Four Poems Read at the Troubador

Minneapolis
Ice and Snow

 

When I was a child winter came strong, and took away half of the year
Snow fell from November to March, falling from the gray sky. It covered everything
We walked, and tromped, and stumbled through the drifts
We took hold of the bumpers of school busses skitching on the icy streets
In the Snowbound restive city, stirring quietly on the frozen plain

 

Snowfall ushers in a hush, broken only by the industrial tones of winter’s music
The rhythm of a shovel, cold and harsh, making long strokes against concrete
Ice choppers pounding out the beat, sharp blades scrape ice from windshields
In short staccato bursts

 

A crystal coat covers everything in the morning after a freezing rain, awakening
The groaning, and whining of cold engines; the grinding, and grinding, and maybe
Turning over, those long winters are uncommon now, almost forgotten
The high pitched squeal of spinning wheels slipping in the snow, and ice beneath the rubber
Tread, no grip, no traction, just push, breathe, and heave

 

Everyone retreated from the cold, curling up in the hollows of their homes
For the long parched nights in the dry, dry heat, chaffing skin, cracking lips, chapped
And brittle as the shell of life, hard winters in the slumber of womb,
Recall the heat of summer, longing for the green walk along the alphabet streets
From Aldrich to Knox and cool relief of water

 

 

Isles – Winter (Poem I)
Drought

 

It was dry in 1987, the whole city was dry
The drought began that winter
Hardly a flake of snow fell, before
The lake froze solid, smooth as glass
Untarnished by the crust snow-melt forms

 

The dark-glass lake sparkled in the glow
Of the sun-falling, pink as a rose dropping
From the horizon, with an ominous beauty
Beneath my feet, the maw of a Titan
Held captive by the earth

 

In spring the lake in rings with birdsong
And liquid laughter lifting off the waves
In the dead of winter it moans, beware
I never heard that voice so clearly
Un-muffled by winter’s snow blanket

 

Fish watch the silhouettes of people, city kids
Shadows, running, sliding on the surface
Above the cold and frozen dome of their world
The freezing deep recalls the memory of glaciers

 

 

Loring – Winter (Poem III)
Children of the North

 

The park is quiet in winter, hushed
People walk the quick step, skip
Through the plowed paths, slip
Cut between snow banks, braced
Against the wind
Bundled parkas, pea coats, scarves
Bundles of books in backpacks, bags
Briefcases, filled with papers
The park is not a place to linger
In January, with the wind howling
From the North through the last line
Of skyscrapers, into the open spaces
Over the frozen pond
The asphalt paths are slick, with ice
Snow packed and pressed, and people
Trek along them, nevertheless on bikes
On foot, in their winter gear, fly over
The winter fields
They have no fear, they are not looking
To escape the cold, playing through
The freezing days, in the water city frozen
Such are the children of the North

 

Family (Poem) –Immigrant

I am from Iceland

A different Iceland than Minnesota

From my grandmother’s Iceland

Where her father was born

From an island with no trees

He left for the fertile farm

 

I am from Norway and Sweden,

Where my father’s, father’s mother

and my mother’s, mother’s father

Were born, and borne on an immigrant tide

Forgoing their fjords For a city of lakes

Of streams reflecting the sky

 

Sparkling…bright Minneapolis

Is where I am from

I love to fly over her glittering in the sun

 

I am from Ireland

From where my mother’s, father’s, father

Hailed, the poet in me must have travelled

With him, From Erin to St. Louis

Across the prairie, He was married

To an orphaned girl, by mail

They wed us to this place

 

I am from a city of green parks and water

Sometimes blue, at other times gray

Water you can walk on, or drive a truck on

Several months of the year

 

Longfellow wrote his epic here

Hiawatha, Nokomis…Minnehaha

Flow the light, and laughing waters

I love sleeping on your banks, basking

At your shores

 

I am from public schools, public libraries

And forests preserved for the public good

Emerald forests, and sapphire lakes

On strings of silver streams

From the Mississippi winding

Among houses, and glass towers

 

I am from public assistance, and food-

Stamps, and government cheese

From social services for women, with

Infants, and children in need

From church-basement-potluck-suppers

From “hand me down” everything

…shirts, socks and shoes,

From where what had been “used” by others

Was “new” for me

 

Progressive…generous Minneapolis

Is where I am from.

Where it is cold in the winter

And warm in the sun

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