In Part One of this verse-rant, I told you about the struggle to foil Gogebic Taconite (GTac) and Scott Walker's criminal scheme to dig a huge open-pit mine across the Bad River Watershed in Northern Wisconsin. Mrs. ruleoflaw and I decided to take a little vacation in Ashland County to visit with some folks who are at the forefront of this struggle.
One of these folks is Nick, a journalist, rabble-rouser and fisherman; my kind of guy.
He is frequently found at the public library, another mark of distinction. The library was where I first met him, and where I found him again a few days later. We went to lunch at the Snow Creek Bar and Grill. Mrs. ruleoflaw was patient as two old dreamers spoke of legend and soil and blood. Over fish sandwiches and coffee, we twined words of myth in the strings of a pike's-jaw harp. He told me about his friend Russel Buck, a "Finndian" who lives with his feet in the red sand. He told me about getting sober. He told me about the water that healed him and the black wing damselflies that blessed him.
His words helped these poems to get out of my head.
Eating the Sun
Under leaves, on the air,
between blue, green and brown,
smoke wafts and waits.
Breezes arrive when they get here.
Wind cannot be made to punch a clock.
Leaves eat the light all day.
In blind breaks and bone shards
sunlight flogs wanderers.
Sun blesses and burns,
flays and feeds,
spinning wind and water into fury.
Sun renders men into jerky.
Light pierces and spatters down
past the green, to steaming red sand.
Out in the Penokees, the water
races down the gorges.
Tamarack steeped, pulling down the stones
splitting land with her hands and hair.
lights go out.
Radios play softly.
Girls with pretty voices
tell of their fractured loves.
We rest while ageless stars
hum and breathe fire
in the heads of dreamers.
Under turtle shells
on silver dime moonbeams,
coyotes slip past the woodpile.
Under crow’s toes
all is known, noted, catalogued.
possum eyes shine,
greeting the stars
skittering before dawn.
In the Tears of Ashland Spring
Kinnickinnick offered up,
offered east,west, north and south.
Maple trees hold sweet treasure.
Give, take what is given, no more no less.
Chaos is a word we use
when the pattern is
too complex to understand.
Kinnickinnick is simple in it’s elements.
Chaos, in it’s fractal geometry,
reduces tobacco and dogwood bark
into understandable elements of
We speak of four winds.
In a given gully or gorge,
on a mist covered day in June,
does anyone know how the wind blows?
Iron-sick ships break on Superior shoals.
Sailor's moans drift across the rice beds.
Death on the inland sea,
life in the sloughs
Kakagon gives food to the world.
Ore boats steam on.
May sailors find refuge.
May Ashinaabe children be fed.
Food, refuge, peace.
Together, the water-babies, pixies and
children of Danu cry out.
In the Ashland spring water,
tears of nymphs and otters mix.
Hear in the ears of children unborn,
see in the eyes of grandparents gone into earth and stars,
feel on the skins of Nick, and Larry and Jen and Alan,
tears of the otter,
tears of the nymphs and spirits,
cold on our faces,
scalding our hands,
washing the soil of suffering from our feet.
The dirt under our feet is divine.
Fire in the air, in the earth,
in the hearts of the living and the dead
burning in split pine and birch.
Under the hemlock root,
below the bloody wintergreen berries,
old voices wail and whisper.
Weeping dew on our bare feet, they call.
Our only home is on their bosom.
Our shelter is on the red sand.
Our dwelling-place is a wigwam in the Penokees.
We abide in the arms of Brigid,
of Marie in Blue,
of Gitchi Manitou.
Mother-moon pours down to bathe us.
She makes us clean, worthy of the water.
She touches the hide of our hearts
with Black Winged Damselflies
on the tips of her fingers.