Crossing to Fox Island

Composed by Kieren MacMillan (b. 1969)

Every act is first an act of faith:
One foot, slowly, lowered to the ice,
And then the other, and we stand
Above the vault the river winters under,

And look across the flat unreal expanse,
Imagination telling us we cannot stand
Where water ought to be– where water is
Beneath us. Then we start across the ice.

Some patches, dark and flat, are panes of glass,
Like windows into night beneath our feet,
Where trapped air scatters from our steps
Reminding us that we are more like stones

Than shadows, howsoever lightly
We might cross above the shuttered flow
And tread the temporary span from land
To island. Snow abrades the most of it:

Bright crusty scabs that crumble underfoot,
And leave us gasping, stumbling in the space
Above the space we occupied, reminded
Of the weight above the depths below.

One inch will hold one walker, if he’s light,
And two a group, and three or four a car:
We counted out the thickness as we dressed
And count it as we walk across it now,

And onto land again, the island’s crested beach,
The trees that rise among the drifts. And looking back
We measure out the distance, trace our tracks,
Where every act of faith was first an act.

Gregory Loselle (“Crossing to Fox Island” won the 2009 Robert Frost Award

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