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In the Polar Regions

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.

from Approaching IceFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2010
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Published in Elizabeth Bradfield Poems

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