Ice Floe by Lana Hechtman Ayers

for JF
by Lana Hechtman Ayers
Tillamook, Oregon, USA

Somehow we are at our best
when we are writing—
not explicating—

nor the facets of this life
resistant to poetry’s
transformational prowess.

Speak to me on the page

of your mother, neck sleep slack,
slumped in a striped kitchen chair,
your glowing report card slipped
to the floor, unacknowledged,

or of a long dead uncle’s
apple spice pipe tobacco
slumbering its scent
into your dreams;

or of the last time you saw
your father alive,
not about the argument you had,
but the way his hand clawed
the bedroom doorframe,
his stature shrunken
as wet laundry.

My own heart pumps sorrow—
blood to hand,
and I respond with

burning flesh,
its molasses smoke
hovering above the pine trees
at Chelmno,

mildewed fairie rose petals
in the dry fountain
long after
our wedding was called off,

my brother’s lashless,
boiled egg eyes
as he told me
the chemo failed.

Images are not answers.

Instead, let us stroll the bridge
over the icy Contoocook River,

allow its bruisy water
to be all
the explanation we need,

or else the flimsy moonlight
that makes no excuses,

or even the stars
we cannot see
for all the clouds moving in,

but have faith
are ever present.


lana author photo.jpg


I am simultaneously fearful and hopeful. Art of every incarnation—visual art, music, dance, story, poetry, and more—is my source of hope. We live a world filled with tensions, a world where leaders and ordinary people are capable of untold violence, intolerance, and cruelty. Making art is the ultimate act of compassion, an endeavor to bridge the real and imagined differences among us. Not only that, art is a celebration of uniqueness that uncovers the universal in the particular. Art raises us up from the existential aloneness that is the human condition.


For me, poetry is the leap of faith I take to reach across time and distance, across language and culture, across gender and religion, to say this is who I am, what I feel, how desperately I want to make a connection with you—whoever you are—reading my words. I want to be relevant for readers, to demonstrate that we have common experiences, that we are survivors, and that we may thrive despite all the wounds we’ve known. With poetry, I ask how can we fail to be kind to one another once we recognize one another’s worth and goodness, once we are aware we are all one species, one humanity?


And yet, I live in a country that has elected a leader who is the worst of us—someone who operates out of ignorance, fear, bigotry, misogyny, and downright intimidation. This man and his ilk do not speak for me, nor any artistic soul, and do not represent my hope for a more compassionate planet. These men, and so many others like them across the globe, are my worst nightmare. I fear the freedoms of speech and religion granted to us by my nation’s constitution will be revoked. I fear that hatred will run rampant on our soil and elsewhere.


This poem “Ice Floe” expresses the struggle—even with a fellow artist—for affinity with another human being, to come to terms with each other’s disparate viewpoints. Differences in concepts of what constitutes esteemed poetry and how to assess it get in the way of two poets appreciating art for art’s sake. Ultimately, the poetic images themselves build the inroads to understanding, and the inspiring muse of nature brings peace.


May art ever create resilient bonds of empathy all over our cherished Earth.




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