Three Poems ~ Peggy Shumaker





You offer water
always in the desert,
water to anyone who walks,

water to every creature. Walk
even for one hour without water
and you begin to become desert,

every cell inside you, desert.
If you walk
here without water

your body soon waters the desert. Your bones walk.


 In honor of Scott Warren and No Más Muertes




It’s not a bad night for the moon.
The moon has a place to live.
Nobody took its kids away.
The moon didn’t lose
its job. The moon doesn’t
skip meals so its kids can eat.

The moon put itself through college.
Nobody can take that away.
If it wanted, the moon could secure
a second mortgage. The moon’s daughters
are not addicts, its sons
not in prison.

The moon watches
a new hatch of rattlesnakes.
Moonlit, they rise
from cold earth
though they do not know

they are hated.  Like us
they want the best they can
to live.  The moon promises them
no protection.  It gives what it has
to give—second-hand wavery
light full of longing.



Afternoons the air gets bumpier, so light sport pilots take off early.  Brown now, the tannin-rich river leads to turbid waters choked with rock flour ground by glaciers.  Cow moose lead gangly offspring to kneel and drink.  Downstream, salmon flip, heading toward redds where they began.  Eggs release, clouds of milt settle over.  Five-toed paws, those claws, meander pigeon-toed into taiga.  Golden, the fur of grizzlies this far north.  How sunlight glints off fur as they graze.  Intestines soak up protein-rich grasses, appetizers for energy till they can hunt.  June days without end, nights without darkness.  Kestrel wingbeats, hovering.  Lupine tall enough to hide us mask eroded banks.  Mouths always open, lampreys dive into mud.  No one is here to hear the beaver-gnawed tree fall.  Osprey, unconcerned, scan from on high, hesitate… Plunge!  Quick work, the grayling still flapping, the osprey’s wings wide.  Remember the aurora?  Still there, still circling—just not ours in summer.  Take comfort in thimbleberries, salmonberries, lingonberries, blueberries to share with the bears.  Under us all the rooted world turns.  Vespers soon enough, evening soon enough.  Wildness inside us still.  Xylem pulsing root to leaf.  Years in each moment, decades, centuries.  Zydeco washboard, this road that leads us.