After Seeing a Photograph in My Instagram Feed of Paul Nicklen Riding Atop Rolling Sea Ice, Risking His Life to Lasso a Perfect Photo, and I’m Thinking, Wow, I Can’t Even Stomach Getting the Mail Right Now

Jen Rouse


Me: Paul Nicklen wants to tell you about glaciers and the blue of snow pack and how light sifts itself through thousands of years.

How I think Paul Nicklen might respond to a pandemic: This glacier, this glacier that I wrestled like a wild bear charging, it didn’t even once care about your existence.

Me to my pretend Paul Nicklen: I have always known that hue meant gift, and one day the earth would take its beauty back. I just didn’t expect it to be quite like this. We make plans so small. In poems. I will call you tomorrow. I just need to see your face. And hear your voice. That brilliant glacier of sound.

My pretend Paul Nicklen wants you to know that this will all go on without you. But capture as much as you can carry, with whatever lens you have.

Not my pretend Paul Nicklen. Just me, here, sharing in this great glacier of grief: And what I want to tell you is that I haven’t had enough time here. Not enough time to ride out the calving sea ice, cupped in the boat of your delicate hands.


Jen Rouse is the Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Cornell College. She has an MFA from American University. Her poems have appeared in Gulf Stream, Parentheses, Cleaver, Always Crashing, Mississippi Review, and elsewhere. Rouse is a two-time finalist for the Charlotte Mew Prize. Headmistress Press has published her books Acid and Tender, CAKE, and Riding with Anne Sexton. Find her at and on Twitter @jrouse.