(from “Natural Causes”—topical science-based poems in progress)
“The North Pole is not where it used to be.”—Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Even the air could lift off, go back to where it came from, overwhelmed by solar and stellar winds. The core that grounds you, with its electrons whirling around nuclei like predators circling their prey, changes its patterns of flow twirling the planet on its staff. Like ice sheets gliding over continents, or turtles returning to the sands of their birth, curved lines draw their crossings. But they can redraw and thin the atmosphere to cirrus wisps, ions dissipating into darkness. In the magnetic fields, everything is electric with current and time. Volcanic debris, sedimentary rock, kauri trees preserved in peat, stay true to their ancient imprint and keep forever toward the north they once knew, aligned despite the earth having since turned this way and that in the cosmos, every few hundred thousand years south swapping for north, north migrating south, the magnetosphere slowly navigating the globe. That great internal machine of molten iron, with its closed circuit, can take a thousand years to change its mind. It grips the atmosphere while the earth wobbles, the axis tilting east and west, a pendular polar drift that increasingly pulls due north toward Eurasia, the slosh of water weight redistributing over lost mass. Hurricanes ring their eyes, inland seas evaporate, rains fall or fail to. Compasses will spin madly. The world unbalances, leans into emptying skies, rising shores, drying aquifers, lost cities and bearings, until no Arctic tern, no salmon, painted turtle, or seed—no one—will find a way back home.
Poem and Photograph by Alice B Fogel
Alice B Fogel served as the New Hampshire poet laureate from 2104 through 2019. Her latest book is Nothing But: a series of indirect considerations on art & consciousness. A Doubtful House is her previous collection, preceded by Interval: Poems Based on Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” which won the Nicholas Schaffner Award for Music in Literature & the 2016 NH Literary Award in Poetry. An earlier book, Be That Empty, was a national poetry bestseller. She is also the author of Strange Terrain, on how to appreciate poetry without necessarily “getting” it—which offers inroads to poetry useful for readers, reading groups, teachers, & writers. Nominated for Best of the Web & a dozen times for the Pushcart, she has been awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, & her poems have appeared in many journals & anthologies, including Best American Poetry, Spillway, Hotel Amerika, The Inflectionist, & The Southern Review. She works one-on-one with students with learning differences at Landmark College, & hikes mountains whenever possible.
Link/s to book sales:
Nothing But reveals the disruptions—welcome or unsettling—to our stream of consciousness that occur when we encounter the unexplainable. In these poems, such suspensions of linear thought become a beckoning toward transcendence, an opening both deeper into, and out beyond, our perceptions in an otherwise prescribed world.
A marriage houses two wildly distinct entities, each one in turn a form containing its own unruly spirit. Addressing its inhabitants with humor, love, sorrow, anger, confusion, and hope, A Doubtful House explores what happens to boundaries–psychological, emotional, physical, even syntactical–when people live together for a long time.
This series of poems responding to Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” pays homage to a 274-year-old masterpiece and, with the theme of spirit and embodiment that music—and life itself—evoke, renders from it a luminous new interpretation. Bach created the Goldbergs’ 32 sections using nearly all the styles of western European music at the time; Fogel responds in kind with a range of contemporary poetic styles, including narrative, lyric, and experimental, all confined within the 32-line structure she has borrowed from the composer’s 32-bar format. Interval mimics the “baroque” effects of overlapping melodies and harmonies by layering sound, syntax, and sense in multiple voices exploring self, identity, and being.