The Ice Hunter

The hunter searches the frozen earth, his prints
in calloused white snow.

Amethyst night without a kind
thought in it. Large icicles hang
and threaten to drop—the bone-chilling
creep through the forest, the wind
plays ice like cathedral bells.
The tundra spirit, a mist dragon
waits on some forgotten perch.

The wind blows snow on the highway.
The snow dances around like white snakes,
wrapping their slithering bodies
around rubber tires.

Into the arctic cavern:
the hunter crawls—
he presses his boots into ice—
he chaffs his hands on frozen spikes—
the cold smarts—the red on his face blossoms.

Then he sees the chest,
the dragon chest;
its heart but a ghost.
Its wings encased in ice. The body in red, yellow, and blue.

The Vritra serpent uncurls its eel like tongue:
a breath of thick will-o’-the-wisps melts
the ancient permafrost holding it back.

The bounty hunter,
in his heavy army jacket, in his industrial boots,
and in those obnoxiously large earmuffs—

he readies his shotgun
to buckshot the highest stalactite
to stake the winged serpent.

Off in another space miles away, a tea kettle screeches,
the house rattles, lights flicker. The cat hisses
at the screen door—a deep groan
from the four-legged feline—those snake eyes of hers.

Children sleep under quilts, the ticking clocks,
the mom reading in a rocking chair, waiting for her husband
to come home.

Some television anchor comments on the Idiatrod
winner—then a flash of white and a loud boom.

Television goes in and out,
digital flies cover up the screen,
followed by bright Technicolor bars.
The colors reflect in the woman’s glasses.

The ice cavern crumbled into a landslide.
The hunter found trapped in ice.
His orange earmuffs frame his face,
his pupils dilated—electricity
escapes from the metal and wires
poking out his cheek.

Will another android be sent
to escort Vritra to heaven?

—Jennifer Silvey