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Thursday, April 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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American Life in Poetry: Patricia Traxler

By Ted Kooser U.S. poet laureate, 2004-06

Travel can sharpen our awareness, can keep us on the alert, and here’s a poem by Patricia Traxler from her new book “Naming the Fires,” from Hanging Loose Press. Traxler lives in Salina, Kansas.

Last Hike Before Leaving Montana

Late winter, almost spring. It’s like finding a diamond;

now I don’t want to leave. I sit in the dirt and put my hands

in your tracks. For the first time in a long time I don’t

doubt. Now I know I always knew you were here. You

are the beginning of disclosure, the long-felt presence

Suddenly incarnate. Behind me my friend warns, If we

see the bear, get into a fetal position. No problem,

I tell her, I’m always in a fetal position—I was born

in a fetal position. Did you know, she says, the body

of a shaved bear looks exactly like a human man?

I skip a stone, feel a sudden bloat of grief, then laugh.

I ask her, Who would shave a bear? We climb

Farther up Rattlesnake Creek, watch winter sun glitter

off dark water. No matter how high we go I look higher.

Sometimes absence can prove presence. That’s not exactly

faith, I know. All day, everywhere, I feel you near at hand.

There’s so much to understand, and everything to prove.

Up high the air is thin and hard, roars in the ears like love.

Poem copyright 2015 by Patricia Traxler, “Last Hike Before Leaving Montana,” (“Naming the Fires,” Hanging Loose Press, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited submissions.

Wordcount: 292
Tags: Poetry

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