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Silvergate Conversion

Silvergate Conversion
for Dick Hugo

I. Ghosts
I live now, like my ancient grandfathers.
I ladle spring water from a copper kettle.
I touch pen to paper
in my log walled womb -
let it sing to the ancestors.
When lost Friends echo softly
through surrounding forests,
my past wanders about
these darkened mountains
like the silent phantom moose
who parade by my door
in early morning.
In savage moonlight
the specter of my solitude
drifts in the whitened waves
of wind sculpt snow.

II. Competition
They tell me I am the student of Hugo
that my laugh is hollow
with savage freedom.
I have paid six of my years
for this clawhold on a past century.
Now who can hear the river sing?
I declare my victory
in the contest to be rustic
in the midst of a million primitive acres.
I listen to the melody of sifting snow crystals
see myself buried beneath
the drifts of the Silver Gate.

III. Judgement
I am sifting my history into boxes
stored in an obscure closet.
I am boiling snow.
I charge my pipes
to chrystalize ice -
chop old logs for the fireplace.
I construct a pyre for the forgotten woodpecker.
I am melting ice -
Watching ancient logs wither and drift.
I am capturing new historys
with my canon
to save under glass
for the grizzly who ransacks my lodge.
In my snowshoes,
I must track him to his den -
face him
like that shadow of my death
until my life spans
three centuries.

IV. Awakening
We are the warm core
of a frozen wilderness.
We have the religion of forest
full with wild disciples.
We walk on snowpack
with singing electrons
witching water.
We boil our clothing in snow.
We mix our wastes with snow.
We drink ice.
We eat snow.
There is no fire inside us.

V. Submission
You are my teacher.
Broken through to my waste in snow
I know there is only the myth of liberty
in learning.
I accept the chains of ice that bind us.
I bow to the tyranny of wisdom
like the bison nuzzling snow
for frozen grass.


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snow, poetry, wilderness, master, poet, mentor, teacher, dick hugo

3rd Generation Montanan, raised with a camera in hand, matriculated at U of M (GRIZ) with degrees in History and Creative Writing. Amassing Canon gear to enjoy in my retirement. I spend whatever time I can in Yellowstone and various other Montana wild venues.

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  • gdbeeler
    gdbeelerover 4 years ago

    I like it; it is easy to relate to, sitting next to my wood stove and looking out at the deer and wild turkeys scratching in the snow near Red Lodge Montana.

  • Thanks, Gary – I really miss the life in Silvergate . . . livin now in the big city (Helena). Glad you enjoyed.

    – Ken McElroy

  • May Lattanzio
    May Lattanzioover 4 years ago

    I dream (ok – so it’s my old-age dream) of the ancient log cabin, of missing chinking and no plumbing that maybe I could rent. And my friends say no. Unlivable. I’d like to fix that cabin up on the Boulder and live there with my dogs – where the bears come down the mountain, and I could cross the street and fish the river. There are neighbors. I’d be fine.

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