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  • Alan Ward

Ice Memory

The ice could spit

millennia-old stories

if it had tongue and teeth.

Melting prisms,

these Norway-windows:

mirrors within mirrors.

Water catches the echoes:

the heave, the heft,

the sweat of the ice men,

snatches of cockney,

Italian, Norwegian –

turning truck clatters,

pony snorts,

the farmyard smell of streets.

It’s all locked in –

and when the ice melts

it sticks to our palms,

runs into crevices,

seeks out the lowest point,

flushes into the system,

is reborn:


sea spray, blossom, blood.

It melts and we carry it,

buckets unable to read

what’s written in our flesh.

We carry history

like organ transplant recipients.

Here it is in our skin,

in our mouths,

feel it form the words.


I wrote this poem back in 2013 as part of a residency I undertook at the London Canal Museum for Museums at Night, writing poems about the historic London ice trade. You can read more about the project on my associated ice poetry blog.

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