Cold Shore [Free Verse]

Was it a lifetime ago,
or was it a dream?

I remember it being a 
long drive to a cold shore.

And I sat alone
on that shore,
and I sought a shark --
not out in the waters,
but within myself. 

Finding nothing,
I felt the thing to do
was to 
rattle in rhythm with
the twisted hustle of
pounding waves,

and I awoke, 
shivering under piercing
points of light
that somehow felt cold,
& 
made me feel cold -
deep inside.

BOOK REVIEW: Life at the Extremes by Frances Ashcroft

Life at the ExtremesLife at the Extremes by Frances Ashcroft
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Anyone interested in the limits of human physiology will find this book fascinating. Technically, its subject matter is broader than that, considering the environmental limits of living creatures, generally. However, all but the last chapter focuses on how humans react to (and adapt to) extreme conditions. Chapters one through six explore the challenges and limitations of humans under extreme conditions of elevation (ch. 1,) of pressure [underwater] (ch. 2,) of heat (ch. 3,) of cold (ch. 4,) of intense physical activity [running-centric, but deals with strength and power as well] (ch. 5,) and in space (ch. 6.) Then, each chapter reflects upon examples of species that are extremely well-adapted to said conditions, and why. (e.g. After learning about how and why humans have to acclimate to survive high elevation treks, one learns about the bar-headed goose, a bird that can go from sea level to flying over Everest – all in the same day.)

The final chapter (ch. 7) is a bit different in that it discusses extremophiles, creatures that can survive in a wide range of conditions (e.g. acidity, temperature, lack of moisture, lack of oxygen, etc.) that would be certain death not only for humans but for any animals. Most of the species discussed are either single-celled creatures or tiny multi-cellular life (e.g. Tardigrades.) With respect to humans, there is a discussion of the limits and present understanding of suspended animation.

This book offers an intriguing look at life at the extremes. While written by a Professor of Physiology, it’s highly readable for a general audience. It mixes narrative examples in with the discussion of physiology to make the material approachable and engaging. I’d highly recommend this book.


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POEM: A Leak in the Sunny Side

Rounding through the pass,
I crossed from the cold
to the sunny side.

But while I transited
from the damp & mossy
to the dry grass
side of the mountain,
I carried the cold with me.

The ubiquitous sun 
would not warm me,
but rather I seemed
to suck the warmth 
out of the world --
as if I were a portal,
and the light landing
upon my skin was shunted
to some parallel universe.

I was the world's window
left open with the heater on,
and the temperature
differential pulled a steady
breeze in my direction,
to who knows where?

Cold Night Haiku

I
a winter moon
is seen clearly between
breath fog plumes

 

II
starry skies,
through the tent flap,
herald cold’s bite

 

III
cold slinks in
once sleep has taken hold,
settling in bone

 

IV
winter midnight —
sunlight, a distant memory,
or so it feels

 

V
how bright the moon
in the mid-winter sky —
yet, no heat

COLD HAIKU

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bitter winds
slice down from the north
so bone cold


damp air sinks
hangs as a cloak of cold
a straitjacket


starry skies
viewed through tent flap crescent
arctic outhouse


cold awakens
each moment, a moment lived
satori by ice


brisk joy
the skater’s frisson
feels electric