Thursday, 30 May 2024

American Life in Poetry: Eat­ing the Glac­i­er

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

There is a clever impli­ca­tion to the title of Lau­ren Win­ches­ter​’s poem ​“Eat­ing the Glac­i­er.”

The poet is seduced by the thought of eat­ing some­thing as ancient as glac­i­er ice which can be, I am told, thou­sands of years old.

This is a work of hum­bling envi­ron­men­tal­ism, the desire to achieve a cer­tain immor­tal­i­ty by con­nect­ing to the ele­ments: ​“I gaze at the ice, thirsty for its light,” she says.

But the most human, trag­ic-com­ic, moment fol­lows, when ​“the ice turns its back” or her hubris.

Eat­ing the Glac­i­er
By Lau­ren Win­ches­ter​

The guide chips off a piece
to taste. The water in me
is the body of the glacier.
When I breathe with my lungs,
I breathe with the glacier's
lungs. Breathing—though made
from all our kind's rough materials
(marrow and membrane, fluid
and flesh)—I am fathomless.
I gaze at the ice, thirsty for its light,
and the ice turns its back
on my looking.


American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2020 by Lauren Winchester, “Eating the Glacier” from Cream City Review, 45.1 Spring/Summer 2021. Introduction copyright ©2022 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

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