Back to Poetry Page
Back to The Plexus Home Page


                    Elduga River Basin, Far East Russia

     I.  Leopard

     rain over
     the steam and rich loam scent of soil

     black mists
     winged leeches
     swirl in nose and ear
     burrow into eye

     no trails, this

     long steep climb
     to ridgeline
     to canopied veldt
     beneath our feet
     above the backs
       of sparrowhawks

     we rest         packs full
     books water notes gear
     earphones battery receiver
     antenna     peers into green
     for the signal
     none here
     we move

     siberian blue robin trill
     a murder of long-billed crows
     finds a poacher's cache
     and deer -- spotted or sika --
     entrails become
     feather and beak
     we follow the scant tracks
     scratched into dried river where
     the poacher dragged his prize

     last night in tent
     full moon where long blackness
     striped the ferned riparian wood
     i heard one rifle shot
     where now
         the crows feast

     lone hunter by small fire
     angry dog growls cowers
     as we advance
     Dima warns the poacher
     follow the rules
     in this santuary
     or i will arrest you

     long into the day we hike 
     no trail this
     cut across gravel'd beds
     river rocks pool'd with
     mosquito soup
     stop, listen
     watch the mud
     read the sign
     slurred print
     here leopards of far east
     subtropic jungle
     of climber pine oak linden
     wild boar diggings
     old world badger burrows
     in the soft humus
     the cats prowl
          black against dark
          soundless stalk
          only prints
          sound the passage
     and we         so much a part
     of this great russian old growth wood
     sleep      on gathered fronds
     wash      in pools among
     implacable gray toads
     with bellies blood red mottled
     announcing the toxins

     long climb to the final ridge
     indian cuckoos hoot
     in the heat
     crash brush later pick
          all those ticks that bear
          that awful disease
     a kilometer, two
     down the long canyon
     the beep --
     on the move
     fades out in out
     among the rocks
     active now in day
     where no humans threaten

     and later tiger
     tracks the size of my spread fingers
     right by camp
     in the dark

     cooling breeze
     finally rids the clouds that followed us
          down to base camp
     oriental scops owls whoop
     in these dense shadows
     ten kilometers     from china

     Dima rigs his lean-to
     our driver "Elephant"
          settles in --
     I stay up much too late
          my friends asleep
          this night alive
     feeling the plates converge
     far east           far west
     subduction far
     into this deepest wood

     II.  Refugium

     here the rare snakes
     salamanders without lungs
     after glaciers razed
     the north siberian steppe
     and carved the folds
     of sikhote-alin

     but here
     between mountains and sea
     china west     korea south
     sea of japan east
          the stronghold
     where pleistocene and tertiary forms
     lasted out the
     long cold wet winters
     millenia long
     while larch and fir
          pushed south
     biding their time
     subtropic orchids climbers
     minivets asian paradise
     azure-winged magpies
     humid pines
     seven maples
     even tiger leopard amur cat
          while beech and poplar
     flood the ridgelines
     from the north
     in refuge
     pools of tropic genes

          at elduga

     camp fire heats morning stew
     coffee steams
     i stamp my feet awake
     still no biting clouds
          in the cold
     a joyful time this dawn
     black stork arcs over ridge
     yet to receive the warmth
     thin trail of camp smoke
     among the vines

     rays through dusty canopy
     aralia tip    young larix needles    typha root
     food enough here
     far from the empty shelves and
     governments corrupt
          with democratic i/deals
     we huddle by crackling wood
                    peace and friendship
     where food enough
     settles the soul
     our refuge
          waiting out the cold

     up hill        along china
     the border     a fence
     four meters tall         two thousand volts
     motion sensors
     guards on continual vigilance
     old war politic
     splits the deer herds
     now threatened by our fears
     but with vast patience
     we have yet to master
     boar and sable
     deer tiger leopard
     await reuniting
     when the wall falls
     their berlin dream yet to come
     waiting through the cold
     war       detente

     we urge the governments
     rip out the fence
     we map
     international peace parks
     are told
     so very difficult to manage
     we are too different
     they are too different
     we will consider it
     thank you for your ideas
     thank you for your money
     the fence

     we can wait
     here in the cold
     the only and best certainty
     is that not
     the russian way?

     * * *

     at the edge of asia
     dark cold sea
     japan out there
     coastal slope of oakwood and fern
     ships leaving for far asian ports
     with bundles of
     frail siberian forests

     three countries meet
     in hot steam of banya
     trinational sauna
     soaping and sweating
     sipping american beer
     slap each other with tied
     oak branches to open the pores
     flush of steam
     chill plunge into cold
     more beer
     naked and grinning
     at the edge of the world
     all detents
     should be held like this

     III.  Exhibit

     his father fought in china
     and now he leads americans
     to talk
     melt the ice
     begin the great plan
     for sustainable

     for now
     he stands before the exhibit
     harbin    heilongjiang province
     northeast china
          across the fence

     in the lighted case
     maps display the routes
     of the russian brigade
     battle sites
     russian chinese
     chinese japanese
     japanese american
     frozen in conflict
     he cannot forget
     how his father fought

     the plan?
     future generations?
     where the ancient species wait
     sanctum sanctorum
     least-disturbed old-growth
     along the fence
     where the irony and secrecy
     of cold war
     excluded development
     here the long wait
     the very conflict that has brought
     father son american, politic relicts all --
          species and cultures --
     into a final and glorious

     and what shall we make
     of this final thaw?

        - bruce g marcot   8/95

Back to Poetry Page
Back to The Plexus Home Page