Averill Curdy

Northwest Passage

Standing on this deck I have watched

Morning’s first pale peach jeopardy

Of light flush alleys and rooftops,

Just touching my neighbors’ gardens,

Until they seethed like the green smoke


Of a new world. On these sidewalks,

With the linden’s melon scent twined

Around an untuned engine’s blue carbon

Monoxide and Wednesday’s trash,

I’ve looked for an authentic eloquence:


Frobisher returning three times

From Baffin Island, Boreal winds

Still on his tongue, timbers strained by tons

Of fool’s gold. Circled with lamplight

I’ve imagined sailing under discipline


Into strange seas where the sun hangs

Dumb as a cabbage all day in ice.

Even as sirens squall down the block,

I’ve fallen asleep in my armchair,

Tired as any theoretical geographer


After dinner, who dreams of trading

His knives for nutmegs, mirrors

For cinnamon and pearls, and beyond—

Finding by brute necessity and skill

Some route between suffering and song.




“Northwest Passage” first appeared in 32 Poems, Fall 2006.