Dear ghosts, in winter my camp on the hill becomes

Jan 15, 2021

Today’s poem is "Dear ghosts, in winter my camp on the hill becomes" by Julia Bouwsma. Julia lives off-the-grid in the mountains of western Maine, where she is a poet, farmer, editor, and small-town librarian. She is the author of two poetry collections: Midden (Fordham University Press, 2018) and Work by Bloodlight (Cider Press Review, 2017) and received the 2019 and 2018 Maine Literary Awards for Poetry. Her poems and book reviews have appeared in Poetry Daily, Poetry Northwest, RHINO, River Styx, and other journals. She’s the Director of Webster Library in Kingfield, Maine.

She writes, “This poem is from a series of poems that are essentially letters to ghosts. These poems thread through my collection, Midden, which explores the state of Maine’s 1912 forcible eviction and erasure of the Malaga Island community. Offering contrast to the more narrative poems in the book, these poems are looser, more stream-of-consciousness, moving across space and time. The ghosts are a composite of the ghosts of Malaga and the ghosts of my land. Here I confronted my fears and concerns about writing Midden, about telling a story that I perhaps had no right to tell, drawing on my own life as a homesteader in the mountains of western Maine. The blizzard in this poem is literal, but it also became a metaphor for erasure as I considered the fragility of the notion of land ownership, contemplated the vital connection I have to my own land, and imagined the devastation of losing it.”

Dear ghosts, in winter my camp on the hill becomes
by Julia Bouwsma

an island, plowed road over half a mile out. We walk
with pack baskets, snowshoes, a sled to haul the grain. Our tracks
disappear behind us—how the wind hungers to erase us! When I say
camp I mean my house has no foundation. We cut a trapdoor
in the floorboards, dig a hole in the earth beneath: jars of pickles
and mincemeat, apples and carrots, potatoes. The mice ransack
our rations, score them with teeth-marks. In the kitchen, fire
belly-churns the cast iron ribs of the cookstove. Wind punches
the front door open, coils around the cabin, braids itself up the woods,
over the mud, skim-ice glinting the ditches. My hill swallows
a neighboring hill. The neighbor's car crawls slowly home, headlights
beaming brighter than a coyote's eye, seeking me out. The wind
is just a voice inside my head, I tell myself as the wind breathes back,
as the wind tells itself, tells me. Who will erase the wind? Enough!
It doesn't stop. This night is made of all our breath—

“Dear ghosts, in winter my camp on the hill becomes” by Julia Bouwsma. Reprinted from Midden (Fordham University Press, 2018) by permission of Fordham University Press.