by Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach

(After Steven Lee Myers and Alison Smale’s March 2014 The New York Times Article, “Russian Troops Mass at Border with Ukraine”)

Only use familiar turns 
of phrase: the crisis 
between the Kremlin and the West. 
Use quantitative words—excessive,
full-scale, massive, mass—an urgency, 
that like a horse or dog, you’ll tame. 
Use metaphors of temperature
erupting, heat, a flash point
simple hots, like oil or flame,
to echo a cold that never ended. 
Build potential gravity like an asteroid’s
pull towards what will burn it 
down to dust, the threat of 
a deep rupture – impervious  
to anger and to breach
And then discuss the territorial
integrity of this. Interrogate 
and pin its body: logical
male nation or hysteria-filled 
female boarder. Pin, restrain this
—immutable—then strip it down
to claim you understand 
the workings of the land, the place
where river-bones meet 
coal-soil skin. Call it 
for Ukraine and pretend
omission lacks intent. The article
not present in the Slavic 
will go unnoticed, but when
it rises—as all silence must—
and cracks the Dnepr river’s ice,
its howl will wedge between 
the blend of air and water:
a heap of fur and frozen blood-bones, 
resurfacing, like a litter of kittens 
drowned that summer. 

Originally published in Crab Orchard Review (Volume 20, Number 2, Summer/Fall 2015).