Yellowknife

by Helm Filipowitsch
Babilu
First Place, June 2013
Judged by Linda Sue Grimes


To my nephew, David Hare,
resident of Yellowknife,
who passed away in an airplane
accident, Resolute Bay,
August 20, 2011; survived by
his wife, three young daughters,
love and dreams.

Having gone to Yellowknife, though not
above the tree line and having walked
in Yellowknife on streets bisecting
the now and then and having seen
the scraping of the earth’s carapace
against a sky with clouds, water with
boats and planes two-legged at exactly
the demarcation point between
earth and air, I wonder how anything
can exist there that is not a playing card
flipped down on a table piled with chips,
an open bottle of vodka, a primed rifle,
the promise of an unborn child, chill
northern lights, a hand reaching for
a hand, the winter cold that cauterizes
pain, a desire extended beyond the snow,
into the conflagration of a ferocious love.


“Yellowknife” speaks to the mystery of how love and pain comingle. The things of this earth that catch the eye also resonate in the heart as this speaker remembers, “having walked / in Yellowknife on streets bisecting / the now and then.” The elements of earth, water, fire, and air provide the admixture that results in the turmoil felt in the human body, and that corresponding turmoil is dramatized in both the town and poem of Yellowknife as the speaker observes, “water with / boats and planes two-legged at exactly the demarcation point between /earth and air” and later engages a Whitmanesque catalogue featuring “an open bottle of vodka” and the “chill / northern lights.” The final image of “the conflagration of a ferocious love” comes to resemble “the winter cold that cauterizes / pain,” for which readers are grateful. --Linda Sue Grimes

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