When I remember the sound of my true country,
I don’t forget the crows, carving their loud
hexagrams in swoop and dive across granite.
I don’t forget, below, the blather water makes
at the lake’s edge. Or that the dead still speak in their hushes,
loitering above surface like a fine mist.
I know their leader on the stone, stone-quiet all these
900 years. He’s painted the red strokes, the tiny
bison. One eye’s an entire language. One dialect: wind.
In this small boat held up by sound, by this blood
and its tides of beat and fill, I fish my true country
waiting for the salmon to strike. I remember bright
day dancing reeling it in, the splash hitting surface,
slap against deck. We praise the sound we hope most to hear
out of our own mouths one day, so glorious, so final.
Note: The first line is by Sam Hamill, from one of the poems featured at Memory’s Vault, an outdoor poetry exhibition in Port Townsend, WA.
Richard Robbins grew up in Southern California and Montana. He studied with Richard Hugo and Madeline DeFrees at the University of Montana, where he earned his MFA. He has published five books of poems, most recently Radioactive City (Bellday Books, 2009) and Other Americas (Blueroad Press, 2010). He has received awards from The Loft, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Poetry Society of America. From 1986-2014, Robbins directed the Good Thunder Reading Series at Minnesota State University-Mankato, where he continues to direct the creative writing program.