There are stories a mountain casts
and valleys that language seeks to name.
This twist of river, swollen from the thaw,
curves itself against rock and sand,
sculpting letters in the shoreline and stories onto stone.
I learned to speak Montana the way I learned to jump
feet first into the Blackfoot off the stone cliff
with the boy from Libby
who pointed to the cross on the rock,
where a man who had refused to jump
climbed down instead and slipped to his death.
Here, somewhere between dusk and dark,
night’s last hand throws out a blush
of summer orange, bending this Montana sky
into a language spoken by men
who drink to ghosts and rivers and myth,
and all the things that make me cling to
this stone-edged wall, too afraid to jump.
Because this is the land of worn away ice,
that writes caution and temptation into its own
And on this fading night, where stories flow
like our warm whisky poured onto sand,
I learn to speak Montana the way I learn
to release my grip
from the cool edged rock
into the river’s tongue unknown.