The Write Question

A weekly literary program from Montana Public Radio that features writers from the western United States.

"Song, with Angus

3 minutes ago

The cat with his underbite looks like a bony old man
without teeth. Not
Grendel who tortures blind rodents and once
that rabbit, meek
as Christ.

When I curl the fine-toothed comb under his chin,
he rolls his blue eyes.
When I rake out his chops
he closes
his eyes.
As I comb out the top of his head,
whorled like a grey thumbprint,
he folds his hands in front of him,
then sets his heart down
on top of them
against his pink pads.

Vagabond Song: Neo-Haibun from the Peregrine Journals blends travel memoir with poetry to recount Marc Beaudin's days of hitchhiking and road trip adventures.

Vincent and the Night

by Adele Enersen

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015

Vincent is an infant, portrayed in color photographs on every page of this delightful picture book. His surroundings are depicted in pen and ink drawings.

“One evening, Vincent decided he didn't want to go to bed. The night was rolling in like a woolly black blanket, ready to tuck him in...”

And as it does, Vincent takes hold of a thread of that woolly blanket that is the night and begins to unravel it! He uses the thread to construct new images: a cat, a violin, musical notes that transform into flies...

You and Me and Him, by Kriss Dinnison
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Maggie and Nash are outsiders: She’s overweight. He’s out of the closet. They’re best friends, and they’ve helped each other survive their small-minded small town. But when Tom moves to Cedar Ridge at the start of the school year they have something unexpected in common—feelings for the same guy.

"Of All the Gifts She Ever Gave Him—"

Sep 21, 2015

the empty lake, the static on the radio, the years
with missing handle bars—

the one that halfway fit him was the gloves.
He wore them all spring, then all summer, weeding

even by moonlight, relentless as a ghost,
as constant as the sky we ignore

'til geese fly south and give us a reason to look:
their sad, odd honking like the sound of our desire...

Of course, he was crazy;
all the couples on our street know that.

One morning we woke to the noise of him weeding
his house, uprooting the plumbing, uprooting

Jill Johnson / G.P. Putnam's Sons | Penguin Random House

New York Times–bestselling author of The Last Gunfight Jeff Guinn once again brings the Old West to life in Buffalo Trail, the grand follow-up to Glorious.

Fire Birds: Valuing Natural Wildfires and Burned Forests, by Sneed B. Collard III

Bucking Horse Books, 2015

It's been a hot and smoky summer here in Western Montana and most of us were grateful for the rain that eventually brought an end to our smoke-filled air. Those of us who grew up in the United States from the 1940s to the 1970s will remember the Forest Service's longest-running PSA campaign in history with the mascot of Smoky the Bear and the slogan, “Only you can prevent forest fires!”

"Phone Therapy"

Sep 14, 2015
Lilly Ledbetter, REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi / Lost Horse Press

I was relief, once, for a doctor on vacation
and got a call from a man on a window sill.
This was New York, a dozen stories up.
He was going to kill himself, he said.
I said everything I could think of.
And when nothing worked, when the guy
was still determined to slide out that window
and smash his delicate skull
on the indifferent sidewalk, "Do you think,"
I asked, "you could just postpone it
until Monday, when Dr. Lewis gets back?"

In 1970, Margaret Grundstein abandoned her graduate degree at Yale and followed her husband, an Indonesian prince and community activist, to a commune in the backwoods of Oregon. Together with ten friends and an ever-changing mix of strangers, they began to build their vision of utopia.

"The River of Light"

Sep 7, 2015

As liquid verdigris or, shaded,
Flowing onyx, the river
Knots, spinning loose

Denticles of fresh cold, catching
A willow branch in a current circlet
Where an ouzel stretches and folds

Mimicking electric spray.
Along both shores, ruby Mimulus
Sparks, Coneflower radiates.

Montana Historical Society Press

Step out of a world governed by clocks and calendars and into the world of the Kootenai and Blackfeet peoples, whose traditional territories included the area that is now Glacier National Park.

This Is About Darkness

Aug 31, 2015
vasse nicolas, antoine

The forsythia eats sunlight
near the open barn door
where Bill Perry stands in his overalls watching
his dappled-gray Percheron, Pike.

The largest horse on record was a Percheron,
a mare, twenty-one hands
high. This stallion stands, easy,
at nineteen.

Pike can pull a Cadillac up Humpback Mountain
in a headwind.

About the book:

Meal or menace? No controversy in nutrition is bigger than wheat.

About the book:

In the sweltering heat of a Montana July, the small town of Grandview readies for its annual Jamboree. The event is meant to celebrate community, but this year tensions boil over, threatening to tear the town, and a family, apart.

On a clear day, standing atop a windswept ridge on the southern border of the United States, one can see a hundred miles into Mexico. From the southern horizon, the Sierra Madre range extends north to meet the Rockies along the continent’s spine.

Three haiku verses from Tyler Knott Gregson's forthcoming collection All The Words Are Yours:  Haiku On Love.

I know not the when
or the why of all of this,
I just know it's you.

About the book:

In 1938, nineteen-year-old ranch hand Bud Frazer sets out for Hollywood with his sights set on becoming a stunt rider in the movies–and hoping to rub shoulders with the great screen cowboys of his youth.

Chasing Secrets, by Gennifer Choldenko
Wendy Lamb Books/Random House Children's Books

I’m reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn yet again when I hear a noise up on the third floor, where the servants live. Maggy Doyle has a way of being everywhere at once, like a dust storm. Still, I thought she was downstairs.

“Maggy!” I yell.

Not a sound from up above.

Could Papa be back? I would have heard him in the barn. Must be Jing. I jump off the bed and head for the stairs.

Maggy appears in the hall. “Miss Lizzie?”

“Is Jing home?”

Where Do I Sleep?
Andrea Gabriel / Sasquatch Books

Where Do I Sleep? is a board book filled with animal paintings by Andrea Gabriel: gray whales, sea otters, bald eagles, blacktailed deer, gray wolf, brown bat, cougar, garden spider, and red fox. Jennifer Blomgren has written a four-line poem for each baby animal.

"Song of the Powers"

Aug 10, 2015
Bonnie Brezette

Mine, said the stone,
mine is the hour.
I crush the scissors,
such is my power.
Stronger than wishes,
my power, alone.

Mine, said the paper,
mine are the words
that smother the stone
with imagined birds,
reams of them, flown
from the mind of the shaper.

Mine, said the scissors,
mine all the knives
gashing through paper’s
ethereal lives;
nothing’s so proper
as tattering wishes.

About the book:

Andrea Gabriel / Sasquatch Books

Why Do I Sing? is a board book filled with soft watercolor images, painted by Andrea Gabriel, of honeybees, spotted owls, Pacific tree frogs, fin whales, loons. crickets, marmots, red-winged blackbirds, arctic wolves, and meadowlarks. Jennifer Blomgren has written a four-line poem for each vocalist.

"Deer Dance"

Aug 3, 2015
Jim McIntosh

This morning
when the chill that rises up from the ground is warmed,
the snow is melted
where the small deer slept.
See how the bodies leave their mark.
The snow reveals their paths on the hillsides,
the white overcrossing pathways into the upper meadows
where water comes forth and streams begin.
With a new snow the unseen becomes seen.
Rivers begin this way.

About the book:

At a young age, Jessie Close struggled with symptoms that would transform into severe bipolar disorder in her early twenties, but she was not properly diagnosed until the age of fifty.

"Wool Blanket"

Jul 27, 2015

I slept in the valley
shivering, neck sore
from carrying a dead tree
across my shoulders

I needed the wood
but more
I needed the pain

Raccoon wind
shudders brittle leaves
as when you get a sudden chill
and they say:

"someone has just walked
across your grave"

Twig snaps  –
& I burrow deeper
wishing I had brought
that wool blanket

glad, almost,
that I didn't

The Home Place, by Carrie La Seur, is a mystery novel in which a successful lawyer is pulled back into her troubled family’s life in rural Montana in the wake of her sister’s death.

About the book:

"It's Shifts Of Sideways If She Talks To You"

Jul 20, 2015
Hettle Price

For the teenager certain she is ugly, it's shifts
of sideways if she talks to you. Words
drop out of her mouth. She tries to get behind herself

and squeeze down
to a gash in the ground.
Oh she would love to roll from her skin

and disgust you. And stick it, yeah, to your candy pity.
She takes a deep breath
and throws her hair around like rocks.

Review of 'Have You Seen My New Blue Socks?'

Jul 15, 2015

Eve Bunting's book, Have You Seen My New Blue Socks chronicles the life of a young duck trying to find a pair of misplaced socks. When I read this story to the fussy 3-year old I encountered in the Buttercup Market, a quaint cafe with fantastic quiche, he delighted in the colorful illustrations of Sergio Ruzzier and almost immediately forgot why he was throwing a tantrum to focus on the task at hand: finding the lost socks belonging to duck.

Carol Bradley, author of Last Chain on Billie: How One Extraordinary Elephant Escaped the Big Top, talks about the cruel lives of circus elephants and what we can do to stop it.

About the book:

"Want Song"

Jul 13, 2015

Two musics washing over me, and morning asks,   
which loneliness comes closest to the inky
chromatics inside you?
How can I answer?   
The cricket in the tarantula’s cage
chirrs the next world.
Meanwhile, scraps of Chopin float
up the stairs on my wife’s trilling fingers
which played me whole
worlds ago, last night, when I was buried in weThe Write Question blog