2009 – Jane Satterfield – Selections from…

Poetry selection from the 2009 issue

Selections from “Collapse: A Fugue”
by Jane Satterfield

Fugue, Fugazi… iTunes party-shuffle
means an easy slide
through centuries, Troubador
Ballads, Folk ‘n’ Hell, Sandy Denny’s
“John the Gun”… a day’s

music played & cycled
back into rotation. Fugue—voiced,
contrapuntal, when one part beginneth
and the other singeth
that which the fi rst

did sing. Fugue (It.), a running
away from: flight!— Or
similar clouds spreading
their vacuous sheets… To survive
the while or disappear. How like

a legend, the lost soul
last spotted in an airport
parking lot locating a self—much missed—
via the Internet…
Formal, polyphonic, the mind &

its many trails. Possible, then,
to track them all? The possibilities’
exquisite range? Mind
as mash-up. No—as landscape. Or history
as mash-up, ground we walk &

To build, prosper,
disappear. To sift
for stories, clues. All proportions
high & low. Pursued transverse. Volant
touch. Instinct & resonant fugue—

Eastern Settlement, Greenland

For centuries emigrants survived
in that climate, it was green after all,
a pleasant land. Even Erik,
outlaw and vagabond understood
how to brand: the name

diminishing the dangers, the glaciered
fjords, winter’s arctic
circle of ice, a name chosen
to better lure colonists there.
Of twenty-some Viking knorrs,

high-prowed, full-sailed, fourteen
arrived, some lost, some turning
back (there were no navigational
tools, there were patches
of ice-filled seas). On inland

fjords, settlers would have seen
sedges, grasses, dwarf-woodland,
willow & birch, a land not
unlike home… For centuries
some fair pasturage, houses,

stables, & cowsheds huddled
in the coastal hills, a flourishing
at Europe’s farthest frontier,
stone churches with transept
& nave, prized fur, ivory & falcons

famed as far as Sicily. Every item
with which they might help the country,
they must buy from other countries,
both iron & all the timber
with which they build houses.

For centuries the great hall’s history
of saga and song… (May the lord
of the peaks’ pane shade my path
with his hawk’s perch). Centuries
of settlement (firm stanzas
like hives in hell) then things,
as we say, going south
cold summers, failed crops & famine,
shipping lanes jammed with ice…
Meanwhile the bishops

bedecked in ecclesiastical gold
continued a killing system of tithes—
To build, prosper, disappear.
To dig deeper, sift for clues—
Centuries of settlement &

then… nobody, neither
Christians nor heathens,
only some wild cattle & sheep,
all running wild. Beneath permafrost,
layers of peat & windblown

glacier sand, in ice cores,
graves and garbage dumps,
in pollen samples, sediment cores,
in ice rings and human teeth,
an easy slide through centuries:

“Chronomentrophobia,” “You Can’t
Always Get What you Want”—in
fossilized remains of carrion
flies, in comb styles
& hooded capes—you get

what you need? To survive
the while & disappear.
Measures & evidence: man &
Nature—instinct &
resonant fugue.

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