In 2010, she won the Alan Ginsberg Poetry Award. She was also the 2010 winner of the Grandmother Earth Poetry Award. In 2012 she won the Paumanok Poetry Award. In 2013 she was the recipient of the Northern Colorado Writers first prize for poetry and in 2014, the New Millennium Prize for Poetry. In 2017 she won the Mudfish Poetry Prize and was nominated for the third time for a Pushcart Prize. Her chapbook Inexplicable Business: Poems Domestic and Wild was published by Finishing Line Press. She lives in Berkeley with her husband and cat.