The Impartial Absolution of the Bering Sea Islandsby Lisa Creech Bledsoe
Once, these islands were mountains. Once
we walked the ice between, following bear
and the banshee of the wind.
A warming sea has swallowed the land, hidden it
in her green and dark skirts
split here, or untied, ice melted and flown.
Above the cold: the smell of rot and musk—
of dissipation. Or recovery. A whale's
rib accedes to the creep
of lichen, its cancellous length
by breath and vestige
declining, then emerging into fox prints.
During the war twenty-nine reindeer were brought here
then left. In twenty years, there were six thousand,
then none. A single winter took them.
Over and again I go back—
to whales, to pallid snow, to fog and ash
and things that disappear: the bunting's
arcing flight display, floating
downward toward nests in talus
slopes and shrinking snowfields.
I have come here not by thought or abandonment
but by resistance. Here a body is frozen
before it grows buoyant.
Before the seed opens, three days. After
it bursts, three days. Walking home over sea ice
we work to become unfastened, then empty.
* * * * *
Lisa Creech Bledsoe is a hiker, beekeeper, and writer living in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina. She is the author of two books of poetry, Appalachian Ground (2019), and Wolf Laundry (2020). She has new poems out or forthcoming in Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Chiron Review, Otoliths, and Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, among others.