Archives for posts with tag: Michigan

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.

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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.

by Birdman313

Along the borderline in the summer walking down the beach,
Half-awake under a half moon as the tide rolls in reach.
The white tranquil sand soothing through the toes,
The mind is open to the wind’s gentle whisper rows.
As the sea spray mist bathed on the face,
Seagulls, fish circled to a beat of trace.
Under the sky with windblown sails,
Along the dock, toothpicked fishermen gathered around a cotton bail.
Midnight strolls lazy moon and a shadow on the beach,
Dreams casually as the wind brushed up against the trees in reach.
Stone upon stone of history stood silent along the sandy shores off the       sea,
Sending a chill that will sting like bee.

PHOTOGRAPH: “Guided” (Benton Harbor, Michigan) by Bill Frische. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Victor B. Johnson, Sr., aka Birdman313, is originally from Benton Harbor, Michigan. After receiving a B.A. in Social Science from John Wesley College in Owosso, Michigan, he tried out for The NBA California Summer Pro-Basketball League, the Eastern League, and several independent teams and spent several years playing Semi-Pro basketball. In 1980, he moved to Houston, Texas. He has four published poetry books and three poetry chapbooks and has been published in Froward Times newspaper, Storm Magazine, Harbinger Asylum Magazine, the Indiana Review Newsletter, and The Permian Basin Poetry Society Anthology PERMAIN BASIN 2014. He is a member of the Austin Writers Roulette and hosts the Spoken Word Contest at the National Black Book Festival. His awards include several Editor’s Choice Awards in Poetry, a Plaque for the Poem “She,” Gold Medallion and PENDANT. He appears in the YouTube documentary Poetry Is Dead by Weasel Patterson of Vagabonds press in the Houston area. He received an A.A. in Networking Admin from ITT-Tech and a Computer Tech Certificate from J.T.I. He is a mobile app developer for Androids and Smartphone devices and has developed two personal apps at the Google Play Store under the name of Birdman313 and Skipper313.

by Janeen Pergrin Rastall

He can feel the crocuses
seeking holes in the soil.
He smells bear musk
on the bushes.
When he settles down to sleep
he hears the sap stirring in the trees.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem first appeared in Right Hand Pointing. It is easy to get cabin fever living across the road from Lake Superior. Lately the sub-zero temperatures have kept us indoors. I get excited in March when the light begins to change and winter starts to loosen its grip on the Upper Peninsula.

PHOTOGRAPH: “Early spring, McCarty’s Cove and the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse (Lake Superior, Marquette, Michigan)” by Jill Laudenslager. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Janeen Pergrin Rastall lives in Gordon, Michigan (population 2). She is the author of the chapbook In The Yellowed House (dancing girl press, 2014). Her poetry has appeared in several publications including Border Crossing, Raleigh Review, Heron Tree, and Midwestern Gothic. She has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes.

Polar Vortex Pioneers
by James Schwartz

Here in Michigan we are pioneers,
Detroit daughters of a revolution.

Small town streets are still named,
For Lafayette.

The great blizzard of ’78 is discussed,
As though yesterday.

Today the Great Lakes froze,
And Hell.

The polar vortex leaving behind,
Tomorrow’s pioneers.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Polar Vortex Pioneers” was previously published in Arrival and Departure (Writing Knights Press, 2014).

PHOTO: “Michigan Farm in Winter” by James Schwartz.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: James Schwartz is a gay ex-Amish poet and slam performer in Michigan. Schwartz’s poetry has been published by various poetry journals and anthologies. His book The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America, was published by in Group Press in 2011, and, more recently, his poetry appeared via Writing Knights Press. Visit him at

by Melanie Dunbar

Four cranes rise at the back of the field,
fly as quarters of one bird,
as a flock of grackles
lands hidden in the grass.
Their wingbeats disturb the air near my neck.
This is my east thirty acres.

Fields border my fields,
in the distance the house I can see from my house is white.
Coming up from behind —
the unpainted back of the barn,

chicken coop and faded green shingles.
Near the road is the shagbark hickory
bare now except for the nuts.
Some guy cleaned out his car at the end of the drive.

The dust and hay sticks to the paste of sunblock
on my arms and face. I am encrusted in hay.
I pull bales off the baler,
stack them on the wagon.

The hay catscratches wherever it touches my skin.
It smells sweet,
meadows and clean sheets,
pillowcases left on the lilac to dry.

The tractor and wagon rock back and forth.
I sway with them,
a cowboy on a horse.
I climb to the top, spread-eagle,
a maharani riding an elephant.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: We live on a working farm. We grow our own corn and hay to feed our cattle. Baling hay is often hot, dusty, and physically exhausting — but there are moments of rest, when I dream. This poem was written after baling in late August. When the wagon was full, I climbed to the top and let my mind wander.

PHOTO: “Michigan Barn” by Melanie Dunbar.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Melanie Dunbar is a Master Gardener who has suddenly taken her writing seriously. She lives in Southwest Michigan with her husband and youngest son and their rooster, Mr. Beautiful. Her poetry is forthcoming in Your Impossible Voice.

by Kaila Davis

My eyes are one-hundred penny boxes stacked
twenty times in the sky.

My eyes are books with 50 trillion stars
rolling around turning into big money.

I am a school that has wings that can fly
36 miles in the sky.

My dream is like a green and red car
coming down the street.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kaila Davis is a student at Marcus Garvey Academy in Detroit, Michigan.

NOTE: This self-portrait is from the InsideOut Literary Arts Project of Detroit. To learn more, visit

IMAGE: “Le Champ de Mars” by Marc Chagall (1955).