sna poems, supplementum #16: kettle moraine state forest, lapham peak unit

lapham peak is a unit of the kettle moraine state forest in south eastern wisconsin. this unit of the heavily glaciated forest is named after wisconsin’s first serious naturalist and scientist, increase a. lapham, and contains the highest point in waukesha county.

anyway, it was about -4 F when i arrived for a ski this morning, with the usual blessings of early-morning skiing in sub-zero temperatures: eyelids freezing to one another, toes that go numb if you stop for more than a minute or two, biting cold on the skin during downhill runs. the kind of stuff that a certain kind of cross-country skier actually thinks is kind of fun. my only regret is that i had trimmed back my full beard a week ago; i would have had an amazing ice-beard by the end had i kept it until today. oh well.


the poles’ tuck into snow

sounds like sandhill cranes

calling aloft for their mates


so cold the pen’s ink rebels

as deer make hungry way by windfall

we’re all here, breathing at dawn


these hills like waves

in a choppy sea

frozen in time

state natural area poems #58: johnson hill kame


johnson hill is a “moulin” (French for “mill”) kame, a conical hill formed from the action of melt-water pouring into cylindrical holes inside a glacier. the swirling action of the water deposits the sediment in a stark cone on the surrounding lowlands. it’s really a strange thing. but we hiked across the field and braved the bit of forest that stretched between us and the kame (the shrub layer thinned out after a bit), and enjoyed an afternoon playing and climbing and sliding over this bizarre hill. northern and southern mesic forest set the scene. the loose rock at the foot of every tree made clear the glacial nature of the hill.

thanks to the wisconsin dnr for tending this plot.


ah, the moulin kame!

we circumambulate

the ancient whirlpool


further in the shrubs thin

and the stout hill looms above

here we find some respite


the cradling arms of sediment

welcome children’s play

goldenrod on top of the world


here at the forest’s

edge, the snow

and eagle under moon

state natural area poems #53: kettle moraine red oaks

kettle moraine red oaks is a 2nd-growth southern dry mesic forest that got its second life back in the 1880s. the oak-maple-hickory forest is situated on high interlobate moraine with lots of deep, dry kettles. dramatic topography.

thanks to the wisconsin dnr for tending this land!


cottontail roads beneath the ash

cacao lingers on the tongue

our shadows blossom on snow


glacial hands

worked this land—

our turn to tend

state natural area poems #51: clover valley fen

clover valley fen contains a series of 8-10 ft high peat mounds that began building around a set of springs 11,500 years ago(!). sedge meadow and woods surround the fen mounds, and whitewater creek runs thru it all. the iced-over wetland was a maze of frozen tussocks, some a foot over the ice. the fen mounds were spectacular, with spring water still visibly running off below the ice.


i stand on 11,000-

year-old peat, massive—

morning sun casts long shadow


bryophytes make a frozen home

on patchwork of tawny fen

the springs give them life


stilting our way

over calcium-rich waters

deer have set blazes

state natural area poems #31: eagle oak opening

the wind scours treetops

and dances the kettle-lid

year’s first snow in the soul

eagle oak opening has kettle hole (the ponds) moraine (the hills) topography, along with open grown oaks that now mostly reside in mesic forest. though there are still a few open prairie sites. we had forgotten how pleasant and homey the kettle moraine state forest area is.