Author Joseph Heywood
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15 Counties Above the Bridge

ONE: Alger

Da weasel
By da beaver dam
Iss white, eh.
No snow on ground,
I’m mont’ late for
Brookie spawning,
Da weather mont’ late,
Both da weasel and me trapped
By Mom Nat’s obstinacy
Keeping her own
Bloody schedule.

TWO: Baraga

Walking down
A sinewy trail
Of tag alders
South of Big Erick’s,
A big bear and I come
Nose to nose,
No room to get by.
Physical impasse.
We both retreat,
By externally
Changes in plans.

THREE: Chippewa

At the old graveyard
Above Bay Mills
Among decaying spirit houses
Their roofs covered with gray moss,
My keys locked
In the gray Camaro.
An Ojibwa woman
Pulls up, three kids beside
Her in the rusty pickup.
I ask her to call the Tribal
Police, tell them I need help.
Four hours later I am still there,
Perhaps some old scars
heal slowly.

FOUR: Delta

Standing on bed rock
In the Upper Fishdam
Black flies crawling
all over me,
I try techniques
Taught long ago
In survival
How to send my mind
Torture you
For information.
Now, as then,
It  fails to work.

FIVE: Dickinson

I stand like the day’s
Last mass transit commuter,
Resigned to waiting
For the last hatch at dusk
Below Piers Gorge
Where water succumbs
To gravity,
boiling white.
Earlier an eagle
Swooped low
over the water
by small birds,
One of them sitting
on the eagle’s back
Stealing a ride,
A game, I think.

SIX: Gogebic

Creek, a place
An old Finn
Described to me
When we both
Had drunk too much
It yielded brookies
Every cast,
Just the way
He claimed.

SEVEN: Houghton

Sitting in a hotel overlooking
The shipping canal,
An old man tells me
How his father used to get
His brothers and him up
The morning after a snowstorm,
Showshoe them all into the bush
Looking for mounds of snow
With steam tendrils,
There being deer at rest beneath
The snow.
Shot eight one morning, he says,
Had to clean the blood trails
In case the game warden come along, eh?
He knocked back a rye whiskey
Went back to his granddaughter’s
Wedding reception.


A golden gray wolf near Iron River
Stops in a field at midday
In bright sun, stares at us.
A second wolf, black and sinister
Darts along a hedgerow.
At the end
of the pasture
Cows huddled
Against a fence,
quaking with fear.

NINE: Keeweenaw

“Can’t catch dose trouts
In dis drought, eh?”
The locals
Carp away.
I don’t tell them of
French Annie Creek,
Bumping a worm
Along the cobble bottom
Beneath sweepers,
Catching my limit
Of keepers
In an hour.

TEN: Luce

I decide I won’t blame old
Ernie for stealing the name
Of the Two-Hearted
And fishing elsewhere.
All morning I have
Been shouldering my way
Through jungle, using
My fly rod to open paths
While black flies
My headnet in the truck
Three miles away
Under two weeks of
flotsam and jetsam.
This is fun?

ELEVEN: Mackinac

Within sight
Of I-75 pods
Of pinks gather
On redds
Not in an odd year
But even.
Until recently
Such timing
Considered odd
Odd among
The test-tube crowd.

TWELVE: Marquette

On the Escanaba
Three young badgers
Play roughly in the grass
Until one of them
Tumbles into the current,
Swims frantically while
The others run the bank
Squeaking, put down the
Trout that was rising there.
Just before dark a bear
Paddled across the river,
Clambered up a beaver slide.
Shook and melted into
The tag alders

THIRTEEN: Menominee

I squat on a boulder
Watching sturgeon
Swirl in the mud flat
The females
Taking two decades
To mature,
Mating once
Every four to six years,
Not unlike some women
I’ve known,

FOURTEEN: Ontonagon

the MibraOnty
At noon, the air
Kicking blazes
At 96,
I shed my duds
Fish au naturel,
Working my way from
Rock to rock.
Use hooks’ shanks
To shake brookies
Back into the river
Never touching them.

FIFTEEN: Schoolcraft

The sign is hand-made, crude:
That last word
snagging my attention.
They are in a chipped
Brown crock,
& dusted over.
I ask a woman
with a gray hair-helmet
What they are.
“Dunno, hon. They come with the place
When we bought it and moved
Up from Roseville.

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