Penelope Moffet’s poem, based on a Los Angeles Times article that narrates the story of a polar bear who loses her infant cub as she swims hundreds of miles to reach the nearest ice floe in an ever-melting Arctic sea, beautifully illustrates the effects of the man-made destruction of the natural world.

Penelope Moffet reads “Thin Ice.”

Thin Ice

Penelope Moffet

“…a female bear swam 9 days across the deep, frigid Beaufort Sea before reaching an ice floe 426 miles offshore…the bear lost 22% of her body weight and her year-old female cub.” — Los Angeles Times, January 29, 2011

Baby polar bear sprawls out on his back in snow, legs splayed, like any kid who knows his mom adores him, believes his place in this wild world is safe. My cat, a snowshoe Siamese, wears a look much like that when he tumbles on the off-white bedroom rug, spreads his legs to beg a tummy rub, then rolls, purring, so his back gets scratched before that silky white fur on his underside presents again. Human infants waggle like this when their mothers find their smells delectable. Blessings for a lifetime, however long or short. Another baby naps inside mom’s paws, her torso arching over him to make a cave, her black nose and black eyes aimed toward the camera, alert yet calm, as if she trusts the human snapping pictures. On still another card she sleeps, paws tucked beneath, long neck and head flat down on the ice, fledgling curled into a ball upon her back. As if the frozen world they need extends forever. As if the seals will always be there, plump and slow enough to catch when hunger comes. As if no one must swim 400 miles to reach the next ice floe.

Penelope Moffet is a poet and painter who lives in the Los Angeles area. Her poems have appeared in The Missouri Review, Columbia, The Broome Review, Permafrost, Pearl, Steam Ticket, The MacGuffin, Riverwind and other magazines. She has published one poetry collection, “Keeping Still” (Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, 1995), and her work was included in “What Wildness Is This: Women Write About the Southwest” (University of Texas Press, 2007) and “Spectrum: 140 SoCal Poets” (2015). Her poetry will also appear in “Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes & Shifts in Los Angeles” (Tia Chucha Press, spring 2016).

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