Deer on Crazy Creek
Along the trail I think how risky the venture,
the signs that say don’t go alone into bear country.
I can see miles except in aspen. Walking uphill
in sage I think of Yellow Woman, of the stranger
who finds her and takes her into another life.
It’s after that, after coming from a grove of trees,
I climb on a huge split boulder and watch
an ant navigate a forest of lichens. When I
raise my eyes to the horizon, I see you,
the way you hold your head, ambling
along the trail, the sway of your body on this
path made long before humans managed and
mapped this place. You are doing what we do:
head down, step ahead, step ahead.
When you look up and I begin to speak, you stop,
deciding whether to bolt or continue, a turn
for us both. I wonder, do your thoughts go to
the bear at the edge of the mind, the long trail
with golden butterflies on sage, flies that chase
and bite? Do you understand what calls
and calls again from an aspen horizon?
What Does Not Return
I took an oyster, a hinged wonder, from the small bay
because of its glistening apricot surface, sculpted
like the half-shells in the sand, then kept it,
admiring its beauty, noting that without water
it lost part of its shine. After a day or two
I noticed darkness beneath its iridescent shell.
Dead I supposed. Then I felt a responsibility, at least,
to put it where it belonged. I took it in my purse
and planned to return it to water but every time I forgot.
Thinking the open shells on the shore would be my reminder,
I became so enamored with their fragments catching the sun
I had to walk away from so much light.
In the ferry going back to the mainland, I saw
my first whale and couldn’t stay in my seat, thrilled
at the arc of its slick blackness emerging, then immersing.
I thought, here I am again, failing to put to rest the past,
the thing shriveling in the interior, while this creature,
already a memory, overtakes what cannot be undone.
When I say the other side, you may think
death, not life. Or, as in de Beauvoir,
woman, not man, or us not them, opposite
colors, or this, not that. But what
I mean is the flip side of the page, heads,
tails, fifty-fifty. Drafting, in this case,
the other side. Not yesterday’s poem, but the one
I’m writing now, not for me, but for you.
-from What Does Not Return (Lost Horse Press, 2018), selected by Fall 2021 Guest Editor, CMarie Fuhrman
Poet and teacher Tami Haaland is the author of three poetry collections, What Does Not Return (2018), When We Wake in the Night (2012), and Breath in Every Room (2001), winner of the Nicholas Roerich First Book Award. She earned a BA and MA in English Literature from the University of Montana and an MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from Bennington College. Haaland has offered creative writing workshops in prisons, schools, and community settings and was Montana’s Poet Laureate from August 2013 to October 2015. She is as professor at Montana State University Billings.