After a few days on the stormy shores of Lake Superior, we dropped down to one of my favorite bodies of water in the world: the northern reaches of Lake Michigan. In Vagabond Song, I describe it as, “crystalline, memory-cleansing, defying the existence of Gary and Chicago at its other end … this northern dream-bringer …” Despite the chilly day and cold water, we pull off of Highway 2, scramble down to the beach and plunge in. It’s my kind of baptism, and always has the effect of renewal, reawakening, reconnection with beauty and life. Miigwetch, Ininwewi-gichigami.
Downstate for my reading at the Theodore Roethke Home Museum. When I lived in Saginaw, I had keys to Roethke’s childhood home. The folks who ran the house said, “We like the idea of a poet hanging out here, writing poetry.” I spent many great nights with fellow Saginista poet Al Hellus, enjoying a jug of cheap wine, trading poems, scribbling in our journals and conjuring rows of greenhouses, long gone, in the dining room window’s reflection. It was during one of these sessions that Al and I came up with the idea to co-produce a chapbook of our Saginaw-rooted poems. We called it Saginaw Songs after Roethke’s poem “Saginaw Song.” It’s a purposefully silly poem, no “Far Field” (a favorite of mine and Al’s), but we often quoted it’s most fitting line:
In Saginaw, in Saginaw,
Bartenders think no ill;
But they’ve ways of indicating when
You are not acting well:
They throw you through the front plate glass
And then send you the bill.
The story is that this is a reference to the Schuch Hotel Bar where Ted took Dylan Thomas during his visit to Saginaw. Who knows if that’s true or not, but that place has a long history of drunk poets misbehaving. (No comment.)
After the reading, the festivities were in full swing with the most beautiful friends in the world, highlighted by the greatest spring rolls in the world, made with love by Tina from the one-of-a-kind deliciousness of Pasong’s Cafe. That alone was worth the entire journey.