joy is a tall tree

I’m still playing with the homemade metaphor generator that I talked about in the last post. In this post, I used Taylor Mali’s suggestion to continue the metaphor with the phrase, “which is to say.”

Photo: Steve Peterson

joy is      a     tall tree
which is to say

a tree         doesn’t     grow     overnight,
the     best things            take     time,
while     a forest     is
and         often     beautiful,
you can
lose     your     tree
inside     it


Photo by Nate Bell on Unsplash

I’ve been playing around with Taylor Mali’s Metaphor Dice. It’s been fun. I first learned about Mali’s dice while reading Bud Hunt’s post (Bud the Teacher) about a automated metaphor generator he created for a makerspace he attended.

All this inspired me to create my own metaphor generator out of a Google Sheets add-on and a bunch of concepts, adjectives, and nouns. Here’s a link to that sheet if you’d like to try it out yourself.

A metaphor that got generated automatically formed the spine of this poem about my father, whose death in February stays in my mind.


your goblet
of wine,
toppled and shattered
on the floor,
lies next to your body.
shards of glass.
wine soaked
into the carpet.

loss is a sharp stem

thorns. a single
yellow rose
in a vase
on the altar
above your ashes.

Ode to My Work Boots

Photo by Oziel Gómez on Unsplash

We were writing odes in class the other day. This is one I wrote while the kids were writing theirs.

Our odes were silly. And over the top.

Just the way we like them. #WriteBesideThem

Ode to my Old Work Boots

I honor you, boots,
you sturdy guardians
of my tender feet,
your ancient leather scarred
and torn by brambles,
by tree branches.
Rocks, sharp as
eagle’s talons
are no match for
your steely strength.
You are a tank in battle,
my toes are the soldiers inside.

When you were new
my feet bunched inside you
like briny olives in a jar,
like puppies, crated all day,
burst out, ready to romp!
Your unyielding walls
raised blisters on my heels.

Now, your age has
relaxed your tawny hide.
You are soft as
a dog’s ears, as a
grandmother’s blanket.
You are my solace, my shelter
from the storms that rage,
a safe harbor for my feet.

— Steve Peterson

After Seamus Heaney’s, Postscript

This was inspired by Seamus Heaney’s, Postscript. I’ve been working outside a lot this summer (as usual). It’s been hot and humid. Another world entirely from spring and fall.

Reading Heaney’s poem caused me to think about how even though summer in Iowa is so much different than fall in Ireland there is a presence to it, too.

Photo by Ruben Engel on Unsplash

After Seamus Heaney’s, Postscript

And sometime take the time to walk up the hill, beyond
the still oaks that look over the valley. Go on farther,
into the old field now filled with goldenrod and Indian grass.
Do this in June or July when the sun is high, as the
last drenching rains are drawn up by the green and
exhaled into the air; when even the dragonflies pause
to rest on glistening stems of grass. Not a breath of wind
up here. The sun and the humid air press you into the ground
until your legs no longer move. Stand still, then, that’s all
that remains. Draw a breath and feel the steamy air enter
your lungs, feel your feet planted on the earth, and
the sweat trickle down your back. Know that all around you,
all that moves stands still, waiting, and all that stands still
stretches upward toward the heavy sun. And for a moment,
you might feel the convenient lines that separate plant
from animal, animate from inanimate, the quick from the dead
shimmer and blur.

– Steve Peterson

Digging a Grave in the Rain

Yesterday I buried an old dog, a friend for the last 10 years. I read Mary Oliver’s, At Blackwater Pond, to myself during the day, then to her soul as I lowered her body into the grave. I placed the poem over her heart.

photo by steve peterson

Digging a Grave in the Rain

She sleeps on her bed. Restless,
waiting for the vet to arrive,
I take up my shovel
and walk out into the rain
to find a spot in the tall
grass, the goldenrod,
a place to plunge the blade
into the earth. I peel back
the sod, then work to remove the clay,
heavy on the shovel.
Water drips off the brim
of my hat into the growing hole.
I know there are worse tragedies
than this; even just today
children scream for
their parents from inside
their border cages;
others starve in Yemen.
So much heavy clay.
Rain soaks through
to my skin.

– Steve Peterson

Deer in the Headlights

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

This poem is about an event that happened a couple years ago, one I’ve been trying to understand. What does it mean? That chance events mark a place where futures diverge? Something about the nature of tragedy? How responsibility is real, but whose edges are sometimes not clear?

Deer in the Headlights

Returning from a friend’s house late at night,
the car’s headlights are needles
that poke a hole in the darkness.
The motor’s hum. A blur of dark trees
in the side windows. The crackle of
gravel under the tires.

Cresting the hill, I head down
into the valley, the road narrows
and winds. Around a curve
my headlights suddenly
pin a shape to the road. I crunch
to a stop. A fawn stands still.
Ears erect, eyes open, unblinking.
Frozen in the light.
Long seconds pass.
It begins to move.

And then I notice:
with front legs straining,
she drags her useless
hind quarters behind, crushed
by a car like mine that
crested the hill, late at night,
to collide with her first journey
into the night.

She makes her way slowly across
the pool of light, like
an actor on stage, and
disappears into the dark ditch.
I open the car door and
step onto the road —
out the door and under the silent stars,
into the verdant smell of May.

– Steve Peterson