"Chart of Smith Sound," from Isaac I. Hayes' "The Open Polar Sea," 1867.
“Chart of Smith Sound,” from Isaac I. Hayes’ “The Open Polar Sea,” 1867.

Arctic hammered shores I paint with pointed
Brush, perspective of the sky, through clouds
My visions pierces, as if on sunbeams high,
Mountains sweeping into Arctic seas, glaciers
Calving between Greenland and Ellesmere,
Such features I render, eyes and hands steadfast,
Delineating minute geographic details.

At first, I felt it mere coincidence, dreaming
Of snow-crested headlands and welling waves,
Ice groaning in slow progression, emptying
Greenlandic sounds and fiords, rhythmic
Sweep of cloud-swept skies, Arctic cartographic
Images transformed to waking dreams from
Some creative corner of my mind.

Whilst at work, artist’s brush in hand, I recalled
Dreamed images, convoluted northern reaches
Of Arctic lands, seasonal sea ice forming and
Retreating, an opalescent summer sun above
The Arctic Circle. Schooners, sails wind-filled,
Making north to Davis Strait, navigating ice by
Hard experience, hand-drawn mariner’s maps.

Cups of tea returned me to present day, though
With new affinity I rendered dozen rocky bays,
Islands, and high-sloped Silurian cliffs of Hayes’
Grinnell Land, for I have observed wonders
Grand, ocean-swimming polar bears, whales
Breaching, sailing ships making headway until
Blocked by pack of unrelenting ice.

First angled light of dawn...
First angled light of dawn…

Palette of soft shoreline hues, shades of tan
And grey, I realized my renderings of Arctic
Shores resembled those of Hayes’ “Open Polar
Sea,” 19th century charts, aside from errors in
Sextant-obtained longs and lats, they are still
Useable today, maritime traditions continued
In modern map-making cartography.

Such are my painted dreams, mind in airy
Flight, elevated Arctic coasts, senses often
Strained, timeless winds and ocean currents
Guide me to mountain heights that I love to
Paint, visualizing broad curvature of earth’s
Sphere, first angled light of dawn as silver
Moon gives way to warmth of rising sun.

This poem was inspired by fine artistry of Bellerby & Company Globemakers and
resemblance of their work to Hayes’ 19th century “Chart of Smith Sound.”
They can be followed on @globemakers.

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