Thought I would share a recent poem I wrote since it’s about the Brush Creek. I will begin to start blogging more now that The Day That Shall Not Be Named (Graduation) is coming up. I will be moving out West for the next year, beginning in August.
This is a poem I wrote in my creative writing sequence at Northwestern.
The Courtship of Wyoming and I
It isn’t easy to get here.
Annie Proulx said to the reporter,
you may as well not even try.
Medicine Bow Pass is closed,
snow climbing so high
you can hear the trees screaming
for air. I’ll just pick you up
in the town square, it’s Saratoga
That’s on the map.
Tetons mean big tits for a reason.
The Hollywood of Wyoming
y’all don’t want to go up there,
just a bunch of rich people
taking pictures with bears.
Tetons are where my father went
as child, where he decided that
someday, he wanted a ranch,
somewhere wild to pass.
These mountains sing with something we don’t know
drawn up high, heavy, like milk—sustaining,
we work with weeds, pulling up, with bare faces
and sleep under stars, wondering why we
hadn’t lived here before.
In 2009 13,000 acres were ours
The Brush Creek Ranch began
to sell its water rights in 1881,
marking maiden land for profit.
And here we were.
Nature for me was ski resorts.
Vail, where I grew up, happy
families in log homes and snow
that gets groomed all day long.
Elk moved in dark packs across
golf courses and teachers called
in sick on powder days. Everyone
was healthy and the mountains
obeyed us, until you drove further
Annie Proulx lives on a ranch
next to us called Bird Cloud.
Can I work with her? I love her stories.
There’s a reason she lives here.
She’s not one for socializing.
She prefers the dangerous ground,
snow that snakes around you
like a leather whip, mean as
heartbreak. Animals are cute
here too, until they’re killed.
One of Annie’s characters said
bull riding made him feel like
euphoria ran through him
like blood. Being at 8,000 feet
makes me throb so violently
blood spurts out my nose, not
from dryness but from purpose.
I’m much more pleasant than Annie, though,
at least at this age.
I first visited the Brush Creek Ranch
as a senior in high school. The past
owners were forced to sell from bankruptcy.
Kinta came outside and gave us dead fish
handshakes. She knows how to clean one.
Her cabin felt like a crazy person
was in a corner muttering, but only
her five year old sat on a torn chair
watching cartoons, bloodless. We
weren’t there to him. She offered water
out of a sticky, half-washed cup.
Y’all don’t know this land.
My family’s ghosts will haunt you.
Diamond Felts rides bucking broncos
in Annie’s story. Addicted to the
swoop through the chute,
“paroxysm of twists and bucking”
to reach a high delicious as buttermilk
pie. After the barn dance we go outside
to look at the moon, that particular moon
hanging, an iris, lit up by 4th of July
fireworks, this moon brings us to
an empty barn. He bites my lip
so hard that I have to lie about it
the next day, “a dogbite.” We go
to the rodeo and I’m as flushed
as a hummingbird’s throat.
I bite his and watch the broncos buck.
If only earth and sky matter, what happens to us?
Kinta’s brother owned a place
down the road, the Nephew’s Cabin
circled with railroad tracks rusting
in the cold ground. The door creaks
to reveal empty vodka bottles, plastic
and sun-faded littered across the wooden
floor, dead mice lying like war victims
their heads swollen with poison and
a twin bed in the corner, unmade.
We will restore this one, my father says.
We will bring this ranch back to life.
How does dread begin
with a field full of
horses outside your
In 1925 the Brush Creek Ranch
was purchased by Edgar Uihlein,
the owner of Schlitz Brewing Company
(I drank their beer in high school
at Schuba’s Tavern on Southport)
who used German prisoners of war
to build a vegetable garden and
a buck and pole fence, the same one
I took down last summer. Too old.
Its wires wrapped itself in and out
of trees, like they needed each other
to survive the past half century of
I would understand soon enough,
thorns fooling around with thorns
if only to escape the milky toughness.
My brothers and I have friends out
to work. They fly in from Chicago.
City slickers. They haven’t seen
that movie, but they wish they had.
A weight moves in on their shoulders
as they struggle to dig out fence holes
in the midday July sun. Working hard
on your ACT score is different than
whatever this is. We move around
the ranch in red trucks and yell
that there’s nothing like the
hot metal of a pick up on your ass.
We used to hate country music
but something loosens as it
makes the workday go faster.
A wrangler helps with a pack trip.
She drinks her water from the creek
and sneers at our purification tablets.
Just listen to it: purification tablets.
It doesn’t sound poetic, or even
Western. Too clean. Too quick.
Y’all are some city slickers.
Your daddy bought you this ranch
and you don’t even know how
to ride a horse. You’re no more
a cowboy than you are a little leather-winged
bat. Annie said that. Blushing, I say
I’m a quick learner.
A local girl sings Patsy Cline
at the Whistle Pig, where we go
after work. She is beautiful.
I dream that I sing Patsy Cline
but I have to learn the words first.
Utes, Sioux, Cheyenne, Snake, Crow, Arapahoe.
These Native Americans lived here until 1954.
The hot springs of Saratoga were magical
until a group of smallpox victims came.
Please, use our waters. They will cure you.
You think you know this land? See our sores,
still here, and know your whole world is untrue.
Announce to the tribes:
the springs are now dangerous.
Here are the effects of a strange newcomer.
What did you just say to me?
We are at The Bear Trap when
my brother tells a local boy,
I can ride a bull better than you.
The boy starts to move in
for the punch and my brother’s
blue eyes grow large like
a flower blooming in fast-time.
one of our wranglers is here.
He’s from two towns over.
He’s just kidding. He doesn’t mean it.
The boy retreats and shakes his head,
and I tell my brother to buy him a beer.
The boy plays a Shania Twain song
from the jukebox—Man! I Feel Like a Woman!
and dedicates it to my brother.
Drought. A thunderstorm moves in,
black as the tar we laid that morning.
I hear the land open its mouth, bless us
O Lord, and these thy gifts, and the
horses start galloping, as the winds
pick up. The earth listens like an old friend.
We all gather on the covered porch,
watching in silence as the first drop hits,
taps the dirt into something first born.
The inhabitants of the Earth are scorched.
Today we bundle willows to plant by the
river, so the fish don’t overheat and die.
You’re not married.
You’re not married.
Work makes you hot,
dirties my pants with
fence stain and perhaps
something else, hard
and steady like rock,
pleading as if a fire
may start, the right
kind that cleanses.
He maneuvers himself
into the inside of the tree
and wrestles with it until
the live branches are cut off
for us to clean, cut, and bundle.
I bend over to tie the willows,
ten logs to tie, up to the truck,
ten logs to tie, up to the truck,
over and over and over and over
until we stop, 4 o’clock.
Wyoming has the smallest population of any state.
Annie talks about the signs of misadventure.
We drive through a snowstorm.
We are moving through milk,
ready to join the other plastic
vases of roadside flowers.
A rancher next door is sent away
for alcoholism. I saw him
drink straight from the bottle
every day after work, yelling to us
how beautiful is this sunset?
The landscapers say that they
woke up in the dead of the night
in the Nephew’s Cabin to a man
standing over their bed, asking for help.
They all had the same dream.
A woman drives up the pass
with her lover, after midnight and
hits an unseen elk on the road.
They both die. This is how her
husband discovers her affair.
These are my stories.
To reach the ranch you must fly
to Laramie on what I named the
death plane. Teenage pilots hope
for the best with a single engine.
Folks, it gets bumpy over these
mountains. We apologize. It’s
this damn wind. Never eases
up, but please don’t be alarmed.
It’s an hour drive to the ranch,
if the pass is open. June through
September, before the snow swallows
it up into an unreachable pearly
riddle. The road today almost seems
kind. I pretend to know these towns,
through Centennial and its grey
schoolhouse tucked into peak’s
flank, a quiet trailer without a sign.
If you want groceries I’ll take you
to the store in Saratoga. Don’t let
the taxidermy scare you, bears
roar over the baked goods aisle.
We can take the back road if
you don’t mind more bumps.
We’ve gone up and over
Medicine Bow through the
lakes and peaks that make us
think about God, past the moose that
we should get chased by to start
a pulse. Past that I drive home,
to the Brush Creek Ranch, where
I do and complete my work.
Every night at dusk the sky
cracks open like an egg and
slides all over our tired skin,
hot to touch but nourishing, forever, until it sets.