Spring/Summer 2007, Volume 23.3
Claudia Putnam lives among the Indian Peaks of Colorado. She has never used her degree in international affairs/Soviet studies in any practical context. However, her literary work can be found in a number of journals, including Penumbra, Switched-on Gutenberg, Artful Dodge, Cooweescoowee, Flint Hills Review, MARGIE, Rock & Sling, RHINO, Roanoke Review, and Cimarron Review.
Global Warming Scenarios: Rocky Mountain Region
I. Elegy for snow
And in the winter, which was confined by statute to two months, the snow lay evenly, three feet thick, but never turned to slush.
—T.H. White, The Once and Future King
In the time when winter was winter—
I am trying to tell you about it now:
snow, and silence, the way they fell
and then lay, not evenly as in
King Arthur’s day, but bunched
like feathers in a comforter.
You know nothing of quilts, either.
Nor can you know of that quiet,
which was related somehow to the cold,
and to the particular greens of evergreens,
and especially to the chickadees,
who used to perch there, rotund
with the secrets of winter.
Now kept by no one.
II. Elegy for aspen
That year they left their Russian shtetl—the name of which no one has recorded or remembered—and never returned.
—Barbara Myerhoff, Number Our Days
Your leaves fell
like gold dollars.
You were gossipy,
quivering with revolution,
dizzy with height.
The woods now pine
for your rustlings.
III. Elegy for pika
The pika is our baby seal.
—Bruce Driver, Executive Director, Western Resource Advocates, 2004
You were playful, teasing marmots,
now turned back into groundhogs.
Your reaches are gone now,
erased with the treeline,
the tundra flowers overrun with spruce,
roots clawing empty burrows.
IV. Elegy for glaciers
In Thapaskan and Tlingit oral tradition, glaciers take action and respond to their surroundings. They are sensitive to smells and they listen. They make moral judgments and they punish infractions.
—Julia Cruikshank, Do Glaciers Listen?
It’s your breath I miss,
the feeling of age that crept
down the shoulders of these mountains,
the way you scented the heat with rain
and ozone drawn from lightning.
You stored up our stories,
reacting over time.
What happened to them,
finally, when you melted?
V. Elegy for trout
In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.
—Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It
This river once teemed with secret lives.
It ran glacier-cold, the hollows among
the ancient rocks lit by bright scales.
In this river there lived
creatures that swam against it.
What does the bear do without you?
Even the mosquitoes miss the peril
of skimming these surfaces.