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Jamie Cameron (University of Oxford, England)



“The official conclusion was that the group members had died because of a ‘compelling natural force’. The inquest officially ceased in May 1959 as a result of the absence of a guilty party. The files were then sent to a secret archive.” – Deputy Head of the Regional Prosecutor’s Office, The Dylatov Pass Incident


It happens from time to time,
on days like this

—when the air is cold
and still,

snow in slabs sliding
off the roofs,

the gaps between the houses
filled with light —

it happens that I think of all
the vanishings I learned about in school:

the village written off the map,
they found poking through a reservoir

in a drought; the daughter of the teller
at the Vatican Bank last seen carrying her flute

toward the School of Sacred Music,
or the party in the mountains,

their tents ripped open
from within, nine sets of footprints

in socks and single shoes,
leading down to the edge of the woods.

Their families trekked in the slow,
drifting snow calling their names,

Igor, Yuri, Lyudmila, until the sky
brightened and the cold sun

rose over the mountainside.

When they speak about a compelling
natural force in books or in the news

I think what they mean is this chill
that will come from nowhere

and pass over you like you’ve dropped
through some rift

in the fabric, or as if all your atoms
have involuntarily split,

— and it comes as no surprise,
that I’ll stop dead and recall

the disappearances of my childhood self
I never quite engineered;

watching through the window
for a glimpse of the absence

to form between our lives,
before I slipped

back upstairs
and there was nothing to show

I was ever missing except
that slit in the web of things,

felt in the morning, somewhere
between the collarbone and the wrist,

ice-cold, sharp like a needle,
and as suddenly real and deep

as the ravine where the Russians fell
and were found months later, damming

the soft, slow water in the creek.



Jamie Cameron is a poet currently studying for a Master’s in Creative Writing at the University of Oxford. Away from writing he spends most of his time playing or coaching basketball.

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