'An arctic undoing of us'

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More and more, poets, like everyone else, are confronted with the news and physical evidence of change in our weather patterns and landscapes, and we find ourselves trying to find language for this unsettling sense that the world is changing rapidly. Khadijah Queen, in her poem 'Undoing', has a haunting sense while driving through a snowstorm, that somehow our machines and our voracious appetite for fuel have something to do with this “undoing” of our world. Like many of us, she is arrested by this knowing. Poetry does not always give us answers, instead, it helps us meditate on the questions, and this, sometimes, is enough.




by Khadijah Queen


In winter traffic, fog of midday

shoves toward our machines — snow eclipses

the mountainscapes

I drive toward, keeping time against

the urge to quit moving. I refuse to not

know how not to, wrestling

out loud to music, as hovering me — automatic

engine, watching miles of sky on the fall — loves such

undoing, secretly, adding fuel to

what undoes the ozone, the endless nothing

manifested as sinkholes under permafrost.

Refusal, indecision — an arctic

undoing of us, interrupting cascades —

icy existences. I cannot drive through.



American Life in Poetry is made possible by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.Poem copyright ©2021 by Khadijah Queen, 'Undoing' from Poem-a-Day (Academy of American Poets, 2021). Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2022 by the Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska

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