Permafrost Park

by Stephanie Kraft Issue: Spring/Summer 2019


Silently, like the wordless patience of a parent

with headstrong children, ice

held the ground under our feet together.

But since the permafrost began to melt,

it's been a Steven Spielberg world of exposed mammoth bones,

roller-coaster roads and crashing crockery

in the kitchens of tilting houses.

White blossoms with a shy, bridal look

explode from a plant thirty thousand years old,

returned to life by Russian botanists.


Whoever directs this movie strews the road

with horror flick surprises, as when

ancient anthrax revives zombie-like and

kills reindeer herders.


As the dead return,

the living vanish.


The forests of Costa Rica had a golden toad;

where is it now?


Something is no longer patient with us.

The melting ground opens now like a trunk

spilling relics from the basement of prehistory.

Then there was a future. This time no ark

will save the animals in the parade that passes by us:

the last Australian lemur possum in its soft white nimbus of fur.

The last Spanish blue butterfly.

The last narwhal.


The last moment to rewind: surely that has not passed.

But time travel is a struggle in this heat

and water is growing scarce, except when we hear

the despairing crack of a tree in a hurricane,

the cry of a drowning city.

Stephanie Kraft

Stephanie Kraft was a newspaper reporter for forty years and is now a Polish-to-English translator who finds that both reporting and writing poetry are inquiries, searches for factual or intuitive truths. As a reporter, she often worked on environmental stories, many of which involved pollution, or the danger of pollution, of water supplies. Before the expression "climate change" gained wide credibility, she was one of a group of reporters who decided that the paper would assume as a matter of editorial policy that we were in the age of global warming, and develop stories accordingly. Her poetry has appeared in Christian Century, Dappled Things and The Prose Poem Project.