I don’t know how in the world I got so lucky, to have parents who recognized the greatest kept secret in the Big Sky and secured it for us. That is a very particular and unusual kind of luck. These will be vacation poems. That is, written quickly and with much attention to the experience. Also, we’re going to camp tomorrow and maybe the next day or two after that, so I will not be posting those poems. I am still committed to a poem a day, though, so I will write them each day, and post them all at once when I return to the grid. That seems legit. This was a fast poem, today, written mostly on the way here, and I want to get it done with fast so I can hang out with my parents, who took the greatest care of our little girlies for the last week, and who are the most amazing examples of Big Love that I can imagine. These vacation poems are place poems, and that is fine. This is the place that breaks the strings around my miraculous peace, and lets it free. This is the place that smells like my always home.
Twenty Miles to Tarkio
Ratslaff’s. That is the name of the roadside turn, that gives way to the private property of the same name, that I couldn’t remember when rebranding my memory for my father, but it comes back to me now, along the highway, from West to East. Eight miles from work to the best and biggest sky, in shuddering relief. Never mock a Montanan. Mocking tongues deny the boasting, and sneer at our “Best in the West” memoirs, but those are the urbane deniers, the wretched contemporaries, they slump in the first circle, they vacation and we live, we live and they earn a living. Every whiff of the river mud is our arrogance and birthright, so we allow their smug adoration, as long as the leave in the fall. Hearing “I’ve been working on the railroad,” as a child, I always heard it as the soil heard it, unfolding beneath bare feet, the knowing was iron-born in us, but now I pass those men working on the railroad on my way to work and I small wave to them instead of hum. The rails slip east and west, which is up and down in time, past the leap in the bridge at Dry Creek, past the Riverbend Trailerpark, the laundromat on the other side of the river,the drugstore downtown with the moose ear and ice cream, past the steep slopes of great trouting, down this highway that carries me closer to the home that always waits. Don’t miss the turn. It’s twenty miles to Tarkio if you miss the exit.
You might not hear from me for the next few days. I aim to be camping. I hope they will be coherent, smart poems written round lots of campfires. But, who knows? I’m stoked. Happy Thursday, poemfriends.