poetry

"in god's world"

May 25, 2015

questioning gods and wars
are acts of treason.
hell is the reqard
for questioners;
prison for not playing
by the rules. not
doing what you're told
can get you killed
in war, and isn't it
more or less always war
in god's world?

don't be deceived
by snakes or moles.
come inside the temple.
the exterminator
will keep you safe
from the vermin
out there who scratch
damp, fecund dirt
and wallow like swin
in their own
sweet pungency.

"Moment: Grand Canyon"

May 18, 2015
Grand Canyon National Park Service

We have just arrived.
We are standing on the south rim
looking down, feeling our bodies slip

and fall away from us past the cliff face
into that deep space below. We feel light
and small now, our equilibrium shaken, as we watch

the raven riding thermals, its sleek black feathers
shining in the sun as it glides just above the rim
then drops down again. Out across the chasm

Shiva's Temple rises above a moat
of mist and seems to float. Someone aims
a camera, someone puts his hand in his pocket

"why print books"

May 11, 2015
Sabda Press

why print books he said
who needs books these days
everything's on the web

well i wouldn't know i said
i still enjoy turning pages
in a chair by the fire

still window-shop mainstreet
still relish a big screen matinee
buttered popcorn jujubes and milk duds

still sit and think about how
all last century carriages went horseless
and horses thank god are not extinct

still long for real letters in the post
the effort of someone's penmanship
the dear and sincerely yours

Sara Habein and Tyson Habein / Nouveau Nostalgia

Saif Alsaegh was a young boy living in Baghdad, Iraq, on September 11, 2001. At the time, he and the other members of his family didn't even know where Afghanistan was. But they had been "under the influence of war" for many years. During this program he talks about war and the effects his experiences have had on his art — writing poetry, plays, and films. He also reads from his collection of poetry titled Iraqi Headaches and talks about attending college in Great Falls, Montana.

"Stranded At Noon's"

May 4, 2015

Now that wet street smell
evening rush hour,
and I have a flat tire.
This morning
a dead dog in the ditch
a black roamer who would come in
and leave our yard sniffing.
Now this rain
this stranding at a gas station
this dead dog in the ditch day.

Two bearded house painters
push through the glass doors,
decide out loud not to pay taxes this year.
No forms in the post office
the day before they're due.

"Six Women Laughing"

Apr 27, 2015
Sean Dreilinger

Backdrop: spirit mountains,
rustling trees, sounds and scents
of late spring. Evening sun
squanders deepest crimson.
To this we drink and to our lives
come together fleetingly and full.
Birds flash at the feeder, call
of an Eurasian dove, an enormous
bee bumps into the glass.

Victor Charlo, Salish poet
Sue Reynolds / Sue Reynolds Photography

Good writing often tells a story about a place, and how the people in a place live and come to understand the land around them. That’s what Victor Charlo, a Bitterroot Salish Elder, taught when he visited a 4th grade writing class at Pablo Elementary School last Thursday. MTPR Flathead Reporter Corin Cates-Carney has the story of young writers being taught to find the right words to describe their home.

"Knee-Deep"

Apr 6, 2015

The body—god box—holds
the stuffing, blunt-winded plot,
until it doesn't

    tissue of tiny details
soaking up gestures of wedding
parties, neurons, steering wheel,
sugar bowl, the solarium

the nectar ebbs from the design

an autopsy, the openings filled with liquids,
already locked-out of the house, embarrassed

The river bank has been dented—
material ghost, the knees lock-kneed, knee-deep

What is left is fact and its antihistamine

"Working Class Hero"

Mar 23, 2015

He wakes tired from sleeping rough
in the cab of a pickup truck
that remembers the Vietnam war.
He wakes up raw-bellied
from going to sleep hungry,
from driving a hundred miles the night before
in his failing Ford,
from needing this job too much.

His flesh cringes from the cold breath
of a mountain beginning
its withdrawal into
the season of solitude.
His flesh cringes from premonitions
of being touched by frozen wood and iron
before the first sweat of the day
comes to break the morning chill.

"Outskirts"

Mar 16, 2015

Slept by a flat mud
reservoir with sandhill cranes
cluttering sound
all night

way out here
in the dragging wind.

We go for breakfast
smelling like sage, cow and creek water,
small town diner
a new mural half painted across old brick.

Remember how the waitress accuses us
of stealing postcards of their local boys
hometown band?

I tell you, she will not relent
despite all our defending
in our bright polypropylene fleeces
and reflective shoes.

"Holding The Stone"

Mar 9, 2015

You must hold it close to your ear, and
when it speaks to you, you must respond. - Richard Hugo

I found it by the Clark Fork
on a high bank above the river
where someone dumped remains
of an old road, broken slabs
of concrete crowding the river stones.

I admit my first thought was throw it,
skip it on the surface going gold
in sunset, dimple the water like
whitefish rising, give it back
to the river that gave it shape and color.
But once in my hand its calm
And luck took hold.

"Which Last"

Mar 2, 2015

In the thicket just west of my shack,
under the heaviest of canopied pines,

every day, all winter long, two does recline
and rest, and sometimes when I look

from the window their eyes are closed,
but still they go on chewing whatever

snowbound vegetation they've uncovered—
or just their sad, inadequate cuds, I suppose.

As I suppose my daily apple also
is due to them. I've been a little slow to learn

not to throw the core and make them run,
but to toss it gently between us, like so.

"Muriel"

Feb 23, 2015

My mother held out for tangerines.
They were more willing than the orange,
Rare as China, still, and carried the
Thought, which was never spoken,
That life was no more than that.
Peeling them now in the darkened
Kitchen, the taste of them almost in
My mouth. A mouth forged
From the soft melding of two others
Slipping open like caves found
In darkness, moistening the sweet,
Heavy air that fell between them
With the thought that was never spoken.
My thumbs enter the skin
No differently than did those

I was there
as the rain
hesitated;

drizzle contemplated
itself.

I could feel
the world changing
its mind.

Until the drops
thickened into
glycerine.

Like I was there
at snow's invention.

The sound changes,
you know,
once the snowflakes
hit the ground
they decide
to rejoin

The day was wild with certainty.
For a small moment there,
I knew what matters.

"Winter Feeding"

Jan 26, 2015

for Ralph

It must be the kind of work.
The hauling, the pitching,
the sour bale we heave aside,
the extra strength that takes.
It must be the crafty figuring—
Let's short tonight. Hell, we
spread extra last night.

What he would say to that,
the joke he would make.
The off-chance falling star
that caught him wide-eyed
on top of the stack. Wrassling
the froze-up end of a bale,
cutting and cutting twine
that won't let go The knife
that won't close right in fingers
clumsy with cold.

"Sacrilege in Monterey"

Jan 12, 2015

Just down the street
From the Guilded Cage
Where James Dean married
Some guy in gold chiffon

The graffiti above the urinal
In the Bull's Eye
Tavern is quite explicit
As we piss away the day

"Sacred cow makes the best hamburger."

----------------------------------------

Not Ursa Major, whose outer edge
points at Polaris, our North Star,
or the seven sisters of the Pleiades,
the six daughters of Atlas who shine
dark nights for the one who is lost,
but the little slate-black river bird
always rocking and bobbing
to an inner music at the edges
of ice, slick stone and cold water.
The one who flies low and goes
down under the surface to see
what the fish and the water spirits see,
down in the current where sun
and stars stream and smooth
the hard edges, regrets and fears,

For the last several years, Robert Stubblefield has invited me to talk about The Write Question with students in one of the classes he teaches at the University of Montana. We talk about specific The Write Question programs students have listened to. Then I answer questions about the process of reading, interviewing, and creating programs for radio and the Web.

"Itinerary"

Dec 8, 2014

Monologues of white interiors
time-dried of water and wind

crowds gather in history's emptiness
weightless in the hollows of memory

description without witness
so long ago lost.

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"Five Bars at the High Spot"

Nov 24, 2014
Frances McCue
Haley Young

It worked like this:
we clung to our telephones,
searching for clearance.
I rang for you over the river.
All water goes slant
to the place you need
most: mouth, sea, tributary,
and then into books
we love.

So you answered. “Hello,
great signal, wild scenery.”
We craved the high spots
and now you’d said it
up on the ledge of perfection
phone activated, scene made.

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"Outside the St. Ignatius Mission"

Nov 3, 2014

We must be poets to hear from home
on nights like this. The moon
has a thousand echoes
in mud puddles all over town.

The old Mission looms behind life
like something so terribly lost
that life anchors to the loss.
Its aged walls wane to ghost at night.

Through stained glass dim candles radiate
like the soul of something ancient
through the continuance of itself.
Home is a deeper place,

submerged here by the landing of this world
we cannot have
God no longer thunders
from the sky, but whispers

Sarah Linden

A visit with poet Tyler Knott Gregson, an unlikely success story from Helena, Montana. He typed his first poem off the top of his head, standing up, on an old typewriter an a junk store. Three years and 900 poems later, he has a following of several hundred thousand people around the world.

"The Hermit's Work

Sep 1, 2014

They'll wonder
that I left

my things—

my name on folded forms,
the job I did.

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"Magpie"

Aug 18, 2014

Magpie
infernally
multiple,
gangster-gaggle
in a poplar snag,
long liver,
egg sucker,
eater of eyes,
murderer of unfledged
nestlings,
carrion cleaner
of our own
assorted
homicides –
deer,
dog, feral
cats, porcupine, never
mind,
hardly
a blood trace
left
by the next
afternoon –
glorious harlequin
Magpie,
coal snow
burnt ash
night moon
examiner,
and us
except as surfeit
flesh
found
wanting.

" Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout"

Aug 11, 2014

Down valley a smoke haze
Three days heat, after five days rain
Pitch glows on the fir-cones
Across rocks and meadows
Swarms of new flies.

I cannot remember things I once read
A few friends, but they are in cities.
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.

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"What Silence Is"

Aug 4, 2014

The Adagio in Rachmaninoff's
Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor
is so sweet-sad you stop what
you're doing, you can hardly
turn your ears from its deliberate
infiltration, you remember
what you didn't want to remember,
the sweetness of early love,
the sad days and nights that follow,
the way days and nights collapse
into one another in the fury of live
which is so like what later you call hate,
there are no laws for this, shrapnel, shards,
shattering, the indistinctness, the disappearances,

"The Solitude of Ophelia"

Jul 28, 2014

...We know what we are, but know not what we may be... Hamlet, IV. v 44

My eyes open, lettuce leaves,
curling cabbages to look bitter inside
my terror, a skinned spine.
Creature of death, I welcome and eat you without pain.

The monster heart
gone to weeds.
I make mental contact with the lovers
watching TV in hotel rooms, share
wine with the carpet, spend
every buck I have.
Sell the typewriter.

Publisher Allen Jones talks about "re-invigorating" Bangtail Press and three recently-released anthologies of Montana writers, the Treasure State Readers.

Montana Bookstore Readers

"Montana Inventory"

Jul 21, 2014

At 85 miles an hour an insect splattered
like saffron on the windshield
and a white cloud in blue sky above the
     speed-curried bug

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"To Carry Water"

Jul 7, 2014

There is the bird beak's way
and the way of the woman with child.

The eye's way
and the way of the well bucket.

The oak tree's way is not unlike that
of the cloud or the long dry summer it was

When the birdsong stopped,
and the woman stood tiptoe

looking down the well. Perched
on the handle of an unstrung pail, a wren

fluttered its wings without note. A leaf
floated, sinking slowly as the pail:

the rust holes, the caterpillar-chewed,
sipping in the weight of last year's skies.

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