"Tunguska, 1908"

Jerry Jenkins
George Mason University

Deep South v.1 n.3 (Spring, 1995)

Copyright (c) 1995 by Jerry Jenkins, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the New Zealand Copyright Act 1962. It may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the journal is notified. This consent does not extend to other kinds of copying, such as copying for general distribution, for advertising or promotional purposes, for creating new collective works, or for resale. For such uses, written permission of the author and the notification of the journal are required. Write to Deep South, Department of English, University of Otago, P. O. Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Tunguska, 1908

 The sky has split open.
 Reindeer burned to ashes,
 hunting dogs
 blazing like hurled torches.
 The Shanyagir tribe is soot in the air,
 the herdsmen, the nomads,
 the old men, the hunters,
 storage huts, tepees, blown to the sky
 in a sudden hot whirlwind.

 The whimpering dog cowers near me,
 his ribs against my leg,
 as if to merge his flesh
 with mine and see with my eyes
 what he does not understand.

 The shocked air is sharp with resin and ash.
 Birches and pines uprooted, flat,
 stretching away to the end of sight,
 in long inert columns,
 fallen on hills and in bogs,
 felled in their thousands,
 stripped and clean shaven,
 silent and dead.

 A raven hops on his broken leg
 in this land of cinders and carbon,
 croaking terror into the silence,
 no branch to settle on.

 Thin smoke rises from hot earth,
 like spirits escaping,
 singes my soles.
 Ashes drift down,
 a snowstorm in summer,
 the pale sun

 The dog and the raven and I,
 three erect in a land of horizon,
 form a lonely forest of three.
 One to fear,
 one to question,
 one to cry to the barren hills,
 their intimate curvature open now
 to the dry velvet weeping
 of the ravaged sky.

 A hot breeze stirs the ash and reveals
 a mouse's charred skull.
 Its solemn eye sockets deep
 as the ragged hole in the heavens,
 full of death,
 full of memory.

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