This poem was inspired by hiking and observing scenes and moments in the world around me. I am privileged to live in Minneapolis (recognized as the ancestral homeland of the Dakota and Ojibwe peoples). It not only provides its citizens with significant cultural institutions from libraries, museums, concert halls, and theatres but also access to the Mississippi River and wildlife refuges to see what nature can teach us about living, most especially its wonders.
When strong she made a cloak from bark. Many years
her heart grew beneath it. One day the attacks began.
First came the thunderstorms throwing hail and strong
winds. Next, a plague of beetles pierced her skin to set
up encampments and rampantly multiplied. As their
young crawled about and fed on her tissues they made
a grim maze that scarred the walls of her heart. They
wanted to grow up like their mothers. As her sweet sap
dried up from damage, her crown withered. The light
dimmed without new buds to shine. Then it was night,
only night—a bony figure with graceful arms upraised.
Melissa Kalinowski is a writer, instructor, and strategy consultant living in Minneapolis. Formerly, she was a marketing executive for SaaS companies. She earned an MFA in creative writing from Hamline University in St. Paul and is the founder of Poetry Hive, a lively space for readers and writers of poetry to gather. Recently, she published Dream Like a Poet: The Unconventional Way to Write Memoir. A new book of nature poetry is forthcoming in Fall 2022.
Melissa's Book Recommendation
I’m reading Paisley Rekdal’s Imaginary Vessels, and it is full of wonders. One of my favorite poems in the collection is “Irises” for its juxtaposition between a deer carcass being picked clean among irises that still rise in an abandoned garden. She writes: “How surgical the appetites/that have cleared the deer/to its skeleton . . . and ellipses of iris where once a garden stood. /The bones laid out like a piece of lace/spread on a table." In the garden, the evidence of death and life persists.