Mary Jo Balistreri

Back to PoetryBackpacking in North Central Wisconsin

Backpacking in North Central Wisconsin

Off the trail, we stumble across a smorgasbord
of scorched leftovers, shards of glass, dented Buds.

A murder of crows scold as we shuffle through debris
tainted with rot, acrid accumulation of empty tuna tins,
cigarette butts, a dead squirrel, a Monopoly board
chewed at Broadway, remnants of a charcoaled O’Keefe print,
Golden Books.

We try to ignore the crows’ continuous cacophony. We focus
instead on charred pines, the buckled roof, fallen chimney stones.

What do you think happened, I ask my husband.
He offers lightning, careless hikers, something gone wrong
with the pot-bellied stove.

I envision a family at their kitchen table passing out paper money,
plastic houses, hotels, a mother reading “The Three Bears,”
children huddled at her knees.

Sometimes, my husband says, what one loves, one can also destroy.
His words linger in the silence.

Wind soughs through the evergreens.
A black feather flutters down.


Mary Jo Balistreri has lived on Saylesville Pond in Waukesha for almost thirty years. It is here she is nurtured by wild life, woods, and the everyday changes of the water. She has two books of poetry published by Bellowing Ark Press, and a chapbook by Tiger’s Eye Press.


Please visit her at

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