Wisconsin Exquisite Corpse 2020

by Kelsey Marie Harris

For my Writer In Residence project, I set out to create a huge exquisite corpse comprised of lines from writers from all over Wisconsin. It is finally complete, and I couldn’t be happier with it. So many amazing writers contributed to this project and I’m so damn grateful for you all. This place and this lake we call our own has a different meaning to each of us. This poem is a representation of that shared, unique experience. This blog is the first home for it. I will keep you updated on what becomes of it in the future. Thank you, and enjoy.


The source of all life is the most powerful force on earth. It comes in waves, like safer at home mandates, and sometimes it feasts on my neighbors’ bluff. Then zip lines across the bank and inspects the traps lining the prairie, searching for a hostage to accompany the dusk. Loon call skips over still waters, haunting and lonesome and home all at once. The bands of misery snap together in time to a Dolly Parton ballad where a bust of my mother distinguishes between the underdressed and the overdressed. Left coast or bust come salt spent around the bend & watch your back—some volcanoes are fired others iced. Microbrew ain’t small beer but language traps. Nothing conquered, nothing gained. Adjunct worms circulate below. The historical marker is about to blow. About to spray shrapnel like spring rains. Each drop a cornerstone story, a liquid time capsule. Horicon cattail traversing, lunar Loons calling through the marsh. Out linear mouths full of burrs they part in song their moon tide rages in reeds. Do you think water believes a bird is a boat is an airplane? Hold the air carry the water. A beak is a mouth is a nose. Bird’s eye view of all the Birds I knew. Sunbathing and stargazing are the same thing & the moon a surfer wiped out by the wind’s whims, necklaced with alewives and phytoplankton. Wearing her old fur coat, my dog dances on the beach. He sniffs about at everything he finds along the shore. Sand and rock is all we see as we playfully explore. The sky is a ceiling speed limit. We are the ruse of it. It is a quickening. Its waves— pure emulation of a life. From curve to crest and back again. Our limbs tumbled together in a freshwater frenzy. No heads or tails to be made of my wild pisces lover and I. Two slick fish in a waterfall out of our cloudy tank forever. It leaves me gutted, the small blue boat alone /beneath it, a bouquet of trout blood billowing. I am uneasy the way the water is uneasy. It is the same feeling that compels us to bury things under trees. We spend our whole lives hiding from our nature. To see the decomposition, to smell the decay, would make the corpse too human and thus exempt from living forever in our hearts or elsewhere. But I have lived with stronger stenches. I have learned to love my own. My delicious morning ripe is The River. The beaded sweat on the skin is both fragrant and tempting. The wrinkling, the odor, the finest cheese casing known to mammal. You devour it all. A thick mud curdles around the shore, a line of onlookers forms. The chicken corpses cluck like motherfuckers over their bowls of cereal, beneath a sequined sign that reads, “genuine midwestern feathers,” As O! the onlookers moan with pleasure — or is it surprise? I can’t tell — as a crowd gathers under the flickering neon of the Hotel Coral Essex in the beach night. The water is not clean but beautiful still. Same as the crowd… everything here has been polluted and used as a dumping place for America’s toxic waste.

One Comment Add yours

  1. joannaluebke says:

    OMG I love it!!

    Liked by 1 person

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