*Featured Poet: Leslie Schultz


Here’s the thing: there are dangers
mapped long before you are born,

things other people know but
you do not hear about until

it’s too late to side-step them.
Well, you think, after panic

subsides, after your hoarse voice
quiets, you can’t know everything,

and all you know now is how
you are becoming silence,

tucked in the dark pocket next
to the solid trunk of this pine

rising from the snow-clad slope
you’d gone flying down, diamonds

spraying up from fresh powder
exhilaration kicking

up in your chest as you veered
a little off the marked trail

in search of fresh adventure,
the one your crossed skis now mark.


I remember the stink of it,
floating for miles above
the wet mud over the Coos River
as we chugged along at evenings,
in the while Valiant,
when the factory whistle blew,
along the estuary to collect you.

You worked in a slaughterhouse
for trees, churning the felled giants
of our Oregonian rainforest 
into boxes, sheets. A systems engineer,
you kept the tiers of rollers
clacking, unspooling
one continuous flood of white paper,

long as a moonlit river, 
wet but evenly drying,
enticing as the long, uncut,
shining hair of the Lorelai 
that would blow about above that other river
cleaving the homeland
of our grandfathers.

It was as if those the winding stories
anchored above the Rhine
had somehow flowed here, new 
purity rendered from murky
black forests—curling and foaming
as though history was yet unwritten—
through machine whine.

Now, I am charged, father, 
to employ my own history, 
unfurl it in the cause of poetry.
I am swamped by ink-etched papers,
loose and bound,
lifted and sunk by ooze of ink:
lost and found.


for Tim

In our first tiny house,
on a sandy slope that tilted
toward all the cold blue
of Lake Superior,
we joyfully made every
rookie home-owner blunder:

planting crocus bulbs 
in shallow window boxes;
nearly allowing water pipes
to freeze and burst 
by mistaking a crawl space
for a true basement;
rattling a wasp’s nest
accidentally and learning
of life-threatening allergies.

Mostly, we invested too deeply
in what anyone but us could see
was a temporary space.
We sunk dollars and dreams 
deep into a time and place
we couldn’t hold for long.

And yet, that remote land
with its admittedly poor 
soil, harbored tiny strawberries 
and rare morels
and wildflowers: yellow
butter-and-eggs, purple
clover, low orange hawkweed.

Moreover, the tulips we planted
(that second autumn)
rose bright and well-formed 
as harbor bells. And across
the unpaved road 
a quarter-acre of tough canes
arced over the miserly soil,
just as rainbows arched
from the mainland to Madeline Island
after thunderstorms.

We picked a handful
of those tart berries one summer
the way we picked up beach glass
along the stony shore.
We braved the crumbling loam 
ditches, the stinging briars,
to savor our scanty harvest;

and somehow that flavor
of wild raspberries
became invested 
with the echoes of a sweet
young willingness 
to fool ourselves,

to imagine we could chart 
what lay ahead and that 
it would all be smooth
sailing. Instead
we learned to weather
storm times, to lean in,
find harbor in each other.

Poet’s Statement:

On “Tree Wells”
I have never been down-hill skiing. (And, after reading Plath’s The Bell Jar in high school, I was afraid to try, certain I would follow her heroine, Esther Greenwood, straight into a disaster involving broken bones. Later, I did jump out of a plane with a parachute and twist my ankle, but that is another poem!) I did, however, think about cross-country skiing. That seemed safer, more manageable. Then I learned of the phenomenon of ‘tree wells’, a skiing hazard of which I had been unaware. It struck me as an apt metaphor for the times when I have gone my own way and then tumbled into disorientation, into a place of enforced reflection about actions and consequences, and into seeing the importance admitting what happened but not panicking.

On “Paper Mill”
Paper has always enchanted me. The smell of it, the smoothness of it, the plasticity of forms it makes. My father’s German and Danish family has deep roots in the “Paper Valley” of Wisconsin. His grandfather, a Danish immigrant, was a lumberjack, and I now have his axe. My father’s first job was as a paperboy, and his first job post-college was working in paper mills, first in Michigan, later on the west coast.  A math-physics double major, an avid reader of science fiction, and a frequent reciter of the Yukon ballads of Robert Service, he was most interested in the technical problems of creating paper. I am further downstream, aware of costs (environmental and otherwise) of milling, and grateful for the paper necessary for my storytelling work even when I tremble in front of the blank page.

On “April 1: Raspberry Fools”
I composed this poem for my husband on April Fool’s Day this wild, pandemic-ridden year of 2021. At one level it is a memory of a specific time (my late twenties) and a specific place (the remote sandy-soiled, granite strewn shore of Lake Superior). At another, it is about all the times we have chosen to go forward with high optimism, maybe not knowing any better, and gained the rueful, bitter-sweet experience that gives life its shades of meaning and depth of flavor. From this vantage point, the poem celebrates the kind of marriage where two impetuous, passionate people support each other’s dreams, keep looking for—and finding—the beauty all around even when the propelling vision crumbles at times, and keep managing to hold laughter in grateful hearts, glad for the everyday miracle of just being together.

Leslie Schultz (Northfield, Minnesota) has three collections of poetry, Still Life with Poppies: ElegiesCloud Song; and Concertina (Kelsay Books, 2016, 2017, 2019) and a chapbook, Larks at Sunrise: Light-hearted Poems for Dark Times (Green Gingko Press, 2021). Her poetry in many journals, including Able MuseBlue UnicornLight, Mezzo Cammin,North Dakota Quarterly, Poet LorePoetic Strokes AnthologyThird WednesdayThe Madison ReviewThe Midwest Quarterly, The Orchards, and The Wayfarer; in the sidewalks of Northfield. Her work was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2017. In 2020 she served as guest associate editor for Third Wednesday’s Winter Issue. In 2021, she will serve as a judge for the Maria W. Faust sonnet contest.). Schultz posts poems at http://www.winonamedia.net.