It makes no sense, my older brother said.
The words make no sense. We shared
a bedroom through junior high, and kept
a little radio on the nightstand between us.
Turn it down, Dad commanded from the dark
of our parents’ bedroom too nearby. I’d waited
to hear this particular song, and now I strained
and leaned closer. Shhh, I said to my brother.
The words make no sense, he said again.
Then I made a big mistake; I tried to explicate
Dylan’s lyrics, as my brother raised his eyebrows,
smirked, and cocked his head sideways.
Got tangled up in my efforts to untangle.
So I talked on and on, more loudly,
twisting the song to mean as I wanted. Dad hollered,
Turn that damn thing off and both of you hush.
My brother’s face filled with glee to see me stumble
as I whispered, and strained to convince him,
and wanted to punch him because he was right.
I hated the hiss of my insistent half-baked analysis.
And I hated my brother for long afterwards,
though really he’d done me a great favor.
I was hearing something the words weren’t saying,
something in the spaces between. Poetry
is what I’d call it now all these years after. Back then
I couldn’t make sense of how words
can’t always hold what the heart sings clearly.
And feelings aren’t easy to explain.
I’d lit all eight candles, snugged
my birthday cake close to my chest
and carried it from one room into the next,
buttoned like a wild-west hero
in the best gift of all:
silky purple cowboy shirt with fringes
luxuriously circling the chest and back,
dangling along the undersides of both sleeves.
Anything could happen in a shirt
with such shine. No surprise
when the fringes caught fire, crackled,
and in the midst of my gun-fighter reveries
I combusted like Fourth of July . . . .
I dropped the cake and bolted,
wild as a blazing wind
blistering through sage,
or a comet racing in midnight black,
ecstatic in the brilliance of notoriety
and confounded as to why
— while party guests screamed —
my parents pursued me,
whipping me with pillows
and dishtowels and rags.
Nothing Lasts Forever
Diarrhea. Bee stings. Heat waves.
Cold snaps. That stupid tune stuck in your head.
Hiccoughs. Drippy faucets. Traffic jams.
A good buzz.
Regimes, left and right.
Pacts between regimes.
not to pull the switch.
The planet in bloom.
Lowell Jaeger (Montana Poet Laureate 2017-2019) is founding editor of Many Voices Press and Professor of English/Creative Writing at Flathead Valley Community College (Kalispell, Montana), where he also serves as Humanities Division Chair. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, winner of the Grolier Poetry Peace Prize, and recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Montana Arts Council. Lowell was awarded the Montana Governor’s Humanities Award for his work in promoting civil civic discourse. He is the author of eight collections of poems, the most recent of which are Or Maybe I Drift Off Alone (Shabda Press 2016), Earth-blood & Star-shine (Shabda Press 2018), and Someday I’d Write This Down (Shabda Press 2019).
War On War (Utah State University Press 1988)
Hope Against Hope (Utah State University Press 1990)
Suddenly Out of a Long Sleep (Arctos Press 2009)
WE (Main Street Rag Publishing, 2010)
How Quickly What's Passing Goes Past (Grayson Books 2013)
Driving the Back Road Home (Shabda Press 2015)
Or Maybe I Drift Off Alone (Shabda Press 2016)
Earth-blood & Star-Shine (Shabda Press 2018)
Poems Across the Big Sky (Many Voices Press 2007)
New Poets of the American West (Many Voices Press 2010)
Poems Across the Big Sky II (Many Voices Press 2016)
20978 Hwy 35
Bigfork, Montana 59911