"Solstice Poem 2005"

Dec 23, 2013

                                      -- for my friends, especially Ken Brewer

Today I glimpsed
a short-eared owl above
a rise just south
of Little Mountain.
Gone, when I looked again.

Of course this is metaphor
for the beauty and brevity
of life and for tragedy.
The owl will kill,
the owl will die.

At home, at dusk, in snow,
I hauled cut flood-wood
from the other side
of the river then
stacked logs by the willows

Even as bones they were sublime, the sky-
scraping brachyo- an brontosauri,
tree-boned haunches, handfuls of arm-length claws,
T. Rex with teeth uncountable as stars.
In my mind, they were fleshed, they ripped and gnawed.
Crossing Central Park at dusk, I'd see
the giants grazing still, the swaying treetops
hiding some great nibbling head, and hear
them in the ground-juddering thunder
as our subway shot like progress from the dark.
Then swallowed us, like some great whale or ark.

During this program TWQ producer Chérie Newman talks with Barbara Theroux, manager of Fact & Fiction Bookstore, and Zed about recently-published books written by authors from the western U.S. -- fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, for adults and children.

"The Snow In Wyoming"

Dec 9, 2013

...let's see what words you'll use to write the poems you write today, dreaming of Wyoming.
Miguel d'Ors

The dream will go wherever I go, luminous and dense
with its immovable rock ridge and water
cascading over red or yellow hillsides,
depending on the light,
                  while a buffalo's forehead
clears a path through the snow.

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 programs, which, if students have done their homework assignments, they've listened to. Then I answer questions about the process of reading, interviewing, and creating programs for radio and the Web.

Kate Lebo has created a delightful commonplace book that includes poetry, recipes, illustrations, and a twisty new form of folk wisdom. The conversation during this program includes the definition of a commonplace book, as well as perfect pie crust tips, pie quotes ("We ought to make the pie higher." - George W. Bush), and aphorisms.

About the book:

Giving Thanks, A Few Years Later

Nov 25, 2013

The sliding barn door slams against the far wall
winter light pours in like water through floodgates
dust floats in trapped sun

I reach up and grab the feet
of one more stunned and screaming
blue-green-brown Naragansett turkey
roosting in the rafters

Quick, he's upside down, wings spread out
heavy body bouncing
against the right hip of my spattered coveralls

100 turkeys, 8 friends, 3 days before Thanksgiving

"Pick Up"

Nov 18, 2013

What kind of finger to point? At which
map showing which right or southern turn? On
the newly poured shoulder, tar sucks at my shoe

I'm willing to walk out here alone, gravel grinding
my heel, gray day and the surface of the road
one continual oatmeal. No one thumbs

a ride on the frontage road but me
so no one stops but you. Stories of fingers
in the psychopath's pocket, suspicion float back

and forth in our first stumbling exchange.
You need me for company. I settle grateful.
Highway lengthens toward silence, hazard lights


Nov 4, 2013

What didn't work the first time
won't work the tenth. This is true
of everything structured by desire
which continues to beat against walls
as if they can dissolve with repetition.

This is a problem in all relationships
that begin in image and end in dreams
that nag though night with what
never was and could not be.
In between these stages comes touch.


Oct 28, 2013

Do not murder the man whose
grandfather stole land from
your grandfather. Do not make
your grandchildren, who will
love you no matter what, decide
whether or not to tell the truth or
live like hollow stems.

Don't let rage become a flash
flood, or a lightning bolt that
strikes you again and again.

Would you save every tissue you
blew snot into? No, we cannot
save everything.

Maybe we can't save anything
or anybody except ourselves.

"We Are the Spirits of These Bones"

Oct 21, 2013

We have been with these bones
for a long time
and we are beginning to feel
a whole lot better now
that these bones are back among the Cheyenne people on their Reservation.

But we are troubled for another reason.
We want to travel on
now that these bones are safely buried.
They have now been properly put to rest.

"October Aspens"

Oct 14, 2013

I see pale yellow aspen leaves
along the shaded background mountainside
which quake and quiver in the slightest wind
as if they are determined to maintain
their named identity in bold defiance
of the seasons' change to duller hues—
and share their mood of glum diminishing.
         So what is it about this momentary glow
of quaking yellow aspen leaves,
waving along white-grayish boughs,
accompanied by shrieking crows,
cascading under purple clouds,
that suddenly evoke in me a shudder
for all transient breathing things:

"Magic Fox"

Oct 7, 2013

They shook the green leaves down,
those men that rattled
in their sleep. Truth became
a nightmare to their fox.
He turned their horses into fish,
or was it horses strung
like fish, or fish like fish
hung naked in the wind?

Stars fell upon their catch.
A girl, not yet twenty-four
but blonde as morning birds, began
a dance that drew the men in
green around her skirts.
In dust her magic jangled memories
of dawn, till fox and grief
turned nightmare in their sleep.

"Storm Pattern"

Sep 30, 2013

On my living room wall hangs a Navajo rug
handwoven by Virginia Yazzie. A Storm Pattern
with a black and white border, through which
the spirit line passes, a design like silhouettes

of mesas on the Colorado Plateau. Within the border
it's red, Ganado red, with black and white
figures, the sacred water bugs, the mountains
and the clouds, and the intersecting lightning bolts

"Sometimes Odowan"

Sep 23, 2013
Dragonfly Weather, poems by Lois Red Elk
Lost Horse Press

Sometimes when I sleep,
I hear buffalo coming,
Sometimes when I sleep,
Tatanka sings me songs.
Hey yo hey yaaaaah.

Sometimes when I dream,
I see dragonflies flying.
Sometimes when I dream,
Tusweca sings me songs.
Hey ya hey yaaaah.

Sometimes when I wake,
I feel the earth moving.
Sometimes when I wake,
Maka Unci sings me songs.
Hey ya hey yaaaaah.

How to Write the Great American Indian Novel

Sep 9, 2013

All of the Indians must have tragic features: tragic noses, eyes, and arms.
Their hands and fingers must be tragic when they reach for tragic food.

The hero must be a half-breed, half white and half Indian, preferably
from a horse culture. He should often weep alone. That is mandatory.

If the hero is an Indian woman, she is beautiful. She must be slender
and in love with a white man. But if she loves an Indian man

then he must be a half-breed, preferably from a horse culture.

"Good Intentions"

Aug 19, 2013

Wesley and I aspired to build a lake
in his backyard, with lily pads and fish
and frogs. We dug a hole, planted
an old hog trough, filled it with good
water from the garden hose. Pedaled
for the river, buckets clanging from our handlebars,
fish nets lashed to our bike frames and fenders.

Under the bridge, minnows schooled in the shallows--
shiners, and chubs, and bullhead fingerlings.
Easy to scoop with our nets and fill bucket loads
quickly. Frogs dived under but sooner or later surfaced

"Little Boys and War"

Aug 12, 2013

I was six; brother was five.
Papa was gone to war.
Planes roared overhead
Racing for the city,
Our farmhouse shook;
Dishes crashed on the floor.

Mama screamed and
Called us to her.
In the roar, we wouldn’t hear,
And rushed outside
To watch the show.

Could we really see the bombs
As they flew toward the city?
“There! There!” we’d yell
As planes swooshed low
And dirt blossomed upward
And lives and property
Were destroyed for our enjoyment.

And mama screamed

During this program, Zan Bockes talks about writing her way through grief, and her adult perspective on an abusive childhood. She also reads from her collection of poetry, Caught In Passing.

"Thought Under Construction"

Aug 5, 2013

There's no first stanza and maybe we should all go home,
since thinking isn't easy under any circumstances. And if

'home' is what's under construction? The work crew first
disconnects the stove, then turns up the radio. Omelets and broken

eggs, yes, but quiet and even the chips and cracks
were the script. Like the script of a one-note seasonal bird

when a chill moves over a lake. But not like the radio.
The first rule of construction? Destruction. Even the bees

"The Velocity of Love"

Jul 22, 2013

So still we sit
in chairs that mold our breathing,
frightened birds
with feathers slimed in oil,
fish in nets, bodies
pressed against the figure
of their deaths.
We haven't spoken
for an hour. Your last
word digs holes in the air and

Beneath this weight, Father,
tell me I'm lighter than light,
that my love for you outruns
the spinning lance
of hate.

If I could speak,
I'd tell you it doesn't matter
how hate is as strong
as the other, how quickly
exchanged for love,

During this program, Minerva Allen talks with TWQ producer Chérie Newman about her role as a guardian of tribal culture. She also reads from her collection of poetry, Nakoda Sky People, and from Stories from the Elders: Nakoda Horse Society.

"Nuthatch Sitting on a Bear's Nose"

Jul 8, 2013

Really just a small cast iron representation
of the latter, a bottle opener mounted
to the southeast post of the shack's porch,
a Christmas gift from my niece,
and nothing to be stood upon, not even by a bird,
except for the nugget of ice at the end of the snout
that gives it a place. Some think art is lost
on the beasts of field and forest. Not I.
The chainsaw sculpture of an eagle
I fashioned years ago and fastened to a stump,
was sniffed at at length before the coyote

"Gathering Mint," a poem by Laurie Wagner Buyer

Jun 10, 2013

He woke quiet, ate potatoes and eggs
sitting alone on a cottonwood stump in the sun.

At noon he took a rifle, burlap bag, and handful
     of dried apples,
saddled the glass-eyed gelding, corralled
     the wayward mare,
whistled one long high note for the hound
     and was gone.

It was late the first summer, river running
     low, meadow grass tassels paled by wind.
I weeded the garden one faded row at a time
     while the goats lazed in barn shade
and the mare paced,
     nickering again and again.