It’s early spring. March. Not yet time for Manistee Forest,
everything waterlogged and no hiking boots. Brusque cold,
trees shuddering as they shimmy off death.
I scowl at pines that seem to grow in rows, giants
of old West Michigan, planted to be cut.

I huff in the muck and wish I was Michigan.
Beautiful, in a scrubby, swampy, forest kind of way.
Ancient as the worn-down Porcupines, drowsy as bear fossils
in the dunes, gritty as the crest of a Lake Huron wave.
I won’t need to celebrate what beats behind the waterfall
of my rib cage. I can be the five lakes, curvaceous boulders
at Pictured Rocks, cry of skimmers at the shore, a fist, the embodied knowledge
of ten thousand years of pain.

This is not a love poem. I am categorizing that bit of self
caught in a ditch with two wheels spinning. Come and stomp your boots
at my porch of laughing hyperbole. The A-frame cabin aglow
behind my eyes, armpits smelling of trout,
shoes overflowing with sand and Petoskey stones.

There are three white birches at the cabin near Ellsworth:
one for rebirth, one for tranquility, one for sleep.
Something flowers in me when I see them, liquid gold in my fingertips.
Feeling less like a 175-pound raccoon,
less like dead hornets in a urinal, less like condos stacked upright,
taxidermic soldiers. All I know is concrete,
smoke pouring from a Cadillac on East Grand Boulevard,
weeds growing between cracks in the parking lot of American Axle.

Saggy bum,

foxtail critter,

open maw,


rusty plants.

I become a canoe, and I never get splinters. The lake water
cool on my belly. The woods in front
seem like they go on forever and it makes no difference to me.
The fish think I am a very big fish, so they squiggle away
in fear, even those nasty old pike. It’s a nice sweet song
of a life, even when men so rudely sit on me and kill
bluegill in my bow for sport. It’s a nice sweet song.

Photo by Juan Chavez. 

Elia Hohauser-Thatcher

Elia Hohauser-Thatcher is the author of The Prophet’s Toothbrush, a chapbook of poetry forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in June of 2021. His work has recently appeared in The Maine Review, The Offbeat, and Fearsome Critters. Currently, he is pursuing his PhD in Rhetoric & Composition at Wayne State University. You can see more of his work at