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?