Finding the Bitterroot


Drive past the the weeping pinions
with their fists thrown down in cones.
Leave Sun Valley to the wealthy skiers
and the silent City of Rocks
and their hard opinions
to the climbers.
Become accustomed to the volute Snake
at the feet of the Sawtooth.
It will only cut deeper next spring
shedding a skin of rafters and fisherman.
This is where the White Sturgeon flex
through the tourmaline depths
staring from the sides of their heads
with dime-open eyes.
They slice the water with their scythe of a tail
into jejune zigzags.
Imitate them in your undulating rise
through White Bird Canyon
shrugging its way to elevation,
leveling on the Camas Prairie.
Be taken by the gargantuan cultivated ripple marks
of the Lake Missoula flood,
it has combed its green hair
and turned amber into September,
funneling dust behind percussive
John Deere machinery.
Pass through Lewiston breathing through your mouth.
Inhale the pulp mill that levitates its sour stench on the valley,
caring not that infants are born there and later
the odor reminds them of home.
Follow the Clearwater as the river starts
to pinch out egg-shaped boulders
that roll down from the peaks
knocking off the corners of centuries.
You have begun your ascent up the Bitterroot.


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