The Thaw

Sueyeun Juliette Lee



The thawe began this yeare … at which time there began to spring up… a
certain stragling grasse, with a blewish flower
–Robert Fotherby, 1613, English traveler in Spitsbergen



an extensive white monotony
breaks infrequently
into a black rock ridge
stark sable spleen

it is a land
with and without





cleft by ice wedges

cutting secretive black soil polygonally–
note this labor to press them outward
how all arranges their clinging misery

water transforms forcefully
engage the scree
interior to your complexion

neither too thin nor grim
but plentiful and
far from the case








dovekies wheel and circle
above the frozen sea






the loss is distributed across sinuous silhouettes,
combed over in hoarfrost before the whiteout descends

       now bend--
lacking polarized lenses 
to orient the field of my gaze 
all-consumed by blind ambient day
i knelt, a pale coil 
((a crisis



descend and note 
how snow then ice                                                      channel fury through solar induction
pulse aqueous green compressed                               drawn down through your common clay
deeper with enduring force                                        pull pale strength into rigid limbs

                                                              converting all 

                     jade then

                                         then blue and further 
                                      gravity,  blue

with abandon, then drop

                                            now blue


how many realize that the blue-print is almost universally
at the foundation of everything at the present time?


between thaw and frost:

scar the land
tear the roots of plants
bury entire communities
what rubble

the alternations squeeze and move stones
pressing them upward, outward
arranging them
from tail to tide






enter sinew
enter brook
enter far heath
enter fledge
enter fern

enter calcite
enter speleothem
enter marmot
enter tern

enter cirrus
enter talus
enter violet
enter spore
enter saxifrage

enter calix
enter harp seal
but enter





I want to understand what opens up in this dis-attended collection at the periphery of perception, at the seeming limit of its transformation. This incredible freeze reemerges to me as an ecological archive for some later, more subtly perceptive intelligences to uncover. In glacial caves, I intuit how the blue ice whorls resound with an oceanic rhythm perhaps also common to light. Its blueness indicates a cold birth, an emergent destiny. I put my open mouth to it, feel millennially ancient ash caught–trapped–in its beveling. Who speaks?






Other [exploited] archives …
owe their significance
to some individuals of
certain species growing at
the margin of their ecological tolerance,


without extinction,

even minor fluctuations




press your hand against the calm spokes of these turns,
awaken the former blue daylight within:
whose beginning
   without category

without sides
indexed into the “far” sky
transfixed above you
those glassy captures
near-motionless waves

as if a curve were a horizon
as if distance remonstrates song
as if each cell were an integer

an integrated fact of resilient ((light
through tension, then clarified forms






a lark went trilling up, up into the blue


try to provide any imitation of this sheen or hue

:: ultramarine : azure : cyan ::

identify a molten beat inside the human ruin, with acquiescence
    what are you willing to relive
lacking breath, past the cylinders of what you could endure
below the uncurling arctic “sea”
discover the manifesting figure bent gently
in glowing columns of aquatic ice




has shielding the body had any marked influence upon the human organism?


a uniform regulation of the heart’s action
increased activity of the skin
fuller and slower respiration
gradually increased respiratory capacity
diminished irritability
all is also concentrated upon the body






light is already serving humanity
its future is promising
the actual intervals
the most powerful destroyers
a light which does not inhibit healing
    (does this kind of energy have value?

                                                      spar sight and churn
                                                                 fragile cyanic glaze


((this question remains unanswered
((the data are inadequate
((systematic work must be done

((order may arise from the present chaos






remagnetized as they touch
magpies fail to make noise
as they settle to the pale ground

a fair breeze






Sueyeun Juliette Lee grew up three miles from the CIA. A former Pew Fellow in the Arts, her books include That Gorgeous Feeling (Coconut), Underground National (Factory School), and Solar Maximum (Futurepoem) as well as numerous chapbooks. She founded Corollary Press, a chapbook series dedicated to innovative multi-ethnic writing, and writes reviews for The Constant Critic, a project of Fence Books. Her critical essays explore Asian American contemporary poetics as well as the imaginations of spaces and time. She has held arts residencies in poetry, dance, and video art in Hafnarborg (Iceland), Kunstnarhuset Messen (Norway), and UCross Foundation (Wyoming). You can find her at