Michael Broek

Terra Anthropologica

Elska is not a word I expect you to know

but to someone in Iceland it is love, which is also

nothing I expect you to know, but means

etymologically there is steam under the earth

which may gush from its fissures any time of day or night

but often when no one is watching, not even the stars

caring either, their white light glowing

with an aloneness no one even knows to feel sad about.


Or maybe we would be floating there

like John White searching for his daughter

in our fragile barque just off the coast

& for the first time in a century we would see

the earth cracking its seam just a bit & the steam

would seem like the earth sighing,

and the waves lapping over the gunwales

would feel less cold than they really are,

and the mist like a 

tongue like a

palm like an


like nothing after you’ve died would rain.


Oh! I know I go on

too much, all

gathered into the prow so that we might sink,

but I want us to watch & imagine

in our human way

that the light is for us, when I know it is not, though at least

I am for you. Do you forgive me

my fecklessness,

this indolence of too much & too many?

Inside, something touches my tongue that might

be a cloud, or might also be just stone.

Always this pressure under the earth must explode.



“Terra Anthropologica” first appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Fall 2011.