Sunday, October 11, 2009

"Crossing to Fox Island" by Gregory Loselle

Crossing to Fox Island

Every act is first an act of faith:
One foot, slowly, lowered to the ice,
And then the other, and we stand
Above the vault the river winters under,

And look across the flat unreal expanse,
Imagination telling us we cannot stand
Where water ought to be-- where water is
Beneath us. Then we start across the ice.

Some patches, dark and flat, are panes of glass,
Like windows into night beneath our feet,
Where trapped air scatters from our steps
Reminding us that we are more like stones

Than shadows, howsoever lightly
We might cross above the shuttered flow
And tread the temporary span from land
To island. Snow abrades the most of it:

Bright crusty scabs that crumble underfoot,
And leave us gasping, stumbling in the space
Above the space we occupied, reminded
Of the weight above the depths below.

One inch will hold one walker, if he's light,
And two a group, and three or four a car:
We counted out the thickness as we dressed
And count it as we walk across it now,

And onto land again, the island's crested beach,
The trees that rise among the drifts. And looking back
We measure out the distance, trace our tracks,
Where every act of faith was first an act.

--Gregory Loselle

Since Loselle was not present in Lawrence when the award was announced, Jarita Davis, the 2009 judge, read the poem, recorded by Lawrence Community Cable Access in the video beolw:

Since publishing his first work, a play, at the age of eighteen, Gregory Loselle has won four Hopwood Awards at The University of Michigan, where he earned an MFA. He has also won The Academy of American Poets Prize, the William van Wert Fiction Award from Hidden River Arts, and The Ruby Lloyd Apsey Award for Playwriting. Most recently, he is the winner of the 2009 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition.

A chapbook, Phantom Limb, was published in 2008--and another, Our Parents Dancing, is forthcoming--from Pudding House Press. His short fiction has been featured in the Wordstock and Robert Olen Butler Competition anthologies, as well as in The Saturday Evening Post, and his poetry has appeared in The Ledge, Oberon, The Comstock Review, Rattle, The Spoon River Poetry Review, The Pinch, Alehouse, Sow’s Ear, and online in The Ambassador Poetry Project.

He teaches secondary Language Arts and Art History in southeastern Michigan, drilling his students in the distinctions between can and may, good and well.


Jim K. said...

I like the symmetry of the statement,
the simple imagery, the philosophy
embedded in this, and the continuous
diffuse feeling of risk, especially
since it's only indirectly alluded to.
The relief at the end is the magic
moment for me. Looking back is done
in a light-handed way. I am reminded
of the book "Zen for Americans",
where the ideas must be translated to
the things we know around us.

The "Frostian" part is that strong
sense of inner lessons from outer
nature, sort of an Emerson/Lao-Tzu
conversation, world as retina for mind.
That nature-to-mind connection is
very rarely written. Great choice!

malcolm willison said...

The steady pace of the poem suits the gravity, so to speak, of its subject. But it properly slows in moving from four to five to six beats a line, as the narrator becomes more uncertain and focuses on the ice beneath her/his feet. And then speeds up again, as s/he strikes out for the island across the ice.
The neatly but suggestively descriptive wording captures the winter land and water scape evocatively and in revealing detail.
Finally, the Frostian aphorism/ epigram as coda sardonically reminds us that faith means nothing without action.