In Alaska, I do not think of it anymore. Vast
Space can hold a broken heart,
A hundred thousand rivers, lush with lupine,
The reaching fingers of tributaries, pebble-heavy,
The small prayers making their way up creeks,
To rest in pools, bathe in a mother’s still cry
Wet in the water’s glint, lost in the flash of white
Hard current, prayers hurtling themselves to the sky-
Carpe diem! Before they die, holy and red
Drinking in their last breath one cup of air, or of tears.
The 10,000 Smokes
Take their sweet time
Spitting lava and ash
Spreading their lazy legs down over the Aleutians
Prehistoric and true– Living five billion years in a second.
People are either born to the Great Land,
Or come to it running from the wolves at their door
The wolves, those ghosts, grow heavy silver coats,
Begin to like the arctic cold, their nose in the snow,
The small ptarmigan, a moose, now and again,
They join packs, cut a cub off from its mother…
Howl at the night, forget whom they came here to chase–
The tundra is boundless and wolves have other things to do
The Great Land swallows them up.
The cold and arctic glaciers move like tides-
A mile in a thousand years, or less.
The past, scrawled on tattered pages, turns fluid
Before massive mountains of turquoise lit by pink,
Prussian blue fills the night.
Here, stars fall like fireflies on my face,
Northern lights visit, rarely
Enough, ink or spilled paint sketching fire against the night,
Far beyond my myriad concerns, the minutia of a life,
The coldness of knowing things
That never let go.
The sky offers no end, nor horizontal line, no
Trace of past - its black dinosaur bone, its fossil element-
But melds in shades of gray that fold to the very edges of blue, no
Evidence of it in the rooted alders, barely holding on as they make
Their way down to the bay, no indication in the burning
Devil's Club I am careful not to touch.
No one here who can say
They knew me when...
...The wind whipping and certain,
Brings its cold news, its threshing brush
And it is a big wind, says cut some firewood,
Get ready for winter and a kindness of raven swoop
In at the birch trees and perch, hundreds
Or more of them; In Alaska, I do not think of it anymore
Except just now, hearing the owl flee
Reaching for one last bloom of fireweed, before
Summer blows away.
-Kelly O'Neal Thompson
Copywrite 2008. Please do not reprint without express permission of the author.