Call Her Alaska

My second collection of poetry, Call Her Alaska, is a contemporary re-telling of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Snow Queen.   My intention is to follow Gerda’s journey to the North Pole on foot in search of her lost playmate Kay.  During 2013, I made research trips to Denmark and Finland to explore Odense, where Hans Christian Andersen came from and to try my hand at reindeer herding in a forest just inside the arctic circle!   When I wasn’t roaming and photographing Scandinavia, I was collaborating with costume designer, Lindsey Holmes, on The Snow Queen Retold, an exhibition hosted by The Polar Museum in Cambridge (www.spri.cam.ac.uk).

 

The Spiders of Bear Island

Picture them albino: white as chalky pods
woven inside sleeping-sacs, tucked unseen
between two perished slats of a whaler’s
hut. I hatched them back to life one night,

stirring from arctic dreams, waking numb,
stunned, limb-frozen, shaking out leg after leg
after wiry leg. I fancied them slip into eight
itsy clogs, circumnavigate each other, leaving

a spiral of dusty prints facing north. Two
hundred miles from Spitsbergen, spiders
aren’t white at all, but an old blood brown,
their abdomens blown to a juicy shine of fine

hairs, black as silver. How do they endure
the vicious winds? Each home a fragile doily
spun more from absence than matter; more
from hope than refuge. Like the makeshift

put-up of the explorers who hoped to master
the arctic in a hot air balloon, taking no objects
fit for a wintering: just penguin suits, tents,
a collapsible boat. Think of them staggering

brutal ice-fields, snagged by hunger, terror,
fractured prayers. Imagine them rigging
bewildered minds back into their mothers’
plump eiderdowns, a lover’s tender neck,

sun-warm blackberries fed to unblistered
lips. Generations later, bite-scarred bones,
a tatty journal and rolls of cracked celluloid
come to light when their deep frozen camp

surfaces with snow-melt. The spiders don’t
know their luck: how the natural cryogenics
of Bear Island still them in time; thaw them
each spring, as if winter were a bitter dream.

One response

  1. Pingback: Check it out: Blog: The Polar Poet | Whooz/that/girl* *Delete as appropriate

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