Jerry Dennis ~ from Skills a Man Could Learn (Found Poems)

Walk Like a Woodsman

A woods­man walks with a rolling motion swaying
to the step­ping side—it is chiefly a dif­fer­ence of hip
action loose­ness of joints

up-and-down knee action
springy with rather rigid hips—

car­riage erect
pace long
cen­ter of grav­i­ty secure
as a rope-walker

he goes steadi­ly but mod­er­ate­ly forward.

Walking in this man­ner one is not like­ly to trip
over pro­ject­ing roots, stones, traps.
One gains ground at every stride.


Make a Good Camp

Seek an open spot lev­el enough with good nat­ur­al drainage.
A rise or slight slope is bet­ter than a depression.

Avoid low ground and swamps.

Face the ris­ing sun—easterly or south­east­er­ly is best.

Don’t trust a clear sky.

Never turn your back on a bear.

Make sure your rain-fly is tight. Crawling out of bed into a storm at night
is mis­er­able business.

Carry a pock­etknife. Don’t relent.

Half a pota­to with a hole scooped in it makes a good portable candlestick.


Make Devices Finely Turned

Make devices fine­ly turned and neat­ly finished
for pur­pos­es of all imag­in­able kinds

pro­sa­ic and exot­ic as well as weaponry
motor­cars heat­ing fans
engines designed for cut­ting diamonds
deep inside the microscope.

It is pro­found, sig­nif­i­cant, and wor­thy business
turn­ing shape­less slugs into objects of beauty.

Barographs, cam­eras, clocks. Not watches.
Table clocks and ships’ chronometers.

Long-case grand­fa­ther clocks where gearwheels
keep patient time to the phas­es of the moon.


Make a Good Camp (2)

stretch a stout line between two trees

set up a rus­tic table & bench­es dri­ve four stakes
for legs nail cleats across the ends cover
the top with boards or sticks

if you have no nails use forked stakes

hem­lock knots are worth­less are hard as glass
keep your axe out of them do not leave
your axe out­doors on a cold night

when there is noth­ing dry to strike it on jerk
the tip of the match for­ward against your teeth

it’s a bad idea to eat from the ground

meat game fish may be fried broiled roasted
baked boiled stewed steamed (fry­ing & broiling
are the quick­est) roast­ing bak­ing boil­ing take
an hour or two a stew of meat & vegetables
takes half a day as does soup

tough meat should be boiled in a pot.


Row a Boat

If a man afloat on a body of water pulls a boat,
which is in the water,
by means of an oar,
which is secured by a lock to the boat,
he will cause the boat to move in a direction.
But if sev­er­al per­sons row the boat it may happen
by con­trary adjust­ments of direction
and strength exerted
that the boat remains at rest.

The pow­er is the pull of the rower.
The weight is the pres­sure on the oar.
Pulling on the oar urges the row­er backward
and impels the boat forward.

But if a false bal­ance bends the oar
any addi­tion­al pres­sure alters its posi­tion and so on.
One of those posi­tions is in the horizontal.
The oth­er is in the vertical.
Hence the force with which we row the boat.

Dynamics is the sci­ence of the moon.
All motions are per­formed in Time.
A man puts a foot-lathe in motion.
A woman turns a wheel.
A row­er whose vision is obscured will always row in circles.


Avoid Going in Circles

To avoid cir­cling one must trav­el by land­marks, by compass.
Consult the instru­ment every two or three minutes.
A lost man’s mem­o­ry is treacherous.

Work down coun­try. The course of small streams shows
where the main val­ley lies.

Don’t trav­el too fast—it would excite you. Keep a stiff upper lip.
This is not a tragedy but only an inter­est­ing adventure.

Look for smoke. Note how the sun bears. Pick out a mark
and steer for it. Save your strength by fol­low­ing the eas­i­est way
from this to anoth­er and so on.

Before leav­ing your bivouac blaze a tree and pen­cil on it
the time of your start and direc­tion. (This will be invaluable
to your mates if they wish to track you up.)

In going around obsta­cles a man may choose habitually
the same side and not make allowance for this tendency
when aver­ag­ing up his windings.

Many men swerve to the right

have an uncon­scious leaning

tend to trav­el in a circle.

Just why, we do not know.


SOURCES:  Camping and Woodcraft, Horace Kephart (1916).  The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World, Simon Winchester (NY: Harper. 2018). An Elementary Treatise on Mechanics, William Whewell, (1847).

Jerry Dennis’s many books, includ­ing The Living Great Lakes and The Windward Shore, have been wide­ly trans­lat­ed and have won numer­ous awards. His brief works of poet­ry and prose have appeared in PANK, Mid-American Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Right Hand Pointing, and else­where. He lives with artist Gail Dennis in rur­al north­ern Michigan. (