Poem: Even Wind Must Work
Updated: Mar 3
Even Wind Must Work
Heavy, the eyes are waked into.
Another small town as if a dream,
Each one a glass forest,
Passing headlights like metal birds.
Faint din gathers, resonates as a chime : The full moon.
Rising from bed damp, bare,
Cooling in the lunar air, feeling my sex,
Draping myself in the half-white dark.
The kitchen clock chips away
Longingly, without spite.
The just-open window,
The table’s crumbs in shadow,
Some dirty floor…
Looking back at her sleeping form,
Are you so sure you wanted all this?
On a narrow bridge across the dawn,
Over a river cutting through this town— Nets of birds reaping. Glimmer.
So much water. Winter releasing.
River swollen from spring.
Why am I here?
We are just talking, me and this girl,
And the birds. She can say all their possible names :
Bank Swallow Cliff Swallow. Their hunting, shearing the rising sun’s flanks.
The white horizon in their wings—
They are day’s inhaled breath.
A someday, someday we’ll be released.
That kind of ecstatic.
Spiraling, slashing from over the trees
The clouds of caddis they fold
Into violent sheaves.
Somewhere not here Goes her father’s tractor, she tells me.
Unstitching a seam—
Onto horizon’s plaid table.
I really believe this.
Bound up so the whole
Underworld blends into us.
He’s there, carving up the brown
Palette of so many browns
With a little sky.
The seed—his work. She comes from this
And is willfully, as he is, as they all are, bitten by the wind,
Seeking, each one, To be sown.
These ideas germ into grayed
Photos and are the mothen
Arms holding us.
These she awakens in me.
Somewhere in a curving place—
Marking the two of us off from what is fallow, What must be cut.
We could be homesteaders
Of bird and blown.
I'll never understand Missoula or how it changed me. It gave me back to myself, I believe. I gave myself over to it. I never returned to myself as I was after I left.
After Missoula was Butte, then San Francisco, then Chicago. St. Louis. Kansas City. St. Louis again. But I was always in Missoula, late nights over the Clark Fork after the town had gone to bed, leaving someone's bed and looking for my own. There until I met my wife and found a home, a thing I never thought possible.
But there were so many doors, in Montana. And late suns, and long moons. Everyone was moving, moving on, going up and going down. Some of us died and some are still there and some never arrived. I like to think they're still out there.
Originally published, in slightly different format, in New England Review as "Farmgirl." Photo is of Garnet Ghost Town, via Flicker.