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 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

1817

 
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.

Photo of snow geese at sunset by Diana Marcoux, courtesy Shutterstock.

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