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Keweenaw and Beyond III

Artwork by Ed Gray

Monforton S. Smith



Hey man, what’s your name?  I seen you here before.



I’m not a first name with these hard bodies,

some of them already featured in muscle magazines,

not much more than “Howzitgoin?” “Goodyou?”

and sports talk at the water cooler. 


In the locker room, dosing creatine supplements

around conversation about food and women

they punctuate sentences with short,

beefy exclamations: “Dude! . . .No way!” 


One of them is “cutting” for a show, so he’s “all about definition.” 

Another has broken up with his girlfriend again.  Pressed for time,

I just want to do my mileage, elevate the pulse rate—

“get your swell on,” as they say, so I nod and change.


Halfway through my row, a tanned bundle of pecs

and delts and traps wades into the room.

We swap the usual,

but then he talks past the Lions and Packers and Bears


into the local economy—housing markets;

he’s a first-time homeowner (with a sometime girlfriend).

I watch my splits—2:15, 2:23...try to concentrate on long exhales,

short answers, more time between responses. 


He doesn’t care.  The exuberance and attitude of youth,

by turns willful and indifferent, crushes my manicured regimen. 

I watch him do dips, a 45 lb plate hanging from a chain around his waist,

“…ten, eleven, TWELVE!”  I towel sweat and stare at Arnold on the wall


—a vindicating photo from his first world title—and remember 1977,

a crusty gym, next to Bruno’s Pizza and the Velvet Touch,

where we bench-pressed super sets into the night

praying for growth and a second Boston album.


In the sauna, where three can be a crowd

especially if one of them likes to talk, he tells us

he’s off to a wedding that night and plans to eat heavy,

hoping for some of that “green stuff on pasta.  Man, was that good.”


“Pesto?” I ask.  “Chopped basil with olive oil and parmesan cheese?”

“That’s it!  Dude, I could eat a friggin’ bowl of that shit!”

I nod and pour water on the rocks.  Next, we’re onto famous people

who have homes in the UP “nobody knows about.”


“Dale, Jr. comes up to ride snowmobiles every winter. My buddy’s partied

with him at the Mosquito Inn.  And Ted Nugent—he’s got a camp near Tapiola!” 

He starts singing and slapping his buddy who agrees with a “Dude.”

“Well, Detroit city, she's the place to be.  This mad dog town's gonna set you free.”


Madonna makes her entrance—I’ve heard this one before—and it’s easy to imagine her naked on my lap; after all, we’re the same age, went to the same college…

“—She does, man, she’s got a place down in Michigamme, on the lake.

I seen it.”   Naw, man, she’s got a place right here.


I tell them about Arnold, how when he was 19 he’d load his car with weights,

a picnic lunch, and his girlfriend, and drive deep into the Austrian woods

where he’d have massive workouts with iron and food and, well…her.

“Dude, that is so awesome!”  He jabs his buddy.  “We gotta do that.”





Monforton S. Smith has lived half his life on the hard rock of the Keweenaw Peninsula, where he teaches at Hancock High School and Finlandia University in Hancock, Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula. 



Kristyn Blessing



In Japan


the few small sounds I understand

only tell me that this is past

this is present

this is not

this is




Agreeing with my students


February sky

a rare blue.


let's have class outside.




Kristyn Blessing is currently an English as a Second Language instructor at Finlandia University in Hancock, Michigan. She graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato, in 2008. She lives in the Keweenaw Peninsula in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.


Tom Blessing





We thought we would put the garden in the yard as early as the ground

wasn’t frozen.  It should have been easy.  The first time we pushed a

spade into the grass we struck metal. The dirt just below the lawn’s

roots was filled with broken bricks, rusty scraps of iron and broken

glass.  It must have been where the mining families or the train yard

tossed their junk.  What should have taken a couple of hours ended up

taking several days.  We loosened the soil, raked out the grass and

then tried to rake out as much of the refuse as we could.


Now I leaned on my rake and looked at the plot of our yard that might

become a garden.  How much dirt would we have to rake in?  Would the

metals buried there affect our vegetables?  Who knew?

I walked over to the garage and got the wheelbarrow out.  I had bought

topsoil a week ago so I piled 3 bags into the wheelbarrow and pushed

it over to the garden.  Louise was kneeling and staring at something

in the soil.


“Hey, Honey, what did you find?”

“This.”  She held up a small locket on a chain.  “It was in this box

that the spade went through.”


You could just see what had been a lid to a metal box buried in the

soil.  It had rusted and the spade had sliced the lid in half.  She

was staring at the locket.  I squatted down next to her.


“Did you open it?”


She shook her head. “Not yet.  Should we?”


“Um, sure.  Any idea how old it is?”


“Old – early 1900s.”


She put her nail underneath the clasp and opened the locket. A faded

photo of a young woman looked out at us.




“No.  Just some anonymous forgotten miner’s wife.”


I laughed, “Just an heirloom with no heir.”


Louise smiled.  “I’ll clean it up and we’ll keep it.  She’ll belong to

somebody again.”






in my headlights

cold rain, sleet

two deer





coffee mug

steaming hot chocolate

heavy snow

draped over the chair

your old nightgown





comes to me

on the path

of my dreams

his fur

my fur

frozen, stiff

I walk out

into the cold night

look up


the brittle





I stood in the backyard last night

the sky was filled with stars

a satellite made it's slow journey

through the Milky Way

I am not here




eating a burger

in Rhinelander

six older women

at the next table

are arguing

Packers vs the Lions




when i told her i was a writer

she assumed i was rich

but, when i told her i was a poet

she knew i wasn't




Tom Blessing lives and writes in Calumet, Michigan, the booming art center of the Western Upper Peninsula.

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