A Hunting Story

That one summer Saturday late-morning
breakfast over and you hop
into your father’s truck,

not the company one
but the shit one,
the one before company money,
the one that smelled like
high school beer,
self-changed oil,
cigarettes of a time your father wasn’t your father.

The hot breeze blows in from cracked windows
and cracked floorboards
and the steady hum
reminds you of your cat
but not the shit one
that hisses when you go near the food bowl
but the one that loves you
and sleeps on your feet,
lets you pet it too hard.

That warm hum that seemed to permeate comfort and heat
when your father took you hunting
for the first time in the very truck,
the shit one
that my father drove
when he wasn’t my father.

In Montana, the most tender thing you can do
is put a gun in the hands of someone you love.

You left at unknown hours.

You left for unknown weather.

You left for unknown coulees –
the things of childhood memories:
Digging out that old, shit truck from a snow drift.

My father laughed,
dressed gruesomely in orange and red,
sipped on a beer,
checked his fingers for blood,
checked my fingers for cold,

stuffing cut spruce into the wheels rotating on
snow turned ice underneath

that truck, which now rots in some yard far from my father’s house,
bones of a frame, eviscerated, used, appreciated,
cherished but now gone,

a sacrifice
for me and my brother.


Conversation of a River

Conversation of a River


“Late Fragment,” by Raymond Carver

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

He says:
“When I die, I’ll still be reading this poem to you
in this remembered moment,
when my hands shake
and my ears grow hair, stiff as summer wheat.

So take this book, and let’s go down to the river.”

The air is innocuous as a song
falling on concentrated ears.

Her reply:
“I will go down to the river
to rest my feet on the steady current
to rest my frame in the shade of cottonwood.”

And she does love these summer nights,
more than others:
cool breezes
windows open
fans shooshing the breeze into other rooms,
other places
down to branches that dance on the bank.

He says:
“I’ll take you there.
Our time is in the river.”

And he walks her to the river
in his arms,
down steep banks and forgiving grasses,
beside boulders set by force and happenstance.

She says
nothing, but smiles.
He stands in the river, her in his arms,
and she smiles in the river

He says of the river:
“It reminds me of a revisiting of things permanent:
A campfire under a pastel prairie turning to wine,
the susurration of the river,” the one in which they both stand, holding hands.
“Of a love, not changed by the steel edge
of a river’s time
not chained to the ebb and flow of the moon,
but only grown, rooted, and flourished
next to the river.”

A peace now,
even in the constant and distant clamor
of crickets,
that has always been there
and always will be.

He says:
“How similar it all is,”
As if he could see what proceeds,
like the slices of an orange,
the river’s swell and balance of direction.

And she knows, setting her book on the bank,
there will always be rivers,
but this river is hers,
this river is his.

And they stand
in the tender musk of wet soil
in the beckoning light of dusk, or dawn,
in the river.