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Fishing Just Below the Arctic Circle / JD Clapp

Water and rock for twenty minutes

The Great Ice Road unfrozen

indigenous villages always in long view,

smoke of trash fires the only hint,

of the terrible thing that can’t be undone.

Big water and sky, a labyrinth,

rocks islands, trees with roots of steel,

ancient abundance, and too many fish to count.

Saltwater strong and big and from the depths, they

come from gentle taps, hard sets, pump and wind, pump and wind.



Hunter orange and pine greens on land, lichen, fish and fin,

Six-pounders for shore lunch, woodsmoke cowboy coffee and grease,

trophy grayling appetizers waiting for potatoes to cook.

Ancient caribou camp where we piss, offers clues: stone tools, bones.


Thirty-pound dinosaurs on cod-jigs.

Musk Ox sentinels gaze down stoic, ugly, proud.

Camp again, our rods religion, whiskey our sacramental water.

The Aurora three nights in, trash fire embers can’t compete.

Whiskey and a campfire,

$40 cigars,

A river and world between us

Gun shots in the dry town across the reach

Canadian Fulls, filters ripped off.

Dirt runway, sullen men wait on both sides.

Water and rock for twenty minutes,

In Yellowknife cheap booze gives way to meth.

Panhandler village kids twice displaced.

Future artifacts of that great sin that can’t be undone.


poem originally published in Fictionette (2023).

JD CLAPP lives in San Diego, CA. His work has appeared in Cowboy Jamboree, Bristol Noir, Revolution John, and numerous others. In 2023, he was a Pushcart nominee in nonfiction and had a fictional story selected as a finalist in the Hemingway Shorts, Short Story competition. He is a regular contributor to Poverty House.

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