Balsam Fir Boats

on hikes with Dad
and he would quiz me
on plants and trees
and he would show me
some ways to play
like my favorite
which I still do today:

to take a stick, a tiny twig
and pop a zit
one of those pitch-filled pockets
on the skin of a balsam fir
and coat the tip
of the stick
as if it were
a little torch
and place it in the lake
and wait a sec
then watch it zoom
like a matchstick motorboat rocket
with a rainbow-colored flame behind it
and watch it zoom
forward with gusto
with no rudder,
fully free
until it slows
and its oily tail
and fizzles
on the surface
leaving only
a trace
of its

a short
moment of joy
but renewable
for as many twigs
as there are in
the forest.

so sometime soon
when he can walk
I will show my son
some ways to play
and I will quiz him
on plants and trees
and I will teach him
about balsam boats
and by those moments
day by day
in those moments
of simple fun
my dad will get
one by one
and in those moments
my dad will get
to go on hikes
with his grandson
he never met.

-published 2017 edition of Spring Thaw! Itasca Community College

-published summer 2018 edition of Great Northern News