Polar Route by Kael Moffat

 
Beneath silvered scraps of cloud, the sprinkled towns
of north Quebec and Newfoundland huddle like embers
of a banked fire whose clicks and pops are swallowed
by distance and the whine of brawny engines.
 
I press my fingers against the inner pane
and feel the ghost of sub-zero air just inches
away and wonder about prayers rising into the night,
evaporating from shards of glass and eviction
notices or springing like flowers from permafrost.
I close my eyes as if I could hear them all.
 
 
Vladimír, who sits to my right, told me as we cruised
above the Arctic that he speaks Czech, Hungarian, English,
German, and French and that he is a magician heading home
to Prague after a residency in Vegas. He showed me a picture
of his estranged wife and daughter and told me how missing
them and their bitter words made him feel like Saint Sebastian
chained to the tree with arrows piercing his chest, thighs, and arms.
 
Now, as he sleeps and mutters, probably in Czech, I wonder
whether I am hearing a confession, an apology,
or a profession of enduring and excruciating love
and, though I know it may mean nothing, I whisper
my own prayer that he will be forgiven or stumble
across grace or peace in whatever tongue he may.
 
 

Kael Moffat lives in Olympia with his family and is a librarian at Saint Martin’s University. He loves to hike, play drums, take photographs, and is a relative newbie at kayaking. Previous work has appeared in Isthmus, The American Journal of Poetry, Dark Matter, West Texas Literature Review, Literature and Belief, The Wayfarer, and other journals.