The Ice Ship

Ekphrastic Poetry

Caspar David Friedrich
The Polar Sea

Snow-clad mountains spit fire, icebergs drift
… 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
… 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,
… 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
… perishing winds. Ahead the glacial hull looms
spectral in the crushing heaves of pack-ice,

trapped like a fisherman’s float
… 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
… his log, the Captain holds patient vigil,
awaiting a huff of divine breath.


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