"there's no through trail" —Han-Shan, translated by Gary Snyder

White Noise by Robert Jackson

Issue: Spring 2017

White Noise


The sound of glaciers melting
isn’t towering cliffs of ice
thundering into the azure sea
or the crescendo of meltwater
swelling from purl to torrent.
It’s the pop of gunshots,
bubbles snapping free
from frozen translucent cages.
This seething is the loudest cacophony
ever measured in the ocean,
stronger than the wind’s rush
or the roar of breaking waves.

Orcas cruise the fjords in twilight,
black and white shadows
tracking sound from pod to prey.
Engulfed in white noise,
they forsake the melting bays,
silenced by the din

of thinning ice.

Rob Jackson is a poet, photographer, and scientist. He has recent or forthcoming poems in Southwest Review, Exposition Review, Boston Literary Magazine, The Lyric, Light, and Measure, and has published two books of children’s poetry with the Highlights magazine group, Animal Mischief and Weekend Mischief. His photographs have appeared in many outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, and Nature. As a scientist, he chairs Stanford’s Earth System Science Department (jacksonlab.stanford.edu) and the Global Carbon Project (globalcarbonproject.org).