Editor & Publisher of the St. Croix Review.
When the native peoples walked for water
This same valley was here resonating.
They called a section “Stillwater” because
The water spread between limestone bluffs.
Iced-over river and overcast sky
Slopes of bare trees and snow the clean cold air
The quiet settling among the bluffs
Prepare this place for reverberations.
Sioux and Ojibwa fought in a hollow
Lumberjacks floated rafts of logs downsteam
A frontier prison held the Younger Gang
And steamboats plied the townsfolk with supplies.
Pioneer Park has a southward view
For sunrises and sun speckled water.
A name is a gift that accompanies
A life and the christening of a child
Is a bestowal of your parent’s best
Intentions and wishes for the passage
Of a life as if they could be present
To smooth the way so to proclaim “may you
Be Kristine” is to wish in all your days
That you be moved with wisdom and love like
Christ and Kristine is a lovely name you
Should cherish as a gift but a name is
Only a word repeatedly pronounced
And the magic of the naming does wear
Off and the essence of spirit is yours
To express and no one else can do it.
It’s much easier
to say Kris and pronouncing
Kristine instead is
Her parents left her behind at a gas
Station and at a swimming pool and they
Didn’t intend to hurt her but worse they
Forgot she was one of the family —
And though they retrieved her they also gave
Her the impression she’s worthless
And now the grown woman can’t get enough
Attention to lose the expectation
She is forgettable — just as if she
Were given a piece of a puzzle and
And assigned the task of finding where it
Belongs — so it seems she’s been abandoned
She’s lost and upset and struggling to
Compose herself and to find the way home.
To compose herself
to discover the way home
is quite a puzzle —
in a world full of strangers
to find those who are loving.
I remember my first friend beyond my
Family the first intimacy when
We discovered there were secrets to share
And with innocence I gave my trust and
I encountered how much fun it was to
Delve and roam the neighborhood and then my
Family moved to Minnesota and
I left my friend in Kansas — and there was
A procession of friendships and there were
Disappointments and betrayals and I
Had to grow a layer of armor and
I began to measure how much trust was
Sensible and I’ve tasted bitterness —
But I want to be gentle and sincere.
lost — but I have
A rascal put a
snail shell in a
rumble has rattle
curlicue in curves.
Matt’s a six-foot banana today on
The sidewalk and might have been Gumby a
Coke bottle or Spiderman yesterday
And he’s standing and driving a Segway
A T-shaped vehicle with two wheels and
He was a soldier in Afghanistan
Was shot in the head has memory loss
And headaches and because he can’t work he
Passes the time in a costume looking
Ridiculous to snare the attention
Of passersby attempting to impart
Happiness because he intends to turn
Around a bad day someone is having
Because his humor is the best of him.
It’s too easy
to become isolated
laughter is magic
humor communicates and
people need inspiration.
He was moved with compassion for the slaves
Declared the nation must choose slavery or
Freedom when none wanted to see the truth
He knew the choice could not be evaded —
Thoughtful and grave with a far-away gaze
Burdens settled on him so he became
The master of himself and of many
Hot-tempered men contesting Civil War —
The north fought to preserve union and law —
Not to free slaves — Lincoln understood the
Temper of his people knew not to waste
The slaughter of soldiers so he waited
Until emancipation could succeed —
He was the only one fit for the job.
Sadness troubled him
compassion moved him to lead
strength sustained him through
thousands of battlefield deaths
may he be honored always.
As the years are accumulating the
Seasons are becoming precious to me
And in the transition from winter I
Watched the tips of trees begin to bud
And noticed the vulnerability
And the beseeching posture of the limbs
Rising up to the sun but now in the
Summer their forms are concealed within
Luxuriant foliage and I’m attuned
To the ascending and dissipating
Sound of the wind in the leaves just as if
The trees are sighing and I remember
These voices from childhood — resonating
Communicating succoring soothing.
undulating in the trees
arising within the leaves
Crossing a threshold and absorbing light
There’s a connection to be imagined
In a baby seeing swirls of color
And hearing startling and soothing sounds
Experiencing taste distinguishing
The warming power of a smiling face
A comforting voice with an embrace and
As leaves of the trees emerge and absorb
The light as the roots consume nutrients
From a thawing soil the tree will never
Know it’s a tree but when the gnawing of
Hunger comes the baby discovers how
To manipulate others by crying —
Nurturance arises magically.
Before the things of
the world acquire names there’s
within a baby’s thinking
between inside and outside.
George says hello with a quivering chirp
As I’m entering the room as he’s
Leaning his head on the piano leg
With his back legs sprawling as lazy as
Possible — a portrait of nonchalance —
He’s not a kitten anymore and not
A grown-up either as there’s not a thing
He does but eat and sleep but he knows my
Habits during the night and leads me to
The necessary room but he ambles
More slowly than I want to go so I
Slow down because I can’t get around him
Because George is large and doesn’t hurry
And I’m the one who’s being disciplined.
George hasn’t a mane
isn’t on the savanna
doesn’t have a pride
but he is brown and does have
a complacent majesty.
In a “half-faced camp” a shed with three sides
They lived not much better than bears in a
Cave because that’s the best Thomas could do
Hewing a shelter from the woods with an
Ax and saw — they arrived after fourteen
Days in an oxen caravan to a
Fork on the Sangamon River to a
Place without obligations and to a
Site where Nancy his mother would die of
Milk sickness where Abraham learned to do
Sums of arithmetic by writing on
A wooden shovel and shaving it off —
He had a year’s schooling but he absorbed
The Bible and Robinson Crusoe.
Weighing his words and
would present his arguments
sincerely and precisely.
Is there a triter subject than a rose?
They are mostly just stems and little leaves —
Yes their velvet petals are enchanting
But the contrast with their thorns? Overdone —
As common as the sun or moon in verse
Who hasn’t read poetry belabored
With roses? I’d rather see some other
Flower — peony or chrysanthemum —
Yet I adore the resonance of “rose”
And the certainty that every human
Has beheld the sun and moon and roses
So to become one with humanity —
What everyone has beheld I behold
Too what everyone has loved I love too.
Yellow rose petal
There are raindrops in this piece of paper
And the clouds from which the rain came reside
Now within this white form that was once a
Tree that has become a poem because
Without the drops to nurture the tree the
Expression of the tree the paper and
Poem could not be and the minerals
In the soil also live in the paper
Because without minerals soil has no
Potency and the magic of the sun
Rises off the paper to warm your face
As I communicate to you with words —
The logger the road maker and the mill
Worker have all labored for this poem.
is a fact and the magic
is a mystery
and the mystery is deep
though it happens every day.
Such things too
take part in
the bloom —
and vine roses.
My mind is a bowl pondering why my
Friend would say he has no one he relies
On because he’s never said such hurtful
Words before and my mind is a bowl of
Frustration as I’m plotting to persuade
A woman to submit to my way of
Managing our meager finances as
I consider her quirky reactions
And my mind is a bowl seeing the sun
In a brilliant sky amidst moving clouds
And there suspended is a crescent moon
And for moment I’m just watching as
My mind is a bowl and an opening
Offering good intentions this morning.
Crescent moon in the
blue sky of morning —
a hole in the day
The swallow bursts before me snatching my
Sight swooping rising diving and turning
Turning as if it were a whirling blade
Turning and then vanishing into sky —
But the bumblebee lumbers in the grass
Plodding and bumbling and purposeful
Desirous of nectar to return home
Serving the manufacture of the hive —
I can’t resist the urge to grab the toad
Squeezing and turning it as I wonder
Is it toads or frogs that give out warts and
I suppose it’s either but I don’t care —
I’ve spent an hour playing in summer
And so escaped a dreary winter day.
These blasted winter
days have frozen my toes and
I’ve worried about
my constantly frozen toes
until this morning’s thawing.
tastes like banana
only a tongue
can taste banana —
I have the joy.
Asphalt Driveway Co.
I was lucky years ago to work on
The crews that put in asphalt driveways in
The summer and we came in tall trucks with
A tractor a roller and a paver
And we were young men exercising our strength
And honing our skills and learning what was
Necessary — like standing on a load
Of asphalt while the soles of our boots burned
And shoveling from the truck down into
A wheelbarrow because that is the
Only way to get the asphalt to an
Odd place — there was no use in wearing
Gloves because they would be worn out very
Fast so our hands developed calluses.
I used a maul
and a pickax
and grew a
Willie’s appearance might not impress you
Because he was too thin and tanned almost
Black and the sun is not kind to exposed
Skin — he was silent unpredictable
And volatile — but as the chief on an
Asphalt driveway crew he was a master
Craftsman working from his tractor seat at
Timing the arrivals of the trucks and
The moving of the grunts and at tearing
Out the old driveway and sculpting the ground
With an eye for the drainage of water
And he was good at raking stones into
Place and once the asphalt was flowing he
Knew how to lay an impeccable mat.
Willie was wicked
in his rages over
for no reason.
Davey folded the six plastic rings that
Connected a six-pack of pop into
A single ring and with his hands grasping
Behind his neck he tore it apart and
Joey franticly shoveled the stones
In the correct general direction
And Joey drove hastily weaving
Around the traffic with a hot load of
Asphalt and there came a day I had to
Prove myself so I swung a pickax like
John Henry and the next day they let a
Surplus guy go and kept me and with my
Boot I balanced on an empty pop can
And with my fingers tapping crushed the can.
The crew chief mastered
all the necessary skills
and he sits in the
tractor seat and he
A tamper is a steel pole with a square
Ending that is used to put a raised edge
Alongside an asphalt driveway and I
I had a good eye for tamping a straight
Line and the chiefs selected me because
My tamping was a fine finishing touch
And I was happy because I could keep
Working and I had a skill setting me
Apart and I enjoyed riding to jobs
In the back of a tall dump truck wearing
A bandana but not a shirt feeling
Like a pirate and encountering the
Curious expressions of passersby
Because I was a member of the crew.
It is easy to
encourage a young man
and entice him to
work like a raging demon —
give him some belonging.
A roller uses two cylinder wheels
That we filled with water and it’s about
Twice as big as a golf cart and I went
Forward by pushing a lever forward
And backward the same way and one day I
Was rolling pressing a just laid driveway
Going right to the edge of a ten foot
Drop enjoying an easy interlude
Between hard labor and I pulled back on
The lever but the roller kept on so
I jumped and down it went boom boom and like
A cat I landed with my heart going
Boom boom and I might have been dozing a
Little beforehand but then I woke up.
a mechanical failure
a ten foot drop and
produced a happy ending.
It was a joke we enjoyed — four of the
State government road crew were leaning on
Their shovels as one was shoveling — though
There might have been a little envy too
Because we were like skinny feral cats —
And from the moment we arrived at the
Yard there was ceaseless motion before dawn
And through the heat of summer days until
Returning past the evening twilight and
The only occasional rest was if
There was room for me in the cab to doze
On the way to the next job otherwise
I’d stand in the dumpster part of the truck
With my arms over the sides holding on.
Such a test of pride —
to lift a wheelbarrow
and hurl it up and
over the side into the
dump truck about ten feet high.
Our Mission Is to Reawaken the Genuine American Spirit . . .
It is obvious in many who engage in or watch politics and governance: cynicism. My hero/commentator, Charles Krauthammer, is an admittedly proud cynic, expertly honed to see underlying motives. Charles sees motives, goals, and likely results: self-promotion predominates, solutions ignored, Americans without power suffer, and problems accumulate - the veterans who die waiting to receive medical care while VA managers hide waiting lists so that managers win bonuses is a poignant example. The Veterans' Administration is not being run for the benefit of veterans but for the benefit of VA managers, which epitomizes the nature of bureaucracies.