Poems by Derrick Paulson

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Fire and Water

by Derrick Paulson

From Canary Spring 2011

Derrick lives among the pines forests and placid lakes of the Crow Wing watershed in central Minnesota.

Below a hill, beside a river,
a grove of old growth
bent doubled. In a graying gust
fingers and toes tested—
as though the waters were the Jordan.
On the far bank, young birches
beckoned—waving in the wind.

A mighty, solid rock downstream,
firmly given to the earth,
counseled the current quickly
as the heat swept down.

All at once flames flecked the ridge,
and as if they had simply
increased their receptivity1
to majesty they came down
into the trees. They rushed down
into the trees crackling as their limbs
hissed to ash in the flood.

Acorns and cones fluttered or fell,
each to their own design, into
the waiting waters. Reaching the rock
the embryos divided toward either shore.

Taken from Daybreak by Galway Kinnell: “and as if they had simply/ increased their receptivity.”

The White Whale

by Derrick Paulson

From Canary Summer 2011

“The white killer whale spotted in Alaska's Aleutian Islands sent researchers and the ship's crew scrambling for their cameras. The nearly mythic creature was real after all.” – (AP)


Yes. I saw it with its white fin and back.

Saw it before those scientists did,

with their cameras flashing like reflecting ice.

I was near enough the islands and ocean

to feel the pull that each has on the spirit.

Near enough, I could have hurled my oar like the spear

my father’s father threw at such beautiful beasts.

But their ship passed too fast; the waves startled it.

The whale dived deep below the surface

and the best pictures were those I took in.

The ripples that reached my kayak barely

broke against the sides as I gummed Crisco

and blueberries and dreamed of blubber,

of oily smoke rising above stretched skins

near whittled, white bones.

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