Modern Light

Candice Wuehle

And there are no female saints in Iceland.
And there are no female saints in Iceland.
And if this is a joke, the joke is that
First, I think maybe
The women were all just that bad.
Second, I think maybe
They were all good and not one
Of them was exceptional. Exception
Is the reason I am a Woman Traveller in Iceland.
On the incoming flight I looked through
Frankenstein: or, A Modern Prometheus
For proof it was extra light drove
The doctor & his monster mad.
I want to know everything of light & madness
Throughout history:
I thought I was mad myself but my own
Doctor told me I had experienced
An old light, an
Untrue guide
the guidebook unhelpful on this matter,
This matter of madness in Iceland.
The guidebook informs me only that on
The issue of light in Iceland
The Woman Traveller may experience a sense of false


Pursues his monster
Throughout the night and across
The Arctic Circle. It is always
Victor granted safe passage
By endless light and utter emptiness.
World as a hunting ground.
I think of the word: prey.
I think I hear words that aren’t.
I think I hear doors open even in Iceland
I think I hear the thin black chain
if this is a joke, the joke is that
Now in Iceland and I want to escape
Every kind of darkness.
The kinds that come in long words: institutional, economic, academic, interpersonal.
I came to Iceland to ignore my mail
I want to stay awake.
If this is a joke, the joke is
That in Iceland I turn to the light &
I meet fear like a living doctor.
The exception about Iceland
Is that all of the well-lit emptiness of
Iceland is supposed to illumine the anti
Darkness: the Space of Which is not X.

All of Iceland is My Country for the Woman Traveller.
And there are no female saints in Iceland.
And there are no female saints in Iceland.
I think of the word: pray.
I think of the smell of gas from an unlit stove
I think of the smell of light and
I think of how I have to think of the word: X
Before I think of other Long Words.
X to invisible net as I to something vomited I never ate. No, heavy flashlight
Always in my purse.

I think how much I think.


I really do laugh for a while when I first arrive in Iceland.
Another Woman Traveller sends me a message:
You are the bad, bad bitch in my <3.
I blush, but
I do not even use the streets to walk, I walk the volcanoes,
I walk the cliffs, the black sand beaches, open empty meadows,
I walk the villages and I walk waterfalls, I walk hot springs,
I walk glaciers and geysers. I use all the hours
To walk and as if unburdened by time, also unburdened by space.
I’m always drawn onward, I’m never tired.
I forget that I am a Woman who came to Iceland because of insomnia.
I forget all about X for a long time.
I forget the police, in Iceland I don’t think there are any police.
I forget the black cans of poison I kept, in Iceland there isn’t any poison.
I forget coming home everyday before dark that winter.

For my summer in Iceland
There is no dark.


There is no dark.
There is no dark.


If jokes have a metaphysical quality
It is that they are understood in the body
Before they are understood in the brain.
If this is a joke,
The joke is that
I travelled up a steep mountain at night until alone
And turned to look back at where I had come from.
I turned to look at what
Men in Mary Shelley’s era called The Globe Mansion, the
Wandering Space with no end of Wonders.
Do you remember the
Dozens of parts in
Frankenstein in
Which the monster

My body                    cowers?
Looks at the light
Across the lake and the valley and the volcano.
It could see
So far.
And no one could see it.
And it was there, the closest my body had ever existed in
Open Light Unending
, That I thought of X

For the first time in Iceland,
And if there is a joke
It’s that on a mountain in Iceland my head heard a crunch and looked
Behind my body
I remember
The sound of hard footfalls.
I try not to laugh
As I research all the female saints
That never did exist in Iceland.
No one can write down what they don’t remember,
I think, as I read that while many anchoresses exhibited
Miracles worthy of Sainthood in medieval Iceland,
The threat of rape from opposing religious orders
Was too great a risk to their virgin sanctity to
Make Their Glory Manifest.
It is easier to be forgotten by God
If you are forgotten by history,
Than by yourself.
I am only realizing as I write that I came to Iceland to try not to forget
This has to be a joke
And not a history or
A poem
Because a poem would have craft & a history would
Be in a dark room somewhere
As myself slept and drunk
Myself out of myself so that if there was X I wouldn’t
See, that’s funny,
Now that I’m in Iceland, thinking about it.
And I’m not the only one:
When Saint Cecilia was forced to marry
She sang through the ceremony to take herself
Off the earth and into a higher plane
In which she would be wed to Christ.
Maybe it’s also funny
To wonder what could really be known
Than to know a thing
The world is so wide it is invisible in its eternity, is something possible
To say aloud as
I look out on Iceland.
I think of the monster made monstrous by a lack of context for his Own Life.
I think of Victor who created and kept secret the context.
I think of Victor stalking the monster and I think of the word stalk.
I think of this word’s incorrect etymology: to remove a plant’s stem of inner Structure.
I think of what it is to really be artless,
To create a context outside yourself.
I laugh as my self meets my monster and
I get the joke.


I look out on Iceland. I breathe in air without noise. I lean over and cup my hand in a stream running from a snowcap to a lake and drink its water. I look out under the sun’s beams falling across my body in the middle of the night.


And there are no female saints in Iceland.
And there are no female saints in Iceland.
Only women, anchoring.
Globe Mansion, I think.

Candice Wuehle is the author of the chapbooks curse words: a guide in 19 steps for aspiring transmographs (Dancing Girl Press, 2014) and EARTH*AIR*FIRE*WATER*ÆTHER (Grey Books Press, 2015). Her work can be found in Tarpaulin Sky, The Volta, The Colorado Review, SPORK, and PRELUDE and is forthcoming in The New Orleans Review and Juked, among others. She is originally from Iowa City, Iowa and is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Candice currently resides in Lawrence, Kansas where she is a Chancellor’s Fellow at The University of Kansas as well as Poetry Editor for Beecher’s Magazine.