The Bends of the Kickapoo

By Craig Holt Segall

March 22, 2021

The Bends of the Kickapoo

The Kickapoo doubles back on itself. Cutting its way through the billion-year old hummocks of the Driftless Region, the river winds in tight knots and bends. In the high blue Wisconsin summers, ferns and orchids grow on the banded cliffs above the water. Somewhere above the deep-set river, life goes on in the farm fields and along the little roads, but beneath the banks, it is cool, secret, and heavily green.

One summer, we glided downstream in the old metal canoe, my father and I. He sat in back, in his old jean shorts and his not clean shirt, his thin legs scabbed from falls on long runs. Around us was the thick peace of August: rising trills of birdsong, deep thrum of a far-off tractor. This was when I was just out of adolescence, still close to mornings when, small in the tent, I would wake at dawn and watch the leaf shadows on the canvas, my father sleeping next to me.

After he got sick, I would stand above him as he hacked out the fluids from his lungs during the butt-end of a long gray winter. But that day the water was green and clear, cutting deep curves from the bluffs. The river is still there. Sometimes, the bends are so tight that you can see where you were a moment ago, just across a low band of earth. It’s the same river over there, though you have passed on.


Craig Holt Segall is an environmental lawyer, working on climate change issues, and has previously published poetry and prose (of various sorts) in the Environmental Law Reporter, Ecology Law Currents, the Stanford Law Review, Tule Review, Canary, and Consilience.


Photo of Wildcat Mountain State Park courtesy of goodfreephotos. 



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