Ice Chronicles

March 5, 2013

Sure, it could be snow that covers his stick-like torso;
ice has already hollowed out his head.
Yet he sits and sings under the shadows left
to the evening by the lonely winter’s day.

He sings. And while he sings the sun appears to rest…

So still, it must perpetually crest the perpetual ice;
so still, it permits the snow to re-freeze back into icicles
hanging off the barn, as if it were a cave
where some ancient, tusked mammoth had drifted off to sleep—

How they must sting the hands of little boys who
break them off for fun or food.
Sure, they know he can’t be there.
Sure, they run from a gust of wind, these boys.

But they all know the tune by now,
how it all starts so harmoniously
and how it ends with icicles and wind.
Still, they stop to listen. They stay to play.

 

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5 Responses to “Ice Chronicles”

  1. Anna Mark Says:

    The review in the New Yorker wasn’t very positive, but when I watched the official trailer I was hooked. Intense but also detached.

  2. John Stevens Says:

    I must look out for ‘Amour’

  3. extrasimile Says:

    John and Anna: thank you both. I am relatively happy with this poem. The stillness—almost cessation—of time, the ice, the singer and the playing boys, the mammoth—all bite into the sentences (as it were)—or do the sentences bite into them? Yes, that’s it.
    By the way, this poem was written in the light, or perhaps I should say the shadows, of a very powerful film, Michael Haneke’s ‘Amour’. If you haven’t seen it, recommend you do—though it is not for the faint of heart.
    Time does drift back to the mammoth—but I think there is a little Maurice Sendak in him as well. We boys do love a good monster.

  4. Anna Mark Says:

    I am struck by the stillness that you create in the first half of this poem. It is deathly, timeless and prehistoric, far reaching anyway, with a sense of movement backward and forward, defying time. And then the innocence of childhood harmony and the boys’ oblivion of “him” and the cold wind which I see as “his” breath and also as the end.

    Jim — I really enjoyed both these last two poems.

  5. John Stevens Says:

    That picture of the ancient mammoth in the cave of icicles is a powerful one; something in the human psyche (well mine, at least) recognises that as a familiar and chilling sight. No wonder that the boys know that it will all end with icicles and wind … but still they play!


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