Poem of the Week | October 10, 2016

This week, we are proud to offer a new poem by Michael Nelson. Nelson lives in the Flint Hills of Kansas and in Möcklehult, Sweden. He has been published in The Foothills Review, The James White Review, Tiferet Journal, and other print and online publications. Nelson has taught poetry appreciation programs in the Johnson County, Kansas public library system.
 
Author’s note:

After my partner and I were struck by lightning on the Appalachian Trail on my birthday, chaos unleashed its fury in our lives. We undertook a project of cleaning out an abandoned stone home, which helped rebuild purpose and meaning in our frazzled psyches. We shoveled wheel-barrels of scat, snake skins six feet long, dead flickers, and the remnants of a pioneer life. We cooked our meals over fire built from unsalvageable beams and ate under the old oaks. Listening to the coyote choruses, the barred owls defending their territory, and the lament of the screech owl, we slowly entered another way of understanding what it meant to be alive. Riding our battered pickup back to our temporary home, we could feel how we had entered a mythic sphere where the primal pushed us into communion with the nature spirits. Some of them were not so nice, but ultimately this direct connection with nature pulled us into the pulsing world of poetry with its dangers and splendor. Poetry also became a channel for making sense out of chaos. My manuscript Spider Lightning is the result of trying to rebuild bridges in the brain that had been blown up. Poetry can, as the green man, bring us into the world reborn.

 

In the Rusting Pickup

 

As these prairie hills daze and heft up dreams,
we work on the 1870s stone homestead,
filling dumpsters with the packrat hordes.
You still amaze me after three decades
of romance, doomed spells, and battles.

 

We cook on an open fire
as lightning in the west hammers louder.
From the northern sky heavy with gray-black rain,
a channel of light escapes. A dragon flies

 

on the south flank of the storm.
A needle-toothed jaw of a gar
veers closer. The trees, the grasses,
the dogwood brush, the wind
perform the allegro push of our lives.

 

We sing off-key to the thunder beings.
When the lightning cavorts
too close we get in the truck.
As we drive to our temporary home
over the hills and ford the creek, ease
floods our aging bones.
Gripped, we join the green man,
Jack in the green hills, wild men,
tattered and torn, old tricksters.

 

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