Category Archives: On Wisconsin

Brushy Creek Runs Through It

e4030381-7a02-42d0-bbc3-b647d51cd7c1

The beautiful Brushy Creek on the campus of UW-Richland.

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.” Norman MacLean A River Runs Through It

“It is like what we imagine knowledge to be:
dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free”  Elizabeth Bishop “At the Fishhouses” 

Running water changes everything
and nothing. You can stand on the banks and count
the number of trout you see in Brushy Creek

just like you’ve done for half a century
or more, fishing or just thinking how
running water changes everything.

I like to pause there and pretend every morning
that some of my stress is floating away and down.
The number of trout you see in Brushy Creek

does vary, depending. I confess I’ve never seen
a single one, but that doesn’t make me doubt.
Running water changes everything

about a place. It gives our landscape meaning.
It shows us how to shift some things without
running the risk of harming the trout in Brushy Creek,

without giving up the goal of learning
who we are and what our genius loci’s all about.
Running water changes everything
except the number of trout you see in Brushy Creek.

 

_____

Post script:  apparently it’s BRUSH CREEK, not BRUSHY CREEK.  I think maybe I knew that at some point.  Or maybe not.  There’s not a sign anywhere, and I am very texty….  And I don’t hear well… But really, no excuse. I’ve been here since 1992.  I really ought to know better.  But I ain’t changing the poem because Brushy Creek scans better than Brush Creek.  Honestly, I think it should be Brushy Creek.  I might keep calling it that and see if it catches on.

I wish I could read poetry for the UW Board of Regents again…

But what would I say this time? Here’s what I said last time, thinking, among other things, of Shelley’s saying that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Emphasis on unacknowledged.

_____
THE VOICE OF THE LEGISLATOR

To those who currently do more with less,
Consider doing even more with even less.
For those requesting more, remember that
We’re giving less and less to those who ask.
Those golden days of doing less with more
Are gone. Don’t ask o where o where o where.
It’s like your family. All the good vacations
Got took before you could even walk. Unconscious
In your baby haze, you never knew
That Polaroid of everyone at the zoo
Captured the last moment in time and space
All the feelings inside matched the look on each face.
Grow up. You weren’t abused. No matter how bad
Things look, there’s always room to make more bad.

From the minutes of the April 10, 2003 meeting of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents:

Report of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
1. National Poetry Month
In recognition both of National Poetry Month and of the outstanding creative activity in which UW System faculty engage, Senior Vice President Marrett introduced poet Marnie Bullock Dresser, Professor of English at UW-Richland. Professor Dresser read several poems, including one she wrote especially for the Regents entitled “The Voice of the Legislator.”

And then you see the crossing guard dancing

She has the greatest hats, this crossing guard, cheesehead of course,
and jester’s bells, but lately there is no hat capable of covering up
her bare head so you know there’s chemo of some kind happening
which you haven’t mentioned to your kid but of course he’s noticed.

Sometimes each day’s a shithole full of rotted wood and spikes,
rusted iron ones that gouge you on the way down and down
and unfortunately you can’t stop knowing then, there’s always more
bad news and bad decisions and consequences you kind of did
but didn’t quite deserve but then the Pogues are next in the queue
and there isn’t anyone better than Shane MacGowan to illustrate
however much life sucks, however big a mess it is, there is joy
and music in the middle of it, in the goddam muck of the middle of it,

and then you see the crossing guard dancing as she points and signals
and you and your son together feel brought low by her being sick
then lifted up by her dancing and you nearly sob on the way to work
with happiness, with gratitude, for drunk tanks and police choirs
and you say out loud, “my heart” by which you mean your child,
and also the leaves starting to change color, and just your little, little life.

cropped-silver-maple-7585.jpg

But I don’t need a magical t-shirt

Slide1

I was at a fun concert the other night & one of the musicians was hawking t-shirts and said, “they’ll make you look 15 years younger and 15 pounds thinner.” I thought and then said outloud, “But I don’t care about either of those things.” In that moment it was 100% true.

What an interesting journey I’m on. The Health at Every Size book has certainly helped.

The Insufficiency of Peripheral Grief

The wreck happened just up the road from me,
right when my brother and his girlfriend got to town.
Here’s the update you never want to see:
“The motorcyclist later died.” I didn’t know
I knew him until today. My mother kept
the obituary for me because she saw he swam
where I swim. I know his daughter from years past,
but hadn’t seen her grief on Facebook yet.
What can I say about a man I barely knew?
He was the perfect swimming lane neighbor.
Not too chatty, not a swamper, not a splasher,
not a drifter, nothing to distract me from the blue,
blue water I love. I guess he loved it too.
What good can writing a sonnet at this point do?

______
The man’s name was Michael O’Leary–I didn’t realize I knew him until I saw his picture, and even then I had to imagine him without the glasses (because he didn’t wear them in the pool). His daughter was my student a long time ago. She’s pretty great & I’m very sad for her & her family. 67 is just way too young.

____________

reflective-warning-signs-watch-for-motorcycles-vc1655-lg

 

Gullywasher

IMG_8999.JPG

At least no one was tailgating tonight
on the way home from work. It was a mess
of almost hydroplaning in the ruts
and lightning striking—BAM! with thunder right
away. And super low visibility
sometimes, I’d think “I should pull over now”
but then I couldn’t see where or how
and then it would clear up a little. Briefly.

The mulberries and mulberry-flavored bird shit
on my car is gone, washed away to compost
somewhere I don’t know where. Is that it?
You accept your level of suffering and the most
you can do in the dark is find the tiniest spot
of light? Clean car, and I’m alive. That’s actually a lot.

I Can’t Stop Saying Hoagy

“I’m a bit disappointed in myself. I know I could have accomplished a hell of a lot more… I could write anything any time I wanted to. But I let other things get in the way…. I’ve been floating around in the breeze.” Hoagy Carmichael

I’ve realized I don’t know much about Hoagy
except how happy his music and his name make me.
I’m not even sure I knew that “Heart and Soul”
was really a song beyond plunking it out
on any random piano. I first heard “Hong Kong Blues”
from a George Harrison album. Weird but true.
Hoagy sings the whole song in “To Have and Have Not”
which my sweet little town showed on the big screen last week.
He called his onscreen self a “hound-dog-faced
old musical philosopher noodling on the honky-tonk.”
When someone who did so much still wants to say
it wasn’t enough? It was enough. Even just that scene
when Cricket asks, “Hey Slim, are you still happy?”
That smile, that wiggly dance, that smile expanding.

_____

800px-Dunn_Street_North_214,_Hoagy_Carmichael_House,_North_Indiana_Avenue_HD

This is Hoagy Carmichael’s house in Bloomington, Indiana.