Wait. Like paddles breaching the bay’s icy surface, men will emerge on the horizon. Look for the enormous seal they drag behind their sled, its skull battered by bone clubs. Ease that ocean beast into the sunlight beside your home and split open its belly’s supple blubber, spilling steam into the snow-sweet air. Peel back its skin, crack apart its ribs, slice out its organs and slither free its long, sticky entrails. Give thanks to your mutual gods. Elder women will clean the shanks, liver, loins, tossing vittles to children eager to swallow the rich meat, blood trickling down their chins, while you take care in scraping the intestines’ stiff outer layers from their fish-foul interiors. Work slowly. Glide the ivory blade tenderly so tendrils of gristle slough off like shorn hair. You’ll soon find your nose no longer clenched against the stink. Wash away lingering viscera with the golden mixture of melted snow and a child’s urine. Hang the long ribbons of intestine from the rafters to dry, where in the Arctic’s relentless wind, they’ll flap and shudder like silent chimes. Tomorrow, complete the jacket you’ll wear all winter by slicking needles with bear tallow and slipping threads of sinew through guts the color of boab blooms. Not that you’ve ever seen such flowers, so far from the patch of planet humans evolved to inhabit, where life is a fragile flame shielded from the elements by a set of cupped hands.
Paul Christiansen’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Atlanta Review, Pleiades, Quarter After Eight, Threepenny Review, Zone Three, and elsewhere. A former Fulbright Fellow, he currently resides in Saigon. Find more at www.paulchristiansen.net.