Guest Poet: Janice Kvale

spicyletter thistle



Six adventurous women, six big packs, three canoes, one large wilderness. We sing as we paddle until waves, wind blow us off the water into camp.   Back on the water, three men pass finishing the Louse River Loop. Derisive, they laugh. Hey, maybe you’ll find the axe we lost. If you make it.    Before we started, we voted bras or braless—all of us or none. Portage canoes? Haul water? Build fires? Bras, for sure.   Six smart women make a canoe bridge to cross a swift stream high in the hills, deep in the forest. Make camp, build fire, dry sox, warm toes. Cold nights, sunny days, sparkling lakes, reedy streams, stony portages. Canoes overhead, trudging over shale, under golden popple and dark pine.   Six happy women drink hooch around a campfire at night. Listen to wolves howl, moose rut. Drink in sweet night scent. Sun rises to melt frost on the tent, under a canoe, dry wood for a fire, knock ice out of kettle, dip water to boil. Coffee aroma rouses sleepers to wake.   Six strong women paddle on. Another stream, another lake, another portage. What’s this? An axe and a buck knife! More lakes, more portages. Lujenida looms ahead. To the Lujenida! we shout. We  portage one and one-half miles. Yes, we can.   We reach the last portage, Lujenida beckons. Packs on, canoes up. Once across the Lujenida. Twice across the Lujenida. One last lake, then off to shower wash away grime, stink of one week. Return the axe, keep the knife. Six proud women celebrate at Betty’s Pie.

THISTLE GARDEN   Thistles are prickly their tap roots penetrate concrete, resist drought, bring forth soft purple blossoms mature into feathery plumes   Zephyr’s gentle nudge releases seed botanical birds riding thermals search for a future ; women raped as children addicted as girls grow into sexual slavery beaten, abandoned waiting, waiting to be plucked out of the gutter from under the bridge away from servitude   Come you women to the  garden, find shelter here, you can grow  The women say: we will—we will grow, blossom, sweetly  the women say: when drought comes we will water and weed water and weed.


janice Vale

Janice Kvale is a recent writer of poetry and travels between Texas, Minnesota, and New Zealand. She is a mother of five and grandmother to a growing clan. Her idea of a great holiday is an extended cultural experience or outdoor adventure, both fodder for life stories and poetry.

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