Educational Philosophy – by Josh Nicolaisen

Two boys sit alone on a cold lake
not yet frozen but surrounded


Brothers it appears, zigzagging
the canoe through calm water,


the older, bigger one in back
using the power of his blade


He tries to tell him all
he’s learned about life and boats.


as the older one spoons medicine
he would spit out himself- and soon


the older one, who’s always right,
I’ve been that boy, the one trying


together, two boys plunge
into learning. I’ve heard successes


by purple-glazed mountains,
mounds of leaf-bare beech and birch.


slicing a sinuous streak in glass.
The smaller boy in the bow,


to battle his little brother’s
incessant switching of sides.


He tries to tell him too much,
I imagine, watching from an island


the younger one begins bouncing
the boat from side to side to spite


to save a boat’s starboard sway. Too late.
A canoe capsizes in deep black water


of being thrown right in, something
about the benefits of full immersion.



Josh Nicolaisen is a professional gardener and former teacher living in New Hampshire. He holds an MFA from Randolph College and is a Pushcart Prize nominee. He has been awarded grants and/or fellowships from Bread Loaf Environmental Writers Conference and Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. His work has recently appeared in Colorado Review, Hunger Mountain Review, So It Goes, Red Rock Review, Bellingham Review, and elsewhere. Find him at