Weekly Poem: ‘scenes from the trip we didn’t take to the antarctic’

BY Tom LeGro  March 1, 2010 at 12:15 PM EDT

By D.A. Powell

your inability to phone says it all: whitecaps frozen in a touchless curl
the space in the lungs where breath catches and falters

portage across the blank surface of the hills, bleached tendons
and the stark crevasse we could not cross: we came to that impasse

laden with the starkest gear and most meager provisions
the landscape offered its monotonous signboard disproof

 
 
gentle soul, I can tell you now, there’s no real continent underneath
the bluffs thin their beards and the glaciers chuckle to pea gravel

static the air, conclamant stars sheen the black sky, fisheye stilled
and time comes grinding to rest against the freezing waste of us

caught in an icy mortality: we found its echo in eco tourism

 
 
you think an ever can change the course of vanishing
conjugate the verb any way you wish, you still lack future tense

say it with me, sunshine: today, brainscan; today, x-ray
today, complete metabolic panel with platelet differential
today, urinalysis; today, liver biopsy; today, preparing the body

at the last station, the sepulcher was empty and you asked why
beyond this numbing terrain, frozen white cell: phantom laughter
didn’t you hear it all along?   or did you think it was just the wind

 
 
D.A. PowellD.A. Powell is the author of “Chronic” (Graywolf Press), which won the 2010 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. The award, which comes with a $100,000 prize, is given annually by Claremont Graduate University to honor work by a mid-career poet.

“Chronic” is Powell’s fourth collection and was named a best book of the year by Publishers Weekly and the Los Angeles Times. It is also a finalist for the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry.

Powell has taught at Columbia University, the University of Iowa, Sonoma State University, San Francisco State University, and served as the Briggs-Copeland Lecturer in Poetry at Harvard University. He currently teaches at the University of San Francisco.