THE CALM BUT DEADLY OCEAN
By the time her plane landed in Gothenburg, Sweden, her heart had stopped beating. Over the following weeks she fought for her life in intensive care, aided by medical professionals, high-tech equipment, and drugs that barely kept her alive. She was fully sedated for most of that time due to repeated surgeries. I sat by her bed, giving her gentle strokes in the faint hope she would sense my presence, spoke with the nurses and doctors and our visitors, studied the complicated and somewhat intimidating equipment all around us (trying to figure out the role of each device and what their signals meant), read books, or simply contemplated our situation. I also took care not to exhaust myself by confining myself to the intensive care unit while she lay there unconscious; I went on walks around the city to maintain my mental and physical health and to gather strength for the time when she would wake up and have greater need for my presence.
On our twenty-seventh day in intensive care, I was once again staring at the cardiograph on the screen beside her bed. The ECG was completely flat, just as it had been for the previous twenty-six days. There was something so utterly unreal and ominous about a flat line representing the condition of a living individual. We are conditioned by countless films and TV shows to associate a flat line with death. Staring at the line, a metaphor came to mind, and I was immediately struck by the urge to turn it into a poem: a very unusual urge for me and almost certainly influenced by my many hours of reading during those long days at the intensive care unit. I had immersed myself in the memoirs of the Icelandic poet Sigurður Pálsson, and at this moment I had become so captivated by his books that I felt the need to imitate the great writer, similar to when a child watching a talent show or a sports game is suddenly compelled to start singing or go out and play basketball.
A medical horizon,
with alternating peaks and valleys,
and then a calm sea
from which almost no one returns.
There is Engilbjört,
in a boat in the calm and quiet but deadly ocean,
far out in the much too quiet ocean.
Yet still within sight of land,