Monday, March 1, 2021




Cree Women Cleaning Fish


As the floatplanes spray entering the bay,

the dockhands unload boxes of walleye,

lugging them to the fish house. Inside,


Cree women labor -- aproned in plastic,

their knives as sharp as pike’s teeth —

and they filet, casting the heads and backbones


into white buckets. The women’s hands

are glossed with blood, smooth as polished

lures. White men drift by, sucking down


LaBatt’s beer and spitting out lies. The Cree

women suddenly dip back into the shadows,

continuing their work: the languid strokes,


the gathering gutpiles, the packages

of fish perfectly hand wrapped and flash

frozen, waiting to be taken away.




Note From The Wilderness


In the morning

when the light of the fire had faded,

I rose to chop wood

with a smooth-handled axe.

The mountain air frosted my beard,

solid droplets of breath,

gems of my living.

Later I walked among the pines,

the Chinook winds were a dream,

summer breezes were an illusion,

and everything was hiding.

I came upon spots in the snow,

where a wing touched down,

a mouse scurried across,

or a flying squirrel came to a skidding stop.

The slightest marks have stories to tell.

The faintest bring memories of touches

or glances from long ago.

Kneeling in the snow, I ask

why this one red drop of blood remains,

why an owl struck with a click of claws,

why I only remember the heated conversation

of evening, pitching, rising to the light

like a lunar moth,

why I only remember silences

as long as one whole night,

why, in the snow, I only remember her

as warm and safe as any place I have ever known.

(White Pass, Washington State)



River Breakup


Early, I rested in the cramped tent,

listening to morning call.

It was startling when the earth

began to sever from the river.

The noise, like gunshots, jolted

me out of my trance & I ran.

Crushing & grinding the shore,

slabs floated with the current.

Splinters of ice littered the sand,

pointing to something greater:

the promise of sunlight

& lichens & lemmings & owls

or gentle wisps of smoke

from a fire rising into a pure,

majestic sky or mottled gyrfalcons

dipping into the wind, searching

for winged things to snare

or foxes sniffing out the wet ground

for the familiar bird egg or mouse.

Nowhere else does the promise

of being human dissolve & the truth

of being insignificant begin as

the river breaks clean & summer

tundra emerges again.

(Colville River, Ptarmigan Island,

Northern Alaska, 5:30 a.m.)




PAUL BROOKE has four full-length collections of photography and poetry including Light and Matter: Poems and Photographs of Iowa (2008) and Meditations on Egrets: Poems and Photographs of Sanibel Island (2010). Sirens and Seriemas: Photographs and Poems of the Amazon and Pantanal (2015) was published by Brambleby Books of London, England, while Finishing Line Press published Arm Wrestling at the Iowa State Fair (2018). His most recent work, Jaguars of the Northern Pantanal, describes in depth the behaviors and characteristics of the largest jaguar in the Americas.

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