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.