Herschel Island

In my dream I am walking

                              on the edge

of the world.                                        No!


Not some idea

about the edge of the world.


But actually where half

                                  the planet


has sloughed away.




A jökulhlaup.


The quiet is very thick, almost

fatty. A warm tide of salty 

wind streaming                    up

                     from nothing.


Somewhere a noise

                      like whales     pinging

each other, wails and long sirening

through water fathoms and fathoms deep.


Yes. The sound of mother whales, calving.


So it’s not an apocalypse.


Not like Qikiqtark.1

Flat layers

              of rock 

                     on permafrost.

Endless ice and the flit flit flit flitting no-sound

of Thule people.


Long ago melted.


In streams of slick yellow oil.


Slushing off those last Bowhead Whales

                                            of the Beaufort Sea.


Star-shaped splatters, constellations

of blood and blubber

under the feet of men

all dressed in wool

up to their elbows 

in slabs of skin, flenching.


Baleen is a lacy comb.

Feathered bone.


The edge swallowing.



1 Inuit name of what is now more commonly referred to by non-Inuit peoples as Herschel Island.

Sarah de Leeuw is a creative writer and human geographer. A two-time recipient of a CBC Literary Prize for Creative Non-Fiction, she is the author of three books including Geographies of a Lover, which, in 2013, won the Dorothy Livesay Award, a BC Book Prize granted annually to the best book of poetry by a British Columbia author. Her creative writing appears in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including PRISM international, The Fiddlehead, Riddle Fence, Arc Poetry Magazine, filling station and Wascana.