The Rocky Mountain Juniper can live

a thousand years, and, as I swizzle

a gin and tonic at Duke’s Bar in Saratoga,

I recall the word juniper

comes from the Dutch genever, its dusky blue

berries flavoring my tongue tonight.


Staring at the dregs in the bottom

of my empty glass, I see how we humans

have a penchant

for getting drunk on nature’s tab.


For decades around here,

mines and railroads bellied up to the bar,

knocking back doubles past closing time:


molten copper soothing the smelter’s

sore throat at the Grand Encampment Mine

as the railroad lapped up miles of track

laid on the backs of ties

hacked from these mountains.


Even now, insatiable wires hum above

us as the power grid’s thirst for coal’s

carbon elixir keeps running up the bill.






I sit by Brush Creek drunk on sky and water—

the air above me the bluest Blue Curaçao,

the river a cold sting of 190 proof Everclear—


and vow to become an acolyte

in this temple of root and crevice,

a disciple of the psychotropic

lichens whose tendrils lace my sleep.


With mortar and pestle

I’ll grind a fine powder

to snort

or drizzle in my gin.


Or simply lie back and invite them in,

the lichens seeping into my pores,

their psychedelic palette

of neon yellow and green,

rusty red and gold

granting me magpie’s sharp sight

as I view the world’s shine

through an urgent eye.


I’ll end my days with a calming dose

of velvet black and smudged sage green,

slowing my pulse to match

the rhythm thrumming up

from the dirt until my heart lodges


in the rock outcropping above,

a stone sentinel swapping stories

with the wizened and gnarled juniper

who’s saved me a seat at his table

in this, the last dive bar in the universe.