The North, by Karen Solie

Sign in to access Harper’s Magazine

Need to create a login? Want to change your email address or password? Forgot your password?

  1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
  2. Select Email/Password Information.
  3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.

Locked out of your account? Get help here.

Subscribers can find additional help here.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!

Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99.
Subscribe for Full Access
Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99.

By Karen Solie, from a manuscript in progress. Solie is the author of several collections of poetry, including, most recently, The Road In Is Not the Same Road Out (2015).

Where should we find pleasure,
dwelling in the north? Amid the stunted,
perverse, desperate plant life clinging
to its edges, animated by atmospheric
animosity or neglect, of two moods,
fragile and invasive, gaze out to sea

but character bent inland?
Why defend our poignant attempts
at agriculture, our futile
entrepreneurial nerve? The defining
midwinter festivals performed
in a somnolent rage? The leisure class

proclaims the value of hard work
above all else, and we labor under
frost-cramped statutes, the black
letters of legislation, in hog-reek
and land-driven slag, middle-aged
from birth and, given our devotion

to slander this place, illogically
xenophobic. We could as soon move
south as rise above it. Is character
inseparable from what one does
to stay alive? What is a self
but that which fights the cold?

More from