niedecker-inspired pastiche out from _boats against the current_

publications have been in a lull for a couple months, but yesterday the independent poetry journal boats against the current brought out my series of imagistic scenes based on time in door county, wisconsin.

i was reading lots of lorine niedecker (one of my favorite poets, who grew up and lived along the river i grew up near—the rock) at the time of this retreat to the door peninsula, and the work here shows her influence.

grateful to editor mckenna themm for giving this one a home. check out the good work she’s doing on the site.

here’s a picture of the iris in question in the poem’s final scene, growing along heinz creek:

sna poems #95: logan creek

logan creek sna lies on the northern side of clark lake and is dominated by a northern wet-mesic forest. a small prairie buffers the parking lot from the woods.

we had a fun time running thru the beeches and hemlocks, cedars and birches. critters mammalian, amphibian, and reptilian darting off the path ahead of us left and right. one of the board walks was out, and we were losing daylight, so we weren’t able to see the lake, but hopefully we’ll be back some day.

first id of ramps by the flowers.

thanks to the ridges sanctuary for tending this land!


amphibians rustle and pause

reptiles in the evening sun

a grasshopper hanging low


we admire the fungal beech-ring

and slumping birch graveyard,

mourn the absent hemlock

if you made it this far: here’s a good reminder to keep your wits about you. this birch fell completely along the trail. if someone had been on that bench, they’d have had quite a view of the fall…

sna poems #94: whitefish bay dunes

it was a hot one. i visited whitefish bay dunes—what the wdnr calls “the largest and most significant Great Lakes dunescape in Wisconsin”—when it was in the mid-90s. tough going but very focused, and not many other folks on the trails. the dunes range from open beach right on the lake to heavy forest a couple dunes back.

i took the northern trail to “old baldy” (the highest dune in wisconsin at 93 ft above lake level), which came out of northern mesic forest into open glades of juniper and fern, not to mention all sorts of small, ground-hugging plants i hadn’t the slightest clue on. very unique habitat inhabited by very unique flora. after climbing up baldy i took the southern trail back, which lulls thru a forest of balsam fir, white cedar, and birch on the backside of the fore dune—very fragrant and pleasant despite the heat, especially along the hollows.

(by the way, i love that the wdnr uses the word “dunescape.”)


thimble berry thick

on the midday sunning earth

dune asks nothing


porcupines are there somewhere

behind aspen stumps

and miniature fountains of moss


juniper and fern

are friends

in the dune-glen


solitude here on tallest dune

as aspens crest-quake

no one else so foolish in the heat


words are bountiful

but no smell of balsam fir

touch of outcropping

if you got this far: look at this snail doing her balancing act on top of a small forb (about six inches tall at most). it was eery and delightful.

state natural poems #20: meridian park a, b, & c


ferns waving flank

our footsteps, hornworts, bedrock

chainsaw echo on dolomite


ankles ache below beech and hemlock

the sedge softness and alkaline marsh

tramping earth while we draw breath


if beech trunks aflame

won’t tell us of heaven

what on earth will?

meridian state park is a forest, alkaline marsh, and sedge meadow on an isthmus between kangaroo lake and lake michigan in door county, wisconsin. the prominent outcropping of the niagra escarpment is something else, but so is the wood and the marsh. tremendous. thanks to door county for tending this land, and the workers who were there clearing trails as we walked them.

state natural area poems #19: bailey’s harbor boreal forest and wetlands


berms and hills

tumbling moss

forest going to sleep


sprays of birch

over upright apes

gold in the air


you push thru pines your height

and thimble berry dense

young in the boreal forest


birch leaves radiant, frogs

and mushroom gills spread

moss mats thick on the ground

bailey’s harbor boreal forest and wetlands is exactly what it sounds like! a fantastic and barebones trail thru the woods with extensive bryophytes and currently-blazing fall colors. a newer section goes along the lakeshore. thanks to the wisconsin dnr for caring for this site!

state natural area poems #11: the ridges sanctuary a & b

redwings and frogs in the rushes


earthtime marshmusic

ridges 2

porcupine lumbers clumsy

a nameless karst swale

into his whitecedar root home

silence all around

ridges 1

the ridges sanctuary was the first land trust set up in wisconsin, in 1937. among other features, the main point of interest is the series of ridges and swales that resulted from the lowering of lake michigan’s shoreline. due to its ancient history, its southward facing, and its proximity to lake michigan, the ridges contain largely boreal forests similar to those found far northwest in wisconsin, while the swales mostly contain marsh and bog flora. they are a sight to behold. this unique ecosystem makes the site one with a high ratio of rare plants in the midwest. –oh, and we saw a porcupine!

special thanks to the ridges sanctuary, inc. for protecting this site for almost a century!

photo credit on amanita above and porcupine: mamie riyeff again

state natural area poems #10: toft point

bryophyte elders

thallus-thick, mossgrown

small-talk on the pineduff path

toft point 1

toft point state natural area is a 732-acre piece of land in door county, wi tucked between two bays. with boreal forest, mesic forest, and sedge meadow and swampland, it boasts one of the most diverse bryophyte communities in the state. it was a distinctly different feeling walking thru these woods.

thanks to uw-green bay and the wi nature conservancy for maintaining this patch of earth.

toft point 2

candid excitement over an amanita

I don’t usually put purely personal moments on this blog, but on my recent trip up north to Door County, my family was able to watch two amanita mushrooms go thru their life cycle over a couple days. While this was not the famed “fly agaric” (Amanita muscaria), all the amanitas I’ve found in the wild have a similar air and stateliness.

I first started learning about amanitas from R. Gordon Wasson and Terrence McKenna a loooong time ago; while I don’t agree with their theories much any longer, I think their passion for the fly agaric and related mushrooms is understandable to anyone who has come across them in a secluded forest or a mountain clearing.

I think they belonged to the American species cluster called “gemmed amanita,” but couldn’t be sure–I’m happy for anyone to enlighten me if they know better!

Here’s one of the mushrooms: note the distinguishing features of the volva (the bulbous base from which the stalk grows) and the universal veil remnants (the “worts”) on the cap.

amanita 1

amanita 2

amanita 6

amanita 5

amanita 3


state natural area poems, supplementum #5: heins creek nature preserve

watercress succumbs to the current

where crayfish come to die

blueflag holds even glaciers

can’t change everything

heins creek 1

heins creek 2

heins creek 3

heins creek nature preserve is located on an isthmus in bailey’s harbor, door county, wi. the creek flows from kangaroo lake (a former bay) to lake michigan, keeping the lakes connected despite centuries of land incursion.

northern blue flag was in arresting bloom when we visited, and the mosquitoes plentiful. thanks to the door county land trust for preserving this unique spot.

photo credit on amanita: mamie riyeff!