by J.M. Gamble
The paths wind through the wind
of the lake and we are faggots
to the flame: we light up
at the sight of any old thing
clinging-to. Michigan is
as unforgiving to its deviant
flora as it is devastatingly
beautiful. The dune grass juts up
against its own withering. Every sign
reminds you: this is a “harsh environment.”
But: bearberry binds the blind light. Pitcher’s
thistle, too, or the arrow-leaved aster—and even after
all of this is good & gone, the dunes will keep.
Grief doesn’t harden, though it’s hard
to touch. The lakes, like looks we get
for gaynesses, crest and break against
the sun. We are here and not here,
opening and closing our legs, pink
petaled searockets. Wayfarers.
Every odd yard’s belittled with a blue
paper crane careening toward “Trump/Pence.”
In Glen Haven, the blacksmith fires
the steel, twists its bright red
into a cool dinner bell. Beneath us,
a sleeping bear watches over.
He grafts the metal to the wood—
black locust, false acacia, invasive
species even so close to home.
We count the signs that want us dead:
one pence, two pence, a shilling’s worth,
a made America. When the trees migrated
north, nothing could survive their shade.
We huddle in our cabin and watch the sun give up
its daily burden to the dark.
We are still moving, waiting to burn.
The wind against the lake is a warning:
keep on, it bleats out in the sand. This red
cherry prairie tears a sweet from its limber
skin. And still: every majesty costs.
J.M. Gamble is a Ph.D. student in Women's Studies & English at the University of Michigan. His poems and essays have appeared most recently in The Rumpus, Tinderbox Poetry, The Fourth River, and The McNeese Review.