Old Dogs

ESCAPE


striding
toward the sun
relieved to be away
from the cloistered confines
of the Coast Guard
station

twenty six
lonely men
thrown together
in one
cramped facility
cruelly located
on the far west end
of the Seward
Peninsula

the duty
was termed isolated
but only in the most
exacting
geographical sense
because when you see
the same disenchanted faces
day after day after day
it quickly becomes
a very crowded
isolation
indeed

it's April
but the ocean
is still frozen here
deep narrow fissures
jagged pressure ridges
and occasional areas
of smooth snow dusted
plains of solid ice
all make the Bering Sea
a surrealistic platform
for an afternoon hiatus
from the intense
human contact
and claustrophobia

the day
is relatively mild
twenty degrees feeling
quite springlike
after a long dark winter
of subzero entrenchment
a heavy bank of clouds
clings possessively
to the coastal
Alaskan mountains
but the sky above
the crystalline sea
is a clear bright blue
and the sun dances playfully
upon the sparkling
surface of ice

hiking away
from the mainland
all that can be seen
is white to the horizon
I had surely landed
on a strange planet
of frozen desolation
where I appear to be
the sole inhabitant
with the next landfall
in another hemisphere
a few hundred miles distant
but light years away
in perception
and thought

after
a several miles
in walking reverie
the time had finally arrived
for me to turn around
in order to reach the station
while still in daylight
and after one last
lingering gaze
to the West
I balefully begin
the journey back
toward that cauldron
of humanity

turning again
toward the East
I am amazed
and assailed
by the awesome vision
of a churning wall of grayness
the clouds no longer content
to possess the peaks alone
had suddenly swept seaward
propelling themselves
upon a thick column
of impenetrable falling snow
completing
an earth to sky domination
of the submissive atmosphere
completely cutting me off
from the civilization
I had left behind

I can only see
my shrinking ice planet
disappearing under the advance
of a towering oppressiveness
staggering in proportion
an eerie vertical flatness
of violent indifference
bearing down
upon me

I had
never felt
so utterly
alone

well
there's no other
rational option available
than to simply overcome
my sense of absolute
insignificance
bow my head
toward the snow
and plow my way back
to the relative
and illusionary
security of the station
and its
people

later
again in the building
now heel to toe captive
in the evening chow line
on a steamy mess deck
I am overwhelmed
by the presence
of pressing flesh

I close
my eyes
and once again
clearly see
that opaque wall
of gray isolation
feel the ice
under my feet
and smile