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Saturday, September 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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American Life in Poetry: ‘Exit Glacier’ by Peggy Shumaker

By Ted Kooser U.S. poet laureate, 2004-06

The glaciers that flattened my part of the world made their exit eons ago, but in Alaska, where Peggy Shumaker lives and writes, they’re just now beginning to turn back. Only deep in a Nebraska snowbank can you shovel your way into the blue she describes at the end of this poem, from her new and selected poems, “Cairn,” from Red Hen Press.

Exit Glacier

When we got close enough

we could hear

rivers inside the ice

heaving splits

the groaning of a ledge

about to

calve. Strewn in the moraine

fresh moose sign–

tawny oblong pellets

breaking up

sharp black shale. In one breath

ice and air–

history, the record

of breaking–

prophecy, the warning

of what’s yet to break

out from under

four stories

of bone-crushing turquoise


Poem copyright 2018 by Peggy Shumaker, from “Cairn: New and Selected,” (Red Hen Press, 2018), and reprinted by permission of the author and publisher. American Life in Poetry is supported by the Poetry Foundation and the English department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited submissions.

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