Archives for posts with tag: Michigan

Kodak: Carnival at Veterans’ Park, Ann Arbor, May 1961
by Cheryl Caesar

The ballerina lights
on her partner’s shoulder.
A butterfly. Her arms lift
like the flexing of wings.

Despite the pose and the tutu,
my father and I are nothing like that.

My two-year-old arms lift
like a saguaro with fists.
My father grips my thigh
to his shoulder.

My face is screwed up
like a fist — laughing, I believe.
His is clenched against his smoke,
turned away so as not to scorch my skirts.
But he might have been smiling too.

I think he was proud
to offer this treat to his family,
although I never really cared
for forced vertigo. This shoulder perch
was better than any Ferris wheel
or Tilt-a-Whirl.

All I ever wanted to ask of him
was to give up the cigarettes.
I never could. It seemed as though
they were all that he had.

Within a few years I would disappear
from family pictures, insufficiently
photogenic. My mother would play
ballerina for the lens. But I’m thankful
to have this snapshot. Look closely.
Lend me your eyes.
Wouldn’t you say we were happy?

ART: Cele Carnival by Yaacov Agam.

caesar drawing
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem came out of a writing workshop in which we created poems from a photograph. I also made the above sketch of the photo, in compressed charcoal. The poem and sketch were published in Poetic Sun (October 2021).

Caesar 2

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cheryl Caesar is an ex-expatriate who for 25 years lived in Paris, Tuscany, and Sligo (Republic of Ireland). She earned her doctorate in comparative literature at the Sorbonne, and now teaches writing at Michigan State University. Her chapbook Flatman: Poems of Protest in the Trump Era is available from Amazon, although she hopes it will soon be of historical interest only. You can find her poems and artwork in Words Across the Water, published by Fractal Edge Press. She enjoys poetry, painting and drawing, and speculating about nonhuman consciousness. Visit her at and on Facebook.

Author photo by The Poetry Room. 

Jack Sheridan cottage_sand_bury_painting
An elegy for Singapore, Michigan
by Cheryl Caesar

A city built on sand and metaphors,
as Petersburg was raised upon a swamp.

Your founding czar came also from the east:
Oshea Wilder tried to live his name.

Reaching peninsula, he called it island,
a hub to rival Asian Singapore,

and, more important, that big-shouldered burg,
the windy city built on mud, Chi-Town.

You had your little fifty years of fame.
At first you trapped small mammals for their fur.

And then you turned to trees, an endless fund.
Your wildcat bank made its own currency.

When bank inspectors came, you got them drunk:
brash as Tom Sawyer of St. Petersburg,

(Missouri) selling whitewash privileges.
And still folks came. They called you Ellis Island

of the Great Lakes.
                                                            And then Chicago won.
A brilliant sacrifice: by catching fire

she took your forests, leaving you the dunes.
You sold off every tree; thought they’d come back.

Or didn’t think at all, as people don’t.
Within ten years the sands had covered up

the last remaining building, though they say
one foolish Ozymandias stayed on,
acceding to his house by climbing through
a second-story window, while he could.

The literary ones called you Pompei,
though you had suffered no volcanic flow

but human greed.

                                                            But who are we to speak,
as we burn off the surface of our world,

as ice caps melt, and ocean waters rise
far past our second stories, and we stand
on rooftops and pretend it isn’t real?

Photo art of Singapore, Michigan, by Jack Sheridan, all rights reserved, used by permission.

singapore 1
EDITOR’S NOTE: Singapore, Michigan, was one of the casualties of the four great fires, including The Great Chicago Fire, that ravaged the northern Midwest on October 8, 1871. Its ruins now lie buried beneath the sand dunes of the Lake Michigan shoreline at the mouth of the Kalamazoo River in Saugatuck Township, near the city of Saugatuck. Singapore was founded in 1836 by New York land speculator Oshea Wilder, who was hoping to build a port town to rival Chicago and Milwaukee.

PHOTO: An 1869 photo of Singapore, Michigan, shows a lumber mill in the foreground and the schooner O.R. Johnson, which regularly hauled timber 150 miles from Singapore to Chicago via the Lake Michigan waterway. (Photo courtesy of the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society)


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: For my 60th birthday last year, my husband took me to visit parts of Michigan that I had never seen before, including the town of Saugatuck. After a morning of visiting shops and galleries, and lunch on a terrace, we spotted, just across the street, a marker commemorating the lost town of Singapore. We could not visit it, as there was nothing left but dunes. But we became fascinated and did some research into it. When we got home, I noticed in my news feed a call for poems with the name “Singapore” in them. It was fate! I wrote the poem above, which won third prize in the contest. It is also a favorite at readings: its theme of global destruction seems to resonate with everyone. Here is a link to me reading “An elegy for Singapore, Michigan.”

PHOTO:  Michigan Historical Commission sign about Singapore, located in Saugatuck, Michigan. Photo by rossograph, used by permission.

Caesar1 copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cheryl Caesar lived in Paris (France), Tuscany (Italy), and Sligo (Ireland) for 25 years; she earned her doctorate in comparative literature at the Sorbonne (Paris) and taught literature and phonetics. She now teaches writing at Michigan State University. She gives poetry readings locally and serves on the board of the Lansing Poetry Club. Last year, she published over a hundred poems in the U.S., Germany, India, Bangladesh, Yemen and Zimbabwe, and won third prize in the Singapore Poetry Contest for “An elegy for Singapore, Michigan.” She also won a scholarship to the Social Justice workshop at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, awarded by Indolent Books. Her work is currently appearing in anthologies of Reo Town readers from Lansing and of the East Lansing Art Festival. She has gone swimming with wild dolphins, and it is one of the high points of her life. Her chapbook Flatman: Poems of Protest in the Trump Era is now available from Amazon and Goodreads. Visit her website, and find her on Facebook and Twitter.

PHOTO: The author and her husband while exploring new areas of Michigan (2019).

carl ballou licensed
Once Upon a Time in Detroit
by Gary Glauber

At 24, I took invincibility in stride,
drunk and still driving a rental car at midnight
into a town I’d never been to before,

heading the sixty miles I needed to cover
in record time and never once worrying about it.
Pointing the sedan in the right direction,

I ate up that random highway’s asphalt miles
like I had been to the feted Motor City
a hundred adventurous times before.

I was driving American, feeling every inch
a patriot of horsepower privilege, a Mitch Ryder song
appropriately blaring from the car’s radio.

I was to be shown how nice this town
with the less-than-stellar rep
could actually be. The gray-haired

officials in their fancy tailored suits
showed up to ensure me major improvements
were currently in the offing.

The impeccable politicians included me
like some wealthy insider, privy to their racist,
anti-Semitic jokes in conversational passing.

They treated me to a superb lunch at
their private dining club, featuring all
the spoils of the automotive patriarchy.

The Super Bowl is coming, they assured me.
The first ever to be held in the northern U.S.,
further evidence of the coming turnaround.

Once, in the 1950s, Detroit had been
America’s wealthiest city, hands down,
back when the auto industry was booming.

Since then, there had been myriad problems:
arson, crack cocaine, urban decline, race riots.
But I saw no signs of any of that.

I saw the shiny new urban renaissance.
Here is where it was all happening.
Life was damned good, they swore.

While this inside society of old guard elite
were busy moving mountains, I was being
housed in the fanciest new downtown hotel,

assigned the loveliest young woman
from the mayor’s office whose sole duty
was to make sure I was entertained.

She called up an equally fetching friend
and next thing, we were out in Greektown,
breaking plates, downing ouzo, shouting “Opa!”

Bottle after empty bottle fell like
things shot down in a carnival sideshow,
and still they urged me to have another.

They took me to the DIA museum
with its impressive antique cars
and beautiful Diego Rivera murals.

We visited the Henry Ford Museum
and the Edison Institute in nearby Dearborn:
the history of cars elevated to exquisite art.

They made me feel important,
rather than the pretender I was,
an up-and-coming trade mag editor

staving off cockroaches and loneliness
in a small excuse of an apartment
back in Park Slope. Not quite Mr. Bigshot.

But in Detroit I was being escorted around
like visiting royalty — a whirlwind treat
for the senses, a rollicking frenetic joyous time.

All this in exchange for a nice write-up
in the glossy “meetings and convention” trade mag,
to help them drum up some sizable business.

Hangover encroaching, I returned to
the hotel’s penthouse Presidential Suite.
An incredible array of floral arrangements,

gift baskets, and a Steinway grand piano
awaited in a space 15 times the real estate
of my tiny Brooklyn studio.

I spent the ironic night alone in a giant bed.
No piano accompanied the stupor
that the alcohol and luxury provided.

Detroit unsafe? Detroit ugly?
From my perspective, it had been
one of the best nights of my life.

Wanting money and respect again,
they’d invested millions on lipstick
and band-aids for the American Dream.

Meanwhile I promised to deliver the goods,
which I did enthusiastically, dutifully.
I loved the carefully curated Detroit I saw.

It was a treat for the senses,
fun and fantastic, a promising destination
for any future Fortune 500 convention event.

I believed it because I experienced it,
and, yes, the Super Bowl came to cold Pontiac
but the renaissance never seemed to take.

When Detroit later declared bankruptcy,
18.5 billion was owed to some 100,000 creditors,
all of whom believed the same story

I took with me in my heart to print:
that the Motor City was coming back
bigger, shinier, fully resurrected.

But Cinderella’s coach turned back to a pumpkin —
no matching glass slipper was found;
not all stories have a happy ending.

PHOTO: Detroit, Michigan, skyline and the Detroit River (shot from under the MacArthur Bridge) by Carl Ballou, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I read that July 23, 2020 was the 53rd anniversary of the start of the 1967 Detroit riots. My visit to Detroit happened in 1981 or 1982, and my personal history was far removed from that event. Still, I will never forget that trip.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The 1967 Detroit Riots were a series of violent confrontations between black residents and various law enforcement bodies that lasted for five days and resulted in 43 dead, 1,189 injured, over 7,200 arrests, and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed. For more about these events and their effects, watch a 2017 PBS report here.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gary Glauber is a widely published poet, fiction writer, teacher, and former music journalist. He champions the underdog while negotiating life’s absurdities. He has three collections — Small Consolations (Aldrich Press), Worth the Candle (Five Oaks Press), and Rocky Landscape with Vagrants (Cyberwit) — as well as two chapbooks, Memory Marries Desire (Finishing Line Press) and The Covalence of Equanimity (SurVision Books), a winner of the 2019 James Tate International Poetry Prize.  Another collection, A Careful Contrition (Shanti Arts Publishing). is forthcoming soon.

Petrouske_Front of Post Card copy
Cloud Peak
Lake of the Clouds, Silver City, Michigan
by Rosalie Sanara Petrouske

In an antique store, I find a 1952 postcard of Lake of the Clouds. The front shows a couple standing on the Escarpment looking down at miles of virgin timber and the ribbon of the Carp River winding 300 feet below. Today, most people observe this panorama from the opposite end where boardwalks make it easier for those of all stages of mobility to enjoy the scenery. In the 1950s, the vista stretched, immense and breathtaking, and the couple stood at its very edge. As the back of the card proclaims, “The view of untouched wilderness is magnificent.”

On a sunny day in May 2014, I hike to Cloud Peak with park naturalist, Bob Wild, as my guide to find the exact location where the couple stood sixty-one years ago. Instead of taking the marked path, we follow a sloping hillside covered with trillium and the speckled leaves of thriving blue bead lilies. When we reach the top, I step out. Beneath me unfolds Lake of the Clouds against a brilliantly green landscape, and a hyacinth blue sky that boasts streamers of cirrus clouds sailing across its surface. Nothing is more beautiful.

Contemplating that road less traveled and the postcard couple who followed it, I wonder what they would think of the changes technology has wrought in our world and the challenges experienced from climate change. They might have believed the verdant earth before them would remain untouched for many generations. In some ways, here in this slice of wilderness, it has. Yet, as we return, winding our way slowly down the mountain following the traditional path, I am more conscious of my environment and my role in keeping such treasures as Lake of the Clouds here for future generations and beyond, and wonder if the effort of those of us who care will be enough.

PHOTO: 1952 postcard from the L.L. Cook Co. Back text reads: “In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula…Located in the Porcupine Mountains State Park, the Lake nestles below a 450-foot escarpment, from which point the view of untouched wilderness is magnificent. The Lake of the Clouds is 1,080 feet above sea level. Numerous trails winding thru huge stands of virgin timber are available for hikers.”

Petrouske_Lake of the Clouds_Traditional View_2
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is located three miles west of Silver City, Michigan, on M 107.  It is home to 60,000 acres of wilderness that includes 35,000 acres of old-growth forest, numerous wild and beautiful waterfalls, miles of rivers and streams, as well as 90 miles of hiking trails, located along the Lake Superior shoreline. Some of its most popular tourist attractions include Lake of the Clouds (with an ADA accessible viewing area), the Summit Peak Observation tower and the scenic Presque Isle River corridor. ¶In 2008 and 2014, I served as Artist-in-Residence in the Porcupine Mountains AIRP program. The Artist-in-Residence Program is open to artists and artisans whose work can be influenced by this unique northern wilderness setting. It offers writers, composers, and all visual and performing artists the opportunity to experience the natural beauty of the “Porkies” and express it through their particular art form.  For more information, visit or email  ¶This story is part of a longer piece “Lost in Solitude” that explores what it was like living for two weeks in a cabin in the wilderness without electricity or running water. On this particular day, I climbed up to Cloud Peak where I could see Lake of the Clouds from a different perspective. Years ago, this was the original path to the top.  Today, an ADA accessible area exists for tourists to enjoy the spectacular view.

PHOTO: The author at Lake of the Clouds, Silver City, Michigan.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rosalie Sanara Petrouske received her M.A. in English and Writing from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan.  She is a Professor in the English Department at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan, where she currently teaches Freshman Composition and Creative Writing.  She has had poetry and essays published in many literary journals and anthologies, including, Passages North, The Seattle Review, Red Rock Review, Third Wednesday, American Nature Writing, and Lunch Ticket. The author of three chapbooks of poetry What We Keep (Finishing Line Press, 2016), A Postcard from my Mother (Finishing Line Press, 2004), and The Geisha Box (March Street Press, 1996), she served as Artist-in-Residence in the Porcupine Mountains in 2008 and 2014.  Find her on Facebook and find her books at Finishing Line Press.

Author photo by Eric Palmer. 

born door
Behind My Front Door
by Anne Born

I’m looking out the window now.
I’m new to this house.
I notice things I probably won’t think twice about soon.

I listen for all the different bird calls,
I look at the time on my clock when I hear the trains,
     hoping to find a logic to their timetable.
I watch the trashmen pick up on Tuesday mornings,
     their big green trucks are dull, plodding,
     when they pull up in front of the house.
I hear all the cars when they drive down the street.

It’s pretty quiet here in Michigan.
Not like in my apartment in New York.

I am looking out the window now,
The fat groundhog hasn’t come out yet today
From under the old shed out back,
For his ration of berries and grasses.
My concern is that I assume it’s a male animal
Probably because the thought of it gathering food for babies,
     in this weather, in this climate,
     is too hard to hold.
A squirrel finds a bit of water in the bird bath.

I’m looking out the window now,
Cars driving by, but just a few,
They keep going, mostly, the birds take no notice.
They will sing regardless.
Folks drive into their garage, then disappear
Into their house.
So many houses, like my house.

I’m looking out the window now.
I open it a bit to watch the snow falling.
The tops of the branches are white now.
It’s supposed to rain later.
Window closed.

I’m new to this house.

The front door is not the barrier to my going outside.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I need a metronome to be able to write. I cue up Law & Order SVU, an Avengers movie I’ve seen, cooking shows, or something about tiny houses – that’s my background noise. It’s very difficult to write if I have to maintain the pace.

anne born

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anne Born is an award-winning, New York and Niles, Michigan-based writer who has been writing stories and poetry since childhood. She blogs on The Backpack Press, Tumbleweed Pilgrim, and Medium, and her writing focuses on family and life in a big city after growing up in a small one. She is the author of A Marshmallow on the Bus, Prayer Beads on the Train, Waiting on a Platform, Turnstiles, and Local Color. Her latest book is Buen Camino! Tips from an American Pilgrim (The Backpack Press, December, 2017, now updated for 2020). Her short essay on the call to the Camino is included in It’s About Time, by Johnnie Walker (Redemptorist Pastoral Publications, 2019). She a contributor to the 2015 anthology, Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox, edited by Joanne Bamberger. Anne’s essay on her cousin’s collection of Nancy Drew novels was published in the Silver Birch Press Nancy Drew Anthology (2016). She is also curator of the Late Orphan Project and a former contributor to The Broad Side. You can follow her on Redbubble, Instagram, Twitter.

If I Have To Leave One Night
by Cal Freeman

If I fall because a valve has given out
beneath poplar shadows near Ecorse Creek
or on a sidewalk in front of a cinderblock
tract house and you arrive too late
to save me, your dog stopping to sniff
the corpse with a detached curiosity before
you notice it, the clasp of your umbrella
jangling as you kneel to see that I am dead,
leave me lying with legs accordioned
beneath bony knees, face bluish,
lips belled around the beginnings
of a gasp or moan, and do not move me
until my wife comes to identify the body
and see me as I was at my last moment,
and step away for as long as that moment takes.
Leave her to me. She might want to press
my lips or pound my chest to see
if the heart sputters or grab my lapels
and shout that we both must have known
this was coming given the way I’ve lived
(your dog will whimper in the dark,
or my dead dog might whimper in the dark
to see me dead and hear my wife distraught)
or fold my arms across my chest and bury
her face in this old flannel shirt I wear
each time I walk into the night.

PHOTO: North branch of the Ecorse River, Wayne County, Michigan.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cal Freeman is the author of the book Brother of Leaving (Marick Press) and the chapbook Heard Among the Windbreak (Eyewear Publishing, London). His writing has appeared in many journals, including Commonweal, The Journal, The Cortland Review, Passages North, and Hippocampus. He is the recipient of the Howard P. Walsh Award for Literature, The Ariel Poetry Prize, and The Devine Poetry Fellowship (judged by Terrance Hayes). He has also been nominated for Pushcart Prizes in poetry and creative nonfiction, as well as Best of the Net and Best American Poetry.

AUTHOR PHOTO: The author in Heather Lane Park, South Dearborn Heights, Michigan.

Bogdaniec 2
Canadian Lakes, Michigan
by Steve Bogdaniec

The town is towards the middle of Michigan
there for a destination wedding on Saturday
we drove from Chicago on Sunday afternoon
my fiancée, her mother, her father, her brother, and me
separate cars, but all stayed in a cabin on a small lake
and what the housing agent called a cabin
was really a big modern four bedroom brick house
fiancée and I had the whole second floor

gorgeous huge trees everywhere
endless green lawns
the water a 100 feet from the back door
slow days on a tiny manmade beach
sunny but not hot
other family members either on our lake or nearby
barbecue family dinners
lawn chair conversation and music coming from someone’s iPad
paddle boats and swimming
and standing on rampant seaweed in the shallow lake
little fish visible along the shoreline
watched others fish off the little pier
attempted it once myself with dismal results

area is famous for its boating and golf
and we did neither
although we did participate in the river tubing wedding activity on     Wednesday
bunch of us went down a slow river on an inner tube
I loved it, but my fiancée got separated from everyone
and got stuck under a fallen tree branch
she was scratched up and almost drowned
also, we did drive around one day searching for mini golf
couldn’t find the course 30 minutes away because it went out of     business
and forgot to tell the internet
finally found a putt-putt/driving range/go kart combo further out
that was decent

cabin was comfy
but had no internet or cell phone reception for my carrier
finished basement had a pool table with no balls or sticks
agent said it was off limits due to the actions of previous guests
that was fine as the basement reeked of mold anyway
clearly had just been flooded
the first floor living room had crappy cable
connected to a 15-year-old TV
and a VCR and VHS tapes
saw Caddyshack by myself one night after everyone else went to bed

campfire with s’mores one night towards the end of the week
in the little fire pit between the house and the water
tasty and smoky
looking up at all the stars we can’t see in Chicago
we only had s’mores one night
but every night, I went out by myself out the back door
down by the water
just to look up at the sky

then the wedding at a country club:
ceremony next to the club’s driving range
started late
blazing sun in a suit
rest of it was inside or outside when it was cooler
that was very nice

apart from the river tubing fiasco
it was low intensity
the lake we were on was not one of the Great Lakes
it wasn’t the UP everyone loves so much
nothing to stand in line for
nothing to rush to see or do apart from
the after-party for the rehearsal dinner and the wedding itself
it was quiet but not silent
fun but not spectacular
but it’s hard to relax around spectacular

PHOTO: Canadian Lakes, Michigan.

Bogdaniec 1

I think I choose a “list” style for the piece because I wasn’t sure myself how I felt about this vacation. I suppose that I brainstormed my opinions as I wrote. It was definitely less-than-perfect in terms of entertainment value, and I don’t think I would ever need to go back. But just as I ended the poem on a positive note, I do look back on Canadian Lakes, Michigan, fondly.

Steve Bogdaniec
is a writer and teacher, currently teaching English at Wright College in Chicago. Steve has had poetry and short fiction published in numerous journals, most recently Eclectica Magazine, Silver Birch Press, and One Sentence Poems. Follow him on Twitter! Just kidding—he never posts anything there anyway.

Author photo: Steve Bodganiec at Canadian Lakes, Michigan. (July 2014).

all this and more
by Kathryn Almy

        not much sleep, but all-you-can-
want sunrises, northern air,
Skip-bo, wild blueberries, evening
walks, and Labatt’s around the fire
        a good chance of aching
muscles from kayaking
to the point with no one else
in sight, a light burn/reminder
to use sunscreen next time,
some misplaced barefoot steps
on something sharpish,
and sore ribs from laughing
like you haven’t in almost forever
with these same four cousins
        guaranteed sand
in everything, too much fried
chicken and ice cream,
and somewhere inside, that twist
of knowing you’re alive
and how soon all this will end—
all this except the waves
from the horizon coming on and on

PHOTOGRAPH: The author (right) and her brother at Lake Huron in northern Michigan.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathryn Almy’s poetry and essays have appeared in several print and on-line publications, including Silver Birch Press’s self-portrait poetry series, City of the Big Shoulders: A Chicago Poetry Anthology, The Smoking Poet, and Great Lakes Review’s narrative map, where she has written about her favorite place in the world in northern Michigan. Her family has been vacationing at the same beach on Lake Huron for over 80 years. Visit her on the web at

I Visit the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum
a Few Months after My Divorce

by Jennifer Finstrom

and know, without wading into the water, that it is both cold and deep. I should have worn my necklace made from shipwreck pottery, ceramic fragment smoothed by tongues of sand, sliver of broken plate speaking the language of mourning brooches worn by Victorian ladies.

When the Edmund Fitzgerald was lost with her crew on November 10, 1975, I was six years old. Twenty years later, the ship’s bronze bell was brought to the surface, the centerpiece of the museum. It will be what I remember most from this visit, and I want to put out my hand and stroke its cold flank, listen for what it can tell me of silence.

Later, walking the beach, I imagine what mermaids would swim off Whitefish Point, see them in winter coats with shiny fish scales in place of fur. They circle the lighthouse, carry spears instead of tridents, bear souls in their arms to an underwater Valhalla.

I take six stones with me when I leave. They stand for someone’s death. I don’t know whose.

PHOTOGRAPH: The bell from the SS Edmund Fitzgerald on display at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Michigan’s Upper Peninsula comes into my poetry quite often, and even though I’ve vacationed in other places over the years, when I read this call for submissions, I knew that I’d write something about the UP.

Finstrom Vacation

Jennifer Finstrom
 teaches in the First-Year Writing Program, tutors in writing, and facilitates a writing group, Writers Guild, at DePaul University. She has been the poetry editor of Eclectica Magazine since October of 2005, and recent publications include Escape Into LifeMidwestern GothicNEAT, and YEW Journal. She also has work appearing in the Silver Birch Press The Great Gatsby Anthology and forthcoming in the Alice in Wonderland Anthology.

PHOTO: The author on vacation (in Evanston, near her home city of Chicago) this year.

postcard hamlin lake1
Hamlin Lake, Michigan, 1940s
by Joan Colby

A smell of damp, of mildew
Permeated the cottage, lakeside,
Built of simple unfinished planks,
Nothing polished or complicated,
Floorboards, thin walls
So every conversation could be overheard.

A red pump by the chipped sink
That groaned to expel tinged water.
A woodstove my mother cursed
As we stood dripping from our lake baths
Holding bars of Ivory, thin towels wrapped
Around our waists.

The beds were headed with bars
Like jails. Hard in places,
Sunken in others so you could spend
The night spinning from one pole to another
Like a confused explorer.

Outside, the splintery dock
Where father diving into waters
Surprisingly shallow that year
Nearly broke his neck. A rowboat
With heavy recalcitrant oars
To tug us across the lake for supplies.
The splash splash of progress.
Our spitz shuddering in the prow,
He’d fallen in once and remembered.

White birch whose bark could peel
Into testaments on which we wrote
Our having funs and see you soons
Anything with a stamp could be posted
Father contested and was correct.

Rainy afternoons on the porch,
The screens plinging with out of tune
Instruments, we played Sorry,
The colored jacks marched on the board
In militant steps or landing badly
As paratroops were sent back
The way a child was sent to bed
Too early, sleepless, listening
To the mysterious things they said.

IMAGE: Hamlin Lake, Michigan, postcard, available at ebay.

joan colby

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New York Quarterly, the new renaissance, Grand Street, Epoch, and Prairie Schooner. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, Rhino Poetry Award, the new renaissance Award for Poetry, and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She was a finalist in the GSU Poetry Contest (2007), Nimrod International Pablo Neruda Prize (2009, 2012), and received honorable mentions in the North American Review’s James Hearst Poetry Contest (2008, 2010).One of her poems is a winner of the 2014 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest. She is the editor of Illinois Racing News, and lives on a small horse farm in Northern Illinois. She has published 14 books, including Selected Poems (FutureCycle Press), which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize; Properties of Matter, Aldrich Press (Kelsay Books); Bittersweet (Main Street Rag Press), and The Wingback Chair (FutureCycle Press). She has two new chapbooks Ah Clio (Kattycompus Press) and Pro Forma (Foothills Press) as well as a full-length collection Ribcage (Glass Lyre Press), which received the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. Colby is also an associate editor of Kentucky Review and FutureCycle Press.