Tuesday Poem: Spitsbergen, a poem from my new collection “New Sea Land”

As soon as winter lifts they come,
straggling up from Europe, blank-faced,
bearing the burdens of families, of the diseases
that chase them north from the burning lands
to those that are merely falling apart.

So many miles of ocean. So small the boats
that thread the lanes of iceberg and storm,
upsetting, overturning, sudden frozen death
in the heaving seas that freshwater melt
keeps no less frigid than before.

Faces greyed with suffering. Tiny bodies

clutched in shivered arms. Small treasures, euros,
tucked into boots and inner pockets. The smugglers
turning south to try their luck again. The shore
a frieze of shattered bodies, splintered wood.

They come north, and we do our best,
here in our slim green habitable fringe
between rising sea and dying ice.
We do our best, but we are overwhelmed,
and there is nowhere further north to go.

Credit note: “Spitsbergen” is previously unpublished. It will appear in my new poetry collection New Sea Land, published next month by Mākaro Press.
Tim says: Spitsbergen is the largest island of Svalbard, an island group administered by Norway in the High Arctic, well north of Iceland and Norway itself. About 3000 people live there, mainly in the capital, Longyearbyen. It’s not a very green place at the moment, but with the High Arctic warming very rapidly at the moment, that could soon change.

3 thoughts on “Tuesday Poem: Spitsbergen, a poem from my new collection “New Sea Land”

  1. Thanks, Kay and Harvey! One of the advantages of the whole thing coming together quickly is that it saves me from the temptation of posting all the poems here before it comes out … possibly poor marketing!

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