state natural area poems #46: swenson wet prairie

swenson wet prairie is now a part of the avon bottoms s.n.a. but it was established as its own site, so i’m counting it. it’s a wet prairie in the floodplain of the sugar river near where the river meets taylor creek. there’s also a sedge meadow and river bottom savanna(!), and a number of oxbows. its frozen state this december is gorgeous.


open water

below swamp oaks

is sheer grace


a blue bird sits

over frozen duckweed—

graceful arcs

state natural area poems #45: magnolia bluff

magnolia bluff is the second highest point in rock county, in the county’s western uplands area. the undisturbed cliff-side reveals the two primary forms of bedrock in the county: st. peter sandstone and dolomite limestone. the western ridge also harbors a population of the endangered plant, kitten tails(!).


here limestone and sandstone meet,

bare themselves for all

naked to the eye and light


standing on the place-rock

the winter sun sets

we are mammals seeking warmth

state natural area poems, supplementum anthropocenum #5: junction of hwy 51 and hurd road (b/t janesville and edgerton, wi)

from paleozoic seabed to chisel and hammer

hewn sandstone grains, frosted, become

a wayside. wild carrot patrons now

this little building on the highway between janesville and edgerton in wisconsin is said to be an old tavern. an ancestor who lived west of here is rumored to have had a few too many in the old establishment one night before going off down hurd road and throwing ties on a track to derail train no. 143 from madison to chicago. the latter part is not rumor but documented. the record says no one was hurt, but he did some time.

the sandstone structure is beyond dilapidation now.

state natural area poems #44: kessler railroad prairie


down the power-line corridor

blue-stem, sleeping blazing-star—

jumping mouse gotta jump


along the creek, old friends:

warm metamorphic stone

below box-elder canopy


sun-shower on bass creek

peninsula, sand and loam

the stream’s great gift

kessler railroad prairie is just what it sounds like. an old rail line was ripped up and prairie restored out between hanover and afton in rock county. it’s a fun 13-acre strip of land along massive power lines, and how great that the corridor was made back into a place that could shelter so many species of native plants, rodents, and voles. bass creek runs thru. a welcome, windy visit to the grasslands this afternoon.

state natural area poems #43: fair meadows


winter sun glints

off marsh-ice below savanna

humble light for the world


the hills swell and keel, breaking

for kettle hummocks. lone

hickory leaf tumbles down the incline


the scent of scorched earth,

shock of tree-fall—

nuthatches keeping alive

fair meadows is a delightful patch of land with savanna, wet prairie, shrub-carr, and marsh communities. the land is well tended, especially with an eye toward increasing an endangered plant’s population. a fabulous walk, complete with getting “marshed” in ankle-deep water—completely worth it!

a special ‘thank you’ to the private owners of this sna for welcoming us onto their earthy treasure.

state natural area poems #42: koshkonong corners


heron tracks in the snow

wings in the air. the swamp

asks me to remember


water everywhere—

in boots, ‘cross the path—a reminder

of our desire for comfort


every dry leaf shaking

on the shagbark hickory

like God’s holy rattle

koshkonong corners is a 62-acre stretch of land contiguous with the lake koshkonong flood plain. a wonderful area, it has oak savanna, hard-wood swamp, sedge meadow, and wet-mesic prairie. restoration has been underway and continues to preserve a rare plant species and expand its population.

a very gracious ‘thank you’ to the private owner of koshkonong corners for allowing me to walk the land and take it all in on a gorgeous december morning.

state natural area poems #41: lima bog


up the river valley we’ve come

to glacial world’s end

out-wash, kettle, ice-work


tree-corpses glazed with snow

cold water driving granite

glimpse of bullrushes—ah! bogland


the muskrats live a whole world here

their little neighborhood circled by tamarack

hunkering down now for winter

lima bog is a four-acre hard water bog lake surrounded by forest. tamarack and muskrat lodges greeted us as we came out of the wood to the open wetland area. early morning in the bog with the lowing of cows in the distance: can’t beat it.

state natural area poems, supplementum anthropocenum #4: johnstown moraine, johnstown

fields of extinct prairie

on the way to scharines—

snout of the green bay lobe

the johnstown terminal moraine is the edge where the green bay lobe of the last glaciation left the final heap of rock and sediment of glacial till. it’s out near johnstown in rock county (my home county), and continues up to northern wisconsin. yet another example of how my and my family’s lives have been shaped by glaciation, the road we took to go see it is the road my wife used to drive up as a young girl to get her dad’s paychecks! here’re views of the approach and the moraine itself (and work) from inside the van.

state natural area poems, supplementum anthropocenum #3: mckinley park, milwaukee

winter fingers the rip-rap

sprawling wave-spray in the air

ice will find a way

mckinley park is a lakefront park in milwaukee with a marina, beach, and other things going on. part of the shore has a long pile of rip-rap (tumbled rock and concrete) that my kids love to climb on. it’s a bit more treacherous these days, with lake michigan’s spray slicking the rocks in ways unexpected, beautiful, and (at times) dangerous. i was particularly taken by the ice display on driftwood last night.

“Helgi Hungingsbane’s Kviða”: My First Published Old Norse Translation

The language that led me to fall in love with old literature for real and to finally go to university (because you couldn’t just Google how to read it back then!) is Old English. And lots of my work over the last decade has been on this medieval Germanic language. But I was only in my first Old English class at UW-Madison in 2005 because I wasn’t able to take the Old Norse class that term. After experiencing Old English in the classroom, I went that route and rarely looked back.

Every once in awhile I did look back, though, and remember wanting to devote my life to the study, translation, and (yes) performance of Old Norse verse. Well, that train left the station, but over the summer I started reading the Old Norse Elder Edda again, and felt compelled to finally try my hand at translating something.

Given my recent fixation on burial mounds and effigy mounds and mounds of all sorts, I decided to translate the final scene of the second “kviða” (or “lay”) of Helgi Hundingsbane, a member of the Volsung line. It’s a long, knotty story, but all you need to know is that Helgi marries Sigrun and is then killed. In the scene I translate, Helgi has been buried in a mound and Sigrun can’t let his memory go, so she meets him at the mound for a little talk—no big deal.

You can read it here; thanks for stopping by!