Irish poet and playwright Paula Meehan’s poem “The Solace of Artemis” was first published in the Notre Dame Review in the fall of 2012. Technically, it’s a poem of the twenty-first century, but the issues surrounding this poem have been in the making for quite some time. Perhaps one of the greatest lessons — and troubles — that accompanies new climate change research is, in fact, the slow accumulation of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere that haven’t even begun to register in our current climate. It’s the stockpile of oil and gas that we have yet to burn. This poem, then, is years in the making, and it’s a sad poem to boot. It’s all solace, as the title points out.
I see him loping towards me across the vast ice field to where I wait in the cave mouth
The Solace of Artemis
I read that every polar bear alive has mitochondrial DNA
from a common mother, an Irish brown bear who once
roved out across the last ice age, and I am comforted.
It has been a long hot morning with the children of the machine,
their talk of memory, of buying it, of buying it cheap, but I,
memory keeper by trade, scan time coded in the golden hive mind
of eternity. I burn my books, I burn my whole archive:
a blaze that sears, synapses flaring cell to cell where
memory sleeps in the wax hexagonals of my doomed and melting comb.
I see him loping towards me across the vast ice field
to where I wait in the cave mouth, dreaming my cubs about the den,
my honied ones, smelling of snow and sweet oblivion.