Toward an Arctic Circle

There are lines
we cross borders
we step past
where flesh and bone
meet cranberries
and club moss
outside the truth
I like to call
our lower forty-eight.

We paddle
sometimes motor
up the Wild
Salmon River
toward the Boreal
Forest I know
as the northern limits
of mother and

Like today
when she texted
I’m watching Dr. Phil
between caribou
and birch
and now I realize
I involved you
in adult issues when
you were just
a teen forgive me

I mark time
to the rhythm of
the Great Kobuk dunes
while she inhales
the onion portage its
naked chive
growth glowing like
the screen
of my phone.

I’m watching
the white ruffs
chalk caribou
bulls’ noble antlers
I read their autumn pelage verse
and succumb
to my marrowed guilt

for hesitating
to accept this apology
not because
she’s thirty years late
to this continual night of
dwarf shrub
silence –

but simply
because her epiphany
came from
an unlicensed tabloid
who peddles failed
weight loss

I know now
we’ve gone too far –
these dunes
a desert mirage warmth
mere Ice Age relic –
so I tell it
thirty-five miles north
of us:

this place
I call
our Arctic Circle.

– Candice Kelsey

CANDICE KELSEY’s work has appeared in such journals as Poet Lore, The Cortland Review, and North Dakota Quarterly. She published a successful trade paperback with Da Capo Press, made it to the quarter finals of the 2017 Able Muse Prize for Poetry, was a finalist for Poetry Quarterly’s 2018 Rebecca Lard Award, and recently was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. An educator of 20 years’ standing with her M.A. in literature from LMU, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three children.