Poetry is a Sharp Match

This post talks about an automatic metaphor generator I created, which led to this metaphor, poetry is a sharp match, which led to this poem.

Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash

poetry is a sharp match

and like me, you might find it necessary sometimes
to lean in and feel the warmth of images struck
against the day’s cold stone, or, when metaphors
sprinkle tinder on your smoldering soul,
you might blow it softly back to flame.
Huddled around a flickering poem, we might find ourselves
warming our faces, shoulders touching, hands outstretched,
our backs turned against the cold. Basking,
we might forget that
poetry cuts, too, like a knife
through the ropes that bind,
like a sword.

— Steve Peterson

The Age of Sunlight

A moment’s reflection on a refraction.

And this video:

The Age of Sunlight

I once heard that light takes
tens of thousands of years to travel from
the center of the Sun to its outer edge,
that it is way older than we think, that
beginning with the fusion of
atoms in the core, light reflects
back upon itself and outward,
bouncing off protons
like a hall of mirrors,
until it escapes the Sun’s surface
and begins its journey
into dark and empty space –

a tiny streak just so happens
to glance off the Moon, full on this cold
February night, then refracts
through a thin layer of crystalline snow
that had fallen silently as evening arrived
and the clouds lifted, so when
I leaned to gather a final
load of firewood for the stove,
the empty field suddenly filled with diamonds.
My own journey to this place
at this time has been improbable, and also
filled with wonder.

— Steve Peterson

On a shore in Minnesota a wind begins to blow

This poem came to me this summer as I was in northern Minnesota. A sudden wind came up, one that didn’t bring in a storm or anything dramatic, just a more than momentary breeze that brought with it across the water a sense that this big ol’ world is a living being that, like the trees, experiences life on a different scale than me.

I’ve been playing with this poem since the summer, which seems like a long time ago now that the late January cold has settled in.

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

On a shore in Minnesota a wind begins to blow;

it rises across the water, then moves on
through the woods in no hurry, but also,
without a pause. Impossible to grasp,

even by the branches of the pine that line the shore,
or by waves, which don’t crash or spray diamonds
across the sky. Nothing dramatic.

Just now. On this shore.

Like the aspen leaves that quake will yellow
this autumn, replaced in the spring by fresh green.
Much change happens quietly, and bit by bit.

Erode. Accrete. Erode.

Like that face you see in the mirror has
a few more lines than you remember;
and that heart? A bit more wary.

A bit more aware.

– Steve Peterson


On a Christmas Day hike up the Cascade River on the north shore of Lake Superior, I walked and wrote this poem in my head thinking that, sometimes, I am this river.


river water rolls under the ice, over the rocks,
falling, falling on its way to the lake

drawn downward, rolling stones
round boulders and over –

the lake does not fill up
the river does not run dry

even now, in winter, when snow lands
firmly on the ground and stays until April

when the trees have given up their leaves,
their roots frozen in the ground

water slides
beneath the ice

– Steve Peterson


Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash.

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been writing some tanka (or at least five-line, short poem-lets) as a semi-daily meditation practice. It’s an attempt to grow more gratitude inside me. Lord knows politics —  which has consumed me — in both the nation and, especially, Iowa have generated much more anger than gratitude.

I’ve had to make it a goal to look for those shiny grains of sand amidst all the other stuff.

In late November, I grabbed my fly rod and headed to the river. No fish on the line, but a nice image in the notebook.

sweeping oak reflected
in the icy water…
a stoic trout
in the bare branches

This bubbled up during a Christmas Day hike.

even on these
shortest of days
under the ice

An in-town walk by the river on a cold, spitting-snow day yielded an actual man playing an actual wooden flute to actual geese. Not even metaphoric, at least intentionally.

the river freezes
under a gray sky –
a man plays
his wooden flute
for the geese

And this one for a dear friend.

the chemo is
finished –
a full moon
over the valley

Both the woodpecker and me, looking for bits of sustenance where ever we can.

the woodpecker
knows the grub
in the
goldenrod gall –
I am full

Sitting on a Radiator in South Minneapolis

I came across this poem the other day and it made me realize just how long I’ve struggled with SAD. When I say struggle, it’s not even that I mind the dive downward. Though it’s tough, I also sort of like the slowness. The toughest part is being up and chipper and outgoing around other people when the soul-lights dim. This poem from a few years ago described something I did, oh, about 30 years ago when I lived in south Minneapolis and rented the upper floor of an old four-square. I didn’t know what to call my yearly dive then, but, looking back, I can see that I learned to cope in creative ways.

The old house had a long hallway with a window at one end, facing west. A few weeks after the spring equinox, when the Sun had passed far enough north to shine in that window, the rays hit a radiator on the other side of the living room. I painted that radiator to greet the Sun each year, and to hold its glow deep inside when the Sun was gone.

My own little Stonehenge.

Photo by John Forson on Unsplash

Sitting on a Radiator in South Minneapolis

A radiator squats at the far end
of a narrow hall. One fall,
I painted the outside
quick December dusk
and slow Coltrane blue.
Deep inside the fins:
tangerines, fresh carrots,
and a summer Saturday morning.
All winter the radiator
clanked and hissed.
In early April
the afternoon sun slid
through the hall window,
and for six days,
as it continued its trek
across the sky,
the sun struck
a match to the radiator:
it glowed with the warmth
of new light.
For a moment
each sunlit day
I climbed atop and crouched
like a turkey vulture
in the spring sun,
trying to understand
how something so
precisely predicted,
each year could arrive
so out of the blue.

– Steve Peterson

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