Photographers Unknown, Whispering to the Nearby Warriors
At Jeffers Petroglyphs
By their initials and first names
scratched into quartzite
underfoot, I know the culprits: Otto
like a fancy scar
on a buffalo’s flank, Sven
muddling the lines of a glyph,
the meaning of its shape forgotten, and Judy
who needed to record the date
of defacement. I hear her story from the guide:
how she stole her father’s chisel,
chipped her way into a turtle’s back,
how much shame she brought
to her family in this search for the lost meanings
hidden within the shapes of the letters,
written on a shell next to the sun, an attempt,
if I’m generous,
to contrast two languages and find,
in the mixed -up symbols,
the trees of her homeland cut down long ago.
She still lives. I believe, on some days,
wherever she is, she hears the forest mumbling
when the wind blows across the carved twigs
of her name, out here, whispering to the nearby warriors,
asking forgiveness for this trespass.
Michael Walsh, The Kids Who Carved into Petroglyphs, The Dirt Riddles, 2021
Michael Walsh is a poet and writer, an independent scholar, and a creative writing instructor. With an early interest in writing, he began his studies at Illinois’s Knox College in 1993. Walsh studied under Poet-in-Residence Sheryl St. Germain and the Philip Sydney Post Professor of English Robin Metz, both of whom made an impact on his writing career. Supported by his professors, Walsh was able, as a Queer student, to connect and have meaningful conversations with the faculty. He graduated with his Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing in 1997.
After a period of reflection on his past studies during a stay at his family’s farm, Walsh entered the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities from which he graduated with his Master of Fine Arts in Creative and Professional Writing. His first collection of poetry, “The Dirt Riddles”, was published in 2010 by the University of Arkansas Press; this volume won the Miller Williams Prize and the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry. Walsh’s poetry collections also include two chapbooks through Red Dragonfly Press, the 2003 “Adam Working the Garden” and the 2011 “Sleepwalks”. His 2021 “Creep Love”, published by Autumn House Press, was a Lambda Poetry Award finalist.
Michael Walsh is the editor of the 2022 “Queer Nature: A Poetry Anthology”, the first eco-queer anthology of contemporary nature poetry that magnifies and centers LBGTQ+ voices and perspectives. It contains work from over two hundred queer writers from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century. Expanding the genre of nature poetry and offering new views on queerness and the natural world, the anthology features poets Elizabeth Bishop, Richard Bianco and Allen Ginsber, as well as, emerging poets such as Jari Bradley, Alicia Mountain and Eric Tan.
In recognition for his work, Walsh was awarded a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship in Poetry and a Jerome Foundation Emerging Artist Fellowship. After residing in Minneapolis for more than two decades, Michael Walsh now lives with his husband in the Driftless region of southwest Wisconsin where he continues to develop his eco-queer and literary teachings.
Michael Walsh’s website, which includes information on readings, lectures and poetry manuscript reviews, is located at: https://www.michaeltwalsh.com
Header Image (Eight): Danny Lyon, “Showers”, 1968, Gelatin Silver Print, Detail, 35.6 x 27.9 cm, Private Collection
Top Insert Photo: Adam Nelsen, “Michael Walsh”, Date Unknown, Color Print