Welcome, friends, to the third installment of my poem series The Compass Poems. Writing a blank verse poem about each of the four cardinal directions as they appear in my mind's eye has challenged my inner vision and my store of words -- searching for just the right one has been both a joy and a struggle, but finding it is like finding gold, like finding water in a desert.

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were both fascinated by Northern-ness -- it called to them the way adventure calls to me (to read more about that, check out Lewis' memoir Surprised by Joy). This poem was written with those two men in mind.

The Compass Poems

Clear, vast,
Endless blue,
As far as the eye can see.
And mountains —
Clear and cold and wild,
With snow on their crags
and vastness hidden in their bellies.
Kingdoms in their depths,
tucked away into the folds of their skirts.

There is a sense of bigness,
of greatness,
of bigger-than-myself-ness.
There is a sensation of the
Wild wind,
Whipping my hair across my face,
lashing against my body,
nearly bending me in half.
There is might
And power
And a strength

Tempered with nostalgia.
Layered with longing.
The clear, cold, northern blue
Sparkles with unshed tears
and a craving that cannot be defined.
A need, a desire
That slams into your heart
And makes you ache
With its force and power — 

A power as high and higher than the mountains,
Deeper than the clear, dark pools
That glisten with cold —
A power and longing richer
And bigger
And needier
Than the vast blue expanse over your head.

There is sunshine and snow,
Beauty and bitterness,
Hard death and vibrant life.
It is a hard country.
It is deep living.

It is not for the faint of heart.
Travelers, pilgrims — be ye ware.
For you have entered a perilous land
That gives life
In longing.


To read the first three installments of The Compass Poems, look no further!