Saturday, July 17, 2004


by Judith Strasser

I spend the morning reading scholars' accounts
of people early to these shores: Ojibwa who moved
to Chequamegon Bay the decade Columbus "discovered"
America; the trappers, traders, voyageurs who paddled
the unsettled lake; 19th century masons who quarried
brownstone in eight-by-four blocks and shipped it
off to Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, as far east
as Buffalo. By noon I am weary of driving stakes
for pound nets, cleaning lake trout, felling white pine,
stripping hemlock bark. I need a nap. I am drowsy
from sawdust history and growth-of-industry fact.

I go down to the lake to haul water for washing dishes.
Wind drives three-foot breakers onto the shallow beach.
Rollers slosh in and out of my brown Rubbermaid pail.
A wave breaks on the rocks and soaks my boots, my socks,
my jeans, the sleeve of my polypro fleece. Fog drips
from the balsam branches. Nothing will dry today.
I have a change of clothes, a roof, a fireplace.
But what of the voyageurs, rushing to rendezvous?
And the loggers, swarming the smoky cookhouse in sweat-
drenched trousers and shirts? How wet does a fisherman get
in November, racing the making ice to pull his herring nets?
This is the story. The sun disappears, Ojibwa children shiver,
a gale howls from the northeast.


by Judith Strasser

Sand Island
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
The settlers are gone, cabins
rotted or burned. What remains:
the school house foundation,
moss-garden-capped concrete;
a Model T, sunk to its fenders,
kneeling under the trees.
A trail -

choked with balsam and alder,
roadbed rutted, muddy, sodden,
a permanent bog of memory
bordered by sentinel trees.

Penny candy from the co-op;
Noreng's berries, big as
hens' eggs, too juicy to ship
anywhere; dances - pump organ,
squeezebox, fiddle, the whole
village at the school; crossing the ice-
bridge for mail; the storm
that took Harold Dahl.
Crawl over tree-trunks,
muck through jewel-weed,
tread bear scat in blackberry brambles,
swim sedges over your head.
Lose the trace in the marsh. Turn back.
This is no wilderness. Still,
you've come to the end of the road.

These poems are from Judith Strasser's Sand Island Succession: Poems of the Apostles. Strasser's memoir, Black Eye: Escaping a Marriage, Writing a Life, is now available; it may be ordered at your local bookstore or from University of Wisconsin Press. Sand Island Succession: Poems of the Apostles is available for $10 from Parallel Press or directly from Strasser's website. You may contact her at: .


I'm interested in considering your "poems of place" for publication in The Middlewesterner's "Saturday's Poem" feature; send two or three of your best in the body of an e-mail addressed to . Put "Saturday's Poem" in the subject line. Then be patient. I will get back to you about whether I'll use your work or not. Send along a short biographical note and information about where your books can be purchased and I'll include that when your poem runs. There's no payment involved for having your work appear in "Saturday's Poem," but the feature is seen by some high class readers. About seventeen of them, by our current count.

o Dave Bonta, "The Morning Porch" -
March 13, 2004
o Harriet Brown, "Speaking Midwestern" and "Where We Went" -
July 10, 2004
o Robin Chapman, "By the Wisconsin River" -
June 12, 2004
o Susan Firer, "The Butterfly Graveyard" - May 22, 2004
o Fred First, "In Living Memory" -
April 3, 2004
o R. Chris Halla, "My Prairie Wedding" -
June 5, 2004
o Phil Hey, "Spare Tire" -
March 6, 2004
o Mike O'Connell, "Flatlanders" and "A Farm and a Rainbow" -
March 27, 2004
o Colleen Redman, "Tincture Making" -
May 15, 2004
o Jim Reese, "Ritual" and "Willing and Ready" -
May 29, 2004
o Robert Schuler, "Thaw, 2003, Stanton Township" and "The American Millenium" -
June 26, 2004
o Marilyn Taylor, "Surveying the Damage" -
June 19, 2004
o Mark Vinz, "The Old Hometown" and "Midcontinent" -
April 17, 2004
o Complete index to poems here

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