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In the Wisconsin Arboretum and Flock, two poems by Charlotte Melin

In the Wisconsin Arboretum

A sea of horsetails under the boardwalk

and blue flags bloom in the marsh.

A pair of sandhill cranes browses

the pond edge, wild indigo

waves white in the distance

where wet prairie paths are closed.

Under the trees, the confetti of 

yellow-orange petals seem inexplicable 

until I see leaf hands waving above—

a tall tulip tree, farther north

than I thought possible until 

we encounter another and 

expectations are overturned.

The twisting drive here made 

my head spin like a gyroscope.

Now when you look at the trail map,

I’m disoriented, feel my brain refuse

to make sense of markers and turns.

Yet, even unable to orient myself 

to a chart, I notice the clues

left by petals, like breadcrumbs 

for our way back to Indiana.






Driving home from Indiana

we finally see the blackbirds

I’ve missed all fall, feeding

in stubbled cornfields. Later

another flock shapeshifts

south in migration, a

mesmerizing murmuration.

We have yet to travel through

the flattest landscape—

past exhausted Streator

and Starved Rock, neither

a refuge for us on the back

and forth to family, 

past the distant towers

of the nuclear plant in

Byron, where absent poetry,

tedium turns to thinking

about how decades ago

it seemed that countless

redwings, grackles, starlings

winged overhead and there

was nothing remarkable 

about driving mile after mile 

as the radio crackled in and out,

no thought of the finitude

of birds, resources, or time. 

Charlotte Melin grew up in Indiana and returns to visit. Recently retired from the University of Minnesota, she lives in Northfield and has published widely about German poetry, the environmental humanities, and teaching.