By Frank Keim
Old days drift slowly into new days
and the white eye of the Arctic sun rolls
bright across the night,
as we trek
up the Hulahula River,
named more than a century ago
by Hawaiian whalers stranded
on an ocean cold and frozen
before its time.
We stop at vestiges
of ancient Eskimo camps
where the only traces are
oil lamps made of pecked stone
and circles of rocks
where skin tents once perched.
We climb over tall rocky passes seen by few
in this harsh land
where musk oxen and caribou wander free
from man’s confining designs,
and so do we.
There’s no time in this wild place,
only the wind turning willow leaves white,
and water bouncing and
curling over primordial rocks
that gravity pulls
helping carve the steep valley we’re in now.
A Gyrfalcon cruises alone
above rough limestone crags,
searching for unwary parky squirrels
at our uninvited presence.
Wild sheep speckle sharp-angled slopes,
staying high with their capering lambs,
ready to flee the prowling hunger
of loping wolves
and the hairy hulk of grizzlies
ever watchful for an easy meal.
The verge of snow ridges and cirques
severs the earth
from the blue midnight sky
where the sun dances across the horizon,
flicking light from the flowers of avens
tilting yellow and white in the blowing breeze
in this high Arctic valley of our refuge.
Time has no meaning here as it slides into itself,
moment into moment,
day into sunlit night,
into misty mornings
and scintillant afternoons
that fly endlessly
like the birds that fill them with endless life
for us here
on the Hulahula.
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
“Wilderness Experienced” is our shared stories and musings about recent experiences in our nation's Wildernesses. Stories focus on the virtues of Wilderness and/or challenges facing the National Wilderness Preservation System. We want to hear your story! Learn more and submit a story.
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Frank, thank you for sharing this poem. As I sit here reading it, looking out the window at Mauna Loa covered with new snow, I can picture the scene; picture the Hawaiians who named that special place so long ago.
At 88 my life has turned upside down. So at my bedtime I reread your poem & put aside the fragmented day. I’m a winter person who has spent many days in the mountains as my husband has. Who is now in another room with a caretaker. Thank you & bless you. I hope I can find your books & poems for further enjoyment
Superb! Such a moving word picture. I saw the ocean arctic [Coast Guard polar icebreaker, three patrols in the arctic] and this poem brings back memories.
‘and the white eye of the Arctic sun rolls
bright across the night’
Incredible, beautiful, exquisite ❤️
What a magnificent poem! It's like a painting, so visual.
It brought tears to my eyes.
It reminded me of the week I spent in Alaska in summer 2007.
And so much more.
You're amazing, Frank!
Very creative and full of soul.
Thanks for all that you do and all that you've done.
That's a beautiful poem celebrating nature. Thank you, Frank Nature must always be protected for us and generations to come.
Very beautiful and so special as it helped to bring the beauty of the artic so I could see it in Frank's poem. We have been given such a gift with our parks and environment. I pray that we can take care of them for the future. It is such a gift to have the ability to express in words so others can share the same special places where time stands still.
I want to thank you for sending this poem by Frank Keim. It is beautiful, invigorating, and uplifting. I enjoyed it immensely. My hat is off to Frank, and hope that he will continue to write his delicate prose. Do give him my regards.
Wow. These remarks made me so happy. This is a first time experience for me. Thank you so much for sharing this poem with so many others. I am now more convinced than ever that one poem can sometimes reach deep into one's spirit more than an entire book of prose.
Your beautiful poem was so easy to read and understand that I felt like I was with you on the trip! Thank you so much. I loved it!
Thank you so much for this lovely poem. Reading it lifted me out of a low place as we all struggle with these times. It's very beautiful.
I love your poem. I am 82 but 38 yrs ago. I am too old now but back then during the month of Feb. I flew to Ak to hike from Juneau to Mendenhall Glacier from Douglas Island where I was visiting & explore. We hopped a freighter for 5 cents to travel down the islands to Sitka & slept in a hollowed out log falling asleep to the swoosh of waves near us with a huge moon. While hopping off briefly to stand on other islands we spent the night on the ship deck where ice was about 15 to 24 or more inches thick, found a melted ice space my body would fit into w/o rolling out thru the roping into the sea, the ship rocked me to sleep with the wind howling looking up at the stars. Before leaving we climbed Mt Roberts to the top to the ice fields but did not have proper ice soles so I laid in the snow by the statue which moves in the wind and I leaned on almost to my demize (sp) & made snow angels in the snow for my Xmas cards. Also above the tree line coming down I accidentally fell about 5 switch backs before a root sticking out held when I grabbed it & my butt caught on a rocky 6 in ledge edge. My guardian angels were holding me I know. One of a few great adventures of my life.