Ekphrastic Poetry

The Ice Ship

Caspar David Friedrich
The Polar Sea

Snow-clad mountains spit fire, icebergs drift
…..in a boiling swell, piercing the pale sun in its net of frosty air.
We have been at sea for days.

All night it is day. Glycerine shadows fuse sea and
…..sky into something indivisible. Hoar-frost and snow mingle with hail.
This is the end of the inhabitable world we are so far north.

Ice-cold, iron-cold, our lungs tense against the razor chill,
…..it could be the moon we are so distant from ourselves.
Dreaming and loving here are the same hunger

as we wander in watery exile, storm-beaten
…..by perishing winds. Ahead the glacial hull looms
spectral in the crushing heaves of pack-ice,

trapped like a fisherman’s float
…..in the mouth of a silver carp. Tattered sails,
fragments of mast, poke from their crystal coffin

like splintered whale-bone, trepanning the empty heart of blue.
…..For thirteen years they have waited, penitent
as glass angels, black lips welded to alabaster tongues,

untold tales frost-bitten in their throats. Alone
…..at his log, the Captain holds patient vigil,
awaiting a huff of divine breath.


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