Poetry by Stapleton Nash: Kamchatka

Poetry by Stapleton Nash: Kamchatka



Some forms of rising are only possible in a crisis.
The hunter has long begun to notice
That in the forest he knows, through a long legacy
Of bloody summers, there is a change
Becoming felt. Some of the trees
No longer look like trees.

For a century or more we have been
Hacking clods from this soil
With an axe made of lead. The waters of the lake
Creep upwards towards a dark and stormy heaven;
The earth sinks lower, closer to the fiery core.
We spilled ourselves into it, and when
It became warm and sentient, it prepared
To spill something back into us.

The permafrost is shivering to unleash its demon.
In Tunguska, the great cataclysm came
From above our heads, pressing us down
As if in prayer– trees, reindeer, people.
In Kamchatka, the wrath comes
From under our feet. We have no idea
How to bow down to such a destroyer.

There. In the thicket. A tree like a bone.
The mammoth has emerged after sitting silent,
Sleeping through history just to tell us
What he knows. To the hunter,
He tells of a month of wages. To my grandmother,
On a luxury cruise through Beringia, he speaks
Of a necklace, a conversation piece.

To us, the children born to the last world,
He is a portent. He says, look.
You are not irreplaceable.
Someday you will not be worth
the teeth in your head.