first love in livingston, montana
what are you searching for?
last weekend i caught a glimpse of you
from the peak,
coughing into your hands and putting snow
chains on your dodge dakota.
saw sunlight sow itself into the fresh
snow of your driveway—reflecting a halo
of light across your body. are you afraid
of what you are searching for, liv?
you call yourself a city,
and fledglings nestle in your pockets, anoint
you a body of storefronts, high schools, bars, bards,
homes and funeral homes alike that smell like burnt
macaroni noodles and old woman perfume.
you tell us to stay for the winter,
and we always do.
we always always do.
have you called your mom lately, liv?
folks been saying she’s up on black mountain
sleeping in a riverbed, dancing like a party girl
with her shoes untied and blood on her knees
giddy under the beaver moon.
day hikers keep mistaking her for a ghost—
some wilderness spirit with a mouthful
of dirty snow giggling and stealing
their trail mix after dark.
she cranes her time-worn neck to watch us,
see if we’re making nice while she’s gone.
i remember you told me she chased you with a broom
when you came home with your first tattoo,
but now she thinks they’re pretty—
in the final act of mothering, i’ve heard
you learn to love everything about your child
that once disappointed you—
like that giant hipster wolfhead tattoo
on your sallow shoulder blade, prowling
for anything it can eat, peeking out at anyone
who sees you from behind. lonely
beside your mountain town spine. lonely
like we all are up here.
liv, why are humans born like this?
we crawl out blanketed in another human’s
body, then stumble around like moles forced
up from underground, alone
in the way the mountains feel after a blizzard—
small and big and dizzy for belonging.
liv, o liv—unfurl my solitude into yellowstone
snow, unscar my cheekbones, paint me
your prettiest postcard until i gleam
lamination glossy. jumble my words
with blackbird mourning. watch me kiss
the ice off my first love’s eyelashes
as we lie together on the scree, soupy sunset
rolling in overhead. teach me
to not to fall in love with every two-cent city
with fat swimming pool skies—
that clenches cigarettes between their lips,
saying i’ve counted every star up there
and they’re all stupid. maybe we’re all a little stupid,
liv, falling for cities we've never seen. maybe
we’re all searching for something unreachable.