Should we call the snow geese foolish for not having known that the green lake
amidst the yellow rock where the waters of the nation divide was in fact a pit of poison
more acidic than a can of Coke? Perhaps. Though let’s not blame them, especially the ones
that perished, floated like sacked pillows on the still surface or sank bottomward
a thousand feet down, towards the gleaming arsenic, sulfide still sputtering from mineshafts
like a toxic starfield without the light of fusion. Now, fireworks & loudspeakers warn migrators:
Move on, there is no birth, no shelter, no solace here. Except of course for the extremophiles
repairing in the earth’s harsh dark their own haggard DNA, among them Euglena mutabilis,
which pulls ore from the water to store within its single cell, then belches air. Ghostly
metal-belly, bizarre homemaker, that as it swims is forging of waste its version of spring.
The Valley of a Thousand Haystacks
near Garrison, Montana
The thin vein of the Little Blackfoot slips among fields dotted with the old beaverslide hay stackers, bony lodgepole skeletons that still creak to work in this valley. Hay is loaded into carts from its swept windrows on the open palms of pitchforks. The shoulders of the horses haul the rake through the air, scaffolding shuddering in the autumn light & the fodder falls, released like a rib’s caged breath. Let us call this progress: the steady growing of the stack, like dough warm & rising in the field, a bond against cold, hunger, zephyr, rot’s black blooms—this banked seed of root & sun. Let us eat that bread in winter’s rooms.
The Coming of the Zebulon M. Pike, First Steamboat to Ascend the Missouri to St. Louis
A blacksnake big around as a man’s wrist once ate three of papa’s pullets. One I watched it disgorge, slicked with the phlegm of the snake’s belly & smooth as the eggs it was meant to give us. The other two nestled there in the racer’s bulged coil. It fled from me, fat & slow, as the smoke that belches from the ship’s stacks moves in the heat, indolent, inevitable, bulbous with the tale of its arrival, with all the mail & its bright, round news. Strange, & slippery, that word from home might reach me now by breath alone.
Corrie Williamson is the author of Sweet Husk, winner of the 2014 Perugia Press Prize and a finalist for the Library of Virginia Literary Award. Her most recent work can be found in AGNI, 32 Poems, Willow Springs, and TriQuarterly. She lives in Helena, Montana.