Sunday, April 17, 2011

Montana Pastoral ...

Today's poem is "Montana Pastoral," by a fairly well-known twentieth-century author named J. V. Cunningham. He lived in Montana only for a few years as a child, in Billings during the 1910s and 1920s, but those years influenced a lifetime of writing. "Montana Pastoral" was written in 1941, and published in an anthology called The Helmsman the following year.
I am no shepherd of a child’s surmises.
I have seen fear where the coiled serpent rises,

Thirst where the grasses burn in early May
And thistle, mustard, and the wild oat stay.

There is dust in this air. I saw in the heat
Grasshoppers busy in the threshing wheat.

So to this hour. Through the warm dusk I drove
To blizzards sifting on the hissing stove,

And found no images of pastoral will,
But fear, thirst, hunger, and this huddled chill.


  1. This poem reminded me that I must thank you for making me aware in your Wednesday, January 19, 2011 blog of Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, by Kathleen Norris.
    I purchased such and found it one of the best descriptions of life of where and when I grew up in northeastern Montana. At the expense of being labeled capricious and arbitary it also reminded me why I am happy I did not return to live there after university etc.

    Thank you for a pointer to a good read.

  2. I was thinking a few days ago about how harsh Montana can be, testing those who live here to the very core. But just when we're about to break, to sell out and run, we encounter such breathtaking, hidden beauty in her arms that we forgive and stay.