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Category: prose poems

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.

A Box Too Small

Spring nature tanakawho via Compfight

A Box Too Small

There was a cartoon I remember when I was a kid, one where this guy opened up his closet to look for something inconsequential, a shoe for instance, and then kept pulling out stuff — a lamp, a sofa, two tires, a roast turkey with all the trimmings, a circus elephant, a hockey goal, way more than could possibly fit in that tiny closet. Some spaces are too small to contain what they hold. Like the other day, from high above in the ash tree, a meadowlark ripped a song so full of vigor and delight that there’s no way a single breath in that small body could have held such joyous enthusiasm. Too small that breath, for sure, but there he was anyway just letting it fly, like Jack had finally leaped all the way out of his box and now he had to tell the world of his escape.

– Steve Peterson


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