I come from



I come from Green Stamps and Zane Grey

A lightning struck trailer

Cattle guards too slick in winter

For a sure-footed pack mare

Shots and chainsaws piercing kid prayers

A beer tab popped

“I’ll be God damned if I ever have another trap like that.”

And from then on, gates

Big green steel gates.


I come from up Bear Creek

Selway’s buzzed edge

July horse flies

Mosquito-bit and skinny dipped thighs

4-H sewing projects for the Fair

Tamaracks going amber

Thirty-five inches of snow one Halloween

Ham hocks and navy beans

Love leavened cornbread

“Iron skillets bake a better crust.”



I come from rabbit ears on a snowy television

JFK’s funeral caisson

Gunsmoke and Red Skelton

“Goddamn hippies.”

Vietnam casualty counts for dinner

Ritz Mock Apple Pie and whole, fresh milk for dessert


I come from brick dust on work boots

Travertine and slate, sweet wet cement

White polished nurses’ aide shoes

“Did Mrs. Buehl get caught without her clothes again?”

stealing down the rest home hall to Max’s room.

And Mom’s common quip

“Just cause there’s snow on the roof

doesn’t mean the fire’s out in the basement.”


I come from an Avenger of Bataan

Who abandoned his youth on Zig Zag Pass.

An Indiana farm girl who wanted to be an English teacher

Who got the highest grades at beauty school

And knew all the bones in the body

Who’d read Gone With the Wind thirty times

And liked Melanie best.


I come from bull pines and ditch riders

Clucking church women

Cellophane rapture lessons in their

Total Woman book clubs.

Don’t pay the fence builders until the job’s done

They’ll go on a bender

Old Kenny Roan

Bummin’ always repaid dollars from Dad

“My Indian brother”

“My Indian brother”


I come from a bar and grill juke box

Set underneath old Ed’s hand painted copy of

Remington’s In Without Knocking

Paint smudged fifty cent pieces

From the big, chiming brass cash register

“A Boy Named Sue”

“Harper Valley PTA”


I come from never doubting the existence of love

But its cost

Oh, God, its cost.

“Let’s go home.”

“After one more, we’ll go.”

“This eye? Well. . .would you believe I hit a door?”


I come from loaded guns

I’d silently empty

Into my box of Barbies

When Dad came home

Full of Jim Beam and “Japs”


I come from a place

I keep safe from my daughter

Trigger locked

High up in my closet

So she won’t see a ten year old cry.



Homeward Flights

(Written on the way home from Europe, August 2009)

A hundred and fifty thousand air miles ago

I drank only Shirley Temples and

rode in the pickup back with

shovels, broken brick.

First class.

Hub to rusty hub wide seating,

leg room enough for scaffold planks.

Dad’s canvas tool bag coughed dry mortar

on every bump.

On the gun rack his level gurgled.

Hayfield bugs hit the cracked windshield,

a Jackson Pollock

by the first gate,

where the first cab to cabin

words could finally bounce over

three-quarter tons of rattled metal.

From the Mercantile to home

we gained altitude,

outran the Fokker mutts that tailed us by Roys,

raced to the crest of Ralston’s Hill

where an air pocket,

that sudden foot of space between

ass and truck bed,

flipping stomachs and delivering

a split sweet moment of weightless joy.

It was before kids were so seat-belt safe.

It was before body scans.