2.2 Winter 2020-2021


At 40,000 feet with no wifi and nothing but the smudged ice tundra below I feel isolated but contemplative.

Somewhere over Siberia I saw three orange lights linearly spaced: the first two were closer together and they all seemed to be on the cloud’s horizon. What is that? What could it possibly be? Is it another plane? But then the lights wouldn’t be so large or discernible. It seemed stationary as the plane took ages to fly past it. Is it a remote research lab? A marker of some kind? The North Pole?

I wonder what the safety protocols are if the engine goes out and we meet the sea of ice below— I wonder if the plane has a secret parachute or if the original engineers decided it’s more merciful to let us crash than land safely only to freeze to death.

I cannot tell what is land nor what is sea. I’m fascinated by the unforgivable landscape that would swallow me whole, like a single cooked grain of rice.

There is no moose, seal, or bear to bare witness because there is nothing but patches of cracked ocean and windswept cotton tundra. There is a stripe where the clouds seem to have frozen thin like an ice tray pulled out too early.

Does anyone live here? Has anyone lived here? Can anyone live here?

There is a point where both the sun and moon are competing above the horizon.

Night lies behind and day ahead but here is a strange stubborn twilight closer to space than earth.

My Yakutsk classmate told me once the people there have high, fat cheekbones to protect their faces from the inhuman temperatures. How far north has she come? What secrets has she seen?

The boy on the other side of the plane who was fascinated by the tracker map looks across the empty rows and at the pastel sunrise in my window.

By the time we finally make visible landfall somewhere north of Yakutsk, my eyes are dryer than corn husks. The scenery changes completely: still rivers of milk nesting like arteries in black sand; topography so defined and monochromatic one might think she’s looking at a relief map; bean shaped hills with black veins like old livers; white spines like the suture marks of a skull.

All north of it disappears into a cloudy abyss.

I start to wonder if I’m looking into the soft underbelly of earth. Or maybe at the remains of a great animal that fell eons ago.

How many secrets of our past are buried here?

I spend too long staring with eyes far past dry. Not a single book gets read, and the mystery remains.

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