Roy Wahlberg


(listen to the poem, read by Diane R. Wiener)

In a clear night first distilled
from sluiceways of stars and silence,
at the foot of a snow-dipped peak,
in the lap of its succoring glacier,
a dark-lacquered mountain tarn
lay flat and still and napping
in late autumn’s chillbain air.

Set like a black-pearl crest-jewel
in a sky-silvered tiara of boreal trees,
the lake’s kohl-eyed perimeter rim
was ink-eclipsed in hidden indigo
by the reflected outlines and shadowy
depths of ice-glistened shoreline cliffs
and interstitched, encroaching thickets
of cold-stunted balsam, birch, and spruce.

Soon, like an emerald sky-spider, beginning to spin
with her most illuminant fibers and filaments,
neon-green fabrics and shapes replaced the stars’
pride of place with frosted patches and sheaves,
then entire slackened bolts, of cold pleated sheets,
that billowed and waved like slow-shaken drapery
in the face of the fierce-driven solar winds.

The lake then awakened and quickly picked up
the sky’s living tint, in lazy, flaming waves
of finger-tip absinthe,
that fluoresced and spread in a nacreous slick
over its flawlessly polished surface,
directly reflecting the as-above, so-below
ethereal glow into the adjacent forest shores,
flooding and inundating the rocks and trees,
and lighting their rugged planes and faces
with the lambent, wavering, liquescent
lustre of a rare and costly apéritif.

Descending from his frosty redoubt,
his breath chuffing and steaming in
the haunting gossamer light, a bull elk,
belying his great bulk, stepped lightly
and silently to the backlit water to drink.

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(listen to the poem, read by Diane R. Wiener)

Signal sign of Pleistocene glacial times,
the silver knife of a primeval river of ice
had long since sliced its savage passage
thru the rough-calloused igneous epidermis
of a datelessly ancient Laurentian Shield.

Bordering both sides of this abrupt chasm,
forward-thrusting, beetle-browed bluffs of
living basalt were left bulging ponderously
out into space, like vast frozen ocean
combers of mottled, lichen-pitted rock.

Held cupped between these palisades,
a lengthy, trough-like valley seemed
to stretch to infinity in the misty early
morning distance, resembling a coarse-
textured grey-green extension of the
tannin-stained lake into which it drained.

One could sense the clash of Titans here:
what had first been laid down in a time of
molten upheaval was later wrenched asunder
by the prow-like shape and ironic weight of
beautifully-jeweled hard water, leaving a
lasting gash thru the earth’s mineral skin.

In time, the wound was clotted and stitched
by stunted New World moor — muskeg, bog
and scrub, grassy hummocks, sphagnum
and club mosses, all randomly punctured
by the short, tattered spikes of half-dead
tamarack trees — as desolate, shattered
and ashen as postwar Nagasaki photos.

To many it would seem
an ugly and treacherous place
of ravenous mud and quicksand pits,
but to raw, untrodden nature, its very
inaccessibility to human intrusion
made it a haven —
and beautiful.

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About the Author

Roy Wahlberg, OID# 103429. Born: 11/20/1951. Life sentence: 1976. His brain later determined to have been so ravaged by early life disease, even hydrocephalus surgery was long denied as pointless (as it proved to be). Ultimately, however, miraculous “compensations” emerged from his brain deterioration and epilepsy treatment: the “Grandma Moses Effect” of late-life artistic drive. For him this took form as musicophilia, hypergraphia, and compulsive versification–the three stabilizing legs of his intellectual stool (both the furniture kind and his overall function, at times a bit scatological).

With autism, dysphasia (verbal deficits), and attention/memory scores in the bottom 5-7%, only through writing can Roy achieve a solid and continual sense of self–that essential ingredient of normal life that is otherwise entirely missing or only flimsily maintained. Halting and forgetful in speech, it is writing alone that releases his mind into smooth and tireless eloquence as the logical thread is held reliably before him by the medium.

Perhaps most important, writing instantly expands his tiny cell from a lonely cage of despair into cognitive banquet-halls filled with infinite imaginative possibilities, a doorway to the spirit, and an inexhaustible and cathartic feast of dream and reason. In many ways, more than most, Roy must write to live. “I have not lived a perfect life, but none so bad as the world would believe.” — Cole Younger, James Gang Two-way email is possible with Roy through the website, searching for him as Roy Wahlberg 103429. This portal, however, will soon be switching over to

His mailing address is:

MCF-Oak Park Heights
5329 Osgood Ave. N.
Stillwater, MN 55082-0010

Be the first on your block to interact with a lifer in a cellblock! Roy’s work has been published in Wordgathering, Breath & Shadow, and Poetry Pacific.