There is a Cross

Rusty Nails and Large Snakes Shawn Kent via Compfight

If Des Moines (my state capital) is fly-over country, then I live in a section of that neglected land that slides by even further out of sight. And so it was that a mostly forgotten roadside shrine on a dirt road to a town that died 100 years ago got me thinking about all of the lives and stories and changes that have created the landscape around me.

There is a Cross

in the ditch of a dusty
county road that
leads to nowhere
but a town whose bones
have been picked nearly clean.

In a shaft of sunlight
over that quiet road,
late-summer midges
rise and dive, just as
they always have.

Plastic flowers long faded –
a name flakes
off the weathered wood.
Last crickets gather in
the dusk, in its shadow.

– Steve Peterson

Surface Tension

Water Striders j_arlecchino via Compfight

Surface Tension

None better, this golden day
on the bank of Canoe Creek.

Late afternoon slides
into long-shadowed dusk.

A mayfly, as we do,
swoops too close

to the surface, then squirms
to free itself.

And now I see

the water is carpeted in insects,
some wriggling, some not.

One of many, now
they float downstream.

– Steve Peterson

Paper Flowers

Here’s one of my poems that I posted earlier on a long-ago site, inside the dog... You can read more about that trip to Chile here.

A few years ago I found myself in a small cemetery outside the tiny town of Caspana in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile visiting the grave of the mother of someone I had recently met.

Under a bright blue winter sky we told stories, burned some coca leaf, and poured wine into the parched desert soil. As it soaked in, I thought of all of those named and unnamed whose time had come and gone, and whose souls were now scattered across the years.

After watching some of these Poems in Motion, I’ve been playing around with animating poems. Here’s yet another attempt, this time using that poem of my experience in a graveyard outside Caspana.

 

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

To Make the Crooked Straight

For the want of a nail…Creative Commons License Jim « JP » Hansen via Compfight

The last few days I’ve been visiting the family cabin in the north woods. A small place with an outdoor privy, it was built from local tamarack and spruce logs in the late 1940s. While it isn’t fancy, it is filled with all sorts of memories of my extended family. Here’s a poem about my grandfather that tries to be about more than a can of old nails.

To Make the Crooked Straight

On a rusty metal shelf
that stood on the dirt floor
of the shed behind the house:
three rusted Arco cans
filled with bent nails
pulled from a thousand used boards,
and, also, with hope —
to save the unsavory
to make the crooked straight
once again.

– Steve Peterson