Archives for posts with tag: Wisconsin

by Jim Gustafson

I’ve never had an epiphany, though I remember
the first time I felt small. At fifteen on a northern lake
drifting alone at night in an aluminum rowboat,
I looked up to the scattered salt of stars, in a sky
so close its soft hands reached out to rock the boat.
Night wanted to chill the air, as the last of summer
threw fruitless punches at autumn.
I’d spent my days in the same boat. I soaked in the sun,
listened to loons, and let The Catcher in the Rye
teach me things the night sky would not tell,
or did not know, about what it means
to float between seasons, and how the world
we ride together has different windows, and how
even bull frogs take the dark we share for granted.

Photo by Evgeni Tcherkasski. 

boat wisconsin copy

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Upon seeing the ONE GOOD MEMORY prompt, this poem immediately came to mind. It was originally published in my collection Unassisted Living (Big Table Press, 2017).

PHOTO: The author in his aluminum rowboat (Butternut Lake, Wisconsin, 1965).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jim Gustafson is the author of three books of poetry: Friar Fred’s Diary (Big Table Press, 2018), Unassisted Living (Big Table Press, 2017), Driving Home (Aldrich Press, 2013), and When we’ve come farther than we have to go (Big Table Press, 2022). He holds an M. Div. from Garrett Theological Seminary at Northwestern University and an MFA from the University of Tampa. He has retired from teaching Creative Writing at Florida Gulf Coast University. Jim and his wife, Connie, live in Fort Myers, Florida, where he reads, writes, teaches, and pulls weeds. Visit him at

wisconsin farm 1
Good Clean Dirt for My Grandsons
by Thomas A. Thrun

What do I tell them, my two young grandsons, in 2021?
How do I explain, simply, the importance of good clean dirt
and its role in healing our earth and slowing the warming?

The oldest reminds me he’s almost seven! His brother
proclaims, I’m five and a half! Tucking them in, I paraphrase
Tennessee Ernie Ford: God bless your pea-picking hearts!

I dim their room’s lights. I sigh to myself, almost cry, for I
am a Baby Boomer, born of parents of The Greatest Generation,
per former NBC News Anchor Tom Brokaw’s book of 1998.

Pa and Ma farmed 80 acres in southern Wisconsin (1944-1990).
They’d each grown up with almost nothing in The Depression,
courted during WWII and raised us kids with cows and chickens.

Tobacco was our main cash crop, the one that paid the taxes
and helped all us get through college. Pa said, You kids don’t need
to wash your hands to eat lunch out here. It’s just good clean dirt!

Our farm basically was Sustainable long before the term
was fashionable. Pa did not like chemicals, but did use 2,4-D
to keep the thistles and nettles from shorting out the pasture fence.

Pa cultivated between tobacco rows with one horse, and we all
followed with our hoes, working out the weed sprouts between plants.
Come harvest, few weeds were left to damage the precious leaves.

The grandboys and I now play farm in our condo basement
with my 1950s vintage rubber cows, toy tractors, and implements.
I’ve built replicas of our 1900 barn, wood silo, and other buildings.

I’ve modpodged family photos to the undersides of hinged roofs
with captions detailing the care of livestock and the land itself.
And I talk about all this as we play, hoping dearly some sinks in.

For now (and if for some reason I am not around to witness
their becoming young men), this poem will have to do. Along
with others and the 125-page/400-photo memoir I’ve penned.

I want them to get good clean dirt stuck under their fingernails.
I want then to appreciate our Wisconsin conservation heritage and
have my copy of Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac.

I want to tell them about former Gov. Gaylord Nelson. About
my picking up road litter and a very warm bottle of Blatz beer with
two friends, high school girls, on the very first Earth Day in 1970.

If nothing else, I want Ben and Miles to be Conservation Voters.
They do not know yet, but it’s already in their blood. I want them
to learn of Glasgow, where earth’s healing begins . . . again.

And, if only for a day, both sometime should eat lunch in a field,
with hands stained in harvest of organic food for others. I want them
to understand land ethics. To heal the earth, each in his own way.

PHOTO: Marinette County, Wisconsin, farm by Milo Mingo.


NOTE1 FROM THE AUTHOR: Raised as a Badger State farm boy, the land always has been important to me. I am the son of a second-generation Wisconsin farmer. Growing up in the 1960s, my father often impressed upon us how fortunate my sisters and I were to have electricity, refrigeration, TV, and indoor, running water . . . among many other things. My father and his brothers all were born before WWI and knew the meaning of real hard work. They were tied close to the land, and often exchanged labor with other neighboring farmers and relatives. We used mostly hand tools, hoes instead of herbicides as much as possible. Labor from us, his children, was free and expected. Pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals were expensive.

PHOTO: Poet Tom Thrun and his twin sister, Nancy, about 1959, on their work horse. Older sister, Ruthie, holds the single-row tobacco cultivator.


NOTE2 FROM THE AUTHOR: It is important t me that my children and grandboys know about all this, especially living here in this state with its rich (though now threatened) conservation heritage and ethics . . . as important as breathing, home cooking, poetry, charity, Country and Classical Music, and the sense of community. I now understand how my own father grew to hate pickled fish. I took an interest in writing early on, and my older sister gave me a paperback of Robert Frost’s Complete Poems when I was 13. The rest is poetic history.

PHOTO: Poet Tom Thrun has countless hours recreating his family farm for his children and two grandboys. His model features toy animals, toy tractors, other machinery from the 1950s and 60s, as well as arn, pig house, hen house, outhouse, tobacco shed, granary, and other structures. He has attached photos, some going back 100 years, to the undersides of the roofs. Thrun also has written a 100-plus-page Thrun Farm Family Memoir with over 400 photos. Through the model and book, he has captured the essence of an early-to-mid-20th-Century Wisconsin farm.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Thomas A. Thrun, retired in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, is an English/Journalism graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. He edited weekly newspapers both in Wisconsin and Washington State, among other varied career choices. Thrun cites his Wisconsin farming heritage and love for Robert Frost’s poetry among top influences of his own poetic work. He has been published in his retirement both in Wisconsin and other national online anthologies. He is included among the poets whose poems on “Words” have been selected for the upcoming 2022 Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar.  Thrun and his wife have two grown children and two grandsons.  Thrun and his wife have two grown children and two grandsons.


At Our Local Family Fare’s Guest Care Counter
by Jeannie E. Roberts

The pandemic may have altered our way of life,
still, there’s familiarity inside our local grocery store.
Even with mask wear, we smile,

extend the light of kindness.
Today, USPS Frog Forever® Stamps are on my list.
As I stand in line, I admire how the guest care clerk,

Christena, works and interacts with poise.
“Hi, how’s your day going?” I say,
then ask for my beloved croakers.

Muffled chuckles rise from beneath the clerk’s mask.
My enthusiastic request for frogs
must have struck her funny bone. I laugh, too.

Next, I walk toward the greeting card section,
where I take my time selecting birthday, anniversary,
and thinking of you sentiments.

I can’t imagine an existence
without the United States Postal Service.
Its beginnings date back to 1775

when Benjamin Franklin became the first postmaster general.
For years, my brother worked at the South1st Street post office
in downtown Minneapolis.

People depend on postal jobs for their livelihood.
Determined, I head back to the counter,
buy two more sheets of postage,

including the USPS Women Vote Forever® Stamps.
Once again, I thank Christena for her frontline dedication
as I envision Joe and Kamala

by my side
with the same fondness for amphibians
and the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

PHOTO: Christena Hill, Family Fare Guest Care Counter Clerk/Customer Service Manager, and the author holding her USPS Frog Forever® Stamps (August 22, 2020, Family Fare Supermarket, Chippewa Falls, Lake Wissota, Wisconsin).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Running errands can be a respite during these uncertain times. Except for walks and other outdoor activities, I haven’t been out of the house much, so when I drive to our local grocery store it’s a liberating experience. Team member interactions are enjoyable, especially at the guest care counter. Recently, I had a delightful social exchange with the customer service manager, as she “womaned” the counter. It’s tough wearing a mask all day—it’s hot and burdensome. Our frontline workers are treasures and continue to make our lives better as we navigate through the pandemic.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeannie E. Roberts is an artist, a poet, photographer, former educator, computer software trainer and documentation writer, arts administrator, fashion and marketing executive, talent agent, copywriter, on-air/voice talent, print and runway model (plus-size, 10-14), and, most importantly, a mom. Originally from Minneapolis, she lives in an inspiring setting near Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. She has authored six books, including The Wingspan of Things (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), Romp and Ceremony (Finishing Line Press, 2017), Beyond Bulrush (Lit Fest Press, 2015), and Nature of it All (Finishing Line Press, 2013). She is also the author and illustrator of Rhyme the Roost! A Collection of Poems and Paintings for Children (Daffydowndilly Press, an imprint of Kelsay Books, 2019) and Let’s Make Faces!, a children’s book dedicated to her son (author-published, 2009). Her work appears in print and online in North American and international journals and anthologies. She holds a B.S. in secondary education, M.A. in arts and cultural management, and is poetry editor of the online literary magazine Halfway Down the Stairs

Made In Racine
by Marcie Eanes

A babe born in spring,
I grew up
in snowy, cold Wisconsin winters
Racine, my hometown.
Manufacturing proud,
located along
the shores
of Great Lake Michigan.
Another small community
on Interstate 94
between Chicago and Milwaukee

So easy to pass,
but rare qualities here.
Manners still shown at every turn
Caring eyes watch out
for one another
whereever you are
Both men and women worked hard
in factories, now stilled.
Hard work ethic
passed down
to kin;
Intertwined races
eagerly share
ethnic pride.

We pray,
unite around
high school prom night.
Special event see
townfolk line city streets
to watch giddy teens
enter fancy pre-parties
Before all come together
at the biggest one.
A city tradition over 60 years old;
dressy young celebrate
graduation from midnight ’til dawn.
Warm weather and festivals
further us knitted together
So does yearly Fourth of July celebrations,
even a small community zoo.

Racine has been punched
with hard economic knocks.
Harsh winter lessons
has taught much
Some say it’s kringle pastry
which keeps us alive.
Others swear
it’s beer, cheese
and Friday fish fries.
Or slices of thin crust pizza pie
I’ve lived many places;
said many were favorites.
But this one
along Lake Michigan
will always be

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I created this poem after a recent blizzard in early Febrary 2015. We received about 13 inches of snow in two days. Nearly everything stopped. until the snowstorm moved along. Two days later, a bitter cold front gripped our area. It held on for nearly two weeks. People here found ways to keep moving. They bundled up and went about their lives. We’re now experiencing 50-degree temperatures, snow’s melting and talk of spring’s in the air. That’s the belief around here. If you can find ways to make it through winter’s darkness, the light will come again. Just hang on.

PHOTOGRAPH: “Cool Winter Fog” (Shore of Lake Michigan, Racine, Wisconsin) by Chris Tobias. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marcie Eanes is an independent poet and journalist. She is the author of Cameo, a memoir exploring her life growing up in Wisconsin to living in a convent to reinventing herself as a poet. Her poetry collections, Sensual Sounds and Passion’s Zest implore readers to live life to the fullest. She travels widely presenting her poetry. Her poems appear in numerous anthologies. She’s worked for The Grand Rapids Press and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspapers. Her writings have also appeared in Essence and Seventeen magazines. A graduate of Marquette University, Marcie resides in Racine, Wisconsin.

An Ancient Spring
by Saindon

Gently the moon
had been grafting young beams,
singing along
the barbed wire hedge,
pricking his eyes
aloud, drawing tears
to duly whet
the urge for pond-watching.

Above a red
pond, a hawk shrieked evening in,
nudged cooling air
across smoothly tabled, then
shaken fabric
before it tipped a cattail
along its way
to lodge in waiting birch leaves.

He sat beside
a chilled burn shivering,
watching the pond
grey darker and still darker;
the faded stain
of the sun’s last whisper
stretched out tautly
fraying into bleak star-holes.

Through the poured dusk
a shaman yawned as mist,
pointed the moon
above the water round,
a shining wheel,
turning itself nightly
into the pond —
the dark side of the moon.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I live in Wisconsin, Seymour specifically.  The poem is set in the evening about 10 feet from the pond on the west, so I could see the moon rise and the reflection of its beams on the water. The poem was composed over six or seven months from June 2014 until January or early February, this year.  I do not compose hastily, apparently. The pond has no name.  It is on our property, five acres, and has been since we moved here in 1992.  It could be called “more than occasional,” since it has dried up twice in these 23 years. Seymour, Wisconsin, is 3,400 people living in harmony, really.  Lots of people have been here all their lives, some longer, judging by the cemeteries. Seymour has five churches, one grocery store, five gas stations, one lake for swimming, eight places to eat. Located 20 miles west of Green Bay, 20 miles north of Appleton, there is one big hill for sledding (some tons of dirt and rock dredged out to make a bowl), one high school, one middle school, and one grade school.

PHOTOGRAPH: “Golden Sunset Over the Pond” (Wisconsin) by Dale Kauzlaric. Prints available at

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Saindon lives on five acres, four miles south of the Seymour (Wisconsin) Public Library. His pond is frozen solid now, but he still believes that it will thaw and invite deer, raccoons, muskrats, marsh hawks, and countless other creatures, himself included, to have a spring fiesta. Elsewhere, there are bowers and hills to wander and lose himself within and upon.

by Anne Caston 

              Madison, Wisconsin, 1996

Here is a genial congregation,
well fed and rosy with health and appetite,
robust children in tow. They have come
and all the generations of them, to be fed,
their old ones too who are eligible now
for a small discount, having lived to a ripe age.
Over the heaped and steaming plates, one by one,
heads bow, eyes close; the blessings are said.

Here there is good will; here peace
on earth, among the leafy greens, among the fruits
of the gardens of America’s heartland. Here is abundance,
here is the promised
land of milk and honey, out of which
a flank of the fatted calf, thick still
on its socket and bone, rises like a benediction
over the loaves of bread and the little fishes, belly-up in butter.

SOURCE: “Sunday Brunch at the Old Country Buffet” appears in Anne Caston’s collection Flying Out with the Wounded (New York University Press, 1997), available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anne Caston is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing/Poetry and a teacher in the Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She is the author of  Flying Out With The Wounded (New York University Press, 1997) and Judah’s Lion (Toad Hall Press, 2009, second edition). Her third collection, Prodigal, is forthcoming early in 2014 from Aldrich Press. Caston’s writing often pulls from her experiences as a former nurse, as a mother of four, and as a Southern woman raised among Southern Baptists. She’s currently working on a memoir entitled Deep Dixie: A Southerner’s Take On Life, Romance, Faith, Friendship, Family, And Coming-of-Age Among Southern Baptists.

by Dirk Velvet

Blue Jays
woke us
at dawn
with their
calling to the cottage
weeping willows
whose roots
reached as far into the lake
as onto the land
The water was
cool green
at its best
and gray-black at its worst
nothing else mattered
tangling weeds
floating fish
sinking rafts
it was all we ever knew
of summer
At dusk we piled into the attic
Strewed across mattresses
no longer wanted at home
we listened to
the bats chatter
as it lulled us

( Okauchee Lake — Okauchee, Wisconsin )

Dirk Velvet’s poetry appears in the Silver Birch Press Green Anthology — a collection of poetry and prose by over 70 authors living in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Europe, and Africa — available at (Kindle version free until 12/21/13).

Photo: Ken Blackwell, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED