WALKING ON WATER installation Nazar Bilyk 2017 20х20сm polymeric materials photo

Nazar Bilyk
polymeric materials



Destructive Sampling

We do it in 10x10 meter plots, killing
the hemlocks to understand
what loss and succession might
look like, in case
the wooly adelgid keeps
advancing north. Will we manage

the loss the way we manage
these plots, in incremements--killing
slowly, girdling tree trunks to keep
the sap from rising up? Will we understand
what makes each tree's case
unique? One girdled hemlock might

die over winter, another might
hang on for years, or even manage
grim survival. They run on tree-time, a case
of willingness to wait. Killing
them slowly may help us understand
which life forms will keep

rising up as the hemlocks keep
dying. But how might
we predict any outcome? Under one stand
of hemlocks, we manage
insect collection with pitfall traps and a killing/
preserving solution encased

in plastic. To monitor cases
of deer-browse impact, we keep
exclosures so the deer won't kill
the regrowth. We create scenarios: we might
lose the south, the north, but manage
the east, the west, as we understand

them now, or seasons as we understand
them. Should someone make the case
that time's advance prohibits managing
the future, that we can't keep
up with change? That it's silly to insist we might
keep the old growth safe, once the killing

insects manage to come north? What might
keep us safe when the world changes? Or help us understand
experiments' results, in case we keep on killing?


Michele Leavitt, a poet and essayist, is also a high school dropout, hepatitis C survivor, and former trial attorney. Her essays have appeared in venues including Guernica, Catapult, and Sycamore Review. Poems appear most recently in North American Review, Cleaver, and Noble Gas Quarterly.