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  • kjoannerixon

Roughly for the North

Melancholy, angry, chilly--and full of love and light and hope. ROUGHLY FOR THE NORTH shows you Alaska and makes you love the ice and the space and the loyalty that doesn't stop.

I found my copy in the fifty-cent bin at a thrift store in the southern desert, and I do wonder about what brought its previous owner south from Alaska.

If it was the weather, or something else.

Many of the poems in this collection are soft and warm, indoor poems. Ojanen remembers her grandparents and their struggles with colonizing forces including the residential school system--but mostly she remembers the small beloved details of their lives. My favorite poem is one of the saddest, most wintery poems in the collection, "Remembering the Angels' Invisible Bodies":

The paired condors' great gray shoulders hunch

on Cape Nome. Their great wings

lifted them

from the skeletal radio towers in Tennessee, they rose. They rose

until the atmosphere lilied and the earth and sea stretched light.

They saw lines of light and they felt cold above

the mountains that looked like ashes

they felt wind grip

the forefront

of their wings. The earth spun

while they felt still

and they were

still, but only for a while. It felt like they had gone too far.

As they came down,

the earth


barren and the land


naked. As they fell back

into the air, there

were white waves on the sea

they circled above

the cliffs that seemed

so small. Then a sound,

and they caught

another sound.

The earth took

form, they saw bushes. They landed in

the summer light, but they did

not know that it was summer.

And it was as if they were invited,

and it was as if they were here

the only ones

of their race, the only ones of their species,

the only


in the universe,

or at least the earth. And seeing

their surroundings, they were

bewildered, but they were quiet, they saw no creator

to demand answer from, and perhaps

he had granted them this new home--

The land was brown and when they lifted their

wings, there was no place that seemed

like home, there was no

place that seemed different

from place. They soared from rock

outcropping to low hill and saw strange

creatures, heard strange sounds. But always

there were people

and they knew they had not reached paradise.

When they stopped searching, they made

rest on Cape Nome. They sat looking

at the sea, and they sat waiting by

the sea, and they sat,

and then came December.


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