The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Facing Aridity by Diana Woodcock

This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Alaina Hanchey, is from Facing Aridity by Diana Woodcock, released by Wayfarer Books in 2021.

Near the Arctic Circle

Day one, waiting to set sail,
the mind fixed on krill,
seals, Blue whales, and the thought
of Omega 3 pills offered for sale
at pharmacies and

Krill oil supplement a detriment
to sea birds and mammals—to
the critically endangered Blue.
Foundation of the ocean’s food web,
small, shrimp-like crustaceans

in decline by eighty per cent,
on the frontlines of climate change,
melting sea ice finishing their habitat,
ocean acidification impairing these key
players in slowing global warming—

carbon dioxide transported by them
from surface to deep water.
The mind weighed down by facts,
then lifted this first day out,
west coast of Spitsbergen, by a long,

slender Fin whale—the captain killed
the engine. We all kept still,
silent, holding breaths and waiting
five, fifteen minutes for each                      breaching—
each tall blow twenty feet high.

Day two, I would see my first Blue.
But this first day out, it would be a Fin
that stole my heart away. Eyes no longer
glazed over by calendar and datebook,
I would look upon one Fin and realize

how seasons run. I would become
this first day out devoted to Fins, recalling
they were the ones to outrun whaling ships
early commercial fishing days till steam-
powered vessels and explosive harpoons

caught up with them.
Watching one Fin in that one
of a hundred places where mystery’s
source can still be sensed, I’d be brought
to my knees, as Rilke promised,

watching the ease of a Fin whale
causing the sea to rise and swell—
its compulsion to move through water,
my conscience taken along for the ride—
joy to rise out of me each time

its sickle-shaped dorsal fin would surface,
sun-dazzled, and I’d decide this Fin
holds within its being all the answers,
like a mandala, precisely designed,
then swept away.

Diana Woodcock’s fourth poetry collection, Facing Aridity, was published in 2021 as the 2020 Prism Prize for Climate Literature finalist. Forthcoming in 2023 is Holy Sparks (2020 Paraclete Press Poetry Award finalist). Recipient of the 2011 Vernice Quebodeaux Pathways Poetry Prize for Women for Swaying on the Elephant’s Shoulders, her work appears in Best New Poets 2008 and has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Currently teaching at VCUarts Qatar, she holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, where her research was an inquiry into poetry’s role in the search for an environmental ethic.

Alaina Hanchey, known as Harley to both friends and foes, believes rhetoric is intensely important and the way we speak can change the world. That belief was shared by her best friend, Quinn Arielle Kerlin, who inspired her to volunteer and immerse herself in those words that matter, and the connections that matter.


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