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"Hardscrabble Prairie Triptych"

Chris M. Morris
Missouri River, Eastern Montana

——Follow Me

I know a place where barb-wire
wreathes the heaped bones of horse.
I know where we can shoulder our bright

rifles and bag a twine string
of rabbits. It's out past the alkali basin,
right in the dark yawn of that sod-roof shack.

——It'll Get You Every Time

See how gravel breathes the river?
How water slows and pools, now begins
to stink? I pull mussels from their nests of mud,

you work a quick knife clean
through each. There's nothing to be done
about hope. See no matter the stories there's never

any pearls. We crack them open
anyway, shells bright as a boy's eyes,
scoop out each stinking handful of meat.

——Back to the Land

Like the lovely drunk
at the Antlers we so admired,
with his blue suit and cloud bright hat,

on land here falls flat
on its back. Just dust and blue grass
and a wind bearing up dry rivers of sky.


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Notes from the Journey Westward, poetry by Joe Wilkins

Joe Wilkins was raised on the high plains of eastern Montana and now lives in Oregon. His poems, essays, and stories have appeared in The Georgia Review, The Southern Review, Harvard Review, Ecotone, The Sun Orion, and Slate, among other magazines and literary journals. "Hardscrabble Prairie Triptych" was published in his 2012 collection of poems, Notes from the Journey Westward.

Triptych: a work of art (usually a panel painting) that is divided into three sections, or three carved panels that are hinged together and can be folded shut or displayed open. (Wikipedia)

Chérie Newman is an arts and humanities producer and on-air host for Montana Public Radio, and a freelance writer. Her weekly literary program, The Write Question, is broadcast on several public radio stations, and available online at and
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