along the dawn oak trail (2024)

along the dawn oak trail

a google-enhanced poetic road trip through the ozarks

and the driftless (ocooch mountains) of the united states


after I emerged from hospital here in scotland following cancer surgery late in 2020 I was talking with mike luster of couch missouri when he mentioned the geological geographical and cultural connections between the ozarks and the driftless region in the united states

with my itchy feet constrained by my own health/mobility issues and the onset of covid lockdown here in the uk it struck me that there was something in it worth pursuing

little did I know it was going to keep me busy for over a year

in a way it was an update on the boyle family’s 1960’s journey to the surface of the earthbut using google maps wikipedia and the internet generally to take a poetic road trip through those areas

equally it was partly inspired by every road trip book and film ever produced

somewhere along the line reading larry eigner at the time I was tempted to return to a form I used many years ago ie a scattering form that provides both phrasal breaks and visual interest

as if all this wasn’t enough a further feature was the inclusion of botanical references to plants used in herbal medicine, particularly those used by native americans


with gratitude to mike luster for putting me on this trail and keeping me heading in the right directionand to khadijah lacina for her botanical brains so often picked


i.m. harry guest (1932-2021)


I start on my journey

with empty hands

and expectant heart. (r. tagore, gitanjali)


hendrix creek preserve

35.1049138, -92.4343942 (AR 72032)

leaving from a leafy lade

a glade

laid out by design

to stem

to staunch

to stymie the flow

the flood

held back

by a subsumed nature


protector of the advancing straggle

the spill

the spoil

of having solidity underfoot

while passing flocks


resting awhile

en route

heading north

while the dogwood sways


and the pickerel weed sighs

its whispers to the salix above

time stands still

just an echo of it

skites its way across the lake

macedonia cemetery

35.1185989, -92.4175034 (AR 72032)

past another mere

this of days


bled into by both

the haliacmon and axius

wildly displaced

with all the while

the way watched over

by a mythical picket

of high grown men

fringed by hair

to where

the dead do not die


they just lie

low in the loam


each dunn and muse

each fugatt and keller

all now left to push up their clumps

of smirking comanche daisies

all forgotten

so far

from home

their homes once there

back there

beyond the skyline

now hurtling unpausingly past

beaver fork

35.1301381,-92.4004594 (AR 72032)

without stopping

the loud love of pickles gap

becomes a doppler

devoid of words or speech

instead laden with actions and truth

with tangible movement

towards reaching the crossing

a beaver tail


where dreams make better happen

and business brighten

believing in ownership

of what cannot be owned

oblivious to the slapping

the warning

others have acknowledged in passing

in continuing on

respecting the signal of ancient builders

beneath poplar and aspen

willow birch and maple

these architects of diversity

older than the vanity

of the predators of profit

before all are left then

to be led on

beyond the north star

that seventies store

35.1375674,-92.4017738 (AR 72032)



you still there

pushing your pipes

and bongs

and bee sage

for smudging the spirits away

up there

on tie dyed hippiehill

with the psychedelic thipis

out front

where the cedar

and sweetgrass

the chanshasha

and mullein mingle

to smell good

when the darkness turns

to the blackness

of violet light

where the gathered peace

is all the time

helped along

by the hissing shuffle

of minnesota mukluks

and the sacred winds singing

through the chimes





you still there



35.2102616,-92.3995684 (AR 72058)

out oak hill road

to where auto hulks

now hasteless


half hidden

in danceless powwow

the drums fallen


the rust rotting

their advance halted

by hook fingered green briar



both banks

of the creek


the dutchman’s pipe

the green dragon

and solomon’s seal

each and others

only just surviving

the felling and flattening

the making of room

of space

for our mounting throw away sins

as if no better than the briar

hypocrites to the core

matthews park

35.2296026,-92.3863459 (AR 72058)

hypnotically concentric

a comforting eye

a circle within a circle

trail within trail

a pastiche of nature

a calm evoked

by the carpet

of poppy seed cases

discarded in the ivy

and iris and lilac

in getting there

in getting away

if only fleetingly

from the urban thorns

the angles and points

off the choked artery

of a falling

fading empire

to be amongst

angels and fish

in prairie meadow and pond

somewhere to remember piercing the valley

as if some gift from god

a loyalty of sorts

but still only

swings and roundabouts

at the end of the day

the blue moon high overhead

greenbrier quarry / defunct titan two missile silo

35.2883379, -92.3905699 (AR 72058)

scar and scrub

side by side

the scar seen the scrub

left there punctuated

on the way by concrete

on the landscape intended for cronus

and rhea

a barren from where

devastation to spawn death

a desolation gouged a desolation promised

with all the violence with all the ferocity

insatiability any dogma

can provide can defend

nothing grows and what grows

just gdp is just a rainbow

of weeds

gross undesirables

dom purple and yellow

es nutsedges

tic red sorrel

product and spotted spurge

like a hybrid and like their scents

of idiocy the taste of paranoia

and craving hangs in the air

an amalgam a memory

of lacking the madmen now

and longing would care to forget

a tartarus here on earth


35.3670689, -92.4090491 (AR 72039)


a change of mind

of outlook

of landscape

as though revelation

an epiphany

beyond even

our crazy friend

offering up an experience

for the soul

the road arrives

in damascus

carving a cross

across town

the old hewn

by the new

taking a right

to scratch gravel upon the rise

to be held back by gates and styles

to be blinded to the pothole

by tremuloid aspen

and bastard oak

their barks perfumed by jasmine

brought upon a star from afar

though had it been left

for saul at the junction

travelling with the excess weight

the baggage of belief

this road


would go nowhere

but back


35.5889338, -92.4592561 (AR 72031)

over where

another red river

coils around clinton

archey creek one way

the home of chuck at speed

and cowboy dreams

the other

with dying choking

chickweed leaving

its end of season trail

to lure the present

all the way back to

bradley branch

chocks away

the races begin

the broncs fanned

living history


boys with toys



the show must go on

natural bridge of arkansas

35.6557057, -92.4487527 (AR 72031)

past hubcaps and plates

machine stands and frames

with a wave to the eternal summer snowman

winding a way

tortuously twisting


seemingly endlessly down

as though belle starr on the run

to find her cave

her hideout

where the water falls

amidst dogwood and ferns

azaleas and the chicken of the woods

as though riding high

on an old reliable

with its hinge dropped tongue

to make sailing across the ozark

hills and hollows

all the easier

and seeing the woodpiles

you chopped

to warm you twice

in a trice

with a platitude carved in a slice


at last

that sandstone slab


solidly arching through time

though too weak to be walked

unsafe to be climbed

simply there to be seen

a backdrop for your digital smiles

zoo church village

35.7356488, -92.5220043 (AR 72629)

to the tune of the american folk song

the animals went in two by two

hurrah hurrah

so’s hallie’s girls’d have things aplenty

to do to do

but then the lion it roared and ran

though ate only straw with the ox and lamb

before it returned to its cage at the zoo

to get itself out of the rain now

this straw was the last for one and all

oh no oh no

but hallie had sold up and missed this grave

ado ado

new owners had only bad luck to face

closed down and surely fallen from grace

the zoo’s empty cages the rail tracks too

all left to rust in the rain now

abandoned it lay as the years rolled by

so long so long

‘til monty came past with god’s ideas

anew anew

no matter the roses climbing wild

the evening rain or daffodils done

beneath their passion he could see

that all could be good on earth now

when god had said that sluggards to ants

should look should look

he meant that men are just beasts at heart

it’s true it’s true

so rick bought the zoo to house his flock

men and women and children too

all ministered there in pastures new

with none left out in the rain now

so pastor pastor let us know

of love of love

and let us see how we can be

set free set free

and drivers if you pass one day

be sure to stop if only to pray

these animals wait to welcome each soul

and let us all in from the rain now

arkansas black apple fruit stand

35.8165736,-92.5502298 (AR 72645)


eat a peach

around these parts


when elsewhere was roaring

business was hooded

muddy booted

where the little red

is fiery crossed again

and the apples are black skinned

sweet with summer

and history hurries on



at its guilds of guilt

of golden dreams of supremacy

of squash

of crush

of putting men down

of watermelon later reclaimed

red and juicy




of okra


berries and cucumbers

encumbered with sorrow

anything sunned in a row

whipped into line


eat a peach

around these parts

and taste the bloodied pain of time

savour the thought

of man’s inhumanity to man

south mountain scenic overlook

35.8948287, -92.6149978 (AR 72650)

on high

two five five six

way up

weighed up in feet

pylon pierced

where generations of hills

have cut through

the devil’s backbone

left by a forgotten sea

as layered shale and lime

a world of osage

before turmoil and drought

and cherokee reserved

floats out below

far out beyond

lie bryan and round and boat

bear and peter and buffalo

mountains and creek and point and river

all shrouded in a purgative strawberry haze

of what was once

but is

no more

kenda drive-in

35.6895854, -92.9235221 (AR 72650)

over the hedge

in the place beyond the pines

the late chrysanthemums


under the greenwood tree

soon it will be


in the garden

of good and evil

hearts of oak will howl


the wind in the willows

though really

it is nothing but

a pretence

a projection

names up in lights

names in the night

initiating such celluloid fantasies

as to spellbind sedan ensnared escapologists

with nowhere else to go

the poison ivy

of reels rolling

taking its blunting course

through their sedated veins

to their pacified brains

since sixty six

undoubtedly old school

yet still




sustained by its deal with the devil

so many souls sold

for popcorn and co*ke

rosie crawford’s western grove

36.1730439, -93.0244498 (AR 72601)

miles gone by

days gone by

old engines

rusty wheels

pull up your quilt

comfort yourself

rest a while

ready yourself

for the past to come alive

in the sights






all from once upon a time

all preserved

as though in a cathartic pokeweed aspic

a new age

now old

from the path to the west

with giser and crown

still sawing and shingling


hammered and forged

rails railing

against the weight

of trains blackened by the years

recollections refusing to be forced into retirement


pull up your quilt

comfort yourself

rest a while

ready yourself

for the past to come alive


36.2304155, -93.1073769 (AR 72601)

if a town

is its people

then where the crooked creek

curls around

needs remind us

of the imbalanced balance

of suffragist ida

whose equality was reserved for only some

or of razorback brandon

gone died too soon

too young

with so much road still ahead

or of yodelling hugh

rattling his chained regalia

amongst loblolly and oak

with always music in store

to score for all those

country hall of famers

or of purple hearted jack

lost at iwo jima

to a sniper on the lines

blind to his mission of mercy

or of bethesda born brian

so sure

never to have been here before

before being dropped

in the middle of nowhere

somewhere near

where lyric street stood

but then

if a town

is its people

so too

must its unsung be summoned up

whether the arnolds or nolens

the bellers or crumps

the ingrams the jenkins the adairs the beenes

the byroms parkers grays and hastings

the richesins the roberts the roulstons

or the tuckers woodmores kleppers and allens

for the few and the many alike

belong by this crooked creek

curling around where each was born

heading for peel

36.2435973, -93.0982225 - 36.4133202, -92.7941981 (AR 72644)

through ebb and flow

of landed waves


snaking the serpentine seven

an aztec far from home

slighting the stub of forty three

stopped suddenly in its tracks


abbreviated by progress

and still more


and caves

and creeks





hills and hollows of sorrel and spurge

cold shouldering lead hill

sugar loaf creek

to be east on fourteen

and cut to locust





jesus is lord

in coming and going

and on


until finally

the one two five

and peeled eyes

for peel in sight

peel to come

the rollercoaster ride over for now

near bull shoals lake

36.4945098, -92.7802488 (AR 72668)

stripping away

at the difference

the distance between

here and there

and now and to come

peeling back

the layers of meaning

in the ferryman’s words

when he calls out that

where we are going

is where we are at

the dinner bell

36.5024104, -92.8074979 (MO 65733)

across the line

ark to mo

hopelessly hidden

boats in the bushes

artemisian scrub a dub tubs

their plugs pulled by

the diving bell

next door to

the dinner bell


the smells

of coffee and cinnamon

pancakes and fried pies

hang with the skilled morning skillet

heavy in the air


everyone passing pigs out in style

though for some

the lighter side

keeping to the conscience salve

of the salubrious pork loin and egg

maybe a leaf or two tossed here and there


diners know that

boat savvy danny and so sweet priscilla

are all about

keeping their customers happy

as larry and brian and bob

with their

country portions

country prices

country hospitality

the best in this townless town

the best for miles around


36.6079734, -92.8682569 (MO 65744)

empty roads

endless miles

the same old nothing

same old pasture

same old cattle

same old hills

same old trees

and even when

there’s something

there’s nothing after all

extinct in all but

a name




as bloodland

and jollification

red oak

and wakenda



pure white ghost town

lost in the hawthorn and big bluestem beards

lost in missouri

flaunting the faintest of glimmers

traces of time

long since passed through

the marks of moving on

of change

of heading elsewhere

through the intersection

between past and future

to kissee mills

then way off headlong into afar

hercules glades

36.6860164, -92.8812077 (MO 65614)

a single pillar


rather with

so much

further beyond

a crow’s nest

in an ocean of forest

red cedar and oak

smoke tree and maple

a watchful eye


up amongst sleeping stars

seen by ptolemy

redbud and dogwood

past their best below

with indian paintbrush

missouri primrose

all fainting in summer’s long heat

while prairie grasses



seeking water

from droughty sacrosanct solitude

a black bear wilderness

clawed out

in cascading calcite scars

as wild

as to be its own salvation

as to be safe

from senseless ruin

its watchful eye


a single pillar of laboured steel


36.7844615, -92.7753031 (MO 65701)

tight right

at a t

to follow the beaver


as it bends and buckles

to brownbranch mo


tight right again

to head east on a w

on a whim

on the scent

of something in the air

echoes of old times

of good times

music by ear

deaf to chicken scratches

to anything too stiff

what was learnt

was learned from man to boy


alvie and gordon

now doomed

to travel arkansas

on that last train home

steve too

left clutching an iris

taking care to forget me not

the sound of their steps

to a once merry dance

sadly fainter


now nearly

not there

dogged by a plagued world

that gives no quarter

where there is no place for old men


as they say

death has all the rhythm

of a horse’s feet striking dirt


36.7090751, -92.6602417 (MO 65762)

west and south

by brissel ridge

and krider branch

ranch after ranch

after homestead

after farm

each with built in lebensraum

the road


then following little north fork

white river

into thornfield


if nothing else

so many have plainly

been dying

to meet you

though so few

it seems

so willing to wait

here where

short of tumbleweed

dry eyed

purple poisoned

tangles of wolfsbane

scrabble for water

bedraggled by the wind

praying for rain

if nothing else


36.5782028, -92.6517743 (MO 65761)

in the longrun

a long road

for a short cut

heading south

in retreat

till all of a sudden left at lutie

to the spider’s webs of des res

hugged by oaks

jazzed with poppies

this is theodosia mo

this is the lure of waterside living


watching as jarret’s bridge


into the low hung

fogs of war

another place

another black hawk down

played out to a soundtrack

of battling banjos

you and red

way back when

way back when

way back when


36.5624557,-92.6371727 (MO 65761)

opposite shore

contagion continues

all the way

to sundown

to the golf course

vacant lots

empty promises

all roads named

real and imaginary

in hope

in anticipation


belief in what has plainly


failed to be

oh to be abandoned to the pain of urtica

after all the unquestionable portent

of profuse calluna


so far

at least

but for now

just scarring the woods

as an asphalt etching

of scything speculation

of blind avarice

no matter

that all

that was ever done

was done

safe in knowing

faith could always be found

not so very far

along the road


(im elizabeth ann croney 1999-2007)

36.6141186, -92.1049078 (MO 65626)

at the corner in caulfield

by the three legged mule

a girl


though not even eight

stands alone

a posy held tight

to her chest





held tight

as though to hold on

to their secrets

queen anne’s lace


even evening primrose

all held tight

as though to brace against

the pain of death

the twist of the knife

a twist of fate



no warning

no more


36.5257031, -91.5355919 (MO 65791)

south again

in retreat

but only as far

as bennett’s bayou

then east again

with a rattlesnake spring

in my step

and the letter o

carved large

in a fireweed filled field

until soon the metaphysical

has taken on form


over the elkhorn branch

on to


with its lasso rodeo road

its two mile creek


no sooner

there than

north again

and gone again

to be on the road



36.6047094, -91.3837764 (MO 65690)

the humpy a east

peaks and troughs

crests and fallen


soh fah te doh

so far so good


clinging to the side

of the two o three

passing doors

not knowing who’s home

zapped sap’s scent in the air

greer spring mill

36.7865184, -91.3424274 (MO 65606)

with a nod

in passing

to the misspelling uncle bilbo

through alton

before off

up into an eleven point wilderness

and after not long

a cupola caught

sighted through the branches

of black willow

sourwood and slippery elm

it and its weatherboarded bulk below

a monument

to resisting the new

to upholding another way

such as it was

where a year could go by

not another soul seen

not till harvest

and the greer mill

and the wait

and the other tillers and planters

from all the other backs of beyond

for two or three days of

who’s who

who’s new

who’s gone

who’s gone and wed

who’s gone insane

who’s god

who’s president

who’s in the cookhouse

and what’s taking them so long

though no-one’s

really thinking anything

of rushing

that’s the point

no-one ever has

round spring

37.2819196, -91.4093769 (MO 65466)

not far before timbuktu

where the current

runs strong

comes first

a cavernous cohort

in the karst

to an oasis

of the bluest of waters

further on

one each side of the way

their wooden armies

standing guard

over them


barracks to a reserve sentinel


so long so still

now petrified

as stalagmites and stalactites

somehow so starkly elaborate


the other

a mirror on time

on the passage

of peoples

since the earliest

all drawing

life from its tears

on the same life shared by

goosefoot sumpweed and maygrass

coyote yellowthroat and mooneye

all of them and more

from just this one of these two

one each side of the way

a middle way perhaps

between extremes

before to face a reality

ineffably sublime


37.3895045, -91.4370433 (MO 65560)

as in a psalm

I lift up my eyes to this hill

and at its summit


come across a clearing

fringed by lilac

an inspiration

a rebirth

the point of it all

signs of the word as truth

but not as letter

by letter


for all the craft and commitment

for all the good it does

it’s no sooner seen

than gone again

as an ephemeral answer

to a rhetorical question

never even asked


the road snakes on

deaf to everything

it hears


37.6459842, -91.5308442 (MO 65560)

after the dillards

breaking into the open

after so much wood

unseen for the trees

with one final curve

then straight as a die

into salem


but worshipping the evil of the devil dollar

into this salem

remembering to close the door



so nobody knows

it’s about time

to clear the roots and branches and

even if only in tribute

to the american duck

to then let it fly

and equally so nobody knows

what’s been before

but for the selective

rose tinted trinkets and artifacts

of an american myth

presented as truth

and even more so nobody knows

the sheep’s bit lined streets of the grid

are actually the bars

of their ambiguous prison

central to the grand scheme of things


even though the door may have been closed



so very much can still

be seen

from above

just wave to the sky

you’ll see


37.8507574, -91.7009267 (MO 65401)

come old and young

there’s fun for all the family

but do please listen out

for those three shrill blasts

and run like hell for cover

beneath the biggest burdocks

‘cause the weather’s closing in

and don’t be one of those ten a day

every day

in the usa

who slip away without a sound or struggle

nor be like the others

the jumpers and sliders

taking their chances

in their dances with death


in their concussions

their broken bones


and bruises

their swellings and pain

to name but a few


have fun


but don’t drink the water

don’t even go near it

if you have a gash

are immunodeficient

or are simply allergic to the stuff

and are likely to rash or retch


old and young

one and all

roll up roll up

all the fun of an adrenalin rush

a brush with death

but don’t say

we didn’t warn you

and yes

we’re quite happy with cash or card sir

nancy lane

37.9396115,-91.7501534 (MO 65401)

tamed by

the miles of wilderness

the timely smell of

civilisation surfaces

the sacred seed

of black medicine

roasts on the

rim of rolla

where they know nobody

can be told

each is unique

in reckoning what’s good

whatever the continent

however the ritual

that wherever our temple

we are one


37.956342,-91.7766224 (MO 65409)

no rock so hard but that a little wave

may beat admission in a thousand years.

(alfred lord tennyson – the princess)

to catch the sun and moon

water jets

melted this granite

into wax

to be half sized

in devotion to the echoes

from far away

long ago

as if answering

a primal urge

to seize the firmament

and control all it does

if only to keep track

another year gone closer to death


for now

they’re all shiny and polished

even though every sarsen face still has

the marmite smell

of division

on its cold breath

for now

it’s a landmark


yet it’s also the dream

of a man on a mission


for now

it’s a shyly awkward tryst


the future and the past


nature and us all


honeysuckle and modernity

and put simply

that’s just the way it is

for now

vichy army airfield (1942)

38.1319835, -91.7715623 (MO 65580)

over the crest

downhill into vichy

sans les eaux

one mule town

fire station on the rise

travelling on

beneath cumulus streets

the air now scented

by roadside thistle

then ninety degrees


not too fast

fifty five

don’t blink

or you’ll miss it

so far from town

vichy army airfield


as rolla national


at eleven forty eight elevation

as though to give

the vigilant grasshopper

a head start in the clouds

to give it

the slip on nature

the sidestep on science

defying all the odds

and flying


38.3477097, -91.5007373 (MO65066)

belle to bland

and on through canaan



art works on main

its bricks and mortar



feeding passions

whether within

hung for all to see

with a respect

for space to breathe

to whisper


or taken

to the streets

to paint a car

with blue vervain

entangled through

the words


in all events

at all costs

to be in pursuit of

seeing the sharing

of a confidence

in being one people

one town

at one with itself

in knowing

everything begins with a vision

frene valley roadside park

38.6797019, -91.4369334 (MO 65041)

old dutch mill

drake and swiss

nineteen north

roadside park

just laying by

before hermann

to catch a breath

to catch the scent of milkweed

to take in the view

frene valley obscured

but then again some tree hugger would complain probably

were it to be remedied

chainsaw style

according to aaaa pppp

that is

however you want to pronounce this dumbass nom de plume

that is


and again

time to be moving on

a whiff of the great missouri has blown in on the wind


38.7069172, -91.4377245 (MO 65041)

vines on the rhine

were it elsewhere

but here

by the big muddy

weingüter nonetheless

recovering still

from prohibition

from having saved

so little but something

in the sacramental

from loopholes

in the eighteenth

and a town

recovering still

from the jibes

from when what was left

from gasconade

rolled into the station

a haunting for hart benton

der cherusker

turning in his grave


seeking payback from his

in a town

of wurst and wein

of lebensraum

new florence rsa

38.8996897, -91.4564671 (MO 63363)



the loutre

then a new florence

a magnet drawing us in

an eloquence

in the vernacular

of sorts

an architecture

fit for danté

fit for hell

with no heavenly rose

no beatrice

to offer salvation

just the many lorenzos

champing at the bit

for champs chicken

for fast food

and dirt track racing

for bars bigmacs and fuel

for convenience

for a two star bed

for the knight

for the pauper

for the trucker

a greasy spoon

big as a barn



off on the road once more

leaving behind

this inferno where

salt lick forty

meets northerly nineteen

and finding

the world’s an oyster again

montgomery city

38.976864, -91.504502(MO63361)

i.m. ray moore

long drag

through town

a grid of grids

grids of oaks


of the eastern dark

grids of grass

neat little boxes

white little boxes

barren of flowers

not even a cone

a bought sense

of oneness with nature



a fantasy world

of walking ghosts

phantoms of

the man who cannot die

a mythical land

to a boyhood mind

hungry for a reality

so different from this

to middletown

39.1267456, -91.4149599 (MO 63359)

little wolf one way

two mile the other

moving on

one six one

crops to the horizon

yellow foxtail following

and in turn

wildflower and willow

a meadowlark sings

an elkhorn passes

for a golden rod

for an opossum branch

a crooked creek

smokin j’s


according to jellybean

you can play

a round of pool

while you eat

finesse dripping

from the corner of your mouth

an animal at heart

bowling green

39.3445426, -91.1954075 (MO 63334)

just names

new hartford ashley

st clement

zebulon country

looking for sweet betsy

the pike county rose country

looking for the smell of that last


of bacon to be fried country

but finding

rather tribute

via dark and bloody ground

and down where the south begins

george on his side


for big apple bullets

clues in the name

confederate country

so one six one

south court

north court

a plague of locusts

end of the road

end of the street

caught up

in a book of leaves of grass

causing a pause

in a library

one of the any

the unforgivable carnegie called

a never-failing spring in the desert

the dunes

being levelled off and lowered still

as we speak

ranacker conservation area

39.4697716, -91.290849 (MO 63441)

river hills

breaking away from


off the sixty one

over a ford

through the peno

onto a field road

all is still

to the eye

the reality closer

to an invisible frenzy

killing and being killed

growing to be closest

to the sun in the sky

bladdernut musclewood black oak

shading and eating and poisoning


somewhere where

competition means something

a simple matter of life and death


yearling turkey



hunters and prey

a chain of many chains

drawing wonder

at what our whinging

must sound like

the petty problems

of toothless men


choctaw trail intersection

39.6138572, -91.4083121 (MO 63459)

over the ohaha

another london

and on

over the ohaha


as it wanders

some sawtooth


on the roadside

look on wide eyed

in practiced surprise

at the world passing

and on fireworks ahead

huckleberry park

39.6937323, -91.3900326 (MO 63401)

huckleberry tamed

like the sprawling pristine lawns

the grassy knolls

the planned peppering

of ward’s willow

sugar maple

sassafras and others

the sivilized structures

all the sportfulness

anybody could stomach

all he’d hate

rather to light out

for the territory

ahead of the rest

to go west

one man’s freedom

so little in relation to

the chains of the many

those bloodied shackles of steel

still held up as just

the shooting of hands

as just as one as the other

a strange philanthropy

of swings and roundabouts

snakes and ladders

conformity and rejection

us and them

hannibal (st petersburg)

39.7130276, -91.358161 (MO 63401)

in trying

to ignore

the obvious

as if to die

if only temporarily

as if to find

anything of that

profound silence

so deep each breath

of the breathing

is conspicuous

in the hush

but no

rather the hum and chatter

of wandering pilgrims

hauled in

to be milked

to become part

of a hollow world

gratifying all the vicious

vanity in them

a world where

fiction speaks louder

than reality

where a dead cat

lies amongst the bugleweeds

to be believed

a cure for warts

mark twain memorial bridge

39.7203377, -91.3581771 (MO 63401)


amidst steel

taking stock

aux arcs

well behind

as too are

the land of opportunity

and the show me state


midway over

the misi-ziibi

in an ojibwe mind

in heading west to

where food grows on water



on this white man’s highway

continuing east

into the prairie state

north onto driftless

the ocooch mountains ahead

speckhart shrimp

39.8378274, -91.3029602 (IL 62360)

out on the prairie

past austin creek

maize to infinity

then shrimps

pacific shrimps


so far from home

nowhere to go

just round and round and round


39.9349304, -91.3251775 (IL 62305)

gem city hinterland

near hickory grove

where the one zero four


where you can knit

your dreams

from wilted daisy chains

and buy goods

for your sporting dick

where further up the road

you can have god

on the radio

twenty four seven

as though

he didn’t have

other things to do

other places to be

other and better

or is that just me

popcorn farm

40.0237445, -91.3371947 (IL 62305)

windy hills


the crunch

of blue catahoula


as a sacred lake

high in the chotaw air

the ghost of a dog barks



a yellow butterfly

lands and flits

lands and flits

from buttonwood

to flowering spurge

while elsewhere

mushroom flakes lie in wait

whispering oaks campgrounds

40.068214,-91.2556932 (IL 62351)


can you hear it




an albino fawn

and a stray

poisonous beauty





the toxicity of tranquillity

a femme fatale of sorts

or the nectar of gods

in another world

but admit it

you can hear nothing

over the clamour

urbanites packed together outdoors

rvs the size of houses

loaded up with

every imaginable home comfort

right down to

the electric indoor turkey fryer

even broadband to be able

to ask google


why bother

why go


40.0914189, -91.2836625 (IL 62351)

a thousand cars

or more

a thousand lives

at least

seeing their

days out

far side

of mendon

in a triangle

of tangle

and rust


in the landscape

growing organically


in the corner

of a field

and another nearby

yet it seems somehow

yes it’s a carbuncle

a prickly pear

amongst a colony

of hoary puckoon

but while we forever hunger

for the next new thing



they have to go somewhere

our choice

nostra culpa


40.4129801, -91.1355757 (IL 62321)


through fields

of soybean blossom

a different dido

must have walked

a different town

another town

home to rip

and alice

and the mob

that murdered joe

like salt in the wound

of furrows ploughed

to erase

the memory

of the children sacrificed

to efram fraim

them to him

him to them

same town

different times


40.4768829, -90.6714003 (IL 61455)

off the one ten

north east

up through tennessee

split through the middle

by railroad tracks

both iron and asphalt

mutely thundering past

grandma lula’s door

nothing to stop for

colchester waiting

with peggy

and her scrapbook nook

in columbine pink

before then

to take the turn north



the roadpainter’s art

holds the courthouse




its women

honour their sisters

facing the storm


its vibrant uni

its enriching parks

so soon


far behind

this road

refusing to


rock island

41.5121241, -90.5800542 (IL 61201)



unswervingly along

as if roman

north from macomb

over past honeycomb hill

abuzz with bees

each heavy

with sweet treasures

drawn from the purple lavender

of the prairie

on through good hope


ecstatic with rhubarb

its good folks

run in the garden

catching rushing strawberries

too soon gone

the road

all the while immersed

in a flatly ironed landscape

of field upon field

that only earns it the cliché

of for as far as the eye can see

then skirting roseville

and monmouth

to take the kink at alexis

right and left to vy-ola


its coffee bean field

and bone collector

before out to skunk creek

and the donohue run

edwards river

and boden

with preemption like an oasis

a green island

in a desert of ploughed dirt

that only begins to peter out

in approaching rock river

and the sprawl of rock island

‘til face to face once more

with the mississippi

to be crossed again


41.5188356, -90.5798107 (IA 52801)

blue to be back

home for a spell

written melodies

strung together

to be hung together

in the iowa air

as an iowa air

of beiderbecke’s making

whether heard in sunshine

or in a cache of cavorting mist

ghosts of riverboats

shuffling past the front porch

upon the father of waters

the body of a nation

old man river

riving the land

where once sauk

meskwaki and ho-chunk

were finagled


carving it up more

slicing it into tranches

as if rohwedder’s bread

marked out

signed off in translation


on the very spot

a house was built

by the obliging métis

the first of the many

now lauded for livability

notwithstanding the floods

and the duckweed washed away

as if accepting

the sense in letting

mother nature take her course

so as for all to be better off

but wet

davenport to dubuque

42.0970507, -90.6826546 (IA 52060)

out through jungle

on the way

on wisconsin way

crow creek flowing

between banks

dense with lady’s thumb

while alloy birds

fly off to

the sun

the hills

the lakes

the city windy

and back on the plains

past the burbs beyond the burbs

like islands of des res bliss

long grove

home to raymond

the local missionary clown

park view

where they drown their sorrows

still mourning lady di

and then

just for a moment trees

floodplain of the wapsipinicon

the moment gone

the fields return


engulfing everything but the sky

the air

left lightly scented by grapes

north of dewitt

to wit tycoga

before the chicane at maquoketa

and its silenced kilns

straight ahead dubuque

nestled in a now changing landscape

fresh but familiar


another day

fenelon place dubuque

42.4963566,-90.6694233 (IA 52001)

it’s all a matter of balance

and counterbalance

where three states meet

below the bluffs

where once

germanics and gaels

came together as one

in harmony

lands and peoples

kornblume and seamróg

it’s there you know too

there’s something

about going up in the world

of knowing you’re on the right track

sharp and steep

if only for old man graves

to get home from his bank


the ups and downs

as too

do the people

of this driftless fringe

all well aware

you can’t have your meadow

without the weeds

it’s all a matter of balance

and counterbalance

sandy hook

42.5411091, -90.6115281 (WI 53811)

hello wisconsin

hello banjo lane

hello sandy hook

still going

with a whizz

and a fizz

and a crash

or two

to portside

purveyors of


and chrysanthemum

primed and ready

to blossom in the night sky

to oohs and aahs

primitive souls


the menomonee

keeps a watching brief


to dampen any party

gone too far out of hand

primitive waters

with histories

of their own

to be told

maybe another time


42.5803593, -90.6018587 (WI 53812)

you exist


unlike the holy ghost

you don’t

both as one of none

an immaculate conception

if ever there was

born of census

and convenience

an image of the moment

etched on the mind

as would

an ocean of irises be

to be seen for the first time


and prussian

and proud

rooted in this land

where you do exist

if only for them

to come tax

your mule

dickeyville grotto

42.6273784,-90.5950282 (WI 53808)

caught between

a rock

and a hard place

a trial of allegiance

made tangible

a multitude’s fingers

happy to apply







gems and geodes

happy to comply

with a need

to be seen to be true



and blue


city of echoes

of illusions

of yearning

a very long way off


all the same

here in spirit

in lilies

just consider

how they grow

they toil not

they spin not

and yet

easter’s long gone

a miracle

in a vase


42.7327631, -90.4731761 (WI 53818)


little platte river

as it rolls

to the contours


as where the road

is segments

of straight

laid flat

through the swelling landscape

before veering off

for platteville

in its hollow

with an m

on a mound

m for mining


then spherelite

and knowing how to do it

and law too

and then to teach others

so a university from an acorn

its boughs of learning

its bole the community

gown and town

not so long since

field and fur

but now

all grown-up

it’s said

there’s barely a straight street

in town

as if forever avoiding the pits

of other men’s buried dreams


42.7274501, -90.6820713 (WI 53820)

imagine yourself

as a bird above

a cut and paste

of patterns



twists and curls

a collage

of ploughing and reaping

to shadow

the heave and roll

of the land

and now

imagine yourself

as a bristly sarsaparilla

casting your seeds

all the way on the wind

to rockville

and beyond

ever north

your job

as a bristly sarsaparilla



imagine that both

are similarly

creating to survive

the farmer

to create art of the land to feed

the bristly sarsaparilla

to create immortality for its type

so just imagine

turns out

everything’s one and the same

in its own different way


42.8479114, -90.7089916 (WI 53813)

disciple of strongman sandow

doc schade

came this way

way back when

only for the weekend

you understand

but stayed forty years

in love

with lancaster

becoming its enemy of pain

and wizard of steam


no less


no more

than a mention

along maple street

heritage trail


as he has been

by marketing monkeys

dressed up

in the upliftingly humorous clothing of goats

and this is progress


42.9791624, -90.6595122 (WI 53809)

how many squares can you see

with every lot a lot of lotness



every square

a square of squareness


how many can you see

squares within squares



the quilt peddler

is keeping herself

well out of it

sent to coventry

along with the college

out of town

both too busy to care


both too busy to notice

that the couch grass is greener

right where they are


out by the nature ghetto

parked beyond

a sort of second nature

a nature planned

within nature raw


squared and squeezed

into being just another footprint

left stamped on these hills


43.1360174, -90.7064915 (WI 53805)


by driftless bluffs

and swollen

by what

the railways brought

so many lifetimes since

this beautiful wood

stands proud

of its position

as crossing place

on the meskousing

gateway to beyond

and welcome to here

where two men

once had an idea

that would fell forests

and fill lonesome hearts

ad infinitum

a place where

a rose is a rose

by any other name

and is still as sweet

as its english roots

a city underpinned

by flint as deep as

its artesian dream

that went no further

now turned to park

this beautiful wood

this bosco bel

lost so well


between yesterday

and tomorrow

a gateway between

behind and beyond

spread below

those majestic bluffs

this beautiful wood

this bosco bel

stockyard road end

43.1777921, -90.8572955 (WI 54657)

over the wisconsin

a thousand isles

easter rock


onto the sixty

the river

for company

past forested pyramids


in sight of the kickapoo

going west goes north

one three one

through hills

badly camouflaged

beneath birch


and blushberried elder

only to be hit

by the question


just outside steuben

is it

roads go the way

things need them to go


things are

where they are


that’s the way

the road went

not that it really matters

but all the same

mother earth green center

43.1818866, -90.8285563 (WI 54657)

while chicago falls

to the great allium wrecking balls

mother earth gains

what’s reclaimed

from the yarrow scented rubble

and rebuilds it

by a kickapoo vein

a space

for ideas

a space

for sustainability

a space

for living

for breathing

for being

for growing

as though a gift

from not so cranky


ahead of us

in the game

in knowing

where we’re all going

where we’re headed

before we’re done

and dusted


hogback prairie

43.2137336, -90.8709745 (WI 54631)

don’t stand still

or the chiggers’ll getcha

don’t stand still

don’t roll on the ground

keep moving

no matter

what you see

of a mattress

of mountain mint

or a bed

of prairie clover

don’t be tempted

don’t lie in either

keep moving






this calcite capped ridge


left right and ahead

by the magic valley

of a once upon a time

fairy tale lake

all so very scenic


but don’t be distracted

don’t stand still

keep moving


to the south

to the rear

to the oak and savannah

and some welcome salvation

from these chiggers’

spitting bites

kickapoo bottoms

43.3081512, -90.8521497 (WI 54631)



upon oxbow

huge smiles

in the landscape

pock marked




sedge meadow

sloughs and ponds

part of an assemblage

of sorts

of all sorts

once mentioned

like the spice of life

like the bee balm

bur sedge

wool grass

even the snowy campion

and more

more variety

more diversity

more balance

more tomorrows to wake to

kickapoo exchange natural food co-op

43.3307132, -90.8378386 (WI 54631)

with its back turned


to the mainstream

of the one three one

it’s more

than just a store

planted in the outskirts

north of gays mills

it’s somewhere

to come to

to be

to find friendship

and cookies

on fridays

and just simple friendship

the rest of the week

or even to be swept along

in an impromptu outburst of music

at any moment

out beneath

the arcade

as though nothing matters

and another day

will always follow this


of course

there’s the food

from californian carrots with leaves

to local yellow and blue potatoes with dirt

from peruvian ginger to mexican cucumber

then from groceries to stuff for the house

stuff for the body

stuff for the soul

and everything in between and beyond

everything else

anyone with scruples could want

after all

the clues

are in the name

soldiers grove

43.3947457, -90.7743655 (WI 54655)

from out of a sawmill

from pine to soldiers

a commemoration

of troops encamped


back then

black hawk

returning fire with fire

only to face

the ignominy of surrender



on the move

escaping the floods

half building the defences

cheaper to move


from out of a sawmill shadow

running out

on brightman’s ghost

driftless books and music

43.5583319, -90.8832991 (WI 54665)

keeping company

with reads creek

past where

it’s second nature

for the dove to be lonesome

up on hickory hill

going all the way to viroqua

and eddy’s dream come to life

an always imagined

here in perfect replica

a bookshop to die for

without limits

speaking volumes

in print and song

and in celebration

of being with each other

all who have traced the walnuts

left laid in the street

to lead to its tobacco leaf doors

everyone who can hear

the word barter and not wince

in misguided fear

of it being the start

of the slippery slope to anarchy

each pilgrim

of the road

and of the ether

bringing their riches

in exchange for riches and absolution

every saint and sinner

has headed this way

some way or another

some say


43.6551666, -90.8560404 (WI 54667)


north main

black river


bad axe


finding norsem*n




all beneath an onion

sprawling out

over a prairie

once called coon

come again

they shout as you arrive


many thanks my friend

have a pleasant journey*

ringing long after

in the air

* mange takk min ven ha en behagelig reise

coon valley

43.7010063, -91.0146278 (WI 54623)

skirting the wilderness


all around

heading west

out through

prairie patterns


in the landscape


like messages

left in the night

as if the truth

really could be out there

and on

to helgedalen

where ringtails

were ten a penny

they say

and heathers

brought from home

grow now


every clapboard

so far

from the fjords

so far

still to go

la crosse

43.8028482, -91.2534799 (WI 54601)

just before mormon creek

snakes inexplicably across the road


round the corner

slithering up the valley

sidling through la crosse

yet again

to rub shoulders

with the mighty mississippi

a scar on the continent’s skin

and not far off

corrugated badgers

and the world’s largest six-pack

the air scented

with hops and brewing


raising a goblet

to heileman resurrected

and to the others on this rive droite

each an alchemist

fermenting and distilling

god’s great river into gold

but so soon

the air and heads clear

the road unrepentantly reclaims

its travellers ready

to leave la crosse behind

onwards north on the fifty three

new amsterdam

43.9902757, -91.2947996 (WI 54636)

the realm of good king bluff

takes in lands of many kinds


floodplain forest

floodplain savannah

sand prairie

and grasslands



before him

to the west

close enough to see

singular details in their offerings

of white wild and creamy indigos

of pirate perch

and pugnose minnows

of skeeters thick as thieves

on mcgilvray’s seven bridges road

even of henslow's sparrows and bell's vireos

and not to forget

of oaks and salix alba

an eden brim-full with being

and amongst it all

scared to be seen

as a stain on this spice of life

the fifty three sneaks sneakily

to the north

head hung in shame

right beneath

the loftily oblivious regal neb


44.0806303,- 91.3486752 (WI 54616)

swing bridge

swung away

storm in a memorable seventeen

but jake’s not moving

not while there remains

an authentic solution

for men and women to respect

not while the intuitive six

of marinuk

continues with the indefinite

the mere thought of water

of a winnebago woman


though unreal

in her kiss

of the puckering curly leaf pondweed

of the panfish and walleye

her lips

the lips

that tell of war

of disease

of twenty five thousand strong

reduced to little more than a hundred

then shunted




until only her name now marks out history

a link to the past

to long before jake put down his roots

long before there even were

solutions for women and men

to be decked out in

a link to a past that rightly refuses to die

blair city

44.2971263, -91.2263472 (WI 54616)

up by lake henry

by the silos in blair

park your homes

park your bones

there’s space for everyone

dead or alive

with room for expansion

bounded only by roads

beyond north park

park your deer



denied the right

to live out their days

in the vast expanse

of mother nature

but cool

all the same

as cool as

black eyed susan

after the snakes

have each had

their bite

and the worms

have each had

their fill

up by lake henry

park your mind

take a break

make hay

while the sun shines

park all

your worries


but not here

up by lake henry

not here


44.3680884, -91.3175778 (WI 54773)

you wouldn’t know

it was there

tagging along

beside the fifty three


a river scribbled

over a baize

of bogs and alder thickets

of woody shrubs

and flowers

too many to list

of bog birch

willow and dogwood

of grasses and reeds

then rolling

through whitehall

long since

once on

the green bay line

once a swelling

in the wheat fields

living on a benjamin wing

and a knudtson prayer

then on again

towards independence


the trempealeau

following along

eleva pond

44.5775435, -91.4680771 (WI 54738)

sharp north

by bugle lake

on the osseo road

across prairie

past valleys





and chimney rock creek

where the forests

once again

begin to win the day

but never quite

all this before

eleva pond

with its anglers’ dreams

of bass and trout

and its own

of spatterdock

and bladderwort


the sun

in our eyes

day nearly done

now’s the time

for dreaming to begin

blueberry ridge orchard

44.6173726, -91.4642507 (WI 54738)

just off a kink

a sweeping realignment

through the hills

down hageness road

an orchard

of blueberries

suns itself

on the ridge







names for

imperceptible differences

meant to mystify the many

names with

histories and meanings



as long ago

as not even

the least fraction

of the time

these hills and buffs

have stood their ground

an insignificance

in the reach of forever been

and forever yet to come

the moment

a kink in the road

between behind and ahead

acres for joy

44.6857371, -91.4558426 (WI 54738)

sorrow and grief

cannot have the last word

but hope and joy must have their say

though at times

there are no words

the story simply too sad

as with abby

an ephemeral

an hepatica blossom

gone now

the chippewa valley

all the poorer

her sudden leaving


by a nearby choir

and bob’s barking dogs

in stereo

the home herd silent in solemnity

that was

at least

until the children came

in their hordes

to connect

hearts brimming

with joy enough to make

these acres grow in hope

joy enough

to bring abby’s memorial to life

eau claire

44.8099619, -91.4973802 (WI 54703)

met by chaos

in north to west

to cross the chippewa

sidestepping eu claire

with its tamed wildernesses

toying with posing as parks

missing out on

its vast dells pond

its florentina

its confluence

of mud and clarity

its time capsules

its seat of learning

of logging

of living


all the while

the dead centre of town

overlooks a lake

as though it mattered

elk mound castle

44.8788668, -91.6872814 (WI 54739)


the forever undulations

the karst

and coulee

and bluff

away from

these thundering

caravans of commerce

there where the holly

passes beneath

high at 1220 feet

on elk mound

a castle

fake from ‘37

stones from downsville

a folly of sorts

but for




in not even

a century gone

not so very long

since legend has hunters

on the mound

tracking buffalo

and the roaming elk

not so very long

since our clearances

our famines

became your oppressors

not so very long

since life itself was cheap

red cedar wildfowl production area

44.9006061,-91.8022508 (WI 54751)



prairie again

where the north

has come to meet us

in monkshood


and red cedars offer cover

to cackling geese

trumpeting swans


scaup and smew


that the mountains

have run themselves dry


the swell of the land

is surely done


that it’s easier going

for horse and buggy

easier going

on old men’s knees


back to where

the ice so often dined on rock

back when

back then

the legendary levelling out

the wearing away

into a bland land

of two dimensions

the future postponed

for now

exit 45

44.9075452, -91.8541857 (WI 54751)

six ‘til nine

morning to night

they let the badger drive

and them just a greasy spoon

a truck stop on an exit

off the main drag

everything from scratch

standard american fare

plated up in a humble diner

nothing fancy


chow to fill

long distance holes

chance to chat

with faces in the flesh

before heading off again

like tumbleweed in the wind

back to the drift

so nearly there

champney park

44.9846492, -91.8266093 (WI 54730)

after the b


a bb

then that

sinking feeling rises

creeking with age

into a silted delta

feeding tainter

feeling fainter

in the light here

at champney

its shag pile algae

the last defence

against the coming army

of boaters with motors

intent on


stealing the peace

at our journey’s end

but failing

peace instead

to ponder the miles

and wonder again

at the sights



the travelling through

two ranges

through five states

the highs and lows

the people

and their places

the many ways of life

but above all

the surviving

with what we are given

by the when and where we are


© john mingay 2021

facqueuesol 2024

along the dawn oak trail (2024)


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