The War Reporter Paul Watson Pays the Poet a Compliment

DAN O'BRIEN

 

A series of poems, entitled "Arctic Graffiti," about untangled seal guts and elusive hares in the Arctic tundra.

Two strangers emerging from the Arctic

ice. Into the cozy horn of smoke-plumed

slums. The older one shouldering the camera

asks, How do you do what you do? Some days

I can barely lift the phone to my face

for a story. My arms quake, voice shakes. See

that lone figure gaining on us like Death

out of the setting, noonday sun? across

this shortcut of the frozen bay? That’s Rex

the Inuit sculptor. He carves outside

in the wind so granite flecks will flurry

away from his lungs. I interviewed him

yesterday, and now he walks right past me

without saying a word! Maybe I should

have bought a walrus tusk off him. Stumbling

like a revenant or an alcoholic

up the driven, alabaster shore. Past

the grounded schooner that used to ferry  

his kids to school. I really don’t know how

you can spend your life in a room speaking

to nobody. If only I could live

without paychecks, pensions, health insurance

and remove myself from the world and write

something about myself, for myself—that

would take some real courage. But that’s something

I’ll never do. Two strangers emerging

from the Arctic ice. The stupid one asks,

Why can’t you?

This is the third of three poems. Read the first one.

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DAN O'BRIEN

Dan O’Brien is a playwright and poet whose work has appeared in The Moth, Malahat Review, Grain and many other periodicals. He lives in Los Angeles.


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