Wednesday, May 30, 2012

wordy wednesday: poem of the day

My friend and former teaching buddy Clara just published a beautiful poem called "Northing" over at Hip Pocket Press. It reminded me so much of the trip Jason and I took to Alaska two summers ago as a belated celebration of finishing his Ph.D. program, getting a tenure-track gig, and moving across the country to start our new life navigating the waters of academia.

Here's the full text of the poem, which was published in HPP's Canary literary journal. Happy Wednesday!

NORTHING - Clara Quinlan

Isn’t the ice in the distance traveling,
doesn’t it know of my approach,
the red, jagged trees a painter’s stroke
sweeping from the highway, rushing over
each hill. This far, have I already come
without you, a faint disappearance
into black, brittle limbs
collapsing from fire, here
a turn to marrow, to my own interminable
exit; have I not coveted you, dark drifts
on the tongue, spine icicled, mindless,
my body endures, the scallops of mountains blued
without trees, the river’s green glass
advancing from the glacier, spilling against
the road, isn’t it cracking, isn’t it
heaving, when was I told to wrest the song,
pass through in mute, alkaline and silt,
breath’s vaporous fingers
a new hour, an unknown stage, the ice
far above and tremulous. When I place
my hand upon the chandeliered river
enter this: while there is still time, tell me
how might the end be spared? Hands
indulgent, bucketing all that is strewn
wild, trafficking your many forms, the barren
flesh sings, crystallized, trees tilt
and claw at the relics of light. Spooling up,
a congregation of
white butterflies from the grasses
render the air, demand reprieve against
the vast, the tundra
uninterrupted, glaciers yawning into kingdoms and how
might the slight wing survive?
To put my mouth upon
the prayer that keeps you
and devour, your fingers struck gold my love
with conquering. Let nothing come
between, our stride  thickened under
jagged bush, gnarled shoots
mask the creek we search for, we hear
as glass clinking somewhere into
collapse. You who know no end.
The earth will refuse, rocks caught
under sponged lichen beneath our feet as if
the ground should boil. Sky cobbled
in thermals insisting solitude. Give up
your small narrative as time measures itself
only in the empty space our bodies
cleave. A colony of Kittiwakes rises
from the broken black stalks, hip high,
syntax of wings scattering the luckless
vapors of cloud, do not mistake this
for mercy, joy you can attend, the vital damp of green
banished. Toward indulgence, the tendriled snow
atop the mountain cuts its host in faint bones.
Where bounty still abides, bring me
born from winter, a system of white mapping the flesh
unwanted, feathered and receding, how far
again should I have followed? You,
wealth of debris, gild the sutured room;
windtorn and willing, I hunger beyond frozen waters.
© Clara Quinlan


  1. These pictures are gorgeous! You and your husband are so cute!

  2. Erik and I have been dying to go to Alaska! These pictures are amazing, and what a beautiful poem!