Poet Matt Daly lives and writes in Jackson Hole. He received a BA in Philosophy from Lewis & Clark College and an MA in English from University of Utah. Daly teaches composition and literature courses at Central Wyoming College’s Jackson Outreach Center.
On Fishing *
I near reverence occasionally,
like when kneeling to release trout. I guess
air feels a bit like how the pew must feel:
for the fish, all that sky, just a hard bench.
Outside Eden, Wyoming *
On a billboard: DOOMSDAY MAY 2011.
Wind scouring every yard of its spring garden.
All six thousand years of paper history scatter.
In eons past, pronghorn outran the cheetah.
Apex Predator **
Far away to the northwest, under winds
the color of ice, a mother polar
bear dreams of seals rising. She shelters her
young from dark skies over dark seas. Infants,
born pink and half-formed in the cold and dark,
suckle away, through her teats, seal blubber
she stored for them. Seals whose dream heads, mottled
like plover shells, she cracks between her teeth.
In her sleep, shadows of seals dart under
thinning ice, emerge to breathe the sun’s
bright spray. Her dreams portend her breaking through
the surface. Her paws churn the expanding
ocean. Her white bulk sinks under the waves
while hope, the vernal sensibility,
twitches its terrible secrets in her
sleep, stalks the horizon’s expanding warmth.
Independence Day **
This is not the summer for weeding. I am
letting the garden get out of hand. Some flower stalks grow
long enough to lose the strength to carry blossoms. They droop
before the mower blade. It is July and the dog is dying.
In a week or two, I will have to wake up to sunlight
on willows surrounding a space where two unidentified men
in black caps cut down one lone cottonwood tree. I will call
the veterinarian and together we will step into the dog’s last day.
At dawn, I read the newspaper online and I will
do this on the day I call the vet. I follow stories of people casting
off one government then another. These stories are often
accompanied by images of shouting people with palms reaching
into the sky. All the while, uniformed men lick their chops
just out of frame.
In the other room, I hear my dog not eating
despite the bullets of raw meat I put in his bowl. I hear brown
birds in the flowers, black-and-white ones in the willows. Some
mornings, these birds chase each other over my weedy lawn.
I used to see red-tailed hawks in the cottonwood tree.
I am having a hard time letting go of the dog
so I carry him out through the garage, down steps he can no
longer negotiate without stumbling, smacking his bony hip
on concrete when he falls. He insists on spinning around
but his legs no longer support any torque.
I have an old computer in the garage, old enough
I cannot remember if it contains any useful information. I save it
because I think my son might use it for an art project. I am not sure
if I need to make an appointment to dispose of my electronic waste
at the recycling center up by the fault line.
Last summer Mr. Anderson, who lives up by the fault
line and who has flown a black POW-MIA flag for as long as I can
remember, inadvertently started a forest fire by burning trash
in a barrel in his back yard on a windy day. He nearly burned
down the offices of the power company.
I admire the courage of people who clear the ground
even when they do it accidentally or too often. A person like that
would have killed the dog a while ago. I admire this twisting world
growing up wild and bony against burning and waste.
* Published in in the 2013 edition of Owen Wister Review
** Published Open Window Review's 2013 Jackson Hole Writers Conference Special Issue 6