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National Poetry Month–Legler Memorial Award, 1997

from The Long Haul

I’m bored with the 29 days in February

I want to tell the bus driver about watermelons
trucked from Texas and sold at a farm outside the village,
how I miss the blue of Cathead Bay,
that I’m riding the bus because
I fear running out of toilet paper, and
there’s a sale on Kleenex Double Roll at Wal-Mart.
I start to tell the bus driver
August in Northport
meant spiked watermelon at beach parties
and losing virginity in the sand,
but I fade-off before finishing and
watch the jackpine and bare tamaracks flash by.
The airbase is a ghost town;
soon couples will pick blueberries
and caress each other with stained fingers
and tongues.
I fear dependence
and public transportation,
and the young man in the back of the bus
who tells about his toilet habits,
how he once shit in the wastebasket
’cause every time the toilet overflowed
his dad strapped him.
I imagine purple welts
and his dog licking his face, but
my discomfort keeps my eyes on the bus driver’s back.
My husband has gone off to trucking school.
To stay warm on long hauls
he’ll wear his company coat.
I’ll curl up with the labs,
wait, take a mental count
of how many rolls of toilet paper remain in the cupboard,
and watch the ice break up on the Escanaba River.
I’ll write poems of love and loss
to read in August when
my mate brings home a truckload of exotic fruits.
Fruits, to suck on the sand shore
beside brown water,
where leeches hide and wood ticks
fall from the trees.

~poem copyright Kim Nixon

Winner of the Philip M. Legler Memorial Award 1997 at NMU.
First published in The Thaw: A Student Journal of Literature,
Vol 1 Issue I.

The Long Haul is a collection of poetry that you will not find in chapbook form (yet). The voice is the reflections of a wife during the first years of her husband’s search for employment in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and his choice to eventually become a over-the-road truck driver. The work is by Kim Nixon and is highly autobiographical and feels like a lifetime away now.

National Poetry Month–Prose Poems

From the Long Haul

III.

You returned home hauling three mausoleums ate dinner and departed for the Mackinaw Bridge, the Sarnia Bridge, and your destination in Ontario. I placed my hands on the black speckled granite, felt the coolness and shivered. Death comes in loads that take you to destinations I have never seen. I tinker with the lawn mower, replace the battery, the fuse to the ignition. Earlier I retrieved our oldest from camp. In a fit of anger, he ran away. A search party was formed and they found him wandering downtown Marquette. Crying. It is a search for you. Random. A race for clarity. As I hugged our son, he states he’ll take the shotgun and blow that damn truck to smithereens. He has taken to sleeping on the living room floor. I do not know why. And I don’t ask. I cut the grass as the rain starts to fall. I must complete what I have started before it is too late, before the grass gets the upper hand, and the 10-horsepower motor becomes insufficient to pull me. I grow heavy, and in your absence, despondent. I sleep with the windows open despite the cool nights to hear the semis slow on the highway curves, the sound of the jakes, a lullaby. Tell me you’re coming home. Tell me you’re coming home. Tell me you’ll never leave. The tombs you brought home remain. I mow around their presence. The rain falls. The grave site cannot fall into neglect. The flowers must be bright. Orange daylilies transplanted to the driveway entrance nod their heads in the wind. And they nod, yes.

~poem copyright Kim Nixon

The Long Haul is a collection of poetry that you will not find in chapbook form (yet). The voice is the reflections of a wife during the first years of her husband’s search for employment in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and his choice to eventually become a over-the-road truck driver. The work is by Kim Nixon and is highly autobiographical and feels like a lifetime away now.

National Poetry Month–Prose Poem

From the Long Haul

II.

On M-35 in front of the Department of Natural Resources, the windshield wipers slow, jerking to a stop, the radio quits, and the truck stalls. I turn the key over and over listening for a click, some sign of life. I think, what you’d do if you were here and pop the hood. But mechanics was your area of expertise. I am less pragmatic and stand in the downpour picturing your red Freightliner semi on some highway between Pittsburg and Milwaukee. It is the roads that connect us. Red and blue lights flash and I tell the officer that I’ve been jump starting this truck all day and there is nothing left in her. When the tow truck arrives, the driver asks why I don’t take it to the garage in town. I reply. I’m spoiled from the 14 years I had a live-in mechanic and to tow the damn thing home where it can wait for his return. Let it be a magnet, a beacon, let it guide him home.

~poem copyright Kim Nixon

The Long Haul is a collection of poetry that you will not find in chapbook form (yet). The voice is the reflections of a wife during the first years of her husband’s search for employment in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and his choice to eventually become a over-the-road truck driver. The work is by Kim Nixon and is highly autobiographical and feels like a lifetime away now.

National Poetry Month–Prose Poem

From the Long Haul

I.

You’re driving East on Highway 80 heading towards vast storm complexes blooming along the front of a weather pattern. I trace the names of towns that you will approach and pass, each dot on the map bringing you closer to me. Brining you home to lightening and hail and twisters that leave a wake of devastation. How odd it seems you hauling a load of timber from Salt Lake to Des Moines, as if contractors anticipated a busy season. I now pay great attention to roads. The white line blurs. The asphalt a dark mystic place where romance is dreamed and illuminated by headlights. The flashing lick of flame from the bedside candle sends shadows across this page I write on. The glow softens the dividing lines. Your travels are logged, checked, paid for. Mine have become the refrain from some melancholy country song. To love you requires dreaming of landscapes: prairies grasses and shear rocky cliffs, steep embankments and truck stops, jack-knifed loads on icy roads and winds that flip trucks to their sides. The Weather Channel is as important as the Rand McNally Atlas. I watch the Travelers Forecast, quickly calculate mileage, and pray storm warnings will be lifted before you approach. Risks. 21 days between departure and arrival. You curled in the sleeper berth. Me in the double bed turning toward a pile of pillows.

~poem copyright Kim Nixon

The Long Haul is a collection of poetry that you will not find in chapbook form (yet). The voice is the reflections of a wife during the first years of her husband’s search for employment in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and his choice to eventually become a over-the-road truck driver. The work is by Kim Nixon and is highly autobiographical and feels like a lifetime away now.

National Poetry Month–Finnish-American Writer, Kim Nixon

Skating Figures

Laughing voices whip past in a snake line.
I pull my stocking cap over my ears,
re-lace my skates and spin off to a distant surface.
Practicing figure eights, I follow
blue lines of faces etched on the ice
until they end at mounds of snow pushed from the rink.
I want to see a reindeer, always wanted to see a reindeer.
I want to lay under hemlock trees and eat wintergreen
to freshen my breath.
This push through my veins recalls migration;
a nomadic urge to be with a distant people who follow
the herd, strip warm flesh from bone and suckle red meat.
Chants echo in circles over hills; I cannot translate.
Cracking, the surface plunges me into thick water
where figure eights above my head suggest
the infinite, and what, with time, possible.
I taste sweet syrup; I taste sweet blood.

~poem copyright Kim Nixon

I was adopted at 3 months of age into a family that was Dutch and German. Born in 1964 at Old Providence Hospital in Detroit I was born of a half-Finnish, Half-Swedish Mother and German Father. I have never met them. I have had no contact through the years. Yet there are images and memories inherent to me. Like the rings of a tree, ingrained within me, a heritage.

With my adoptive family every winter we skated. My mother loved to skate and my birthday being January 18th, I always had a skating party (whether I wanted to or not). often, melancholy, I would go off by myself. This poem arises from a mix of both heritages biological and adoptive.

National Poetry Month–Today we said goodbye

from The Long Haul

Today we said goodbye

Birches and sugar maples pass below the belly of the twin prop.

You’ll nod off on the flight to Minneapolis.
Despite the voices, coughs and turbulence
freezing your dreams of home,
the sap will flow,
the ice on the Escanaba River will break,
and the jack pine forests will burn.

Each month, when you return,
small changes at home: hand-sewn curtains,
children’s artwork on the fridge,
green wood stacked to dry for winter, will go unnoticed
in your eagerness to fall upon new sheets and
fill your arms with my body.

As I stoke the wood furnace, I know these things, and others
how we’ll track your travels using Rand McNally,
and wait for the bi-weekly phone calls.
I’ll lie and tell you everything is alright,
even if I split wood until sweat rolls down my breasts, and
blisters form on my hands.
~poem copyright Kim Nixon

The Long Haul is a collection of poetry that you will not find in chapbook form (yet). The voice is the reflections of a wife during the first years of her husband’s search for employment in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and his choice to eventually become a over-the-road truck driver. The work is by Kim Nixon and is highly autobiographical and feels like a lifetime away now.

National Poetry Month–Breadwinners II

from The Long Haul

Breadwinners II

The resurrection of spring comes late
to the Northwoods. Like Peter,
you have denied me three times,
turning down jobs that would
bring you home.

Caught by a sudden cold snap,
a song sparrow flies through the basement.
I place towels over the heat vents
to prevent her from pleading with me.

I ponder your return, thinking
the daffodils will be trumpeting,
but, like the bird, trapped
they refuse to bloom.

As snow starts to fly
I turn cartwheels in the green icy grass.
The world is upside down,
right side up, upside down,
and I close my eyes, dizzy and disoriented.

Somehow, I have to free the bird,
release her from the house without
hurting her wings, I replace
the mesh cap over the chimney and
fling the cellar doors wide.

She flies and rests on a branch to ease
the rapid beat of her heart
I spread seed and bread crumbs.
Sitting motionless on the picnic table
I watch, wait.

~poem copyright Kim Nixon

The Long Haul is a collection of poetry that you will not find in chapbook form (yet). The voice is the reflections of a wife during the first years of her husband’s search for employment in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and his choice to eventually become a over-the-road truck driver. The work is by Kim Nixon and is highly autobiographical and feels like a lifetime away now.

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