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Photography by Gunnar Benediktsson
Photography'  2007 Gunnar Benediktsson
Quartet

my name is a cipher that he cannot pronounce. It is pressed to his tongue like the cold, bright edge of a spoon.

He stands in the center of the room, arms loose and extended at his sides. The light casts four shadows of his body, faint frames flickering against the sloping walls.

His fists make short work of the flesh around my wrists. He turns his rage to the flat doorways of my house.

His teeth shine like a knife grinding at a taut rope. He grips my arm and again I wrestle with him in the farmhouse, his eyes shining in the darkness.

He presses my face to the floor. His chest is an empty vessel, filled with the silence of a reverent flock in the moment before devotion is given utterance.

Photography' © 2007 Gunnar Benediktsson

Symbiotic Architecture

Between the panels of the house at first there is nothing.
Gisli left water for me at the side of the bed. It is covered
now, a film of fine hairs floats at the surface. When he steps
on the staircase, the glass rattles softly against the wood floor.

It shakes because Gisli built the house when he was twentyfour,
didn't know a damn thing about walls or roofs.

On the first floor I can hear the hallways unwinding. Joined
wood creaks in its weathered seats.

No electric wires in these walls. Gisli didn't want any help.
Twenty-four, he could own his own future. The foundation
sagged out of shape as he was digging. When he built the
house on firm joists it tilted like a bush stunted by high winds.
The air is cool but the lit stove keeps the wood planks of the
floor warm, and the flies rest their abdomens there, rubbing
their legs together waiting for their young to hatch. Gisli is
my host. I am theirs.

I can see them from above as I descend. I know what each
wall means before it stops me. I can see the space between
the panels, the filled cavities, the bones of this place; I hear
only chewing, faint and steady.

Inedible Saltwater Fishes
Photography' © 2007 Gunnar Benediktsson

My father tried to teach my fingers to hold a fishing rod with
no talking. He knelt behind my, held my hands to the reel,
pressed my fingers under his, swung the rod behind us, cast
out the line. Using his own strength.

I was reeling the lure in too fast, he told me. "Make it spin,"
he said. "You'll never catch anything." He placed two fingers
against my temple and with his hand in the shape of a gun,
clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth.

After he turned away, I felt a tug on the line. I watched his
curved back as he sat on the edge of the dock, dangling his
feet above the water. It was an old, wooden pier. Behind
him the broken boards formed a hole in the shape of a dog's head.
I tried to speak but my teeth wouldn't let go of my tongue, my
jaw clamped shut over the words. He got up silently and
started walking toward the car.

My hands opened. The fishing rod fell to the boards and was
pulled slowly into the water where it floated for a moment
before sinking beneath the surface. My father's face turned
away. The muscles of his jaw flexed beneath his blank eyes.
I felt it as a sudden clamminess. A damp warmth over the
fronts of my legs. My trousers clung to my skin like a confession.

Maybe it was the spot, but we never caught anything except a few bullrouts. "Those are useless," he would tell me. He'd kill the fish anyway, knocking its bony head against the pier. We stopped going soon after. It was hard for my father; each time having to walk back to the car for pliers to pry the hook from between their clamped, massive jaws.

Photography' © 2007 Gunnar Benediktsson
Helix

If I had more time I would build it. Another floor, a winding circle of staircase to connect them all. I'd get a bathtub with clawed feet and a railing to pull myself up by. I'd have a room with a desk built into the wall and I would become a farmer-poet. A window to see the hills with their frost-heaved curves.

Since it happened, I have felt a calmness in the pit of my stomach. It was a relief. His skull was spongiform, a thin membrane under my hands.

I cover the floor of his bedroom with plastic sheets. He was useless anyway, no good with tools. They'd clatter out of his hands and tumble down hillsides. Ladders couldn't bear his weight. His thin body was in no shape for work. I pry his jaws apart and insert the thin, sharp blade of a knife.

My grandfather was Norwegian; he had a winding staircase connecting the floors of his house. When I was seven I fell all the way down the stairs and only hit my head once. He said that was lucky, and so after he pressed a cold spoon against the welted bump he asked me who was going to win the World Cup. I guessed Italy. Two hours later, Diego Maradona pressed a black and white kiss against his curved, silver bladder, his white shorts smeared with dirt.

"Good thing I didn't bet money," my grandfather said. After that he rang a bell if the phone was for me, just to avoid speaking.

There isn't time now. No floor, no staircase. I wrap the plastic around his prone body. Even now, the shape is awkward, ugly. He was useless anyway.

Photography' © 2007 Gunnar Benediktsson

Emergence

Love is just style. A nunnery filled to bursting with the energy
of a dozen teenaged girls, laughing. The bent rod before it
thinks itself into an angry line.

It is a clamminess, sudden, damp. The front of my pants
a moist membrane.

It is riding into the wilderness on a stout but comically small
horse. Carrying the rolled up form of Olafur across the horn
of a saddle.

Love is pressing his eyes shut as the warmth leaves his body.
Love is sparing him the sight of himself shitting his own pants
as he kicks uselessly at the floor. Love is wrestling with his
ghost in the darkness while flies buzz around his body. They
alight on the tiny drops that form on his cold cheeks in the
night. They are like hummingbirds, sipping nectar from his
flesh.

In the end, love is a mound of dirt. You could be lost out
here, and never be found again. Violence is like that. He is
with me now, in this room. His face is close to mine. He
reaches for me; our hands draw near, but never touch.

Bishop/Outlaw
Photography' © 2007 Gunnar Benediktsson

His throat hangs like a taut rope.

A hand emerges from the fog to cut it.

It is my hand. My knife sinks in and catches
on the tough sinews. Behind me the dogs,
their eyes alert, impassive.

As it yawns open into the shape of a
fishhook, I begin to examine the bright edge
of my father's spade--the hilt of the knife lies
warmly in my hand.

His smile is doubled; as his mouth fills with
dirt my eyes fill with tears. He made me this
way. I was born a monster, but his loam-dappled
eyes unman me.

Photography' © 2007 Gunnar Benediktsson
Transformation

The horse is plaintive as I lead him to stable. Inside, I examine my record for scratches, place it gently on the turntable. Rimsky-Korsakov: the Thousand and One Nights.

The thaw has shifted my wall inward. Its warped edges lean toward me like an imminent violence. The sun is low in the sky. I am raw from lack of sleep.

I know that he will come to wrestle with me again: I have made a monster of him. Each night I will choke the life from his body, and his eyes will stand behind me in the darkness, gleaming in the dim corners of the room.

I will feel the chill and look back. He will be standing there, his barren patch of skull catching the moon. His arms will hang limply at his sides, fingers still filled with a dark, rich earth.

His eyes will be filled with love as he catches me by the hand.

A bell will sound as he drags me with him to his grave. Our faces will draw near, but will not touch.

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last update: June 25, 2007