Gillian Clarke

Polar

Snowlight and sunlight, the lake glacial.
Too bright to open my eyes
in the dazzle and doze
of a distant January afternoon.

It’s long ago and the house naps in the plush silence
of a house asleep, like absence,
I’m dreaming on the white bear’s shoulder,
paddling the slow hours, my fingers in his fur.

His eyes are glass, each hair a needle of light.
He’s pegged by his claws to the floor like a shirt on the line.
He is a soul. He is what death is. He is transparency.
A loosening floe on the sea.

But I want him alive.
I want him fierce
with belly and breath and growl and beating heart,
I want him dangerous,

I want to follow him over the snows
between the immaculate earth and now,
between the silence and the shot that rang
over the ice at the top of the globe,

when the map of the earth was something we knew by heart,
and they had not shot the bear,
had not loosed the ice,
had not, had not….

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