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Lake Michigan: A Poetic Appreciation

November 1, 2018  |  Topics: featured artist, Spotlight

By Charles Rossiter


Lake Michigan helps define Milwaukee and is a great source of pleasure for one and all.  We go to the lake to hike the shoreline, look for fossil-laden rocks, swim, fish, windsurf and play volleyball and other beach games. The lake is also a place for quiet pastimes such as reading and writing, and just plain hanging out with friends. Sometimes we go to the lake to simply be alone to contemplate, to meditate, or to sit and relax—staring at the ever-changing seascape, lulled by the quiet rhythm of waves against the shore.


There’s something mystical about being by a lake so big you can’t see to the other side. The vast unobstructed view is intrinsically relaxing, and the rhythm of the waves encourages a meditative calm. These poems are part of a longer sequence that grew from a desire to capture in words what that relaxed, meditative lakeside experience is like, and what it does for the body and soul. The sequence was several decades in the making. Taken as a whole it may be considered a multi-part love poem to Lake Michigan.




This cool clear morning

the lake is so serene.


I have places to go

things to do,


I think I’ll just stay here

and take it all in.




You ask why

I spend my days

by the lake.

I can only nod

to the wide sky,

the far horizon,

dune grass

bending in the wind.




On a gray day like this

the lake’s all wind and waves,

a perfect backdrop

for contemplation.

It’s like closing your eyes

to get to that quiet place

without closing your eyes.




I sit by the lake

for long stretches

mind afloat

elsewhere. . .nowhere. . .

till the cold, wet sand

on my bottom

brings me back.




Some folks think

my life’s not exciting,

but they don’t understand.

Each day the lake’s a new color.

No two sunsets are the same.



Charles Rossiter, NEA Fellowship Recipient, hosts a twice-monthly podcast series at . Recent books include: Green Mountain Meditations, Winter Poems and Lakeside Poems. He lived on Milwaukee’s east side during the 70s and later lived 20 years in the Chicago area, always within a few miles of Lake Michigan, and always maintaining connections with Milwaukee. He now lives and writes in Bennington, VT.


These poems are from Lakeside Poems, (Kanona, NY: Foothills Publishing, 2016)

Photo by Charles Rossiter