April & the Iron-Eaters
Berkeley Pit: Butte, Montana
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 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
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
from the ship’s
stacks moves in
the heat, indolent,
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.
Photo of snow geese at sunset by Diana Marcoux, courtesy Shutterstock.