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
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
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,
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
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,
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.