Poems by Keith Taylor, Artist-in-Residence

I don’t have to do this

two strokes to move a yard

then a breath
a breeze
pushed
back and sideways against rocks

and my hat blows away

two strokes to move a yard

if this canoe were keeled
it wouldn’t catch the wind
blowing from Superior
up the inlet
pushing

two strokes to move a yard

I’m here because I want
to be
I want to be

out in the wind

(reprinted from If the World Becomes So Bright, Wayne State University Press, 2009, with the permission of the author)

These things can kill you
and I was no longer
strong enough,

Wind caught my canoe,
twirled it,

and I went in.

Cold pushed my air out.

I gasped and splashed
toward shore,

toward the beautifully indifferent
spruce and cedar,
the wild iris and tiger lilies
blooming late
after their rainy spring.
When I went over, my book bag went with me. A collection of Merwin poems, a book of essays, and the journal I hope to copy this into, all are wet, sodden.

I have them butterflied on my work table now, hoping the pages won’t stick together because I want to keep these books, stained and rippled, carrying a bit of Lake Superior with them.

My wallet on the other hand, is ruined.
Carried upstream on the seiche—
water pushed back toward the source—
until the flow turns and my canoe
stalls on mud banks. Alder thickets,
mosquitoes and deer flies. Robins laugh
from the shade. I can do nothing
but slog back, pulling my boat
through slime, slapping at bugs.

Then, high in the mud . . . tracks.

I climb up, kneel before them
and sketch one in my notebook
to compare with a guide at home:
two and three quarters wide;
three and three quarters long;
angular toes, the center two
noticeably larger than the two outside.
The track of a small wolf,
its outline clear, the edges sharp,

until the seiche returns and fills
the creek, releasing my canoe.
Water rises to wolf print,
dissolving it, dirt stirred up
then back toward the big lake,
a gentle pull but strong enough
to carry me out past mud banks,
the sedge and rushes, jewelweed
glowing orange, oxeye daisies,
out past the thickets, shaded
at midday, creatures hiding inside.


(reprinted from If the World Becomes So Bright, Wayne State University Press, 2009, with the permission of the author.)
A quick glimpse
in my eye’s
corner—

black wolf
running
always running
ears back
fur
shaggy
hackles up
a touch
of white
or silver
on its belly

beside the lake
over rock
and lost
between spruce
and cedar

before
I turn


(reprinted from If the World Becomes So Bright, Wayne State University Press, 2009, with the permission of the author.)
glisten like bone
hold the sun
the brightest objects
on Scoville Point

nestled in a bowl
of basalt and blueberries
bone shed
after rituals of mating

eleven tines a side
the first polished
and sharpened to stab
and dominate

the bone-white palms
rivered with lines
of veins that once
fed the velvet

not a memory
of death this time
but bone shed
celebrating

in bone brightness
the spring-born calf
the generations
of moose


(first appeared in The Dunes Review, reprinted with the permission of the author.)
 
 

Last updated: January 15, 2020

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