Werewolf on the Moon

By Amanda Calderon Amanda Calderon
You want to touch big animals,
animals not touched by your peers
Woe is not you

You have the polar bear in Franz
Josef Land, the white whale in the Sea
of Okhotsk,

You have the brown bear, leopard
& Amur tiger in Ussuri, the Far
East, so east, like a talon

it hooks Heilongjiang, claims
that edge of Pacific, that swath of
maritime lands & a maritime state — 

Primorsky Krai, home
to Vladivostok, the ancient Manchurian
forest, its corresponding duck,

a short North Korean river-
border changing course, redrawn
when the bank sloughs off,

its markers slipping, washing
away — Tumen, sputtering
into the Sea of Japan

There is an awareness of islands — 
Oshima, Okushiri, Hokkaido — 
tucked into the brain of every organism

Volcanics, large to small,
they perforate the waters northeast
to Kamchatka (& that is so far

your countrymen send
their misbehaved children
to so-called corners in their houses)

Perhaps you can stand
on that shore facing inland & gaze
out over the spray of those white

whales of yours, the expanse
that comprises your jurisdiction
Now, what’s the first thing you know

is there, but can’t see for mist, et al:
Khabarovsk Krai, whose coat of arms
is a bear holding a coat of arms

of a bear & a tiger holding
a blue & yellow coat of arms,
inverted Y, tiny crown afloat, big bear

pinching his canoe-shaped tongue
between his teeth — 
& what tumbles from there but

Black Dragon, scrawling from Inner
Mongolia to Tartar Strait, true,
for all its bordermaking, to its roots

From it & all its names, names
for everything: for islands, for fables,
the provinces it traces, for

gruesome late-Mongol conquerors
& the surrounding biology
You think about it

now & again, thumbing
a leatherbound natural history,
gift from a pandering

South American delegation ripe
with stories about their jaguar, the early
explorers who called it tigre

In the world, there are 9 subspecies
of tiger, all eastern, 3 of them extinct
Amur is classified as merely endangered

& concentrated in Ussuri State
Nature Reserve, where you are known
because you shot one

It is somewhat a farce
There is no state — not since Bolshevik
word set foot there — only a river

bearing the name & you
commissioned the research: to study everyone
with a name on the Red List

of Threatened Species, to house
data online at programmes.putin.kremlin.ru,
to visit them all & each visit

to carry an air gun & a satchel
of tranquilizer darts, to shoot, to topple,
to affix the GPS collar, to caress

the fur (in the case of the whale
the skin) & muse to scientists about
the big, sleepy oaf:

Would she remember, or eat you, or both?

Source: Poetry (July/August 2014).

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This poem originally appeared in the July/August 2014 issue of Poetry magazine

July/August 2014
 Amanda  Calderon

Biography

Amanda Calderon is a 2014 Emerging Poets Fellow at Poets House. She lives in New York City, where she is currently working on her first manuscript.



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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Activities, Sports & Outdoor Activities, Travels & Journeys, Nature, Animals, Arts & Sciences, Sciences

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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