Idaho

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Idaho Requiem

for Robert Lowell

Out here, we don't talk about culture,
we think we are. We nurtured Ezra Pound
who ran from us like hell
and never came back. You
never came at all. You
will never know how clever
we never are out here.
You never drank red beer.
You never popped a grouse
under a blue spruce just because it was there.

Tell us about Schopenhauer and your friends
and fine old family. We left ours
at the Mississippi, have no names left
to drop. We spend our time
avoiding Californians and waiting
for the sage to bloom, and when it does
we miss the damn things half the time.
When a stranger comes in we smile
and say, "Tell us about yourself."
Then we listen real close.

But you would say, "I've said what I have to say."
Too subtle, perhaps, for a can of beer,
too Augustan for the Snake River breaks.
But how do you know this wasn't just
the place to die? Why not have those
kinfolk ship your bones out here, just
for irony's sake? We keep things plain
and clear because of the mountains.
Our mythology comes down to a logger
stirring his coffee with his thumb.

American Zebra: Praise Song for the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument

I like how, when I look out
onto this desert Idaho plain,
I can pretty much graze my palm
on the Pliocene—
and doing so, greet the great wide savannahs of Africa—
mossy and tree lined,
laced in saber-toothed cats,
hyena-like dogs and a half caravan
of even-toed camels.

I like how, when I look upon these bluffs,
I have to leave off acuity—
level all spectacle,
un-specimen Earth.
Even so, here blows
another tumbleweed. Be careful
with that match! 
Hear it now,
skeletal frolic of O’s.

I love how this lookout
offers no viewfinder.
So I must mesh with the idea
of what might have been
the lontra weiri,
Hagerman’s mystery otter,
nearly four million years ago.
Should I not add this riverine creature
was named for singer Bob Weir?

Dare I admit I am way, way thankful
he fathered the Grateful Dead,
which helped bring us hippies,
sideburns shaped into states of Idaho?
These, plus those love-ins
we never quite had down in Nampa,
where I grew up, 117 miles from here.
It all instilled what I will call gratitude’s latitude
bones of articulate hope.

I like how standing still in this place
serves to remind
that every epochal zone
clearly inheres in us. Notice.
Most people only look
for what they can see. Oh, Great Dane-ish
Hagerman Horse. Maybe you’re Africa’s own
Grévy's zebra. Should I not grab you here
in this wayfaring now—and stiffly by the mane—

to say yes, of course, I am indebted?
I’m here at this look-out—
the long meanwhile, whole Snake River histories
molted and soaked in
then found their shot to break free
to the bone layer
under that soil-load
dubbed by the digging biz
overburden.

Listen here, visitor.
Lay your millstone down, 
once and for everyone.
And say
can you see—hey,
here’s some binoculars : What kind
of place will we be
when I cross over
into you and you cross over into me?