Friday, February 5, 2016

the first day

For the first time in months, ice turned to water
and the sun made heat instead of just shadows.

For the first time the day felt like it was not
entirely winter, but beginning the soft caving in

that begins something else.  A V of geese, low and perfect
over the roof are lit differently today; the slant of sun

lighting the precision of their wings
softens suddenly and without fanfare.

I have an unexpected day to myself, a chair
near the woodstove, a cleared table to work at.

I'm still being realistic.  The frost still blurs to opaque
the mudroom windows.  The sparrows still crowd

the branches of trees like dark commas.  We are still
at winter's heart.

But the shift has happened, a collection of light
between trees one minute sooner, then another;

the shell has cracked and
there's no putting it back

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


Just days past solstice and the hours stretch
like strung wires across another sky rippled blue

her fever's been gone for days and still
it is your fear that snaps you from bed

each morning.  You run on wide dirt roads
because the snakes are out 
and you need to see

where your feet fall.  Just yesterday 
 you passed a small one, the diamonds
along its back just coming into focus.

You run farther and faster than you ever have-
antelopes freeze on hilltops and you
are the only moving thing for miles.

When she wakes you'll hold her and ask
all the same questions, how do you feel

how do you feel?  The olive tree blooms
and fills the air with thick honey, wet

black calves are licked clean by their mothers,
the river runs lower than it should.

It's June and unbelieveably lovely and
what you feel is the bright stone of fear

between your lungs.  This disease doesn't
exist where you live, each question turns back

on itself.  You watch her sleep away
the middle of each blue day, imagining
the fight happening in her small pale body.

You wait each hour out and try to trust
the medicine, trust her same freckled smile.

Her sister finds a swallow's nest, reads
paperbacks on the porch, dreams

of mountain lions walking
right up to the house.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

beginning again, a rough draft

It seems it shouldn't feel so hard, this sitting down
for a minute to type a few words, or

knowing where to begin, choosing between
describing the small puffed clouds of her sleeves,

the campfire ash and marshmallow 
contentment of her face,

or the way her older sister's bare feet
curled around the warm belly of her pony,
sideways spring sunlight holding her.
Knowing where to start 
is where I falter.

But the light this morning is perfect, fat robins
perched on every fencepost, the invisible trill

of sandhill cranes overhead.  We work ourselves into
a rhythm even when we feel the most scattered.

Mike has eased into spring work, spending seven days
a week in the fields, with a kind of grace I could never have.

But I've learned to blend most of the farmchores into my days
driving the old blue truck out, followed by a trail of hungry mama cows,

setting the stick shift to the slowest gear, holding the steering wheel
at a straight course, then jumping from the cab to climb

aboard the moving trailer, to balance while we roll across the field,
forking hay to my hungry friends.  I'm becoming more graceful
with this whole process, and it feels something like a parade,
my pose altogether different than a beauty queen waving

from a convertible.  My legs wide for balance, pitchfork wielding 
last year's grass, baler twine hanging from my back pocket,
my mind and body in the same place at the same time,
and maybe starting again 
isn't so hard after all.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

getting there

We leave later than planned, last minute
stop at the gas station, grocery store, 
water bottles filled, almonds and candycorn 
clutched in fists.

Facing north we start to sing - we know 
a few Halloween songs, 
wagon wheel, the circle game.

Our valley unfolds like a rumpled
bedsheet, the last stands of bright aspen,
cottonwood vibrate gold against the muted brown
of October farmland.  We follow the river north.

The wind
becomes a force like the highway itself- 
pushing back
as we move through it.

Bruised sky and sudden dash of rain 
against the windshield, the car quiets as the girls pull on 
headphones, drift off through time and space 
in a magic treehouse.

Near Deer Lodge the sky clears again,
sideways light of late afternoon turns semis
into magical beasts, each falling leaf caught
in the draft of traffic into pirates' gold.

I've been traveling these highways
all my life, they are familiar paths
to the places I love.  I have a story for 
every small town along they way; I know 

that my grandmother would order 
the grilled cheese at Trixie's Saloon
in Ovando,  I know the fishing access where my 7th grade
class stopped for lunch on a field trip,

my wonderful teacher reading us poetry as we sat beside
the Little Blackfoot.  I know the empty, rolling stretch
of highway where, at thirteen, my stepdad pulled over
and told me to switch seats with him so I could learn
to drive.

And I know the destination.  A place 
stitched into my soul- the smell
of glacial silt and lakewater, the mix
of mist and larch needles, and in October
the sound of geese
moving on.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

a million things to be: portraits 5/52

 photo 346384da-bb8a-49e4-ab2b-e7f01d707c4d_zpsa94f7135.jpg

"Well, if you want to sing out, sing out
And if you want to be free, be free
'Cause there's a million things to be
You know that there are..."

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

If you lived here, there are things you would know

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You'd know that when the February air
gets cold enough, much

much colder than zero, a wide halo
of crystals forms around the sun

glistening like a muted rainbow.  The sky, too
pales on the coldest days, thins

out into a breakable boneblue.
The buses don't run, fuel thickens

in the lines, but the secretary calls each
family to assure us that the school day

will proceed.  You'd know the morning voices
of the married couple who own the local AM

radio station.  Her laughing voice tries 
to steer him from politics, and she never forgets

a celebrity's birthday.  If you lived here
you'd know that the sound of a line of cattle

shuffling across a frozen white field 
is like the sound of running water,

a warm sound that makes you stop
in momentary confusion.

 photo 30a32e9f-0d49-44ac-a986-ce208577f4a0_zps494d22a2.jpg

You'd know the clipped sound of  axe blade
splitting a log of lodgepole,

the precise heft of a perfect
downward swing as you fill

the woodbox.  Or the fitting of burls
and knots together

like puzzle pieces in the body of the stove
to make it burn tight and hot.  You'd fight

frozen water lines only to a point
because by now you know that sometimes

it is just too goddamn cold to thaw.
On your morning commute, you'd watch

through your cracked windshield, 
the etched ridgeline of the Pioneer Mountains 

grow rosy with morning and know that,
for a moment,

you are peeking into some other 
wild and desolate world.
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Friday, January 31, 2014

a week in the desert - portraits 4/52

They love having bare legs in January.  photo 6e93d535-6e44-4859-9e1c-68655d34a7ab_zps84cc2a8b.jpg

                           *                                              *                                             *
And climbing trees in parking lots.  Always.

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