Writing Minnesota

Matt Rasmussen: "It is evening inside the refrigerator."

Matt Rasmussen's poem "Land O' Lakes" offers a whimsical take on the phrase that defines Minnesota and that is, of course, also the name of a butter product. "I wrote it while I was away from Minnesota (at grad school in Boston) and was writing a lot of really bad poems with lakes and trees in them," Rasmussen said. "It was sort of a response to my friends saying, 'Oh here we go, another lake and tree poem.'"

Rasmussen's writing moves easily between the humor of his poem about butter to emotionally potent themes like his brother's suicide.

Photo: Stephanie Colgan

Rasmussen's poetry has been published in Gulf Coast, Cimarron Review, Water-Stone Review, Mid American Review, Paper Darts, MARGIE, New York Quarterly, Natural Bridge, and Dislocate, among others. He was a 2009 Bush Artist Fellow for Literature and has received awards, grants, and residencies from The Minnesota State Arts Board, The Corporation of Yaddo, The Loft Literary Center, The Jerome Foundation, Intermedia Arts, and The Anderson Center in Red Wing, Minn. Rasmussen's a founding co-editor of BIRDS, LLC, a small, independent poetry press.

"Land O' Lakes" appears in Rasmussen's chapbook Fingergun, published in 2006 by Kitchen Press. Many thanks to the publisher for permission to reprint the poem here.


A tinfoil lake rattles the sun
as a canoe crosses it

approaching my shore.  
The Native American girl 

walks toward me, kneels,  
offers a golden box of butter,

and then she's on the box 
I am holding.

Apparently, I've accepted.
Come, she says, we will 

burn beauty into something 
even more beautiful.

It is evening inside 
the refrigerator.

I lie down shivering 
near the lake.

The giant red ring 
hovers behind her,

generating warmth.
You must fall asleep 

in your dream to wake up 
in your life, she says.

I can hear the vegetables
dying in the crisper

and through the door,
the television weeping

openly, unashamed.