The Bunch Grass Motel

Jan 23, 2018

Randall Gloege
Credit Mary Beth Gloege



Some kitchen mornings

through time-warped window glass,

I saw mountain bluebirds

in their luminous coats

flutter and feed from post to post.


Living room afternoons

carried the whistles

and yeeps of robins,

harvesting fat earthworms

from fields of swaying grass.


Evenings above the cement stoop

held violet-green swallows,

darting swept-back wings

through the rising dark, rife

with star-shine and shadow.


Full dark was for outside

where nights grew cold

with the flurry of tiny bats

devouring floating bugs

with sonar certainty.


Long ago, the cabin

cooked to cinders.

In the debris, I found

an Oxford dictionary,

become ash but holding

its shape and color,

ready to blow away

beside a charred coffee mug.


These survivors I keep.

They prompt me

into life, reminding me

I want the no-time of each

moment, the sweet, mindless

unutterable now.




About the Book, Author, & Editor:



Bernard Quetchenbach
Credit Rachel Schaffer

The University of Montana Press recently released The Bunch Grass Motel: The Collected Poems of Randall Gloege. Gloege is a familiar figure to many Montanans. Born in Helena, he grew up in Miles City before studying poetry with Theodore Roethke en route to an MA in creative writing from the University of Washington; in addition, he earned a Ph.D. in English from Bowling Green State University, Ohio. He returned to Montana and taught courses in writing, literature, and ethics as a faculty member at Montana State University Billings. Along with writing poetry and essays, he was a photographer and musician. He developed and edited Alkali Flats, a print periodical, and Pellucid Duck, an e-journal (the title was based on a misreading of one of his poems). He endowed two MSUB scholarships, awarded each year to students in creative writing and environmental studies, respectively.

Gloege’s poems are illustrated with the author’s photographs, and accompanied by a foreword by Cathy Ulrich, a Billings writer and former student of Randall’s; an introduction by long-time colleague William Kamowski; and an afterword by Howie Wolke, a friend who combined efforts with Randall on environmental causes such as the successful campaign to establish the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. I worked with Randall at MSUB, and on Pellucid Duck, Randall’s magazine, and we served together on the Eastern Wildlands Chapter board of the Montana Wilderness Association. It was an honor and a pleasure to play a role as editor in bringing his memorable poetry into print. Two MSUB students, Michael Wade and Jennifer Reed, also played important roles in preparing the manuscript.

Representing a lifetime of work, the poems exhibit a wide variety of styles and subjects, but the landscapes of the West provide the setting for most. The fictional “Bunch Grass Motel” itself is in a town perhaps not much different from the Miles City of Randall’s youth. Other poems bring the mountains into focus. Other poems are set along the seacoasts of the Pacific Northwest. A few have urban settings, reflecting Randall’s many years in Billings.

Some of these poems are reflective, some angry, some humorous. In short, The Bunch Grass Motel is the work of a writer whom Kamowski characterizes as a “wry poet-philosopher.” Kamowski concludes his introduction by recommending that readers “enjoy the moments, the surprise in these poems, their accidental joys.”

The Bunch Grass Motel can be purchased from the University of Montana Press or through the MSUB Foundation, which supported the publication. Copies are also available at This House of Books in Billings and at Elk River Books in Livingston.

Bernard Quetchenbach