So little room between the mountains
and the sky, along this high margin
of the empire, where layers of isolation
are folded like overlapping petals
tucked into the bud of a frostbitten flower.
All the tall pines were cut for masts
that sailed away a hundred year ago.
And buried beneath eight months
of snow, these hardscrabble fields yield
little but crops of drunks and martyrs.
But which of these children of pioneers,
abandoned in this town among the tote roads
and tin roofs, might imagine another way,
might choose to follow those gentle streams
to rivers that rush toward distant valleys,
and leave behind the aurora’s quilling
and the balsam poplar’s perfume,
might renounce their sole inheritance
and forsake all that desperate beauty?