Silurian Headlands

Poetry submitted by Frances Hennessey. Inspired by The Open Polar Sea, Chapter XXX, Dr. Isaac Israel Hayes, Hurd and Houghton, 1867.

Silurian Headlands

Along the rocky shores of Kennedy
Channel, wind and tide force
Abrasive groans from colliding ice floes.
As winter releases its reluctant grip,
Flocks of chanting Dovekies return
To roost on higher rocks.
As in ages past, summer in
Ellesmere Land blossoms forth anew,
Then as swiftly, retreating sun and
Warmth usher in the fall and winter’s
Dark curtain of long and bitter nights.

My eager footsteps follow the arduous
Paths of Arctic heroes Elisha Kane
And Isaac Hayes, explorers, who 150
Years ago, scrambled up these ragged
Mountain summits to survey the
Extremis of northern, barren lands.

In cataclysm of fire and molten rock,
Greenland and Ellesmere were
Cast by Vulcan’s hammer.
Stony embryonic siblings,
They drifted to their noble place,
Cup-bearers to the Geographic
Northern Pole.

In forceful throes of Darwinian
Evolution, primitive life emerged,
Unique and specialized in form.
Segmented-shelled sea scorpions,
Bristling with legs and claws,
And sharp-toothed spiny sharks
Glided freely in a azure-blue,
Primordial Laurentian sea.

Preserved as petrous portraits,
Ancient centipedes, propelled by
Flowing legs, once scurried past
Spindly-limbed plants that
Reproduced by spewing spores
Into a tropical-forested breeze.

My mind and senses overwhelmed,
I am humbled by the grandeur I behold.
From the ragged Ellesmere mountain top
I peer to distant Greenland plateaus,
Powdery white with a fresh diadem of snow.
Like Kane and Hayes, I wonder what
Ancient memories are held deep within
These majestic Silurian headlands?

What knowledge was forever lost to
Wasting effects of penetrating ice and snow?
Perhaps Kane and Hayes were the
First to know when discovering fossils
Along the high-sloped beach below,
Marveling at impressions of
Prehistoric creatures, their brittle
Stories preserved as fossils
Forever engraved in stone.