Upon Living One’s Whole Life in the Wilderness

Erin K. Wagner

Upon Living One’s Whole Life in the Wilderness

The modern world that mapped
The wilderness with short nubs of pencil
Discovered the fable of the primitive family.
The Russian family, exiled, read their Bible
By the light of whatever could be burned,
Perused fragile paper by consumptive flame.
Siberia, a phantasmic land, a reality to them.

The miracle of a grain of rye
Guarded, divided, and multiplied
Into food for forty years, a forty years
In which wandering meant staying still in one place
Staying so still that time outside moved onto
Smaller ideas of flashlights and satellites.

To kill an animal by exhaustion
Meant to live by rejuvenation
Bred in potatoes and starch.

To speak was, like the dove,
To coo and downward hove
Into a port of rest in a flood of trees.

Meeting again a man was to awaken
An animal from slumber
Asking the dreamer to find facts
In a slurry of fables and fiction and hope
Stolen from an absence of fear
With an absence of plane-saws.

She spoke, halting, nervous, a lisp
Of wind through tundra firs and taiga brush
About the night when she had fallen asleep to the moon’s glint
And wakened to the buzz and hum of steel wings.
Between, she had imagined a raven lighting on her shoulder.
He had found no place else to rest.


Erin K. Wagner is a speculative fiction writer, interested in examining how the human responds to the inhuman. She grew up in southeast Ohio on the border of Appalachia, but now lives in central New York, where she hikes in the Catskills and listens for ghostly games of nine-pins. She holds her Ph.D. in medieval literature and teaches literature and writing in the SUNY system. She splits her time between academic research, investigating how medieval English writers navigated their own religious identities, and creative writing. Her stories have appeared in a variety of publications, from Apex to Luna Station Quarterly, and novella, The Green and Growing, is forthcoming from Aqueduct Press. You can visit her website at https://erinkwagner.wordpress.com/.

Editor’s Notes: the image of the moon and trees (Canviar/Vivek and the raven silhouette (openclipart.org) are superimposed.

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