Excerpt from “Travels in Beringia”

November 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

This is one of the most beautiful poems I’ve read.  It was written by a new friend I made while at the Calgary International Film Festival in Sept. 2010.  It was published in the The Malahat Review in 2008 and won their Far Horizons Award for Poetry.

 

Tadzio Richards
Poem: “Travels in Beringia”

 

After the floods, a scattered wreckage,

animal bones encased in permafrost, a bridge

eaten by fish, the last pieces of a long

dead world alive in broken

stories, frozen marrow

blasted by snow on the final

islands drifting through the north.

*

Sunday News: A circus train derailed, toppled off the tracks and an elephant escaped out of a torn hole in a train car, stomping into the forest, the heavy snow, knocking spruce boughs with floppy ears.

Policemen and animals trackers searched all winter but not even German Shepherds could sniff out the elephant. A tropical creature, most people assumed it would die from starvation and the cold.

Deep in a valley—steep walled, forested—an eighty-year-old woman lived alone in her cabin undisturbed through the winter.

One morning, early spring, as she sat on her porch, a thin elephant stepped into her yard. She raised a shotgun to her shoulder and fired—Bam Bam.

Newspaper reporters came from the city, asked why she killed the elephant. “I just want to be left alone,” she said. “Can’t you see I want to be alone?”

*

In Siberia, the television camera hung

over a stove, circuit boards and casing

dangling from the ceiling to dry like the meat

and pelt of an animal. On the tundra,

snowy owls flew away as we searched

for mammoth bones and skin, genetic

codes to waken the dead. In Alaska,

where the whale hunters live, the snowy

owls flew past satellite dishes tracking the sky

for missiles. Young women showed me

how to catch lemmings in a graveyard and

lay them shivering on the snow for owls

to see and swoop down, talons out,

killing for the camera. When the owls

lifted off from the tundra in Siberia,

away from the lens, they flew towards

Black Mountain, where slaves mined

uranium and didn’t come out alive.

*

On this journey

madness follows like a dog in love with a bitch in heat.

Imagine a cabin in Attu, in the Aleutian

Islands between Siberia and Alaska

where a bridge a thousand miles wide

once sprawled, a plain to hunt steppe

bison and reindeer, wooly mammoths

with ivory tusks, roaming a land now

gone, flooded with salt water, in winter

choked with piled ice, impassable

shards in the darkness of the Bering Sea.

Imagine being a snowy owl, not the ones that go south for the winter, to the fence posts beside airports in Edmonton and even Boston, watching for mice as the planes roar by, think of those owls who fly over the Bering Sea as the darkness settles in for months, soaring in the blackness with only ice below and no lemmings or mice or small birds to feed on, further out to the centre of the sea, to an opening of dark waters, a black lake where eider ducks hunker in the constant night.

On this journey, the urge to return to the crunch

of snow, to go back to crisp air in the throat, the sharp

stab of ice in the bone is sanity, a thin

fringe of solitude and belonging,

out there, a little bit further into the bush.

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