May 01, 2019

At Zima Junction, 1943

At Zima Junction, 1943
Zima Station Rusak761
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The taiga speaks in small voices:
the snapping of tree-limbs trapped in ice
as we fell them, the chip and chime
of fir. My own breath, the caesura between
the ache of expanding my lungs and the fear
of contracting. Mouth, nose, the whole face
wrapped, eyes sun-bleached, this muteness
is also a kind of blindness.
Only the taiga speaks.

A storm – and the trees lie uprooted, naked.
walk among them as if on a battlefield:
we had expected a different kind of death
for these and now
we don‘t recognize them.

In a hollow left by the roots
we discover a pony – brown and whine piebald,
long fur spiked with mud and ice,
grass in his teeth. Anna Ivanovna kneels
close to his nostrils, writes
with her gloved finger in the snow,
ten thousand years.
She cares to remember those things.

At the station father says,
it is amazing how long meat could keep
in the ground here. We wait for
the rations and watch trains pull away
the trees, chains chilled quick into bark.

From Alcestis in the Underworld, poems by Nina Murray. Published by Circling Rivers. Murray is a translator and member of the US Diplomatic Corps who has served in Lithuania, Canada, and Russia. This collection of poems articulates her experience of life in Russia as a US diplomat, after growing up in then-USSR Ukraine.

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