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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Now that is powerfully refreshing and we must all do our part to keep the land as it is on the HulaHula River Valley. There are so many such places under attack.
i've taken several haiwaiian studies colleges courses, in hawaii, lived there too, and this was the first i've heard that hawiian sailors named the Hulahula River. nice!/thanks for the interesting poem! Hulahula River– The name “hoolahoola” introduced by the whalers is of Kanaka (Hawaiian) origin meaning “a dance”. https://arcticwild.com/news/what-is-in-a-name/
By Frank Keim
Frank, thank you for the beautiful awe-inspiring poem, "Arctic Time." As I read your beautiful poem I would pause, close my eyes and let my mind's eye feel and see all the beauty you described. It gave me a moment of peace and comfort, which is sometimes difficult to find with all that is going in our world. It reminded me that there is still much beauty on Earth if we will just take the time to savor and enjoy it.
Thank you again Frank. I am sure that your three poetry books, Voices on the Wind, Today I Caught Your Spirit, and Trails Taken…so many still to take…, must be a joy to read.
John M Messer
Thanks Frank for the lovely poem that led to my reminiscing about my 2004 rafting trip down the Hula Hula River in the Refuge. You capture the timelessness as bright sunlit days and still sunlit nights, while hiding and shivering in a sleeping bag, merged. You also capture the lack of man made confines, as there were no maps or trails and on the braided Hulu Hula. We were like Lewis and Clark on the Snake River, thinking it was the Columbia. We never knew where we really were.
Beautiful poem!! Made me feel like I was right there with you!! I love Alaska and you captured her spirit perfectly! Thank you for publishing this special poem!!!
Frank, your poem, Arctic Time, is so lovely, poignant and true. My husband and I explored the Dempster Hwy to the Arctic Ocean 2 years ago and found the landscapes so extraordinary, so sublime, the skies so vivid. We loved the native people of Inuvik and Tuk; we were dismayed by melting permafrost; we got to see a sleeping grizzly high up on a near vertical talus slope, thought he would fall. Amazing image; there were so many....thank you for bringing back memories...Cheers, Gail
Really beautiful poem - and that doesnt begin to describe it. I never used to be a fan of poetry but last couple years have smartened up!! Reading that - and thinking WHAT would those Hawaiian whalers have thought coming so far to such a strange (for them) wild place. As others have commented - brings me there to that place.
Absolutely beautiful poem; it lifted me away out of my fluorescent-lit cubicle and I feel lighter. Thank you
Thank you for the great poem about the Wilderness and its Beauty. You perceptions are so real to me I can see, smell and feel your environment. You bring it all to our consciousness. A rare treasure you are, my friend. Keep going, I will be looking for more to come. Thank you and many good thoughts your way!
I'm not usually taken by poetry, but this is for me what poetry should be, evocative, making me feel as if I were there. And I learned something new! A river named by Hawaiians, up there in the North? Thank you -