From Iceland — Exodus


Published August 19, 2009


Something childlike deep within their eyes, reminded me
of faces in the crowd from before the fall of the Berlin Wall;
or on dim-lit streets in Gorbachev’s Moscow—
a cold, heartless, place—queuing for half-loaves
of old, white bread, where prostitutes hung on every corner—

a new breed of parrot combing for sugardaddys with Texas oil
money intent on buying the entire state of Kazakhstan,
rocks and all; or in cheap, quadratic Soviet hotels,
like The New Hotel Cosmos, it’s heavy, acrylic telephone
ringing off the hook all night: ‘You need Russian happy massage?’,

‘You wanna happy wife?’, ‘You happy married man
wanna be more happy?’— happy pronounced with a ‘Ch’,
like chutzpah, just without the Rabbi—a means to a bitter end.
Freezing, they held their banners high so you could read them
loud and clear, even without your rose-tinted spectacles,

but you and smiled weakly, shrugged, sipped coffee, ate cake,
warm on the inside, contemplating the end of the known world,
and how you might survive another week, let alone
another bloody election.  Some had long departed, slipped inside
their shells, or grabbed whatever was at hand—a tin can,

an old boot—just like hermit crabs, scrambling; the faithless,
hoping for swift insurance claims, burned their homes down
to ashes—mislaid cigarette butts in curious places; but cement and sand
and bricks and raised hands were stuck—piled deep, under
Shanghai containers, full of plastic trucks and fluffy bears
and copyright problems with blinking lights and batteries,
lining the Port of Rotterdam.  
In age-old institutions, staff
simply frowned, grimaced or drowned, and somehow life
went on: birds migrated, snow fell, winds howled,
seas spawned silver fish.  Weeks later you were still stuffing

your face with cake, scanning the horizon for Santa Claus and
his reindeer, shook parcels under the Christmas tree
six weeks early and crossed your fingers behind your back,
hoping the Russians were coming with borscht and furry hats
with ear flaps—just like once the Berliners had hoped—

after Adolf and Eva and Blondi the dog, lay in dust
and shrapnel at the bottom of a hermetically sealed bunker.  
Bet you wish you had one now, eh?  
Hundreds, thousands,
lost their stride, slowly their living, their spouse, their minds,
glued to TV every night  at seven o’clock sharp, praying

for a faint crack of light, but every night you cooked
the same reconstituted meat—a kind of SPAM—over and over again:
boiled, stewed, fried, roasted, diced, mashed; 
(the indigestion didn’t bother you, you had your cake)
followed by game shows and studies of sheep herding

in the highlands. In the end, you didn’t even add pepper or salt,
and so, they took to the streets, vowed in solidarity to stand
in front of your house every Saturday morning, just when
you were waking up, drying yourself off in the shower.
Some say there are those who weather the storm

in distant lands, rubbing their palms, sipping cocktails
under big, wide umbrellas on island havens where dictators
practice a magical form of democracy, where accounts are numbered
and things are implied, rather than stated.  
Who knows?

How many days did it take Moses to reach the Promised Land?

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Ísafjörður Calling

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