Bette Lynch Husted
chapbook After Fire
(Puddinghouse) was published in 2002, and her poems have appeared recently in Runes
, and The Oregonian
Her collection of memoir essays Above the Clearwater: Living on Stolen Land
(Oregon State University 2004) was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award and the WILLA Award in creative nonfiction, and she received a 2007 Oregon Arts Commission Individual Artist’s Award.
—Back to “Extra” Contents—
Spring Snow on the Imnaha
We can see Mary’s house across the river, her garden
tilled black, gravity-fed water from that spring
a mile up Indian Creek. Dry tamarack still
stacked in the shed. But they are dead, the old
rancher husbands—the man who stopped his truck
to say hello runs his cow-calves for Simplot and McDonalds.
Did I tell him we’re writers, staying in the cabin?
someone asks at dinner. Tonight
we’re eating Portobello mushrooms.
From her kitchen window Mary looks up
through balsamroot to that lone turret, orange and pink
basalt against this April sky. Spring snow
and dusty summers, cottonwoods
wearing October gold. No children, and too old
they tell her now, to live alone—
We photograph the cattle drive, the border collies,
a white-haired man on horseback watching us.
Someone tells last year’s stories: Rocky Mountain oysters,
the cow that fell from this steep bluff. The rattlesnake.
Old orchards coming into bloom, log outbuildings,
tin-roofed houses now vacation homes, their gates padlocked.
The river’s rising. My small son playing in those shallows . . .
that season so long gone. Grade horses
crowd the fenceline, shedding out.
The trail to Freezeout Saddle’s lined with biscuit root,
lambstongues, yellowbells, blue hyacinth.
We follow the horse tracks when the trail splits.
“Out for a ride?” I don’t say
no, they’re hunting bear. A redtail climbs the wind.
At the Imnaha Store and Tavern wooden Indians
wear new paint. Stale beer, deer heads lined up like cavalry,
a cougar at bay in a dusty corner.
The ceiling’s thumbtacked thick with dollar bills.
A cold spring’s first morel there on the counter. Behind the bar
the list of owners starts with Findley and his wife,
friends of Chief Joseph, though their fear started the war
that drove the Nez Perce from this country and the Findleys too,
both families losing all but one child to this blood.
We order hamburgers and ice cream,
watch a western on TV.