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Linda K. Thompson


As a child I found some fame painting scenes on burls.
Using up my paint-by-number oils,
bending open those stubborn lids,
  into linseed and turpentine.
Blue water, blue peaks,
snow blocked down one third their slopes
in perfectly reversed triangles.
There would be a generic evergreen off to the right,
not always green I made do.
Dog paintings might provide no green at all,
(heavy on the browns and grays).
A tree can be brown.
Horse paintings might have an even sparser palette
with peculiar shades of ochre.
People who loved me didn’t mind a palomino spruce.
Dad and I, we searched for burls.
Smooth, unmarked, a certain size.
Got down on all fours to get a good view of the underside,
which, if you are not a burl painter, you may not know,
is the side that counts.
We would knock them off with axes and hammers.
Fall the whole tree to get a good one growing out of reach.
Not many fell for a burl.
Dad might lean, his hand against the bark, head
  thrown back,
Nope, he’d say, she won’t fall right.
and we’d move further along the creek.
Fill a mason jar with water that had tumbled
  through a mountain to us.
Pull watercress from the spring. Hunt for licorice root.
Then sit on boulders, chew on the bite of the cress,
  the blackness of the root.
Dad would lie back, pull his hat over his eyes, say,
Wonder what the poor people are doing today?

This poem first appeared in Victoria Writers' Society's 2012 Anthology.
Used here with the author’s permission.



Linda K. Thompson calls herself "a plain spoken poet.”  A long-time resident of Port Alberni, on Vancouver Island, she grew up on the mainland in the Pemberton Valley, an experience which has been the basis for many of her poems. Linda loves traveling and writing, and indulges those twin passions by attending poetry retreats whenever she can. Her chapbook, Four Small People in Sturdy Shoes, was published last year. Learn more about Linda at


Post New Comment:
Lori Levy:
I especially like the last stanza. Love the details in it.
Posted 06/13/2016 09:52 PM
Hello dear Linda, Another special poem and I loved this tribute to your father. And, I did not know about burl painting. Thanks to you, I've looked it up. Love your poem.
Posted 06/13/2016 05:41 PM
Love, love this! What richness was shared in those moments and words.
Posted 06/13/2016 04:07 PM
Interesting. I didn't know people painted on burls. Ones I've seen "treated" by humans, have been hollowed out into bowls. Good details here.
Posted 06/13/2016 12:29 PM
wendy morton:
Linda's marvelous poetic memory. This wonderful poem.
Posted 06/13/2016 11:09 AM
A wonderful poem. My dad said that too.
Posted 06/13/2016 08:44 AM
I like this. Thanks for bringing back memories of my own father. The last line is something he would have said.
Posted 06/13/2016 07:45 AM
Learned about a burl. And a dearly loved father,too. Thanks, Linda.
Posted 06/13/2016 07:32 AM
I now know about burl painting and about all the handcrafts from burls, thanks to your poem which encouraged me to do a bit of research. I enjoyed the narrator and the father in this poem. Thank you, Linda.
Posted 06/13/2016 07:20 AM

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