The North Ship

(with apologies to Philip Larkin)

Polar as an iceberg: with just such a bony,
shuddering dryness I might creak
my way to shore — only to boomerang,
sickeningly, with all the wretched persistence
of this numb season.
It has its arctic beauty — unimaginable cold
as the expanse of space, the chill, lacy halo
framing the moon, frozen tree branches encased in ice,
silvery, edged, fragile and deadly as the Snow Queen’s palace —
but this ship’s an icebreaker,
darkening, avenging, toothed and brutal;
it bites into the stilled wheel of the compass
without propelling it. My nights are stark,
but bitterly valid.

Am I a North Ship?
Steeled and calm, signally icebound,
avoiding all encounters, perpetually self-aligned
to the red thorn of the polar thumb,
the darkest, coldest point of it,
leading in this direction:

There is no north but North,
no star but that fixed and oldest one
that bluely draws on the frost-bite sail;
that with its very silence commands
some cold complicity.