for Jim Johnson
Live out to Toivola, skinny woods and bog,
Sorry sort of country, overlooked by most,
Pioneered by people awful fond of failure.
They branch out to Twig, you know, down as far as Esko,
Askov, Bruno, over there to Togo, Effie, Emily,
Tenstrike, Shooks. Wherever you would never,
There you’ll find a Finn.
They believe in Sauna, Nudity, and Coffee.
Their wallpaper is birch bark; their La-Z-Boy’s a stump.
The women are good-lookers, the menfolk
Not so much. They specialize in blueberries,
Hayfields and alders, rocks and pickled pike.
They don’t go in for paint much, like a weathered look:
Tarpaper buildings, wood piled high . . .
Go and introduce yourself. Coffee’s always hot.
Their names are Nordic music, silly and profound,
Descended from the polska, calling to the cows,
Whittled willow whistles, woodwinds, drums.
Names like Ada Aho, Paavo Havumaki,
Sulo Saari, Joki Koveroja.
Where’d they learn such laughter? Poverty and wolves.
Love cries of women. Crooning of the loons.
Watching how the crops grow. Here comes the hail.
Water makes a big splash; then it runs away.
Wind whacks the window, sifts through snow.
Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2012
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.