sna poems, series supplementum #28: little menomonee river nature preserve

the little menomonee river nature preserve in ozaukee county is a 20-acre parcel of wooded land thru which runs the little menomonee. the river is small and seems to be close to its source here, and it has been vigorously channelized. further downstream the county is starting rejuvenation efforts and de-channelizing. (the word used is “remeandering,” which is fantastic.) hopefully, the city of mequon, which acquired the parcel in 1992, will continue those efforts or encourage and permit the county to do so.

it was a gorgeous fall day, and we meandered thru the woods of maple and oak, finding some fungus and the kids forded the river. a quiet, out of the way site, whose trail i wished had led thru more of the wood.


lanced green spiraling

into thorn

silk in waning sun


the menomonee


sculpted to a dash

sna poems, supplementum anthropocenum #13: atlas pit (aka kiwanis pond)

it’s strange to me that i haven’t yet visited this site for the series. atlas pit (it was re-named ‘kiwanis pond’ but i can’t bring myself to call it that from long and early association) is a former gravel quarry a couple blocks from where i grew up in janesville, wi (rock county).

the old story goes that atlas sand & gravel dug until they hit a spring and then it filled in. i haven’t been able to fact-check that to my satisfaction, but the pieces of confirmation i’ve found have lined up with the general story. sounds like it filled up in the ’50s.

my childhood neighborhood was at the top of the quarry, and the pit was down the hill in a green corridor near a large wooded park, another pond, and a golf course. i learned in my research on wisconsin natural history during the pandemic that my hometown sits atop one of the outwash fans of the last glaciation, and my neighborhood above the rock river is at the edge of the fan. so it actually makes very good sense that there’d be a gravel quarry here, and there are other quarries in the area.

we used to come down here to play frequently, and back then it felt like a forest, a real wild place. it’s not quite so expansive now as an adult, but there are still pockets that feel more remote than it really is. when i visited the wind was blowing on a cloudy morning, and it smelled of childhood and good life.

first id of common cocklebur!


here goldenrod bends

in the breeze

and i never knew


this the native air

where we found

fraternal snappers


glassy algal pond


so good to see you


sna poems #104: oliver prairie

oliver prairie is a remnant prairie perched on a hill made of dolostone, which is why it’s a remnant—no farming here! for its small size it has a large number of plant species, and is ringed round by trees, which gives being on the hill a strange, you’re-the-only-one-on-earth kind of feel. the sna has some narrow lanes coming off the main parcel, which were a treat to walk down as well with the junipers and the spider-web-bedazzled knapweed.

the fog was lifting by this time, and this was the last sna in green county i had to visit. another county accounted for. (photo credits on a couple of these go to my wife.)


juniper sodden,

spider silk

in the morning light


autumnal milkweed

and goat’s beard

dusting the blufftop


still crickets chirping

their matins

on dolostone ledge

horse nettle

if you made it this far… here’s the entry to a largish den (maybe a badger’s by the size of it? i didn’t get close enough to get a real good shot…); a finely grass-framed slab of dolostone; and a deer who was very surprised to find us there on her lane.

sna poems #103: abraham’s woods

abraham’s woods is a remnant old growth southern mesic forest dominated by maple, linden, and red oak. the understory is fairly sparse due to the peak canopy, which allows for some spectacular attention to the sandstone outcroppings, moss, and fungi of this wood at this time of year. the sandstone is actually a slanting ridge that creates an eastward-facing amphitheater, with heavy fern growth down in the hollow. a great blue heron rookery inhabits the site, but they’ve gone for the year.

it was tremendously foggy the day we visited in the early morning, and the trees dripped rain in the quiet. this was a spectacular visit and i hope to get back next year.

thanks to the uw arboretum for maintaining the site and for permitting me to visit.


in from the fogscape,

staggered pulse

pelts the leaf litter


bark in the hollow,

early sun:

the mist making haze


loose slabs of sandstone


the guttating frill



into sand


if you made it this far, here are some miscellaneous things: a photo of one of the tree tags i’m very fond of, some serious fuzzy mold on scat, and the largest snag i’ve ever stood under:

sna poems, series anthropocenum #12: kaszube’s park

kaszube’s is a pocket park (.15 acres) in milwaukee’s frightfully industrial harbor district. revitalization efforts are underway in different areas, but the concrete and salt and machinery encircle the body and loom over the mind, even as the ingenuity involved does inspire a reluctant awe at our sheer ability to make.

spots here and there are delightful respites though. kaszube’s park being one, it’s a memorial park that calls back to public memory the jones island fishing community (here’s the obligatory mention of the fact that it’s actually on a peninsula now). the kashubian population that inhabited the island in a fishing village came from pomerania and were finally forced out between the 1920-40s for greater industrial exploitation of jones island. today it’s a site of salt processing and storage, waste treatment, and lots of concrete and metal.

the park is built on the site of one of the last residents’ home and tavern, capt. felix struck’s harbor inn. amid all the industrial blight, a few trees (the larger a willow, i think), grass, and a few ornamentals survive here. a small berm just across from the park has longer grass and a small but sturdy representation of the area’s most common city wildflowers. hanging on.

we stopped by on a meander thru the harbor district trying to locate a pile driver.


fisherman shadows


by a sea of salt


the harbor open

to the lake,

willow leaves hanging

if you made it this far: here’s the pile driver we were looking for, so my wife could take a picture of this project’s progress for my father-in-law.

new poem and translations in _dappled things_

dappled things has just released their new issue, in which i have one original poem and three translations of old english galdru. while i do encourage any and all to buy a copy, thankfully, they’ve made mine accessible on the issue’s webpage as well. you can read the original here and the translations here.

this is a particularly satisfying publication for me because 1) the poem is about my extended family and our time together in different areas i have great fondness for, 2) the translations are of galdru (“charms”) which i think are some of the most interesting material remnants of early medieval culture, and 3) dappled things was where my first ever poem, a triolet about st. levan’s in cornwall, appeared almost a decade ago now. thanks, dappled things!

here’s that triolet, in case you have an interest:

st. levan’s well

we walked along a forest path

and drank from selevan’s well.

for a moment, we lived the past;

we walked along a forest path.

and tho’ we knew it wouldn’t last

as the spring flowed to the wind-swept swell,

we walked along a forest path

and drank from selevan’s well.

sna poems #102: mayville ledge beech-maple woods

mayville ledge beech-maple woods is very much what it sounds like, tho’ “ledge” in this case refers very specifically to the exposed niagra escarpment present on the site. the niagra escarpment is the exposed dolostone ridge at the edge of the niagra cuesta that stretches from new york state up thru canada and down into dodge county (and a smaller exposure in waukesha county) here in wisconsin via door county. in some places, it’s dramatic seaside cliffs, in others, it looks more or less like a pile of rocks.

no trail to speak of here, we followed deer paths up the glacial drift-laden section up to the top of the ridge and walked thru the ungrazed woods atop the ledge. with a steady wind blowing up onto the plain, we were able to enjoy a late-summer hike thru beech, maple, and ironwoods, with lots of mushrooms and moss growing all around the glades of tumbled dolostone. american beech grows here in its westernmost limit.


dolostone drifting,

acorns fall

in quiet rock glades


the gentlest arc

sits atop

magnesium bulk


american beech

on the ledge

of rolling green waves

sna poems, series supplementum #27: lizard mound park

a welcome autumnal retreat north of the city yesterday. in washington county, we stopped at lizard mound park, where over 20 linear, conical, and effigy mounds are very well preserved. especially impressive are the water panthers, of which there is a pair face-to-face, and the “lizard mound” which has much more pronounced legs and feet than most effigy mounds. these woodland mounds are much taller than many i’ve visited.

the forest seems pretty healthy, with little clutter in the undergrowth. lots of fungus growing and the last late-blooming wildflowers hanging on. washington county parks is doing a great job keeping the grounds.

this also seems like a good time to acknowledge that this land and pretty much all the land i’ve been walking for this project (including where i live and work) are lands that were taken by force and/or chicanery from the ho-chunk, menominee, potowatomi, sauk, and meskwaki peoples. i/we are still guests on this land, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. #honornativeland


oak and mossy frond

hug the mound

breeze in the maples


graceful tailed relief,

cooling air—

woodland memories


the lizard sleeps here

beneath sun

and solomon’s seal

if you made it this far: would you look at this acorn almost completely colonized by mycelium? i’d never seen this like that before.

sna poems #101: honey creek

honey creek sna is a widely varying area along honey creek, with different soil types, bottoms, boggy areas, forest, rock escarpments and uplands. the dnr site claims over 500 plant species living in the area. the site was originally protected by the wisconsin society for ornithology, and many bird species nest here. go birds (or, as chaucer would have called them, brids).

i took a leisurely stroll up the creek in the southern section, walking up what’s known as “borns hollow.” (i’m a sucker for any area called a “hollow.”) a lovely creek community with springs and seeps, forbs and grasses hanging all over the banks. oh, and cows and cranes coolly noting my approach and retreat.

my first spot of lobelia this year, and first id of spotted lady’s thumb (heart’s-ease), a kind of knotweed.


here islands sit calm

below roots

honey creek flows by


thick grass mats giving—

bovine eyes

as feet near streambed

c. (a psalm)

hollow flowers

clapping hands

to shouts of joy


New Personal Essay on Contemplation in _Spirit & Life_

I’m always grateful for the support of Spirit & Life, the Benedictine magazine that the congregation of sisters I’m affiliated puts out every other month. But especially so right now. On the occasion of the Exultation of the Cross coming up on the 14th of this month, they’ve published an essay of mine that brings together American neo-bohemia, altered states of consciousness, devotion to the Sacred Humanity of Christ, and contemplation. (!) You can find it here.

This is by far my most personal essay so far, and I find it’s getting easier over the years to just say what I want to say. Spirit & Life has helped foster that growth for sure—if you like what you see there, please subscribe; it’s free and a very pleasing material publication!

pax inter spinas