(Plectrophenax nivalis » feathered trickster of the snows)
western Hudson Bay shoreline, Canada
From the tall steel of the tundra buggy’s
deck, I spotted two prowling polar bears
leave willow rills for the water’s edge, where
they chased and rolled, then dropped into a nap
amid the dark wrack wreathing that icy
beach. Through the binoculars I could see
their noses flute, bowed ribs rise with each breath, while
around them sparrow-sized snow buntings hopped,
whistled, and foraged, stood in the nostrils’
turning breeze, traced the still flanks, braved even
the black curve of seal-smashing paws. They pranced
without fear of wild power, like jester
dwarves in the king’s court, or Francis, at play
before God, singing praises of the small.
-Published originally in Fourteen Hills.
Included in Songs of the Two Names,
winner of the 2012 Grayson Books Poetry Chapbook Competition.
-- Robert Aquinas McNally
The Poet to Her Poem
Make of my elbows small pebbles rolling
the river bottom, a fierce and pummeling sweep.
If you will, build of my limbs and trunk
the supple breast and weight of the water.
Of my hands, eels, my ears
twin leeches sucking sound,
already these feet are two swift fish
flicking the shadowed pull of current.
Of eyes and mouth, shape glints and echoes,
sunlight and voices under the bridge.
If you can make of me water’s muscle,
then perhaps you can float:
lay your head where the shoulder of the river rounds,
where the heft of it bends and pools,
hear a river’s shifting joints and taste summer
licked from the lips of a swimmer.
Be sure to tell all the tales—laughter and the drownings—
what I have taken and what I leave behind:
whole lives, wide banks strewn with smooth stones,
the yellow foam of pollen painting the shore.
- Christina Hutchins
From The Stranger Dissolves, Sixteen Rivers Press, 2011.
First appeared in The North American Review.
-- Christina Hutchins