The inverse ritual of passing through what is lewd to get to what is innocent, through inverse to get to verse.  —Telex From Cuba.

In the days we are gone, disconnected from internet and cell reception, news articles hit the press regarding the fifth edition of  the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Later when I return home, my daughter and I will discuss DSM-5, a tool she uses as a Life Skills teacher. Links from friends to their favorite article. Some will say biology apparently never read the book, others will say the spiritual realm shows up missing. Some take comfort in definitions, others argue diagnoses and treatment remain undetermined.

in·verse  (n-vûrs, nvûrs), adj. In mathematics, an inverse function is a function that undoes another function.

When we fish, we explore back roads, stopping often. Maybe he wants to fly fish a small stream, maybe I want to climb a broken bridge to collect a brick under the last cross beam. In this way, we find ourselves on a narrow road squeezing through a rock canyon just like you’d see in  the old-time western movies. We imagine the first settlers laying claim to this land, standing on an outcropping, declaring From now on, all of this is mine. 

Around the western bend comes a goat cart, handmade. Two gypsies and twelve goats, four black Scottie dogs and an old sheep wearing a copper bell.  They are surprised to see us. We think we are more surprised. We’ve rounded a bend back into the 1860’s. The forest pushes in as we negotiate the narrow space between grazing goats, tender willows and the kids baa-ing against our legs.

Let’s not forget this, we say.

The bald eagle, circling overhead. Heron flying low across our path. Later, the pelican, white, landing next to our cast lines. Four Sandhill Cranes walking the freshly furrowed fields; two hawks, both on fence posts; the flock of sea gulls backing down a teenaged eagle over scraps left behind by a hasty fisherman.

Eagle, heron, pelican, hawk. 

 Our cabin, a hunter’s shanty from the 1940’s, comes with a bucket and a wall calendar. A propane stove and an icebox from the 1950s. Running water is a faucet on the north side of a nearby service shed.

Crane, crane, sea gull flock.

What it takes to fall asleep. A window, open. The low of a distant herd of cattle. He fashions a pillow from his backpack and begins a new litany, this time explaining how Freon® works, the logistics of iceboxes before modern-day refrigeration. From the upper bunk, his voice drifts down to me.  I fall asleep while he is explaining Freon’s flash point means it will not burn. Last time we shared a fishing trip, he told me as a young boy he calmed himself by spelling words out loud. I told him I worked numbers in my head.

Twelve goats and  four Scotties. One sheep and a bell.



About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website:

14 responses to “verse

  1. The epitome of familiarity – to fall asleep calmly while explaining is going on. Everything is illuminated.

  2. I just love your ability to coalesce all the different sights and sounds around you into a well constructed poem. .

  3. Katy

    I’ve missed your poems, I’ve been away too long. The refrigeration discussion….made me think of the dry ice that the classroom mom kept the popsicles in, and my daughter’s class all ended up with bleeding tongues after trying to lick them. I didn’t know that dry ice was that powerful. Neither did the classroom mom. :/
    Sherry your comment on my last post almost made me cry. Because you really get it. You are such an inspiration to me, you know what it’s like, you’ve taken these risks, and you give me hope. Sorry I have to bash college (ha ha) I just don’t think it’s got the value that it used to and I’m scared of spinning my wheels in pursuit of something impossible….or maybe straining after goals that aren’t worthy of the strain?
    anyway. I love you!! 🙂

    • redmitten

      katy- we’d put a layer of dry ice on the bottom of our coolers when camping for 4 days out. don’t let eggs be the next layer after the dry ice. heh. and yes, you know i feel like i got it first time i met you (so to speak). it’s really not easy to be the strong, intelligent, free-spirited female in a world where much different role models are meant to be our examples. regarding college,yes, i use that term loosely. my son esp learned that his life took on a new path (the one meant for him) because of what he experienced outside of his college classrooms. but had he not put himself on some sort of “campus” after high school, i don’t think he would have recognized his path as readily. and we live in such a world that pushes our kids to excel excel excel…but define the word “excel”. what is it? i know someone whose pursuit in art has outcast him from a family bent on defining excel as all things material and monetary. you have a lovely questioning mind and i trust in all that we can’t foresee that things will turn out for you based on what you determine is of value. and i love you back!

      • oh yes exactly… I am afraid that other people’s ideas of success (successful parenting, successful career, etc) are going to crush me sometimes – I don’t want to live by someone else’s yardstick. We all have talents that we are born with – we have to live those. yay for art! 🙂

      • redmitten

        katy- exactly so! yay for art!!

  4. Stuff like the DSM, in any version, is why I need stuff like birds, fish and poetry. I shudder to think that you brought them all together in one essay.

  5. you’re a genius. coming here is like diving into fresh mountain water. thank you. every time. x janelle

  6. The Freon is fantastic and your last line with it is super fantastic. The whole thing is a wonderful poem, and also with one of my favorite pics of yours lately. 🙂

    • redmitten

      rose, i am glad to know this! your vote ranks high with me. the photo- i shot a series of them, wondering if what i was seeing on my phone’s camera was for real. pays to sit in a cold vehicle. fishing guy didn’t get one good moment because he returned to the warmer cabin until the windshield was defrosted. 🙂

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