Margaret Watson, a practicing poet, lives in Lincolnville. Her written work has been published in The Maine Review, Vox, Negative Capability Press and she has exhibited her art at the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, Alpha Gallery, the Caldbeck Gallery, the John Ames Gallery, and others in Maine.
She is a graduate of the Landscape program at Harvard University and of the Museum School of Fine Arts and was awarded the Traveling Scholar Prize. She also has studied at the American Academy in Rome.
This poem was inspired by Newfoundland.
By Margaret Watson
This northern landscape! A black horizon line. Bleak twi-
light as darkness prevails. A sluggish sky. Snow dwies,
births icicles on this small Newfoundland island. Isolation
is a cold blur with a faint hint of Vikings at L’Anse son
Meadows where Leif Ericson landed and Snorri scribed.
I was welcomed by Icelandic-speakers with sun-creased
faces and unkempt hair and children singing a fish
chanty 'Your Daddy's a Sailor Who Never Comes Home.''
Air feathers froze and knobs of frice suspended on branches
like halos on angels or under a chandelier of icy candles.
Slant shards ballicattered into a pearly-bleached necklace.
Should I put on my snowshoes? Break through the brittle
crust as slottering snow disintegrates into a pumy surface?
As a light snow falls…the chanting continues. “The old woman
is flaxing her geese”
It’s as though I have the devil’s blanket all binding satin with
a blue of the Caribbean Sea and yet consonants hover inside
hollows, vowels are layered over sishy, ice scum and icy pins
prick the river as lissome sides seemed zippered together.
Captain Cook sailed here. Joseph Banks collected plants.
I’ve accrued a few, pressed them, then exposed in noon’s sun
as Stygian cyanotypes of Arctic willow, Labrador tea, needles
of spruce & pine compressed with the deepest dark juices of crow-
berries, cloudberries, and a flattened berry called baked apple.
The sun’s coming out of the water now, red as blood.
Passing a root cellar which is supposed to hold 20 pounds of
potatoes, 3 barrels of turnips. Not to eat but as seeds for next
year’s crop. It has been said in holy week kelp is brought in to
sell. Near-by, riddle fences without nails keep sheep, not for
money as no money they say (a dollar coin is called a luni).
The government subsidizes, builds or even moves houses.
Yet beneath the meshes of these weighty clouds, and Arctic
icebergs which seem to float in drifts like pancakes in syrup,
does anyone hear us talking? Perhaps silent voices live longer
than the heart. A lump of Greenland ice splits off into the slatchy
water on this side of the sea. Maybe just you and I are here…