On the Gyre

June 26, 2016

The new title of my blog was inspired by the story of the Endurance expedition, led by the famous Ernest Shackleton. The Endurance was lost in the antarctic, in an attempt to sail through pack ice. The ice soon surrounded and ultimately crushed the ship, stranding her crew neither on land or at sea, but on a shifting surface of packed together ice floes that was slowly describing the circular motion of the currents in the Weddell Sea.

Navigating the ice on foot and dragging their life boats with them, they eventually found open water and sailed for Elephant Island, a barren outcrop from which the crew could be rescued after the sturdiest lifeboat traveled a further eight hundred miles to contact whalers on the island of South Georgia. What makes the story so special isn’t necessarily the level of adversity they faced as the astonishing fact that every crew member survived.

Today I decided to write a poem with the same name, this time in free verse.  This one is dedicated to a friend.

The noumenal gyrations of the ice
that packs in memories
and serves them up with little explosions
like leopard seals at blow holes,
expected but unexpected,
mistrusted but accepted,
the after-the-fact recognition
of predictions fulfilled, the déjà vu
and the unfulfilled –
what remains to be done about it
amidst the everyday that crowds out all ambition
with its timeless mundane grind
the need of a long-delayed understanding
a long-awaited explanation
the retreat into imaginary conversations
the waiting around
all retains the rhythms of sea ice.

A yellow horse on a blue field is a wish
and the field is peopled with wishes
and one of them is red
and the blue grass is new and bending
the way grass should always be
and I see them in the courtyard
but none of them are mine.
If I give them names
they will still have their own names
unknown to me and real,
more real than wanting makes things so.


I write in little circles,
pacing the ambit of the vanishing
here and now
and I wonder about my reader.
My turn to know has finally come
and if I don’t tell you know, I will
as soon as the weather breaks.
I grow impatient with a project barely begun
and how have you been?
You must have retired by now.
Maybe not. But I remember
how you talked about falling in love
so I know you must have fallen in love.
I like to think you have a daughter
and a good book to read and a dog.
Maybe not a dog. But a snug home
and a full household set of habits,
as good as retired if not as bored.

When I picture you sitting down with the paper,
I imagine you look very tall,
but that’s perspective for you.
I can’t imagine anyone being patient enough
to follow along on the adventures
of an iceberg
but I like to make-believe you do.
I wish I remembered our conversations
better, but maybe I will soon.

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