New Poem/Winter Loss

Winter Loss

The wolves have fractured
the ice walls of our food cache.

The floor, devoid of flesh,
is deeply scuffed with prints.

The animals danced to a
wild song, before retreating,
back through the broken walls
jaws heavy with flesh.

New prints lead out across
the ice and disappear.

The air smells of wet fur,
defrosted blubber and shit.
The dogs grow quiet.

I fold up my hunger and heartbreak,
place both deep in the pockets
of my polar bear pants.

We wait for the caribou,
but they’ve already passed.

No fish take our bait. The rabbits
have become better at hiding.

The dogs grow scrawny and miserable,
their courage left behind with the prints
of the wolves. They shake as the wind
rattles through their bones.

My girls, once chubby and happy,
now have the space of a triangle
between their thighs.

We take the dogs down one by one.
The rich history that once rolled
in their eyes has long since left.

They take the bullets with courage.
I see their spirits leave to catch
up with the wolves.

I tell my girls to look, to watch the spirits
of our animals leave. They peer out
over the ice, fists clenched in anticipation

The dog meat lasts days, not weeks.
The clothes from our backs come next
my girls cry as I tell them to use
their hair to keep warm.

I’m dividing our last piece of cloth,
my girls are asleep, tangled in
each other’s hair. My husband says
when I die eat me. I taste of caribou.

There is much love in his dying days,
and when the warmth fades from his eyes,
we wash his body with snow and kisses.

The knife is still sharp and we eat chunks
of his flesh before his lips have even
taken a bluish edge.

The girls go next. They die together.
I eat their flesh in small pieces in
between screams.

Winter passes slowly.

Most days I kneel on a last
piece of caribou skin and stay silent.

The isolation makes me
more aware of everything.

It’s spring when my igloo starts melting,
when I see familiar faces from the village
through the translucent walls.

I’m not human anymore I say, as they
help me into a sealskin parka.
I have eaten others.

They speak softly, kind words
that begin the thawing of my heart,
while leading me to open water and home.

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