The Skeletons of Lombardy Poplars
-Backpacking North Manitou Island
Imported, alien, their demise is a sign of wilderness working, dismantling them like old barns, leaf by leaf. Today the island feels rumpled, used. Algae pools in the nooks of the bay, stinking like a sewer. Five dead cormorants in the stretch that I walk and a sixth at waves’ edge that doesn’t fly as I pass. I pick up the cleanest, lightest trash: bleached candy wrappers, bits of balloon rubber on sandy strings. Not the Goodyear tire or the personal refrigerator. Not the Styrofoam cups, the hats, the plastic water bottles; not the life preserver. Not for love of this place could I pack them all out and anyway, folding wrappers and ribbons into the zip-locked bag of my own trash, I’m just moving junk from one sacred ground to another. I won’t describe the bat dance or the otter feeding on the beach; won’t say still the sun rises, shoots spears down through the cathedral of trees. How could I bear it? Wind speaks to my body in a language I don’t understand, but the branches of the oak whose roots hold this bluff against all of our shoes barely sway in this air that shakes me.
Amy Newday is a poet, farmer, and Director of the Kalamazoo College Writing Center. She holds an MFA in poetry from Western Michigan University and her poems have appeared in journals such as Poetry East, Rhino, Notre Dame Review, Calyx, and Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment.