steady seasonal work

                                       Jim Northrup, 1943-2016

The dead cottonwood leans its broken fork
like a Y-brace against
the live cottonwood.  Who’s
helping whom?  The river’s work

is steady, seasonal... flows
nearby.  Past Fort Snelling
like a hurt knee – swelling
strong west branch waters,

Dakota memory.  The boarding school
in Pipestone, pushing English
like a Ghost Dance wish
across calumet plains.  Clouds pool

like smoke under their limitless
blue dome.  The little stories
join hands – morning glories
vining indigo blooms... a sky-caress

out of heavy red clay.  She will go
with you to the Happy Land
her canoe made of almond
joy heartbeats, in waves.  I know

where I’m going... just a change of address.
The flower of a smile
blooms out of dust – the trial
just a test of loving (wilderness).

You’ll find the carnation in a sailor’s
chest, the rose in a worn
lapel.  So being born
will ride the swell, through locks, through doors.


*for more information about Jim Northrup, see today's NY Times obituary

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