Back to Issue Four.

The Green Hotel

BY MATTHEW THORBURN

 

—Reykjavik 

 

These rain-faded, corrugated iron houses— 
bleachy pink and blue, that iodine 
red, oxidized umber—look like Paul Klee 
got lost and flew north, or Aix-en-Provence 
picked up sticks and left Provence. 
From our perch in the church steeple 
we can look right down sleepy Vitastigur, 
the narrow houses lined up like matchboxes 
all the way to the gray harbor, the five 
out-of-service black whaling ships 
with the red H stenciled on their funnels, 
a yellow helicopter buzzing off 
towards the water. Lily, is that 
Mount Esja over there, nearly lost now 
in the blue-gray mist? (I saw it earlier 
in the Rough Guide.) Look, there’s Lake Tjörnin 
like a torn sheet of foil, and down there— 
that’s our green hotel, where we stood 
last night on the balcony looking out 
at nothing much. No skyline to speak of 
but an alley, laughter from an open door, 
a glittery trickle of water along the cobbles— 
just around the corner from that string 
of bars lit with strings of yellow lights 
where we found a quick bite to eat 
when we realized it was nearly midnight. 
We’ve left the familiar behind—far 
from home, newly married—awake now 
for twenty-seven hours and falling in love 
with a country that never gets dark.

 

 

Matthew Thorburn's new book of poems is Every Possible Blue (CW Books, 2012).