My boss commissioned me to write a poem about Lake Michigan for our biennial report. I hesitated a moment before saying yes, not because I have any qualms about getting paid to write poetry (grin), but because I have mixed feelings about Lake Michigan. I know Lake Superior much better — having lived there most of my life. Lake Michigan I’ve only visited about a dozen times. I am sad to say that the pollution and development around that lake depress me.
I agreed to write the poem. I tried to let my feelings come through but have some fun, too. It’s much easier to accept sorrowful topics if there’s humor mixed in. But enough explaining!
Dinner on Lake Michigan
Sitting at a table at the end of the world,
or the end of Door County,
whichever comes first,
I bite into the tender white flesh of the lake.
Before the net,
this fish swam in the shallows
over Petosky stones,
through waving green hair of algae,
above sharp striped shells of zebra mussels;
eating its fill of midges, minnows, shiners, snails,
Perhaps it fought rip currents,
avoided dead zones,
dodged ore boats,
resisted shiny lures,
mouthed and spat out cherry pits from across the lake
where you sit
at the end of the world,
or the end of the Old Mission Peninsula,
whichever comes first.
In the sunset, you watch gulls,
the souls of lost sailors, or sky rats — take your pick —
as they skim over lawns cropped like emerald felt to the shore’s edge
where wetlands used to grow in spiky abundance.
You listen to the whistle of the lighthouse,
cutting through the sooty tangerine sky,
across the lake,
over the ferries,
above the lakers,
past the power plant chimneys,
through the dunes,
into the restaurant,
to the table
where I sit
at the end of the world.
©2014 Marie Zhuikov and the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute