We sat completely silent, seven of us, for awhile. Then we heard the internal crack and low boom that meant a calving. After a short while a gentle swell emerged from under the edge of the glacier and washed toward and under the zodiac. So friendly but I felt a tinge of foreboding anyway…think of the acres of glacial break off in Antarctica, how those waves must be. Again, there was a moment of being in all-time. Just the earth going on about its earth-moving/making/changing business.
A gallery and a poem. Glaciers and Icebergs.
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Glacier (after Wallace Stevens) by Craig Santos Perez


Among starving polar bears,
The only moving thing
Was the edge of a glacier.
We are of one ecology
Like a planet
In which there are 200,000 glaciers.
The glacier absorbed greenhouse gases.
We are a large part of the biosphere.
Humans and animals
Are kin.
Humans and animals and glaciers
Are kin.
We do not know which to fear more,
The terror of change
Or the terror of uncertainty,
The glacier calving
Or just after.
Icebergs fill the vast Ocean
With titanic wrecks.
The mass of the glacier
Disappears, to and fro.
The threat
Hidden in the crevasse
An unavoidable cause.
O vulnerable humans,
Why do you engineer sea walls?
Do you not see how the glacier
Already floods the streets
Of the cities around you?
I know king tides,
And lurid, inescapable storms;
But I know, too,
That the glacier is involved
In what I know.
When the glacial terminus broke,
It marked the beginning
Of one of many waves.
At the rumble of a glacier
Losing its equilibrium,
Every tourist in the new Arctic
chased ice quickly.
They explored the poles
for offshore drilling.
Once, we blocked them,
In that we understood
The risk of an oil spill
For a glacier.
The sea is rising.
The glacier must be retreating.
It was summer all winter.
It was melting
And it was going to melt.
The glacier fits
In our warm-hands.

Copyright © 2016 by Craig Santos Perez. “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Glacier” originally appeared in Newsletter of the Comparative Literature Association of the Republic of China. Reprinted with permission of the author.



  1. A very nice way to spend some time, indeed. Beautiful ice…calm water…quiet…peace. I am so excited and happy for you. Thanks for sharing this adventure.


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