Speak Montana

Erica Bloom_Clark Fork River
Clark Fork River during the Spring thaw

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
jagged silhouette.

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.

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