Peninsular

Brad Leithauser

Impulse alone, indicating
what might be called
a byway off a detour’s detour,
led me suddenly to stop the car,
rented in Reykjavik the week before,

zip my parka tight to the chin,
and, bare hands balled
in its pockets, strike off
briskly, as though by plan, toward a rough-
angled, distant shoreline. Now if

one were assembling, as I guess I was,
some sort of file
entitled Uninviting Vistas,
here was one – grayly colourless,
hugely creatureless – demanding pride of place:

a laval sea of stone extending
mile upon mile,
and all of it still brokenly
flowing, in lichen-whitecapped waves, toward a gray,
cold, contrarily breaking sea.

To their frozen opposition I’d brought
a freezing one,
leaning hard against the shrill
resistance of a wind that, at the arrival
of a figure at once vertical

and mobile, seemed ferociously
to stiffen. None
of my trudging worked to bring
the sea any nearer. My cheeks stung
for a little while, before going

deeply numb ... Impulse, and an eye out
for any kind
of change, began to reconnoitre,
seizing upon a low rise some ways over
on the left: I took another

detour, hand-scrambled up
the slope to find
a sort of crater below, in which some
ferns and short grasses stood – as well as a grim-
eyed, wide-shouldered, skewbald ram.

Clearly, he didn’t like my looks ...
and I should add
(laughable, but only in retrospect)
I was unhinged a bit by those cruelly hooked
horns of his. Well, we locked

glances, for one long moment; it seems
that each had had
enough of being buffeted and wasn’t
about to forfeit the barest shelter without
a mental fight. Edginess did ease somewhat

when I dropped to a crouch, although
remaining far
from easy; but if he did, eventually, resume
his grazing, it took still more time
for me to adjust to him,

having first to unload my sense of
something bizarre
or noble or at least meaningful
in his having chosen to make his meal
in such an embittered locale.

Blind distrust needed additional
moments to close
upon the simple lesson in the air –
no place is out-of-the-way to the creature
grounding its livelihood there –

a message of concern
only to those
so rootless somehow they might
even for a moment have forgotten it.