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Tilted Winter

The Earth leans away from the sun,
tilted into winter,
skimming the day with fog and ice,
to hard-rime the larch
in shades of filtered grey.

The wolves are close,
their tracks lie mellow in the snow,
straight in line and clean.
Not a dog’s.
Their chorus shedding loose the night
—shaking free the moon.

Beside the lake a reindeer hangs its antlers
from the underbelly of a pine,
others sniff out lichen and stud the path
with a subtle reassurance.

The woman stands beside them,
her living lynched to theirs. Evenki woman,
reindeer herder and whisperer of the wilderness;
Beyond the valley, her men are hunting;
baited and cocked. Chasing wolf packs
across snow-marbled mountains
to the hum of the Northern Lights
in absinthe and pink-lady gin.

Most will escape.
The dead are flayed,
their crimson-corpses see-sawing into a rising dawn,
their pelts to fashion the furless skin
of the West.

Occasionally, the woman will see a silhouette,
wolf-ghosts backlit by starlight,
heirs to an uncertain future,
spectral survivors
of an uncertain night.

Alys Jackson is an award-winning writer based in Australia. Her poetry and short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in, Right Now,2017, Henry Lawson Anthology of Prose and Poetry, 2017,and Jellyfish Review, 2018. She recently received the Henry Lawson Award for Prose. Find out more at

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