Frozen Latitudes, Therése Halscheid’s new book of poems has just been released by Press 53. Her other collections are Uncommon Geography, Without Home, and Powertalk. She received a Greatest Hits chapbook award by Pudding House Publications. Her poetry and essays have appeared in such magazines as The Gettysburg Review, Tampa Review, Sou’wester, Natural Bridge. Since 1993, she has been an itinerant writer, by way of house-sitting. Simplicity has connected her to the natural world and has been the focus of many poems. Her photography has appeared in juried shows and chronicles her nomadic lifestyle. She teaches for Atlantic Cape Community College in NJ, visits schools, and has taught in unusual locales such as an Eskimo village in northern Alaska, and the Ural Mountains of Russia.
In Frozen Latitudes, Therése melds two kinds of journeys. One is the literal location of Alaska, where she lived among clans of the Inupiaq tribe as well as in the frontier town of Homer. The second location is the place and time where her father’s life was frozen during heart surgery, when he suffered brain damage. In this new body of work, landscapes are linked to the rugged terrain of home, while caring for a father with dementia.
from Frozen Latitudes
© Therése Halscheid 2014
This is how it really looked long ago….
This is myself back in time, a girl
with sallow skin, dragging metal cans to the curb,
notice how I stand for awhile that far from our house
watch how my lips, bright as scars, are parting
open with words so the great air can take them
out of their mystery–
see how my thoughts form the storms, how the morning sky
fills with dark sentences
always something about aphasia, his dementia,
something always about my father caught
so quiet inside me
that would rise in the wind to become
I am only fourteen. But you can tell I look old
as if life is ending. Notice how my limbs droop so
willow-like over the trash, see how the cans
are all packed with food, know I am starving myself, I am
that full of my father….
These are our neighbors, each turning in their sleep as they wake,
each waking as they turn from their room to the window
watching the weather above them.
And this is an image of the whole town in shock.
See how they dread my gray hovering grief, just watch
as they walk, how they carry on with the endless clouds
I made weekly, correctly, so very awful and coming
into their eyes.
Phrases Strong and Perfect
Inupiaq tribe – White Mountain, Alaska
To the Eskimo, glances are actions. And of actions,
they leave a bright trail to read
so that when two crows hit against the glass window
where Linky was, she said, something has happened!
she said nothing comes here without significance, that
even the wind blows as God’s breath
shaking the willows, taking its leaves. She said
what I said, that even dusk talks in long sentences of color;
everything that shifts, moves, but not only for itself
like the sun dropping a strong phrase of light
on a child, like the child giving a crow call
the same moment Linky sights the birds.
This is what the cold has taught. How the world is
of words though no one is speaking
how the days went as this day went,
which has nothing to do with time.
My Father’s Cereal
We wake on dry land where the sun works brilliant–
until a bib is tied about my father’s neck
a bowl is placed high upon books
and the largest spoon in the house is set in his hand
between two crooked fingers.
There is my mother creating this daily scene of events
pouring Cheerios into his bowl
adding the white milk before guiding
my father’s spoon down into it.
She leaves the room then and there is only myself
sitting across from him.
I have my own bowl but do nothing about it.
We are a pair, of sorts. I refuse how his face is unreadable
that his brain is damaged enough to believe he is eating
and he is blind to the point where he thinks I look fine.
When we move, we move as slow water moves
barely along because nothing can save us.
His spoon floats through air, is empty, is treading in space,
my thoughts are all garbled as if made of liquid….
We remain this way, my father and I
as if under water
the Cheerios turn soggy, inflating like inner tubes
but it is too late —— soon we will drown in this moment
day willbegin, and there will only be the strange surfacing
of our tragic lives.