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Month: September 2016

Like a Tree

Heavy Work Maureen Barlin via Compfight

This prose poem is one I wrote several months ago based on an event I witnessed as a young man. I revised it recently and wanted to collect it on this site. I still like it.

Like a Tree

Once upon a time I was young and on the lookout for metaphors. They’d appear like boxelder bugs; I found them everywhere. About that same time, I hiked up the Rose Lake Cliff that overlooks Canada. On top, 400 feet above almost everything, the wind blew hard and fast all the way from Lake Winnipeg. It pummeled an old spruce tree that grew like Yoda from the rocks, battering it this way, yanking it that way. I imagined how many winters this tree had endured, exposed to the icy blast of Arctic snow, how it tapped a meager living from the cleaved rock. Its will to live was great. Its fortitude vast. It personified sisu, a Finnish word my aunt Nedra said means perseverance beyond reason. While I observed and pondered, the tree uprooted in the gale, and disappeared over the edge of the cliff. Several years later, I scrubbed greasy fry pans deep beneath a Minneapolis restaurant. Turns out, one of the guys I worked with was just like that tree. I think I understood him better having met him earlier as a metaphor.

Bait Shop (Minnesota, 1970)

penguins_2013-IICreative Commons License andronicusmax via Compfight

Been thinking about those things that separate us, one from the other, and the imaginative leaps that connect us. And fish.

Bait Shop (Minnesota, 1970)

Leeches
a whole mess of them in a tight bundle
unravel and flutter, searching
for a meal under the cold water
that fills a handmade concrete basin.
In a wooden box,
worms lie in rich darkness
under mouldering newspaper,
beneath a fluorescent light
that hangs from a chain.
Even at 10, I had begun to see that
while I lived most of my life
on the familiar side, in the sun and the wind,
there was much that lived
in the unseen and barely imagined;
that even a small garage
along a dirt road in northern Minnesota
hid secret knowledge
of what happens beneath;
that like the old fisherman who shuffled
from his house to the shop
when I opened the door,
a guy could spend a lifetime
learning to see
beneath the surface.

— Steve Peterson

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