Southwest Journal Poetry Project: Spring Poetry

Credit: WACSO

Nearly a hundred years ago, D.H. Lawrence published a book of poems called “Look, We Have Come Through!” The poems are very good, but the title is perfect for Minnesotans at the end of another long winter. 

Yes … we have come through and our local poets celebrate the event — some familiar voices and some welcome new ones. We offer poems that move from winter troubles to warmer times, from cynicism to hope, with musings and odd images thrown in and, as always, love.

April is National Poetry Month and I urge you to join the celebration: read a poem; write a poem; ask your kids to write a poem; share a poem with a friend; buy a book of poems; talk to a poet; find a poetry reading and go. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much better you feel.

This issue marks the seventh year (!) of the Southwest Journal Poetry Project. Thanks to all who have participated — as contributors and as readers. The next deadline is June 14 — send your best work to [email protected]. And keep writing! 

Doug Wilhide

Poet Laureate of Linden Hills and Contributing Poetry Editor



Winter, Before We Forget           

Christine Fraser

Winter comes like the plow.  

At first, it is just a rumbling in the distance,

a long way off but closer than it seems.

One might mistake it for something else,

our own fatigue or a disturbance of the light.


Soon and undeniably,

it is bearing down on us,

even as we sleep,

thundering up the hill right for us.

Then it is directly below the bedroom window,

so close we could toss a note or a flower down to it.

It vibrates in our hearts like a pipe organ’s lowest tones,

shakes the bones of the house,

and we fear it will sweep us away too,

 and push us along indefinitely.


We can sense its great power

without even having to peek between the blinds.

Once it has passed, we are at ease again,

no longer braced against its force,

and we quickly forget that it was here.


A Brief Defense of Our Cold Land

Craig Planting


An old friend likes to call when it’s bitterly cold

and announce its seventy-seven and sunny in Florida.

As if I’ve made a mistake by staying here.


But he’s forgotten how navy blue Lake Calhoun is after ice out.

He’s forgotten the sound of melt water falling into storm sewers

and of suddenly friendly strangers conversing on the #4 bus.


He’s forgotten the swoon-worthy scents of new mud,

of fresh earth and of wind and melting snow.

He’s forgotten about how the ice shines


and the redemption of once again paying for our sins

by surviving another Minnesota winter.



Three Nuns           

John O’Connor


Three nuns on motorcycles go roaring by.

Each of them has that look in her eye.

Each of them has the wind in her wimple.

Maybe the explanation is simple?


Maybe they see themselves as routine?

Dull as dishwater? Background in a scene?

Maybe they do not see themselves as odd?

It’s just that they’re white-clad female bikers for God.


Heaven, it seems, can be in a hurry

If there is some sort of work to be done

By a sadhu or a nun.

The holy women accelerate — and the pedestrians scurry.



Your Box

Autumn Reign


This box you put me in does not fit

As a matter of fact it’s not me at all


It has harsh edges, sharp crevices and

Abrupt ends

Where is my whistle?

I would like to blow it

Freeze this pane

This motion picture must end!


I do not want the starring role in this movie

It was created for someone else

It limits my scope, my purview

And it traps my inner beauty,

You can have this box it does not fit!



Globalization, the Sequel

Doug Wilhide


They traveled to Bombay, Christchurch and Rangoon

And settled the suburbs of Saskatoon;

They were seen in Sydney, Ceylon and Somalia

And the jungles and beaches around Guiana;

They went wherever a map could inspire:

The sun never set on the British Empire.


My son’s in Japan; he’s lived there now twice

He’s abandoned Minnesota, enjoys eating rice;

He married a French girl who pinches his ear:

They’re happy — in love, though he can’t find good beer.

My wife is there with them now, just for the fun;

She flew to Osaka to see the grandson.


My daughter sends postcards from New York and London,

drinks whiskey in Portland, Utrecht and Scotland;

She’s immersed in the research of her dissertation,

and travels the world to make presentations;

She gives talks in Toronto and Pensacola

And visits the boyfriend in Arizona.


Meanwhile I sit here, growing older and older,

Nursing my sore neck, sore knees and my shoulder.

I’ve had my days as a long distance traveler

But it’s not like when I was a blue water sailor.

Still, some days the Empire has nothing on me:

The sun never sets on my family.



Spring on Lake Harriet

Rebecca Surmont


Listen to the clink of a million shards of ice

chinking chandeliers in a percussive wave

of wind as if the orchestra of an apparition.


It’s a tinkling pitch against the low blowing gusts

of air swooshing effortlessly anything

loose in its path

including abandoned apparel;

mittens and hats hanging

so carefully on low boughs.

Catch them if you can.


Like glasses at a wedding party toasting

one after another

without a final signal to commence

the bridal kiss;

perhaps two or more lips have found

themselves locked in eternity

here, weathered like the tree limbs

hanging frigid, semi permeable and frothy

in the shattered water, one season after another.

What spirit is this?


The shadow of winter followed me around its shore

whispering thank you for coming

clink clink clink

I am a guest in this house.


The lake appeared like a continent,

each layer of ice floating

now disconnected to one neighbor,

now connected to another by causeways

unsafe to anyone

but ducks who are unaware

except to the rhythm of courtship

— although I’ve never seen a duck kiss.

Shallow sheets of ice sway,

peninsulas of promise that

we are not an island after all

but it might be a long way to get around.


There is no smell of the green earth or mud or sweat

or even the water itself

and this absence is a trickster

on the chilled wind that blows me

just enough into longing for you.


Clink. Quack.



The Urban Young

David Banks


Bearded and/or beautiful, sprung

from farms and suburbs, they cycle,

see? Jobs, lovers, psychologies.


They are waxing, arcing.

Hip city neighborhoods strung

under a full moon, darkening.


Step it out five years: so long —

footfall of a fresh generation

in the same general impression.



Something More Than Waiting

Val Kotsenowsky

On a basalt peak above the tree line

mule deer stand cloven and blink east

as the upside down sky

falls from shadow safe black

to gold-clawed blue

to strike an outcrop

called Eagle Rock.


There must be something

more important than unhappiness.

Stand, bent to the wind,

careful and organized as cauliflower.

On a concrete street

join the bus stop line

with small, constipated steps.

Look at a watch

stare down

exhale to kill time.

Mime importance

the bus is late again.

If you want small talk

buy a parrot.


Spin your heels

wish otherwise

follow rules

hurry up and wait

rush rest repeat.

the sun strikes signs of spring

the day calls the deer to cover.

Hooves and hearts,

feet and earth beat in time.



To Be an Egg

Adam Overland


Oh, to be an egg

To have a shell protective

A warm bottomed guardian too

Watching like a detective


Inside, no need to beg

you have all you desire

You’re safe from nasty elements

a little fella with a fire


And then one day, a crack

on the plaster of the ceiling

some disaster is surely happening,

something very unappealing


And though you try to spackle

the crack keeps on revealing

an outside world creeping in

against your will and feeling


So hide from it you may

for a little while longer

But even your warm bottomed friend is now

encouraging you to wander


And so your world falls away

and it is quite overwhelming

a light so bright it gives you fright

and air so cold you’re crying


But in a second, something has you

something fine and dandy

your warm bottomed friend has made for you

a bed like wine and brandy


And so you sleep, because after all

it has been quite a day

Tomorrow you’ll wake to a world that’s yours

to do with it what you may.



Things I Forgot about Spring

Jennifer Krueger


I forgot how long the winter was

and how much wind had blown.

At five years old I stare

at where I buried Legos,

so sure this was the spot.


I forgot how tulips smell,

like muslin in the air.

I try to show my son 

that  when you sniff,

you don’t breathe out, but in.


I forgot the noise of water,

trickling off the rooftops.

He is on the back step squealing,

not knowing yet that he can take

the step, without me.




Lisa Calame Berg


Today started without anything

being lost or going backward,

without a knot that needed

to be untied or a word


that should have been left

in the throat or, better yet,

unthought so as not to pose

even the least danger of choking.


Today we awaken, able

to calm the bucking jet stream,

accomplish cold fusion, touch

the face of time.  Everything


is possible and nothing

that was is yet.