The Invasion

AMANDA ANASTASI

The Invasion

Belushya Guba on Novaya Zemlya, Russia, 2019

As though the kerb were the edge of sea ice,
it lifts one heavy, reluctant foot to the asphalt,

lumbers across the road with the combined grit
and desolation of a depleted predator, as cars swerve

and circle around it. Later in the afternoon, another is seen
lurking behind a block of flats. It peers into a window, fixated

on a woman cleaning and slicing fish. She slams the blind shut,
though the pointed shadow of the animal's jowl and saucepan-sized

paw is still visible on the curtain. Another staggers over the mountain
of discarded bottles and cartridges at the local tip. It sniffs a car battery

and sinks its teeth into a block of Styrofoam. The next day, children are marked
late or absent from school and all who leave their homes move to and from

their vehicles with a new vigilance. The stories are spreading of a bear wandering
into the doctor’s reception and the council hallway, undeterred by signals, dogs, patrol

cars or electric fences. Later, the townspeople make a circle around a third polar bear lying
on the pavement with a tranquiliser in its side. Arrangements are being made to airlift it back

to the Arctic where, again, it will not be able to stand at the edge of sea ice; will not catch a seal
for nourishment. It will stumble and wearily drag itself, then turn and head back to the village.

© Amanda Anastasi, 2019