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David Romtvedt

David Romtvedt was born in Portland, Oregon, and grew up in Arizona. He received a BA from Reed College and an MFA from the University of Iowa.

He is the author of several poetry collections, including Dilemmas of the Angels, forthcoming from Louisiana State University Press in 2017; Some Church (Milkweed Editions, 2005); A Flower Whose Name I Do Not Know (Copper Canyon Press, 1992), chosen by John Haines for the National Poetry Series; and Moon (Bieler Press, 1984).

Carol Bly writes, “David Romtvedt is like a loyal consul who represents a species that has done some terrible things: undeluded, he still loves us, and keeps laying out more high-hearted policies for us all.”

Romtvedt has published several books of prose, including Zelestina Urza in Outer Space (Center for Basque Studies, 2015) and Windmill: Essays from Four Mile Ranch (Red Crane Books, 1997). Also a musician, he plays traditional American dance music with The Wyoming Fireants Band and has received a Distinguished Service to Music Education Award from the Wyoming Music Educators Association.

Romtvedt served as the poet laureate of Wyoming from 2003 to 2011. The recipient of a Wyoming Governor’s Arts Award, he has also been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Wyoming Arts Council, among others. He teaches at the University of Wyoming.


Bibliography

Poetry
Dilemmas of the Angels (forthcoming Louisiana State University Press, 2017)
Some Church (Milkweed Editions, 2005)
Certainty (White Pine Press, 1996)
A Flower Whose Name I Do Not Know (Copper Canyon Press, 1992)
How Many Horses (Ion Books, 1988)
Moon (Bieler Press, 1984)

Prose
Zelestina Urza in Outer Space (Center for Basque Studies, 2015)
Windmill: Essays from Four Mile Ranch (Red Crane Books, 1997)
Crossing Wyoming (White Pine Press, 1992)
Free and Compulsory for All: Tales (Graywolf Press, 1984)

By This Poet

2

Buddha with a Cell Phone

The dark sky opens and it starts to rain. I go outside
to stand in the stream, the longed-for gift of water
where it hasn’t rained for so long. I shout and dance
with the dog, who puts his ears back and licks my nose.
When we come back in, he shakes and I do too,
a few drops flying off my hair. I notice the Buddha
sitting on my desk. He’s a rubber Buddha
in a yellow robe. If you squeeze him he squeaks.
He’s got a radiant smile on his face, his eyebrows
happy half-moons over his eyes. As I stare at him
my wife walks by and with a cheery Buddha-like glint says,
“It’s raining.” In his right hand the Buddha’s got a cappuccino
and in his left a cell phone pressed to his ear.
His lips are closed so I know he’s listening, not talking.
One more thing—I pick up a little kaleidoscope
lying next to the Buddha and lift it to my eye to look outside.
I thought it would make the raindrops glitter
through the autumn-dry corn but instead what I see
looks like the ceiling of a great cathedral.
I whirl around and am presented with the image
of a thousand rubber Buddhas, each one
a drop of rain, falling, ready to hit the ground.

National Politics in Yellowstone Park, July 29, 1914

Ed Trafton turns from the shimmering water
of Shoshone Lake to the first of fifteen tourist coaches,
pulls the black silk neckerchief up the bridge of his nose,
plants himself in the road and says, “Please step out
and come this way.” Black is so hot. “Drop your valuables
on the blanket.” Maybe the neckerchief isn’t necessary.
“Kindly take a standing seat and witness the convention.”

“A rather elegant man,” one woman confessed. “Steady
and calm, with a lovely sense of humor and a smile
that made his watery blue eyes sparkle. The kind of man
who might make a good president.” “Watery blue eyes?”
Ed wonders, his reflection in the mirror. “City councilman
or senator but president?” “Polite,” the woman added.

An elderly lady dropped her purse, which exploded
scattering bills, coins, a comb, and playing cards
over the dusty earth. The horses stamped their feet
and switched their tails to drive away the flies.
Someone coughed. Trafton bent over to gather up
the fallen valuables, the last card—jack of hearts.
“There madam, you keep these,” he said.
“You look as if you need them more than I do.”

“Gallant,“ the first woman went on. She laughed
and the air freshened, invisible birds began to sing.

As each coin or watch or earring hit the earth,
dust rose around the lodgepole and limber pines,
covered the water. Seeking clarity, coaches start
ten minutes apart—Old Faithful to West Thumb,
the horseshoe bend where they stop for the view.
But they can’t see what’s to come, coach after coach,
the blanket disappearing under the mound of treasure,
Mr. Trafton lightly touching each horse to send it on its way.

A young woman asked for a photo—“by the blanket.”
Other travelers pulled out their Brownies and lined up
beside the beguiling highwayman, the click of shutters
louder than the cicadas chirring in the dry grass,
pine resin rising with the heat, men fanning their faces
with hats or the news of the day—AUSTRIA-HUNGARY
DECLARES WAR ON SERBIA. Could be a joke—he was
so friendly and the water, lapping at the shore,
made that chuckling sound that says nothing
will change. It can’t be real silk, Trafton thinks,
tugging at his face, wouldn’t be so scratchy, people
milling around, the sun rising, the hills falling away,
the geysers and mudpots, and Shoshone Lake
coated in dust, still blue below the point.