Jan/Feb 2011 Poetry Special Feature


by Jennifer Finstrom


I have walked, without guessing, on trails
my mother might have liked her
ashes scattered along, watching for
purple finch and goldfinch, pine siskin and
red-breasted nuthatch. Year by year,
the same small birds seem to return,
but what I am seeing are generations.
One trail I follow ends at a lookout over
a tree-shrouded bog, a wooden platform
no bigger than an attic, and I stand
there for a moment, because
that is what lookouts are for,
before turning back to cross the road.

Another trail runs near my father's
window. Gazing out across a culvert,
deer and hikers trample the same paths,
and gulls from Lake Superior
sweep inland with metallic cries. This trail
was once a railroad track bearing iron
ore from mines to waiting boats. Walking
there now, what is past leaves red dust
on shoes, and the ground glitters when
the sun hammers it with light. This
specular hematite, fallen from train cars,
is one way the world remembers,
and every time I walk here, I carry
one more stone home, aware of what
we take and what we leave.


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