SUPPORT AWARD-WINNING, INDEPENDENT LITERATURE ON PLACE: DONATE NOW.
"Even the Wind Has Teeth" by Megan Perra
"Even the Wind Has Teeth" | Acryclic, India ink, and etching on pastel board by Megan Perra.

The Ten-Oh-Two

Art by Megan Perra + Poetry by Caitlin Scarano

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

 
The art-poem pairing below represents select pieces from the exhibit The Ten-Oh-Two (Bear Gallery, Fairbanks, May 2021), by Megan Perra, artist and wildlife biologist, and Caitlin Scarano, poet. The exhibition details a year in the migration of the Porcupine Caribou Herd (PCH) and the herd’s intersections with human and other non-human animals through a series of narrative poems paired with visual art. Each pairing represents a different, intersecting aspect of the PCH’s ecology, such as the rut and calving season on the coastal plains.

In these pieces, the artist and poet engage with scientific knowledge, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, native subsistence practices, and the concept of umwelt—what David M. Eagleman describes as “the small subset of the world that an animal is able to detect.” To the artist and poet, the idea of umwelt relates to the value in attempting to decenter the human perspective—in art, politics and policy, research, and beyond. What does it mean to try to think about and value the worlds that nonhuman beings inhabit and experience and the impact we have on those worlds? How do we assess and begin to undo the damage caused by various manifestations of human
exceptionalism?

Their folio is an artistic and poetic glimpse into the interconnected web of caribou, their predators (including humans), and the landscape of the Alaskan tundra.

 

"Even the Wind Has Teeth" by Megan Perra
“Even the Wind Has Teeth” | Acryclic, India ink, and etching on pastel board by Megan Perra.

Even the Wind

The caribou to the wolf

Fall rusts the tundra
like a shipwreck. Vibrations of other bands
of caribou rise from the earth
into my body, a metronome.
You cut through north slope drainages, try
to find me alone. In winter,
my eyes change from gold
to blue, I hear the howls
from the inside
of my body out. Try to absorb
the sparse light of the tundra night
where ravens wrap
themselves in scraps of dark.

Here, snow swallows
every sound. We’ll meet on the edge
of a boning knife winter. Parallel lives,
the hunter and the hunted. I am just one
in a storm and stress
of antlers. Pawing for lichen and moss.
They run, I run. Your pack
dots in the narrowing
distance. Like wraiths, shadow
palimpsests, they follow in the tracks
you’ve made. This season

will try to pick us
clean. Winnow our bodies to raven-wracked
rib cages among the drifts and dwarf
willows. Here, even the wind
has teeth and I am thriving, perhaps
dying. The tundra empty,
the tundra full.

 

 

"Notion of Sleep" by Mega Perra
“Notion of Sleep” | Relief print on cloth by Megan Perra.

Time makes concentric circles of us all

Who braids the oxbowed river
like a daughter’s hair? A gravel bar gives way
to sand dotted with day-old wolf prints.

You carry a pronged mantle. Burr, tine,

& beam. Chase thaw across snowfields,
muskegs, and eskers. Sleep
a false summit, the song embedded

in a metronome’s tick. Death assemblage
as refuge. Your sisters lick bone
for calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.

You carry a pronged mantle. Dress it in bear

flower, blue bells, and toxic monkshood.
Holy, holy, this kingdom without kings. The body
can be many things. Sinew for thread, tallow

for lamp light, backstrap fat for cooking
lard. Your head an imprint—disembodied,
drenched in dreaming. Change waits

for an opening, an aperture in the sepia-tinted
silence. You carry a pronged mantle. A hunter
raises her weapon, a thousand possible endings

spring up like mountain ravens.

 

 

 

Megan PerraMegan Perra is a wildlife biologist and visual artist working primarily in painting and printmaking. She recently completed her Master of Science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Environmental Biology studying caribou at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Caitlin ScaranoOriginally from Southside Virginia, Caitlin Scarano is a writer based in Bellingham, Washington. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an MFA from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her second full-length collection of poems, The Necessity of Wildfire, was selected by Ada Limón as the winner of the Wren Poetry Prize and is now available. Caitlin is a member of the Washington Wolf Advisory Group and a current participant in the Bonanza Creek Experimental Forest’s In a Time of Change program. She was selected as a participant in the NSF’s Antarctic Artists & Writers Program and spent November 2018 in McMurdo Station in Antarctica. You can find her at caitlinscarano.com.
 

Terrain.org is the first online literary journal of place, publishing award-winning literature, art, editorials, and community case studies since 1998.