Little Bighorn, Bitterroot, Helena, the sticks:
The vicious-minded pony who threw you again and again,
The horses that stood on your chest, the father
who rifled your store of best friends for his wives.
maybe, but not enough room. Time to pack up and go.
Between the deltoid and the pecs
of the Continental Divide
Is a ranch where you and your friends spent the summer
in a teepee, pretending to be the blowsy barmaid
on Gunsmoke, not quite clear maybe
on what that was code for. Pouring drinks
for thirsty men seemed like it might be fun.
Time to pack up and go.
From here, everything flows to Gulf, everything
turns muddy and dirty at last. So you struggle up
and over the shoulder, and look at the wide country
where everything flows clean to the Columbia,
to the Oregon Country, the green trees and the gentle rain.
It was all long ago: the Divide has sunk beneath
the horizon, and Hood stands as far east
as any of us will go. My dearest wanderer
between the mountains and the sea, it marks you,
it makes me reach for the doorpost, it calls me
in dream and memory, that tilt of the world,
that opening of the sky, that taste of
the bitter root of things,
that sudden extraordinary sweetness.