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Erratics, a poem by Eric Chiles


Polychrome Outlook, Denali National Park and Preserve

The bus driver points out the cottage-sized boulder stranded

miles off and thousands of feet below in the alluvial plane

between the winding rivers melting from two glaciers.

Sometimes glaciers break off huge chunks from mountains,

he says, and when they recede, they drop them in the middle

of nowhere. All alone out there, they're called erratics.

He needed this trip to breathe air into the doldrums

of his divorce. All this wild openness. All this emptiness

 —the occasional ptarmigan, moose, grizzly or caribou.

A red fox trots next to the bus, a snowshoe hare dangling

from its mouth. The bus driver stops so they can watch

the bitch carry dinner to kits bouncing around the den.

It just reminds him of what he wanted, of the glacial

chill that had descended upon their marriage, deserting

him in a tundra of oneness.  What, he wonders,

had precipitated her hiss that she had had enough,

that she was leaving? And days later the mountain 

of legal documents dropped at his door like an erratic.



Eric Chiles, a graduate of I.U.'s graduate writing program and a former newspaper editor, is an adjunct professor of writing and journalism. He is the author of the chapbook Caught in Between (Desert Willow Press), and his poetry has appeared in such journals as The American Journal of Poetry, Blue Collar Review, Canary, Main Street Rag, Plainsongs, Rattle, Sport Literate, San Pedro River Review, Tar River Poetry, and Third Wednesday.