the Arctic

the Arctic

Reindeer Moss on Granite  by Margaret Atwood


This is a tiny language,

smaller than Gallic;

when you have your boots on

you scarcely see it.

A dry scorched dialect

with many words for holding on,

and with grey branches

like an old tree’s, brittle and leafless.

In the rain they go leathery,

then sly, like rubber.

They send up their little mouths

on stems, red-lipped and round,

each one pronouncing the same syllable,

o, o, o, like the dumbfounded

eyes of minnows.

Thousands of spores, of rumours

infiltrating the fissures,

moving unnoticed into

the ponderous is of the boulder,

breaking down rock.