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"Winter Feeding"

On The Write Wind: poems by Ripley Hugo

for Ralph

It must be the kind of work.
The hauling, the pitching,
the sour bale we heave aside,
the extra strength that takes.
It must be the crafty figuring—
Let's short tonight. Hell, we
spread extra last night.

What he would say to that,
the joke he would make.
The off-chance falling star
that caught him wide-eyed
on top of the stack. Wrassling
the froze-up end of a bale,
cutting and cutting twine
that won't let go The knife
that won't close right in fingers
clumsy with cold.

Try working this out the winter day
he's not here anymore. He's calling
the shots anyway. Hit the coffee,
Ma, or you'll get the shakes. Can't
have that if you're peeling spuds
So you grin, you hurt,
you pace yourself. And you swear
the stock better damn well like it
or starve.

They're quiet eating. We figured it
right way back summer we figured
it right. So they eat, we hunger, we
mumble to the cold: Okay? That's it
...for tonight?

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Ripley Hugo
Ripley Hugo with Louie

Ripley Hugo was born in Michigan and raised on the east side of the Continental Divide in Great Falls, Montana. After twenty years of teaching at universities and colleges across the country, she returned to Montana in 1973, married the poet Richard Hugo, and taught literature and creative writing at the University of Montana. She also worked for twelve years for the Montana Poets in the Schools program. "The Brodie" was published in Ripley Hugo's collection, On The Right Wind (2008 Cedar House Books). Ripley Hugo died on December 18, 2012.

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