“The Appleshaped Earth and We Upon It,” original poem by MFA student Aurora Shimshak

Master of fine arts student Aurora Shimshak recited a poem she wrote for the ceremony.
Master of fine arts student Aurora Shimshak recited a poem she wrote for the ceremony. Photo: Bryce Richter

As part of the official investiture ceremony of Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin on Friday, April 14, Aurora Shimshak, master of fine arts in Creative Writing student, recited a poem she wrote for the ceremony. Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing Erika Meitner shares they are “so proud of her!” The Appleshaped Earth and We Upon It is published in full below.

Watch the ceremony here; the poetry reading starts at 1:08:45.

The Appleshaped Earth and We Upon It

After Walt Whitman and June Jordan

On Library Mall, new boots and leaky sneakers puddle-hop.

In dorms and apartments, 10,000 feet slip into socks

while at campus daycare a 4-year old blows kisses

from the top of the slide. Outside, the busses release their air.

I call into this space the bus driver, her thoughts tending home,

tending love, as she waits for the light to change and the last ankle

to land safely on the sidewalk.

Is there a poem in this?

Here, those up before dawn, the snow plowers and public radio hosts,

the new parent, the second shift nurse, the cook

pouring custard for fudge bottom pie, the security guard

who washes his father’s hair.

In March, a man rides his bicycle to play piccolo in a snowsuit;

another in their wheelchair swerves to avoid the ice

the choreographer thinking in movements of bodies.

Is there a poem in this?

I call into this space those who think in layers of rock, in eons

and in rice crops, in the movements of Feminist film

and the movements of a musical score.

I want them all here—the climate scientist and the violence disrupter, the

prayer-rememberer and the prairie restorer, the bird mapper, the

greenhouse waterer, the curator of Japanese prints.

I call into this space the rural sociologists, the cows and their keepers, the

combine drivers and the counselors, the question-askers

and those just learning to question.

I call into this space the muralist in overalls and nose ring,

painting on State Street, those who said their names,

those who demanded we say their names, those who shout

and those who sing, those who document, those at the meetings,

those who bring first aid kits.

The engineer with bandaged wrists, the actor with fentanyl in their blood,

the man, not far from here, incarcerated, who would like, when he

gets free, to keep bees—you, all of you, are necessary in this space.

I call us all here and say:

May someone be there to catch you. Even you who have always done the

catching. We all need to be ushered and fed.

Not far from here, the Moundbuilders’ bird and water spirit.

Not far from here, the burial mound leveled to build Bascom Hall.

Here, a class will learn Menominee, learn Quechua;

Here, a student proofreads their parent’s English

Here, a playwright asks, What dream would you give your mother?

And someone is inventing a compost program,

someone is pulling carrots to hand to their peers,

someone is teaching how to plant a pea trellis.

The arboretum’s Korean maple, forsythia planted in corridors

to yolk-split in the spring. Their fibers take in the sound of us—

our beltline, our TV show opinions, coyotes howling after sirens.

What has the earth taken in? This place has a story.

What poem will we make?