Poems from the North Country

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Say that just this once,

I cast my worries star-ward,
to slip between the joints of some glacier’s icy knuckles.

See the way they knead and fold the land, shaping it with their weight?
As if it were a soft dough to be changed then devoured.

Suppose in that cold blue space
—that crack in time—
the weight of this all released—
pack ice breaking up beneath a northern sky.

Consider, then, how my body swells with light.
Unfiltered and ancient.

Braid in my hair.
Stone in my belly.
My spine a stack of pebbles.
A distant floe on a cold and salty sea.

It must be terrible, I think, to have always been here.


–Lauren Kukla


She Is Wild

She Is Wild

by Lauren Kukla

I’d like to teach you how to love a garden

–unweeded and unheeded–

In that lovely late-summer chaos of early September.

Squash vines and wild grapes bowing toward one another,

then turning away,

tangled in a splendid dance of greenery and growth.


They will try to tame you.

Civilize you.

Make you tidy and unwild.

I have seen this.


My love, don’t you dare listen.

For we are jackpine savages, you and I,

born of the brambles, alive in the ether.

Can’t you see that all this was once frozen? How ferocious life is!


Nature is a woman.

And she is wild.



Carefully, Then

Carefully, Then

by Lauren Kukla

We tread carefully,

Wrapped in crisp sheets.
Barely touching.
Opposite cheeks on opposite pillows.
Dream-eyes fixed on different walls.

Thank God and praise something
there are
two sides to this bed.

I might make you coffee in the morning.

You might make me eggs.

Or perhaps I will
fumble for my keys
slip away into smoky dawn

before you know I’m gone.


A Fierce Thing

A Fierce Thing

Hear that?

Such sweetness and sound
threads itself through the live oaks.
River hymns of light
speckling and staining the stones
like Sunday glass.

Some spirit lingers here.

Say it is true that home is any place
a good dog is waiting.
Or dogs.
(The more the better. Don’t you think?)

For unscratched floors and doors,
can’t compare
to reckless joy,
honeysoft fur,
and devotion unreserved.

Suppose we all gave ourselves over
to such canine devotion.
Deciding family
was the people we chose to love
as if nothing else mattered.
(Because it doesn’t.)

Then we are never really gone,
are we?

Even in that moment
when spirit splits from bone—
some animal part of our soul must still echo,
laughing like creekwater
as we leap from cliff and stone,
the bones of our wingtips vibrating
in perfect harmony
with sage and cypress
the great eternal hum
of this
hill country.

So, grieve, if you must.
(And you must.)
But then laugh,
For we are creatures meant for joy!
And joy deferred is
life unlived.

scatter my memory where it will linger like stardust,
a dry glitter that never quite settles,
never stops catching light.
Breath me in
when a baby laughs.
Breath me out
when sunrise sets your room ablaze with color.

Know that
I am with you.
Scratching at your door;
singing in your kitchen;
buzzing in your garden.

A fierce thing
is love.

—Lauren Kukla


Nokomis Woman

Nokomis Woman

by Lauren Kukla

Was it a spirit then?

I saw,
that frost-spun morning?
Rising from the lake.
Singing me northern.

Her body stooped
but strong.
Bare feet on cold sand.

Black one-piece.
Long wet hair—
gray washed in silver—
plastered against her bare back.
Baptized in October.

Steam rising off her weathered body—
an animal body‚

Life-worn but at peace.

With itself.
With the world.
Unconscious of the cold.




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