sna poems #131: nipissing swamp

nipissing swamp is, according to the wdnr website, the largest remnant hardwood swamp in northeastern wisconsin. fascinatingly, the swamp is in a wetland basin that was formerly a lagoon of glacial lake nipissing (which name refers to an indigenous nation in canada). the beach can still be seen in remnant dunes and barrens.

it was gun deer hunting season last weekend, and our blaze orange was in the other vehicle, so we didn’t go in deep. but even getting off the road a bit was a delight. across the first swampy swale and onto the first ridge, balancing on downed logs across the mud. the club moss was out in droves and soaking up the late-autumn sun. gorgeous swamp weather with birch and cedar swaying above.


in the place of elms

club mosses

have taken the hill


branches sway for sky

only pen

no gun in my hand


needles scruff my neck


horsegrass in cool breeze

sna poems, series anthropocenum # 22: lions park/lions pond

lions park is the area around 12-acre seepage lake lions park pond. used to swim here when i was a kid, and used to spend a lot of time on these sand bluffs across from the beach as a teen. the area to the north of this site is the neighborhood i grew up in, perched on the edge of the outwash fan from the last glaciation that stopped on the other side of town between janesville and milton. the area between the house i grew up in and the pond is made up of gullies and hills between the houses that i didn’t realize are probably millennia-old sand dunes covered over with soil and now roads and mid-century houses. all angling down to the rock river valley and spring brook, which empties into the rock not a half-mile from this spot.

a wonderful twilight visit. lots of waterfoul, cool breeze, and a muskrat who paddled along the bank, watched my dad and me for a moment, then dipped under the surface and swam out of range. pond just icing over. spirit place.


nightshade berries red

as rubies

ducks fly over ice


sand-drowned frilled rosettes

pushing up

goose-call, coming night


migration wheeling

plowing ice

in muskrat bower


willows on the lawn

yellowing now

across lions pond

New Two-Part Essay in Macrina Magazine

Today Macrina Magazine published the first part of a two-part essay of mine entitled “We Are the Dreamer: Earth and Body in Times of Plague.” The essay is a longish meditation on encountering land and other species, my sna poems series, problems with the concept “nature,” contemplative anthropology in a Christian context, my own anxieties during the heights of the pandemic, death, and the unparalleled Middle English poem Pearl.

It’s got a lot more “me” in it than most of my essays, and I’m very grateful to Macrina for bringing it out. The essay is set at Waterloo Quartzite Outcrops SNA, and my sna poems entry for that spot can be found here.

I hope you might take a look and see what else Macrina is publishing too. And stay tuned for the second installment next week!

pax inter spinas

sna poems, series supplementum #35: lima bog again

teaching seamus heaney’s bog body poems today, so we took a quick pit stop at lima bog sna on the way back to milwaukee from our ancestral home in rock cty yesterday.

got right into the tamarack stand, but not enough time to get to the open lake at its bogheart. next time!


in the new gloaming

golden cloud

of tamarack sleep


in a mackerel sky,

two wingspans

and a rainbow globe


asters in the sedge

looking out,

petals to water

sna poems #130: grassy lake

a shallow seepage lake according to the dnr’s website, grassy lake is situated low with wetlands around it. a road cuts thru the area and allows access without a boat, water on either side. many aquatic and wetland plants make the area home, as well as many water-associated birds—we saw an abandoned bald eagle’s nest across the road first thing.

this was a short stint, letting the kids take turns with the rubber boots to poke around in the wetland area by the lake proper. fun stop with a picnic before pressing on to lodi for the corn maze.


tottering titting

of killdeer

call from mud to mud


nothing standing still:


hum over drowned birch


burs in my wrist’s hair

down below

hot october sun

sna poems, series anthropocenum #21: treinen farm

treinen farm is a third-generation 200-acre farm outside lodi, wisconsin in columbia cty. since 2001 they’ve been building up a corn maze and all-around festive fall deal that is seriously impressive. all the riyeffs have been meeting up there once a fall going on 8 or 9 yrs now. the hills all around the area are just gorgeous, and the valleys are rich.

they have a bluff flanking the back of all the lower farm area, and we finally took the chance to climb up. not disappointed—oaks and bolted forbs in the moderate driving wind as the sun began to set behind the hills across the valley. this is fall in wisconsin, folks.


we lay on compressed

seabed sand

above the valley


goldenrod rustles

in repsonse

to oaks against blue

sna poems, #129: south bluff/devil’s nose

just under 3,500 acres in the baraboo hills abutting the southern shore of devil’s lake, south bluff/devil’s nose is (by southern wi standards) a huge swath of oak and maple forest. according to the dnr’s website, it’s home to a number of rare birds and plants, and pine glen and messinger creek are found here, though we didn’t encounter these this trip. devil’s nose is the eastern end of south bluff, along where the railroad curves out and away from devil’s lake.

our trip was up the first, northwestern-most bluffside in the site, as the kids were along. but they had already hiked the east bluff and gone to ski-hi (apple orchard) by this time, so i was immensely impressed by their stamina and eagerness on this gorgeous, off-trail, up-bluff, windy, sometimes a little rainy hike. it was a fabulous time, and my first time on the south bluff after nearly forty years of visiting devil’s lake. will be coming back.

p.s. my camera was struggling w/ our starting to lose the light on an overcast midwestern day, so photos a little rough. i’ve taken a few sharper images from my wife’s too.


the maples blowing

are the bluffs’

evening offering


the yellowing oaks

keep secrets

above the south shore


under fall shower

the plantain

seeds stand just waiting


a quartzite fern-stand

lovely at none

over dead bear cone

sna poems #128: lakeshore technical college old growth forest

ltc old growth forest is a northern mesic old growth remnant on ltc’s campus (how’s that for a tautology?). the northern approach has become overgrown, but we went in from the middle-range parking lot and had a very satisfying walk. sarsparilla was abundant in the looming maple/beech wood with some impressive red oaks along the way. mushrooms were growing, centerville creek was flowing lazily below the ridge trail.

highlight was seeing an owl flap proudly out of a tree up ahead and out across the clearing above the creek to an oak on the far side. didn’t get a good enough view to id her, but it was a bigger owl for sure.

first id of wild sarsparilla.


sarsparilla calm,

tail feathers

flash toward a red oak

sna poems #127: woodland dunes

woodland dunes is a wooded swale and ridge topography near lake michigan in manitowoc cty. the ridges and swales are from the receding of lake michigan’s shoreline in stages over millennia. the swales are wet year round here, while the ridges are often very sandy and more open.

we found some fantastic old trees and some delightful fungi—one highlight of the trip was a small stand of amanita muscaria var. guessowii (i think the var. is right there…). i hadn’t seen fly agaric in the wild since i was about twenty.

we also visited the nearby river marsh at the woodland dunes nature center to the northeast, where we found a spectacular boardwalk that gets you way into the marsh. at the end of the line where more open water occurs, we were greeted by a small family of otters! one of the great moments of this whole pandemic project of almost 200 site visits to see otters swimming freely in a marsh, and have them see us—they were inquisitive but clearly surprised!

first id’s of river otters, arrowhead, swamp sparrow, spotted beebalm, chanterelle waxy caps, and marsh skullcap.


here on our platform

feathered sprite

hums in the marsh breeze


arrowhead quiet

on the bank,

swamp sparrow singing


little brown muzzle:

our eyes meet

for mutual shock


green frog on the ridge

much too late

for lake michigan


red-gold fungal body

standing tall

amongst the cedars