Journal of Writing & Environment

We trespass here on the lakeside

trails, where asters and chickadee lean

from sacred bluffs, nightworkers fish at midday,

and pony-tailed men walk their dogs.


On the sloping lawn, an effigy mound

aims six-hundred feet of thunderbird south,

straight at the lake. In summer, we thought

the mound a mirage of August’s hot


cacophony, but in winter

the body surfaces, tall as a man,

windgusts feathering designs on downed wings.

February shadows the sloping snow


like clouds of the upperworld, anchoring

the earth. A thousand years ago, the Woodland

Natives scraped the bones of kin, flesh fallen

from mortal frames after a spell underground,


and re-interred the remains beside pipes

and pots at a Feast of the Dead.

Inside the brick compound, criminal

psychiatrists ignore the Shades outside,


tending possessed and dispossessed minds

like abandoned rooms in living skulls.

We thought Ed Gein, another Heartland

killer, did time here. Mother-crazed, he unearthed


women or gutted them live, flensed

for trashcans, lampshades, armchairs, a suit,

wearing their skins to inhabit their power

in a web of cells.


That was rumor: Gein carved

totems and handicrafts up in Waupun,

model inmate in a guarded cage.

The Hospital is now a Health Institute,


both names burying the Asylum

harboring harmless aunts gone awry.

September is humming migration.

An unseen deer snaps a stick in the woods


as geese spell out their vanishing.

We lie down in the sun by the lake, tracing

the flyways of living wings

over earth’s delicate, desecrated flesh.