Spring in Montana
The following is the 44th poem in Valley of Blue Hope: Poems Before and After Diagnosis of Cancer. https://www.createspace.com/4598960
Upon arriving to teach at the University of Montana in 1970, I embarked on two new projects: learning to fly fish and, though I was a fiction writer, trying my hand at poetry.
We rented a house next door to a widower who worked in plumbing and heating. When I told him over the fence that I wanted to learn to fly fish, he said, “Oh, don’t do that. I’ll teach you to bait fish, then you can learn to fly fish.” He showed me how to make a screen for catching salmon fly and other nymphs living among the gravel and rocks at the bottom of the stream. These nymphs were what I baited my fly rod with to fish the Clark Fork River and Rock Creek outside of Missoula for trout and whitefish. “After you learn what the fish are eating below the surface, you can begin to use flies, wet and dry,” my mentor said. I became a crazy fisherman, out on the rivers and streams in all weather.
I began to write and publish poetry after settling in to teach at the University of Montana. It was a boon to me, keeping me sane, because I was finding that family life was not conducive to the kind of concentrated time I needed to write fiction. Anyway, that’s what I told myself. A poem was small enough, I said, that I could hold it in my head and work on it between classes as I walked across the Oval in springtime and on trips to the grocery store and other daily errands. It was in poetry I began to find my being in the common things of life.
Spring in Montana
When winter in Montana explodes into spring
When the oval laughs with bare-legged girls
and frisbees over the green color the air
When the juices in my loins begin to stir
and into sunlight my voracious hunger climbs
I roar out our name–I am, I Am What I Am–!