These poems are drawn from a book-length poem written while living with rapidly-melting glaciers in the Arctic and Alaska. These places are being devastated by climate change at a pace that far outstrips all other parts of our planet.
I listened to the glaciers in all the ways I could. It was terrifying and transcendent. The glaciers, like the entire living earth, are staggeringly resilient. They have a sense of humor. They are furious and insouciant. They are dying and are conscious of their dying. In this work, I am amateur translator and choreographer of voices far larger, older, and wiser than my own.
When a memory goes what flows into its gap When a glacier goes what flows into its gap What is memory’s counter-substance What is memory’s twin What liquifies its solid What ethers its stuff What tolls its hollow What recoils its strike We breathe shared memory also known as air We drink shared memory also known as river We are made of shared memory Nothing is not made of shared memory Yet each body’s memory is gossamer, wobbly a newborn insect mostly iridescent wing lurching on a leaf spine in memory’s strong wind
Water is pliant attentiveness. Matter which resembles nothingness.
Water comes from space. Most, if not all water on this planet came from countless small comets thumping against the atmosphere. Our bodies, our lives are inextricable from space—a world we cannot fully comprehend. Without this mystery, we die.
Water’s molecular shape is crystalline: throw water at the ground and it lands locked together but freely hinged so it molds, as one, to everything it touches. No other form of matter holds and molds this way.
Water’s surface tension allows it to be a body: drop body, river body, sea body. Some water bodies have their own linguistic homes: riverbed, sea floor. When one water body touches another, they bond instantly—smooth surgery, memorized. All other matter, broken, stays broken. Each water body is a portion of water’s fused and continual flow of awareness.
All water is related. Water is relation. Water does not, cannot, forget its relations. I am surprised that when a hair dryer falls into a bathtub we are not all electrocuted.1
Ice is water’s consciousness, slowed and sculpted by eons of earth. Ice is a poised moment vector in geologic time. Ice slows and retains water’s pliant attention water’s flawless memory water’s nothingness water’s vast grasp. We can walk on ice. We can slow with it.
The imagination is meant for what the mind cannot endure. Seasons are slowly drifting out of place. Time and space disunifying as in a dream. One day the distant glacier will come ripping through the tissue of my body— through the tissue of every body— With mounting desperation we are drilled on the importance of borders— You / I must be boundaried. Be either here or there. Don’t be all over the place. Don’t spill the limits of your skin— one day the distant glacier— You / I have to be all over the place because you / I already are. A dream moves through the dying cat, twitching his paws. Some life force is voided so he can be dreamed. The glacier, too, is being dreamed. No paws to twitch, no whiskers. But have you seen it? The anger in the glacier’s veins that searing, seeing blue? The glacier, too, is being dreamed on its way to dying — being dreamed by what, by who? By me, by you.
- “pliant attentiveness. The matter which resembles nothingness” is from Simone Weil, First and Last Notebooks, trans. Richard Rees (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970), 111. All other italicized words in this section are from Craig Childs, The Secret Knowledge of Water (New York: Back Bay, 2000), 89–90.
Daniela Naomi Molnar is an artist, poet, and writer collaborating with the mediums of language, image, paint, pigment, and place. She is also a wilderness guide, educator, and eternal student. Her first book, CHORUS, was selected by Kazim Ali as the winner of Omnidawn Press’s 1st/2nd Book Award. A 3G Jew and the daughter of immigrants, she is a diasporic student of the earth. Learn more at www.danielamolnar.com and on Instagram @daniela_naomi_molnar.