Cynthia Arrieu-King

After every party at my house, every dinner with relatives, after each meeting, or a lesson I'm not sure how to teach, I announce to no one, Well, no one died. In this case I'm not sure what joke to make, everything good so legislated to be crushed. Am not interested in trying the seafood. Early on, had never considered a political party or marriage. Had not considered until now the birds panting to death in the heat. Did what any part-Mongolian person would do and went northward in summer to Iceland: green, white, and black. Tourists laugh all down the highway at the landscape so operatic it hurts. The lake illuminated by low sun at eleven p.m. Tourists die there, not reading the signs, or we fall from cliffs while finding a better view. I went randomly to this nation where, because my father had shaken his head at me often, You are so damned independent, I recognized their flag, a declaration of never having been ruled by a King, now no standing army. These fólk who invented Parliament, expelled the Danes, discuss for hours the ancient sagas. My fellow Americans say aloud, Don´t these people believe in paper towels? Today, instead of speaking Icelandic, a language so little changed by ten centuries that a computer is called a numberwitch, and a tank a crawlingdragon, Icelandic teens speak English to each other. Because, “It´s easier.” I say to an Icelandic woman, “You know, that´s the inequality between black and white people,” and she says -- hiding on her face that she knows  -- “White person, what is that?” As many guns as us per capita and—hold breath—two murders per 330,000 people in a year. Their cartoonist´s paindeer defeats an entire army. From the top of its head, a small sunset shoots red signals about the end of things and topples each armed man. Pain, in fact, is the beginning of something. The Icelanders held up níðing poles draped with the heads and hides of sheep or cod at corrupt bankers in 2009. Banged pots and pans at them. They lucked out, who knows what would have happened if they’d taken over an inhabited island? Yet, from their country, I saw the angry scribble of my country. That other Americans and I spoke so freely outside home. To walk outside at midnight with zero fear. No tank, no flame could touch that. To souvenir an imperfect but more actual freedom. To hear a language that came back into use from the villages after a colonizer´s language was pushed out. To hear something old, ethereal, musical from every person´s mouth. To turn a bright thing over in the mind, the way a poem gets repeated to oneself again and again.




Found In Volume 48, No. 06
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Cynthia Arrieu-King
About the Author

Cynthia Arrieu-King is an associate professor of creative writing at Stockton University and a former Kundiman fellow. Her books include The Betweens (Noemi Press, 2021) and Futureless Languages (Radiator Press, 2018).