Long from home. Glaciers capping the hills
like false teeth. It’s not just the odd meat
we’re carving, clawed flippers and flightless
wings, or the long-churned distance to any news of home,
any first-born or failing parent. There
are other signs this place is foreign. The ship
converses with ice packed around it, groans
and squeaks, an occasional outraged crack.
It takes a particular man for this, you know,
able to be short-sighted for months on end.
The air is constantly aluminum with snow,
and my mouth, too, tastes of metal. Salt
of iron seeping from my weakened gums.
Each morning, I pack drift around my tongue
to freeze the soft flesh holding my teeth.
It all goes to slush—ground underneath
our tents, my mouth, the knack for conversation.
Walking west, five of us have fallen
to dangle alongside cliffs of ice, the thin crust
breaking into chasm easily, as if such sudden transformations
were to be expected and we’re the fools to be surprised.
Only a thin rope holds us to the surface. Hanging,
there’s nothing to do but stare at the blue contours of freeze
and tongue our loosening teeth, test the stringy roots
that hold them, wait for a tug from the ones left above.
Copyright © Persea Books 2010
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on behalf of Persea Books.