All through desert day meteors burn out their lives

in air that keeps us alive. Winter that is not

winter sees snowless peaks nestle under starched blue

the color of a glacier’s heart. I think of cousins

stirring from low log houses at 50 below

to break ice from horse noses, preparing to ride out

through Kamchatka snow deep as the memory of wolves

lifting songs to stars that fall across scent trails

left by ermine and voles.


Night by arctic night that is arctic day tilts

its shadowy face from the vanished sun

while shooting stars sear across our retinas

and our planet hums through a meteor’s disintegrating tail.

Beneath glaciers breaking into the sea, belugas

flow like ghosts, their smiles unmistakably kind

as they sing old ice songs, open their mouths to a host of krill.

On the beach golden eagles fight with harpies

over a fat walrus carcass. Beluga, you

resemble my greatgrandmother, white kerchief

knotted over her summer head.


I don’t know my Irkutsk cousins, only the name

we share that means a whale who spirals

down down down to the bottom of the sea

to evade her enemies, then rises to lightfilled

placid tides. How can she evade the floating acres

of plastic and styrofoam islands strangling waves?


Across the Pacific, pestilence walks

our nation, swinging a smoky censor

of disease ossifying lungs to concrete, killing kidneys,

clotting livers, brains and hearts. 800,000

dead and counting. Why not look to the stars

so distant their icy poultices comfort our wounds

or meteors that sizzle against loss crossing midnight

through Orion’s diamond belt?


What did my relatives

call this constellation they drew on rock outcrops

during the long days of a Siberian June so long ago?

Brown bear standing on his hind legs to

reach dark wild honey hived in the crown of night?

Do those families bearing my name, feel

in their deepest dreams a lost cousin in a desert

counting another mass die-off of songbirds,

with no sturdy horses to carry her

home, calling across shimmering ice fields?