POeT SHOTS # 4 - Greenblatt on a Poem of Therese Halscheid.


"AFTER ALASKA" by Therese Halscheid

She lives in me now, in the north of my chest, where it is all dark, all winter--
to my ears will come her voice, then to my eyes, this white woman,
then pathways to the tribe she roamed with, to places inside me
where they are hunting and she is gathering and there, a certain arrow,
and there, a stab of certain pain

then to moments other than these, to nights when my heart is a drum
for her dancing and her movements tell stories, and I feel in her feet
all that was told to me, all that was shared.

When I breathe and the wind blows in a mighty power, my mouth forms
 a small opening and she scales the dark throat to leap where
my lip catches the light, that she might sit
and be warmed for a while--

I felt her once, during an inner storm, as a certain chill ran through,
after my muscles tightened into big cold mountains
that she was arranging my ribs, arching them same as the shelters
she spoke of, in the icy north of Alaska, where they shape
whalebone over driftwood and pack it with sod.

There is a veined landscape she traverses in the spring
where my blood runs as thawed rivers

and she waits on the sands of myself for the return of the whale,
propped against a white embankment of bones, knees drawn to her chest
as in the way of the Eskimo, at times looking up, reading
the starry pores, the sky of my cloudless skin.

Has the white woman absorbed the Eskimo? Or has the Eskimo taken the white woman into her? There is a mysterious mutuality: "north of my chest," "to my ears will come her voice," " my heart is a drum, " "I feel in her feet all that was told,'" "she scales the dark throat," "she was arranging my ribs," "my blood runs as thawed rivers," "the sands of myself," "reading the starry pores," "the sky of my cloudless skin."

– Ray Greenblatt