I met Joe Wilkins briefly at the 2012 edition of the Montana Festival of the Book, where he was promoting his excellent memoir, The Mountain and the Fathers: Growing Up on The Big Dry. I had hoped to speak with him again this year, when he was once again a guest of the festival, but my schedule was such that I didn’t make it downtown until Saturday afternoon. I saw Joe from across the room hustling somewhere, but I didn’t get a chance to wrangle him into conversation. So I bought his book of poetry instead, and I haven’t regretted it.
A cowbird pecks at the frozen edge
of a reservoir. The thin ice cracks.
A man throws the last flakes of hay
from the back of a flat-bed Ford.
The chewing cattle steam with heat.
The day is bright as dried bone.
Cottonwoods let go their breath
of wind, and a scrim of snow leaps
across the prairie. The cowbird
caws. In the cab the man wipes
frost from his beard, pours coffee
from a thermos, then reaches
into a brown paper bag and lifts out
two golden biscuits. The cowbird
wings its way to sky. The man says
a prayer for empty gizzards and eats.
I’ve said before that I struggle with poetry, and while a few of these make me scratch my head a little to try and comprehend, there are more than several that hit me right in the gut. Anyone with an interest in the form should check this guy out.