The Gathering starts Thursday

Downtown — By on August 5, 2008 at 11:40 am

Don’t forget that the second annual The Gathering: A Literary Conference for Readers, Writers and Thinkers begins Thursday at Keystone College, La Plume, featuring some of the most talented authors and poets in the nation. The conference will run through Sunday.

Greg PapePrincipal speakers for the event include: Michael Ableman, Ibtisam Barakat, Elise Blackwell, Cathleen Medwick, Greg Pape, and Suzanne Fisher Staples. To get you in the mood for this prestigious literary conference, we bring you two selections of poetry by Greg Pape, currently Montana’s second Poet Laureate and featured poet on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. during the Gathering. Both pieces come from his book “American Flamingo.”


Bitterroot Mountains, Montana

Just before dawn a heavy snow is falling
that’s been falling for hours. No wind
No sound. I walk so slowly even the coyote
trotting down through lodgepoles along the creek
doesn’t see me until she is so close she hits
the wall of my scent, turns in a splash of snow
and doubles her pace back up the slope.
The snow lightens then stops.
I could follow her if I wanted to, the tracks
are so clear. No telling where she might
take me. I look up the trail, an opening
of faint blue light, pines black against the snow,
until the trail turns from sight. My steps slow,
my eyes move side to side, up the slope
and down. I stop to study two sets of tracks,
deer heading up slope, and a spider half
the diameter of a dime steps up from the dark
pit of a hoof print. Its spidery steps are tentative,
weakened as though stunned by the snow.
I lean down over the spider, who stops
at the approach of such a massive shadow,
then steps back into the pit of the deer track.
I go slowly up the trail, step over one
then another until it seems all the spiders
making a home in the pines have been knocked
down. A gusty blue note blows across the snow.
In the fullness of the first hour, grateful
for this life, I go on up the mountain –
blue shadows at the verge of sight.


An owl calls across the river.

Another answers farther downstream.

Stars glitter through the branches of pines
and on the back of the river.

He sits still, leaning against a tree.
The river comes a little closer.

Deer come closer.

He hears the riffle upstream
and the one down. Water eddies
and runs susurrous in his mind.

Looking up into the sweeping current of starlight,
fish idle and hold against the flow.

Now, just above his head, a third owl calls –
six blue notes like circles widening on the surface of a pond,
picked up and repeated across the river,
then down away.

The sound goes around, an echo, an eddy
in the dark before dawn.

He listens, slips his hand into the cold river,
turns it over, palm up, to cup the water
to hold stars.

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