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'Names on the Land'

Ed Dunens
creative commons

by Joe Wilkins

Freeze Out Notch

The breath of mountains
is dry grass and sloped fields
of winter wheat. Their eyes
are bedrock and ice.

Clearwater Canyon

Old men drink tall glasses
of yellow beer and stare
at themselves in the mirror.

Trailer Hollow

A red-winged blackbird
hops across the hood
of a red pickup.

Hog Meadows

She dips a bucketful
of creek water and runs
laughing back to her father.
Look he says and points
to the pail's rippling
mouth, the sky!

Comanche Flats

Dust settles in the draws
and canyons
of your skin,
the lakes of your eyes.

Colt-Killed Creek

Ten-thousand butterflies
stream up the rocks—
a bright river run the wrong way.

Paradise Ridge

Cedar burns quick and hot.
The house was a breath
of ash before anyone got there.

Amos Bench

Now, he thinks,
as the tractor crests
the hill, I'll swath
the 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. "Names on the Land" was published in his 2012 collection of poems, Notes from the Journey Westward.

Chérie Newman is a former arts and humanities producer and on-air host for Montana Public Radio, and a freelance writer. She founded and previously hosted a weekly literary program, The Write Question, which continues to air on several public radio stations; it is also available online at and
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