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Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Following Rivers into the Night


Edge of the Amargosa Desert: Maynard Dixon, 1927 (Nevada Museum of Art)

for Ed Dorn
I guess it’s because
the only things left in this West
I can have any real
respect for
are beauty of character
and beauty of nature

and you know the two
breed one another
in those long miles where
there is nothing to do
as the sun goes down
over the flat horizon
but watch it slowly gild
the surfaces of rivers
from the Belle Fourche
(or Foosh, as the locals say)
to the Cimarron
which will push on into
the darkness with its light
flickering over them like a skin.


Anonymous said...

"from the Belle Fourche
(or Foosh, as the locals say)"

I believe it's in the same neck of the woods as the Picketwire River (originally named Purgatoire by French trappers)...anyway, inspiring stuff...reckon I'll saddle up, now...

Anonymous said...


Thanks for saddling up and idling on over, pardner: have always sensed you were a man well accustomed to travel in desert places.

The sites of the variously vista-provoking purgatories and limbos of these regions are all so beautifully named: you turn left at the Badlands, proceed through the Gas Hills as far as the Rattlesnake Range...

The posting of the poem, with this dedication, it should be said, comes in response to an Anonymous commenter on the previous post "Dover Beach or the Futility of Thought" who kindly recalled that the "straight" version of the Arnold poem had been employed by Ed Dorn and his wife to celebrate the wedding of their son.

That put me in mind, for days on end, of Ed and his vistas and distances. The present poem ("Following rivers...") came out of a trip made with him exactly 31 years ago this week, in a rented VW bug, around the High Plains, in search of what was then called the Energy Boom (meaning a petrol-price-increase-induced boom in digging deep Minoan-, Nile Valley- and Smithson-scaled pits into and across vast Empty Spaces to extract what remained of "alternate fuels," coal, uranium, cow skulls, etc.). Naturally we discovered much, perhaps even more than was there to be found.

Tom Raworth said...

Wasn't that about the time the invisible buddhists were taking bites out of cattle?

love, Tom

Anonymous said...

...and that was but the most mundane of our Discoveries.

Tom Raworth said...

..for through the shale the schooner dipt

Marten said...

This is one of my personal favs. The recently commented-on lines (cool comment mish...!)

"from the Belle Fourche
(or Foosh, as the locals say)"

include the best parenthetical ev! I hear the river in Foosh. The 'offhanded' clarification is the true attentiveness, a deep locale within the poem. Great lyrical music.

tc/btp said...


What's in a name? Mish's Picketwire/Purgatoire gets the association range about right.

Way back when, during that badlands foray, Ed and I marvelled over hearing the locals say "Foosh"...not forgetting that his own hometown was situated on the River called Embarras (pron. "Am-braw").