I. Polar Flight
I slept over Greenland.
The closest I have ever come
To that disappearing country
My mind forms from statistics:
270 billion tons of ice lost each year;
Each year since 1998, 0.027 inches added to the oceans.
And if the whole sheet melted
How many homes would drown?
How does it feel
For the near-pole-dwellers
To know their home—too far and cold to capture foreign eyes before—
Is now the gauge by which we try to read our fates?
They have less to do with what is happening
To them, to us
Than I do, eyes closed, dreaming
As ice-melting fuels carry me above their home
To my final destination.
I should have looked out at least
At the gray growing round its edges,
Said some sort of prayer.
Now, as we fly on towards Canada
Approaching Hudson Bay
The clouds stretch out
The way ice is supposed to, but too soft.
I cannot tell
If any real ice shines through,
If the dark gaps show naked land or sea.
It is August,
Melt time in the Arctic, even without warming
And my thoughts come less from what I see than what I’ve read:
How this Arctic winter was the warmest yet on record,
How the oldest, thickest ice broke twice this year.
I have no practice with this land to spot the difference
Between summer and catastrophe.
I only know the numbers, inches and degrees,
Not how it feels to live a change,
To watch the ice you once rode out on to find peace
Crack and buckle earlier each year
Turning summer days into an expanding prison term.
Not how it feels to wake up
To an iceberg
Filling up your window,
Threatening to break and flood your shore
With water that you never learned to swim in
For the cold.
But I will come to know my own losses:
The silencing of certain birdsongs,
The early wilting of some plants
Out-thrived by strangers.
All the little details
That build a biome
Switched out by degrees until
None of us
Can recognize our homes.