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Poetry and Medicine
May 10, 2000

Turning 65 in Montana

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2000;283(18):2361. doi:10.1001/jama.283.18.2361

Fragile as faith in fate,
rime ice shines on McDonald Lake.
Upstream, a dipper bobs in eddies
almost iced, crusting the bank
like slush. All trees are old
in this dark forest, even the logs
fallen so long ago they're pulp.
Fire, this needs a fire,
brush under trees so dense
deer pick the long way to the pond.
Crows glide downhill to marshes
cleared by lightning years ago,
trunks in that part of the forest
blackened by fires, seedlings
taller than we are. Decades ago
on our honeymoon, we watched trees
burning out of control,
Glacier Park lost in smoke and flames,
elk and mule deer crashing through camp.
We rolled our sleeping bags at dawn,
tent pole ready to collapse, in case.
Eight grandbabies later, we're back
in a camper with bed and microwave,
slow traction around tight turns,
steel radial tires to carry us safe
through forests made for bears
and hikers who may live long enough
to learn how fast all bodies age.