Wisconsin, where my dad grabbed
a slithering striped snake
and showed me there was no venom in
the fangs that could harm me, I walked barefoot unafraid
through the long tan grass to the lake.

On the way to Twin Lakes, my parents
stopped in Barrington to cut a wedge of cheddar cheese from a vast
wheel, like a carnival act. If they guessed
the weight of the piece, they got it for free.
Behind darkened glass, Diane and I sipped cokes
while they each had a Blatz, and we nibbled chunks of golden cheese.

The first morning at the lodge, Mom and Dad
argued in the dining room, other families left
and my father said the “f” word
at least five times. My twin and I listened,
petrified of his temper as usual, while outside the window,
a club member had trained purple morning glories
to grow on strings.

Years later, as graduate students,
Don and I drove our foreign friends north to Wisconsin
from Chicago; Australian Ian insisted on opening the car door
to examine a skunk sniffing along the fire trail.
Sara from Aberdeen smoked cigars with the fishermen
at the bar of a rural tavern at Pike Lake
as if she’d known them at Loch Lomand,
but no one ever asked for cheddar cheese.