Centennial Valley 4- land, water and sky. Final images from Centennial Valley Montana

Centennial, Part 3- homeless in america


homeless in america

we imagine we were born

here. if home is where the heart is

then why are we so anxious

to leave? why can we see it only

once we’ve gone?  it’s not about walls

and floors, windows and things. america

is a place of coming to, not from, the land

of the rootless. we roll across this landscape

like dunes stepping along a shore. we

are the forgetting ones, the ones who’ve left

are leaving, will leave- homelessness

the scourge of our age; even the cleanest

among us sleeps under a bridge

of his own imagining.

we are late to this land

if you’re white, you’re not from here

where did you come from, where

will you go? so little time to build anything

of consequence. the land is indifferent

the land can wait us out

the lakes in this valley are shallow and wide

like the valley itself. the swans come here to nest

blowing primordial trumpets. in the fall

the ragged V’s of their white bodies press hard

into high white clouds, their trumpets echoing

across the valley. the young birds need to fly

after months of rest, to rebuild their strength.

the birds remember. soon, they will rise as one

body, will rise white against white clouds

will rise up and over the white snows

of the passes, and be gone. somehow

they have always known precisely

where they belong. and for this

we must surely envy them

©J.A. Fink/Oldbonesnewsnow.com 2013

Centennial Valley

I should probably be posting winter-themed material now, but I want to revisit some time I was able to spend in Centennial Valley Montana. This valley sits just above the toe of Idaho and was once the western entrance to Yellowstone. At its peak, hundreds of homesteaders came to the valley pursing the American dream of independence and prosperity.  Today, it’s home to cattle ranches, moose and trumpeter swans; this winter the only permanent residents will be the caretakers at Red Rock National Wildlife Refuge.

In the days ahead, I’ll share a series of posts from the valley. Images and words from today and the day before yesterday.



for jane buck,

(who we never knew)


it’s always morning, always

spring when they come to the valley

lugging their  trunks full of hope

and industry, fueled by the stew

of anxiety and ambition, stink and sweat­­


they’d heard this was good ground for grass

and for cows, but birthing anything

is hard business and this is hard land

a land of bad roads and sharp winters

shallow roots and bitter winds


how were they to know

they’d planted their hopes

in such a place of leaving?


empty homesteads dot the valley

like the prints of a great beast, leaving only bones

and skulls, the blackened eyes of glassless windows

roof-beams buckled by relentless snow

and loneliness. this morning


there’s ice on the long grass, and winter

stalks the high country. the snows

are coming. old foundations will be buried

unvoiced memories will blow on the wind

collecting into drifts in the dark corners

winter will return

to repossess time


©  Old Bones, New Snow/ J. A. Fink 2013