Letter to America by Chris Dombrowski

One Poem

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To the First of the Getting Longer Days

I felt unsettled driving northeast in the dark
up what the Salish called the Road to the Buffalo
long before my tribe struck its camp of cul-de-sacs
though some still speak the Road’s name in Salish,
further evidencing my aforementioned sense
of self-importance inherited from forefathers who also
wanted more and newer things such as cars without
fender dents that don’t burn motor oil at a slow
if determined pace, such that checking the level
seems necessary every few hundred furlongs,
but then again I own it, even if the gasket job
cost roughly what the car was worth, and even
if I’d put repairs on a Visa—this line of thought
continuing as dawn stretched her blue shawl
over the Scapegoat, which is to say I felt the guilt
privilege affords and justly since I was driving
with my setter to hunt pheasants, chiefly a sporting
endeavor so removed from horseback and buffalo
jumps—the NPR station fizzled into white noise
and twenty miles from the next gas station I had to
relieve myself. What a flock of warblers was doing
so close to the mountains on the winter solstice
and chattering in the dark as the falling snow melted
flake by flake into my forehead, not even the most
learned ornithologist could have determined,
but they called assuredly from a slope of sage
as though they had always been calling, and I finished
pissing though perhaps I had always been pissing,
and men shouldering full quivers rode up the road,
one of them glancing to regard not traveler but song
as the light arrived, or kept arriving, as it will.




Chris DombrowskiChris Dombrowski’s first book of nonfiction, Body of Water (Milkweed Editions), was named to numerous “2016 Best Book” lists. He lives with his family in Missoula, where he writes, guides, and occasionally teaches; this semester he will serve as the Kittredge Distinguished Visiting Writer in the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Montana.
Read poetry by Chris Dombrowski previously appearing in Terrain.org.

Header photo of taillights on mountain road by Anton Petrus, courtesy Shutterstock.


Terrain.org is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.