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
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.