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Karli Larsen & Paul Zarzyski: Duped By The Earth's Edge

Karli Larsen is no stranger to U.S. Highway 2  between college in Missoula and home in northeastern Montana: 

"Over one thousand miles of radical backdrop, several weather systems and small intermittent towns make the round trip from the University of Montana to my home town of Culbertson, Montana more a voyage than a trip. Driving east to west I find myself catatonically staring over my steering wheel, trying to distinguish land from the biggest sky in the world.

You never can quite tell if you’re approaching a hill, or being duped by the straight shot of highway disappearing over the earth’s edge a good ten miles out. Then, almost out of nowhere the Rocky Mountains pop above the dirt and highway in all their majesty. Sage brush, stubble, and the occasional jack rabbit are left behind on the plains below. The road doesn’t, but seems to get narrower as I wind my way up rugged quartz-laden canyons. Finally, I can take my gas pedal off of the floor boards for a minute and coast across the continental divide, before my descent to the valley floor.

At this point the sun has most likely set, and all the scenery, falling rock signs and deer feeding ignorantly just off the highway, don’t do much for my paranoid and restless state. Eventually, nine and half hours after embarking from the east I arrive in the second-biggest little city in the state. The voyage does tire me a little, and I have class tomorrow, but for a Montana girl, 'it ain’t nothin.'”  

PaulZarzyski's poem, "Silos," reflects the distances Zarzyski drove through Montana in the 1970s to pursue a career in bronc riding while he wrestled words with poet Richard Hugo:


    "Against Augusta, Montana: prairie dovetailed
    with Rockies, raptor with hard wind, hard
    grass and grain, with cattle and antelope
    with Flat Creek – rainbow,
    brown and brook trout – with buckbrush
    coulee – jack rabbit and mule deer –
    with snowberry, cocklebur and rosehip scrub
    - Hungarian partridge and sharptail -
    with sun and moon with tabletop
    and Steamboat Mountain, with Haystack
    Butte, Gobbler’s Knob, Bean Lake, and yardlight
    to yardlight, that distant dark we love
    between stars. Silos against Augusta:
    honeybee with Hutterite with family ranch -
    the Minuteman launching pads
    against everything from Dearborn River
    to jackfence to cowhorse and combine
    rolling with the camber and cant, rolling
    with the land. Ballistic Missile vaults
    square off in a chain all their own
    against the horizontal grain
    of glaciers and age: warheads
    from Augusta, from earth still festering
    cavalry repeating carbines
    to the surface – shrapnel
    through old scars – where cattle stir,
    moon to salt lick to moon,
    this veteran wind
    once bulletproof, this distance
    no longer dark, no longer living
    out of sight and range."

(Broadcast: "Reflections West," 4/29/15. Listen weekly on the radio, Wednesdays at 3:00 p.m.)

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