Thunderstorm Woman

She’s a big horse woman,
dusty and sun-squinted tired.
Her bad frayed braid
hangs down her shoulder
reaching for her two big breasts.
She holds her shovel like
she holds the Earth,
a white knuckle grasp in the midday heat.
She has cracked heels
and dirt under her nails,
mud bruised jeans
and wide bull hips.
She digs her mud knees
into her green cabbage rows,
listening to the black
flap of crow’s wings.
She alone sows the land with
her back rounded to the sun,
the sound of harvest grunt
bellowing from her throat.
When she’s done watering
her squash and cucumbers with salt
from her forehead, she turns
her face to the sun,
hands on the curve of her spine.
Believes she’s a tree,
a root in the ground,
she drinks the rain that falls
from the storm clouds.
She wakes up at first dew
to feed chickens and cows
hums to herself when
she knows she’s alone.
She understands solitude
like she understands the sky,
both a space between
the Earth and something else.

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The Departure

He sunk his wooden oar into Cavanaugh Lake
and said the air smelled like muddied November leaves
and something burnt. Beyond our rowboat
the glass-eyed moon made silent our departure,
so I cupped my beer bottle between mitted hands
and listened to someone’s whistle from shore.

That night I lay awake with a look to the sky
and traced a moving satellite with my finger
listening for the sea, or rather,
the wind of a not too distant Great Lake,
living now a glacial ancestry. Remembering
the dunes and the rise and fall
of my own young lungs climbing the first big hill.

In the rowboat, we muscle through the black water;
mud creatures and pale faced. Our dark-eyed circles
deepening. A steady pace toward the
browning of our lives, away from the safety
of the shore, and only the glass-eyed moon
to guide our departure.

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.

What we Saved

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Before the hail hit and the storm set us running,
we arched over the tomato vines,
squinting hard against the mid-day sun. But we knew

that green and grey sky, still miles away, was sailing in like a long whistle out from sea.
The farmer and I, we dug fast into the soil—soft as chocolate cake—
and we pretended to believe

that the storm might pass us over. Because we smelled of wet Earth and sweat, and the sun still kissed at our hands, our necks, our backs,

we thought our hopes out loud; that maybe the calm of the afternoon would keep on calm, and that we could keep on planting forever.

It wasn’t long before the first drop fell. Plopped down
on someone’s head like a warped water balloon.
Most of the tomatoes still alert in their black trays, heads to the sky,
wanting to prove resistance.

Toward the shed we buried our face against the wind and rain,
and from across the field someone hollered, Grab the tomatoes.
And the sky cracked open, and the slanted rain turned to ice.

So we turned around and grabbed the trays,
Stacking them against the shed.
Saving whatever we could.

By the time we got inside the hail came down the size of walnuts
thuds against tin roof, heavy and hard.

And we huddled in clumps; crossed arms over chests, chins into necks, and someone, must have been the farmer,
passed around a half-frozen slab of sausage
and told stories about the weather:

The heat waves and the rains; the frosts and the fires.

We waited it out. Sat on cold folding chairs, not sure what to do,
wondering if we should just go on home.

Looked like the grey of the sky would keep on grey, and that we would wait forever.

Half hour later, and still a mood. We looked around
and tried a few jokes, some of us watched the sky,
others of us paced the shed.

Then, just when the last of the sausage had been passed around, and the conversation began to thin, someone yelled look and pointed up.
Beyond the solid shelfline of clouds we saw something familiar.
A tired yellowing, sweeping slow toward our field.

So we loaded up the wheelbarrow with those saved tomatoes.
We went back without fear that the wind would appear,
or we would have another green grey run toward the shed.

It was as if the storm never came, sun beat down sweat against arms,
smelling as sweet as the rind of any watermelon.

We knew for now, all we were suppose to do
was keep on planting in that warm row of soil;
in that soil we could keep on planting forever.

Eggplant

Avocado because I can slide my knife through its leathery skin and into its green belly, like how my friend had an emergency C-section, and they sliced open her uterus to lift up her baby into the world, his head the shape of a perfectly round grapefruit. Grapefruit because its flesh reminds me of my inner thighs after a hot shower. I happened to have a hot shower yesterday while I meditated on the things I have control over and the things I must thrust into the sky and let go indefinitely. Mushrooms because they can be hunted in the woods, and because they are spongy and sorta bob on the surface of things. The one and only time I shot a gun was on the beach of Lake Huron where I took aim at a Coors Light can. The gun was much heavier than I had expected, and I imagined the weight of the barrel seemed like a lot to hold for the young men and women (none of which I admit I personally know) of our country sent off to fight that war, or that war, or this war.  Dried beans because they are still naive and individual and have rights and stuff, like some Americans who tell the government not to infringe on their property, and then insist what I can and cannot do with my own property that, by the way, can grow life. But my absolute favorite food is an eggplant because its deep blackpurple skin is like a fresh bruise after a punch, and when I cut into a raw eggplant I feel the toughness of this skin peel open and unfurl into pieces of uncertainty and pain and lives so messy with heartbreak and fear that when I open up it’s innards and see the seeds nestled in and the wise yellowing of it’s meaty flesh primed for the grill, I pause, and remember the deliciousness of it all anyway.