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Poetry and Medicine
March 28, 2001

Miles of Wild Montana

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2001;285(12):1550. doi:10.1001/jama.285.12.1550

Stub of a month, so many crags and valleys
and nothing but old legs to climb them.
Light as moleskin, even our boots are cracked,
backpacks stitched again, again. Loaded
and hoisted up, they snug the small of our backs
like hands we know and never tire of.
We don't throw away old gear because it's brittle.
We've come two thousand miles for wild Montana.
Tomorrow, we'll go back to cattle neighbors watch,
to debts and telephone. Even after fifty years
of coming here, we're giddy, tongue-tied
like on our honeymoon, babbling but panting now,
stopping more often, binoculars wobbling
as we stare past fir and aspen, sweeping past
snowcapped timberline, always another cave
in a cliff. Who could live here all year?
Dazzled, we're out of breath.
Even a million acres of huckleberries
still taste sour. Give us a week, another month,
let them ripen. We might find dozens of bighorn sheep
nibbling tundra, another grizzly rising up
a thousand yards uphill to sniff and stare,
maybe a cougar hungry under a ledge of shale,
blinking, flicking its dark-tipped tail.

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