RDW's poems

South Branch of the Little Wolf

A water web weaves Wisconsin’s
proliferation of tributaries
from the Great Lakes into Green Bay
and up the Fox at Neenah Menasha
where Kimberley Clark make Kleenex

and up the Big Wolf into the Little Wolf
at Weyauwega, Waupaca County,
until near Manawa the South Branch
of the Little Wolf leads to the farm
where my mother was born.

A dairy farm; she would take the cows
down the long hill to the river to drink.
Illegal now.  Fouling the waters.
My cousin, the naturalist, will report you.
She reports all farmers whose cows foul.

Embarrassing all ‘round, with us both so drenched
caught in a thunderstorm while canoeing
the South Branch.  We had to ask
one of these self-same farmers to help us out,
tossed up onto his riverbank, beached.

At the bottom of the long hill
is Little Wolf Cemetery, where my mother
and my grandfather and grandmother
and my father and four aunts and three uncles
and two cousins – lie buried.

This is my family, here at the base of the long hill,
with the bend of the Little Wolf in the distance
flowing down from Manawa, down to the Big Wolf,
and to the Fox and out into Green Bay
and to the Great Lake.

March 2005


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