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Response to "Fragments with Dust in Them"

Timothy Faber

For the last several years, Robert Stubblefield has invited me to talk about The Write Question with students in one of the classes he teaches at the University of Montana. We talk about specific programs, which, if students have done their homework assignments, they've listened to. Then I answer questions about the process of reading, interviewing, and creating programs for radio and the Web. I also invite each of them to send me an essay they've written in response to a writer they read during the semester.

The following essay about a poem by Chris Dombrowski was written by Timothy Faber.


Chris Dombrowski's poem, “Fragments with Dusk in Them” contains the line, “We were taught to count kestrels on wires like coins in our pockets.” My thoughts were mulled when I read, “Droughts revealed the river's former ways/oars wedged between boulders/a derailed boxcar, conductor's leather cap.” Dombrowski's fixation on nature and its visual offerings lends him the ability to make imagery seem like pop-up targets at a carnival. Imagery, if held in focus long enough, gives way to reflections tucked away in the attic.

In 2010, the Judith River flooded, altering much of her channel. At Christy Bottom, an old iron bridge, once linking communities like Danvers and Deerfield, suddenly lost its purpose. After the flood, the re-routed river left the bridge standing over a dry channel. The locals, concerned about access, considered building a new bridge, moving the old one to the new channel, or changing back the river channel. I was to write a story on the issue for the local newspaper.

Photos were to be included in the story, and I captured evening shots of bluffs and cottonwoods reflecting off the clear blue stream. I caught a lounging beaver off guard. I added an image of a rising near-full moon, before I slept on a sandbar under August stars. Sunrise offered morning rays illuminating an old red barn. Scrutinizing the old river channel near the bridge, I spied evidence of man's alterations: concrete slabs heaped along the bank, supplemented with rocks picked from fields. An old horseshoe that had been tossed over the bank and forgotten, became a brief image in my mind.

Until Chris Dombrowski. My newspaper story stuck to the issue of access. The bridge still stands over a dry channel, a lonely monument to man's alterations and to his limitations. That image was resurrected when I mused over Dombrowski's poetry. And so was the horseshoe. If I had my way with time, I would go back and change my thinking. Imagine the old draft horse that wore that shoe, laboring in the  field day after day, spending countless nights in the barn. Imagine the Judith, churning steadily over the ages, and then suddenly taking on a new form. How are we taught to count? And imagery – why are we so absorbed in other endeavors, that we seldom take the time, or have the mindset, to capture it? Chris Dombrowski knows.


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Timothy Faber is a carpenter from Big Sandy, specializing in old cabin restoration. He's currently studying psychology and sociology at the University of Montana, and taking creative writing courses to learn how to write. He enjoy hiking, x-country skiing, and working in the woods on the family ranch in the Bear Paw Mountains.

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