In 2019 we welcomed our first-ever artist, a self-described “people, plants, and dirt-lover”, Erin Schneider. Erin is co-owner of Hilltop Community Farm in La Valle, Wisconsin. She visited KBS and worked with the community to examine the interstices between science, nature, and art through poetry. The culmination of her first week was a poetry workshop where Erin shared her work and invited others to do the same. On her following visit, she helped organize the Allurement Salon, an evening showcasing the art and science from KBS to the broader community.
Erin wrote the following poems, inspired by her visit to the LTER.
- Isn’t it funny
after a decade of vigor and climb
You were razed overnight.
I didn’t raise you
Though I remember planting you, a slender whip,
with a rooted tuck
A gentle press and off you went
All spindly, chalk-white, and nodal
And when you leafed out to scintillate silver, alchemize the sun
I stood winded, sighed
the sapling years were through
Before I knew you surpassed 5’ 10’’
explored new heights underground,
ran amok with neighbors.
Roots groping, branching out, testing boundaries,
Leaves settling for sun allotment
Trunk sequentially spaced
and turgidity in check.
Wonder and Movement came naturally to you.
I knew resisting change causes the past
to present memories
on quaking platters.
I take to analyzing the remains;
Age is a number
Gravity a wave
Tree breath a miracle
Attractions sometimes strange.
I love these poplars and this world!
Ten years ago, such a proclamation would’ve
upset control, emancipate research.
But now, appreciation for decays’ arrival,
And transformed research,
I reach for a fine sip of soil
As timbre goes underground.
Sporulating nightcaps of mushrooms reclaim stumps and pollards
And everywhere I look, fuel for renew.
-Erin Schneider 7-17-19
- I used to chase windmills,
Held wooded expectations not even lake winds and gull cries could stir.
Now, I embrace Tilia time,
Discover where data might end and reverie begin.
And learn to answer the kinglets whisps
with my listening voice
Stilled by the immensity of it all.
I step into your robed canopy of
heart shape leaves, the way you branch and breathe
into the soft spaces behind my ear and
Offer your stump to rest
I unwind into your lime green
That must have massaged temples,
Welcomed strangers avian, human and Other, wise
Softening worries, absorbed and etched in
Your furrowed trunk and brow beats,
I pause, attempt to write your shape, witness your arboreal expectorants
Florets posited on petioles poised, at the ready
To soothe coughs, enhance drumbeats, feed bees,
blur lines where canopy and clouds part ways.
Basswood, linden, little leaf, big heart
-Erin Schneider 5-21-19
- As the Swan foretold,
A corridor evolves edges,
maintains wing beats,
stirs mists of dust.
Some fly to colonize restricted tracts of land
Taste moss, drink dew threaded by spiders.
Others seek passage to the place in between.
Only through sound could they see through veils.
In each case, the ascent winds long, narrow
Views filter, then stabilize.
Wings and worlds succeed
to the comfort of clouds.
Their throats interbreed
Seed Earth with stars.
Swans’ descend to feeding grounds
Limp and lead-laden
Witness the spectre and the passage.
– Erin Schneider 12–18-19
An Enemy Release Hypothesis
- She assumed the pressures to perform
more so at home
than from strangers
sensing the error of their arrival,
as they hitchhiked by ballast, wind, and fur coats
They arrived foreign in name only,
Japanese Knotweed, Bermuda grass, Asian carp
Novel in their strategies, use of latex, rhizomatic reach,
keeping the natives at bay.
Or so they say.
No less potent
Were the ones
Who took arms to bugger the botany
Wage just wars on invaders
Viruses flitted, insects took flight
Anything to save the desirables
Just before the Fall.
Traits migrate, roots exodate
Theirs was violence devoid of conscience malice
And soon she stood without kin.
– Erin Schneider 12–18–19
Cues from the Friesians
- They were of smaller build, harder to fatten,
Their moon-eyed lashes giving way to slips of pink
Tongues, preening their comrades necks.
Their breath releases the soil’s secrets,
A mix of sweet ferment, heat, and rot.
Burping, farting, and ruminating with the best of them
These teenage Seers of grass.
Treading through hectares of green subtlety
A five day rotation, and by seven, restless
They sought the plants’ advice,
patches to avoid, the ones with parasites,
the buffets of choice succulence – and the one’s eaten for lack.
On the other side of the fence
We wandered to greener pastures
Turning umber from our inputs
Toiled with the plants, the plow, the weed,
The manure movement
A revolution for a few,
Promises of money saved
If we kept the cows confined
And brought everything to them –
More milk per units in space, for haste.
What’s a farmer to do?
When the cows come home
The bovines shoulder our weight
The gravity of loss in stories
when cows, grass, and grower sync
On this morning we walk the pastures’ edge
Listen to the riff and rip of ruminations
Til we come home to the cows
Free of grief.
– Erin Schneider 11–18-19
Strip Part 1
- Extreme heat and cold would
Keep the trees out
While you kept Her starved.
with Her infinite,
You stripped Her bare
You couldn’t help but burrow into her riches—a mix of ancient
bison sweat, mulled sunlight and fixed lightning.
You poked further, you couldn’t stop, craving all Her green
She bled black
As milkweed scalded, moss yellowed,
and butterflies kept low to the ground.
You had the nerve to throw your hands in the air
You watched Her skin choke, sloughing in the water’s chamber
You fell further to your knees, as the gulf between widened.
The only home you knew.
Rusted combines, buckled tensions
Your debts grew.
Your morale no longer subsidized.
She wouldn’t yield.
Strip Part 2
- You forgot about the seeds, held in trust
By Oak and Bramble
The wind intervened
Crickets dared to chirp,
The librarian shush of grasses
Bowed toward Her.
Seeded airborne prayers that
rattled the Masters as
rain shed wounds,
Displaced the corn,
balmed bees, stitched roots,
She’s staying here, on this strip.
- Susan’s black eye radiates stillness
But I stood and watched a while from a distance
Close enough to feel the photons pulse purple
As the dewpoint dipped and
The mason bees move into their muddied nests
I listened for the blues of folding inward,
Could only find the golden rays,
Soundings strum with the hum of spinning composites.
Flower organs that pump and stir things up
Where light proceeds, music follows.
Resplendent form, black eye radiance
from the far side of eternity
Extra irony, the need to hold seeds that disperse
Still, stars descend on stems,
backbones of being brighten
A shower of luster sprinkles
- It lights up a child who caught her first fish at 4 just to watch it swim away
It comes when, fathers have passed out from one last drink.
It’s the auntie you wish you knew about,
Yet who still emits warmth when you thought
You were abandoned, left to smolder in despair.
It comes to the prisoner in her cell.
As spiders spin webs, weave the days and a way out.
It re-unites lovers in cautious pleasure from days spent adrift
It’s the starry night that orients the dung beetle through detritus,
And the dirty details that illuminate your Radiance.
- She set out to meet her neighbors
Sensing where we are placed impacts our response—
She remained labile, limber, as every centimeter counts.
Recruitment would demand all of her trust—
she could not foretell what’s in the water.
She exhales into exiled territory,
garners her tensile strength,
and gropes into a loam of darkness.
It’s black outside the film—she misses the stars of her ancestors.
She wishes to invite them in, all 16,000 residents in her compound
to see, to understand—her companions and conspirators.
Undocumented, for now, though not without influence.
The known ones—are held to their spheres of deficiencies.
The gravity of the situation takes shape—waves refract unsettled soils.
She pulses further.
Offers her sugary secretions and secrets
—how to live among strangers, change traits and become next of kin.
She takes to heart the possibilities and effects,
Maps the hype along the hyphae networks.
Notes the points of entry at the port of ion exchange
—airborne, watery, and microbial
Observes what happens when consumed among the monotony
—miles of switched grass,
The same greens, always on the defensive.
She prefers to dwell with the mass of messiness.
Which takes her further underground, among the sand and silt.
She learns to distill the distribution of acid
How to amplify ambiance, foster fluidity with fungi.
-her stories take shape while seeds swap—
Recruitment that took all of her trust.
To prop up kin and strangers—it’s just in her DNA to do these things.
– Erin Schneider 12–18–19
The Microbes laugh at US
- You didn’t know
a precursor to NNO !
Scavenges energy to 3 lumps—
While a radicalized NO !
the effects, dizzying.
You exhale, NO longer able
to laugh it off.
Decades of energy fell to waste
a sky-rocket release
inflamed space as NNO !
You denote NO impacts
from the war to end all wars.
Responsible for NO one
As reddish mushroom clouds
spare NO one.
Your consciousness dizzies,
You fall knee high
Into streams of corn on corn,
to wheat on soy, back to corn again.
Breathless fertility of granular proportions
Your throat starts to burn
NNO! You emit
It’s enough to make you weep
colorless pools of NO,
widens the gulf between us
it deadens US.
the 11th hour arrives
post-humusly you lie
how could it be
you didn’t see the off-gassed remarks
In this dark loamy leachate
Laid to waste
When the microbes filled the air
With NO laughter.
– Erin Schneider 12–6-19