The Saturday Poem: Elegy for the Arctic

A new poem by Leanne O’Sullivan


Now that we believe in the stories

of your vanishing, you who had

been there all along, outside of time,

you upon whom the light of day

is now burning, our sorrow is such

small economy. Even an hour

sets us apart, is a fragment lost

and drifting from our hands,

like the sun clearing away

the mists above you, and the pools

where you quarry, and the birds

waking close to you in your own music.

We knew you as brightness anchored

in shadow, the body of a perfect

wilderness listening across the tundra.

What do you hear now, as you move out

toward the shore where the whistling terns

pass overhead and into the darkness?

I hope this leaving is as kind to you

as for any elder, any great animal

going the same way. Keep safe

for us the trails that lead back

to level ground, back to the beginning.

I fear those too are disappearing.

Leanne O’Sullivan’s most recent collection is The Mining Road (Bloodaxe)