seems to be the best of any places
to begin. middleWest is a not just a place
of in-between as much as it belongs
to being in transition, to being in the middle.
The West has been the American ideal,
the place where one can begin
again. We cannot really go back to the beginning.
Usually, we just start in the middle.
So here is a story to show this place, this idea of middleWest:
Last week, I was at work. I work in a cooking school in Missoula, Montana and I find things around the store that are on sale. I walk around with a clipboard and try to piece together recipes that are simple, elegant and healthy from these saled ingredients. While passing by the wine department, I saw a label in bold scrip, ORVIETO. I stopped and mouthed the words to myself, slightly practicing an accent, but mostly for nostalgia. For moments, I sailed back to the city of hilled stone and thought of a lunch I once had in cold sun. How if I could, I would find all of the ingredients and make it again. I would serve it to people in this valleyed city I now call home. But truffle oil is not for everyone's palate and instead I have a poem. This poem that I share with you was first placed in Orvieto, but upon further thought and long before I had even moved to Montana, I changed it from Italy to someplace that had mountains and rivers, a place with a valley and some sense of distance and intrigue, a place like Montana.
You took me out of the dog dish
of Missoula and into the country
where we got lost in the winding
of our voices with windows open.
Everything was open then. We talked
of the winged man in Brazil,
your cat Lulu, my dog in Michigan,
and ignored the Bitterroot River.
The dirt roads kept us from lunch.
We sat on a rock wanting to undress
each other layer by layer,
down to the skin we would later learn
to sink into. And when we stood
on top of a butte, I stared
at your hair, dark like a stone too heavy
to move. As a child I collected agates,
smooth and black like tadpoles
in a desert pool. I thought I could take
darkness out of water. Today, I sweep up
hair from my dying black lab and I cannot stop
thinking of you. I can't stop the cancer
growing inside her, chasing her
while she dreams of squirrels.
Dogs are smart. Or not. Either way, they don't look back.