Clay cliffs rise above blue morning hills,
the Tobacco River below, rolls over rocks.

Tracks in the gorge promise a train;
long for the tri-tone whistle.

An acre wide veranda, a rocking chair,
spot waxwings, western meadowlarks,

a western tanager in a scotch pine.
Mule deer on a grass trail, graze

by a steamer trunkā€”rib remains
recede under pink mountain heath,

and the heralded sky,
like the heart of Hiawatha

opens wide, above a bucolic sun.

Somewhere else, a Remington leans
on a hill of antlers, under

a Confederate flag. Chrome testicles
of bulls hang from hitches.

Big-breasted silhouettes
recumbent on mud flaps.

A hunger for throttles,
a rage for eternal combustion.

Rifle racks, six-packs,
bumper slogans, jingo lust.

Flags fly above crosses,
and souls blow out like candles,

in the middle of heaven. 

But maybe it’s not that simple.
I’ve heard the band play both Sousa and Coltrane.

I’ve seen tears fall in cigarette ash, and a hard heart
weep to see an orange sunrise.

I’ve seen the Samaritan walk by
while the priest and Levite paused on bended knees.

Sometimes the conservation of the Jade Vine,
breaks the village market.

And that early light, might be dawn, or just the glare
of bombs bursting in black air.

The Tobacco river changes each day, even the Rockies
never stay the same: the scene of decay

or the stage of charity.


  1. “rage for eternal combustion” – loved this.
    I googled Tobacco River and found that there are at least three – Michigan, Maryland, Montana. The picture suggests you’re on the one in Montana.

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