Monday, May 16, 2011


No television, no radio, no phone, no internet. Just me and Duncan the Dog. For three days on retreat I heard no human voice except that of a man who stopped his truck while I was walking the dog. He had lost his two dogs and wanted me to call the number on their tags if I found them. I did not find his dogs. What I found instead was that I am capable of parking the car on Thursday noon and not getting into it again until Sunday noon. That I can compose and revise effectively when there is little chance of interruption or distraction. True, I required breaks for reading, doing crosswords, and--guilty gulp--playing Spider solitaire. But during my time at Bloomsbury West in Silver Cliff, I worked on half a dozen poems, some from notes, a couple of revisions, read two and a half books: David Mason's Ludlow, a novel in verse; Annie Dawid's There Was Darkness Under His Feet; and Leslie Marmon Silko's The Turquoise Ledge. Interestingly, none of this reading intruded on my own writing. So there, no anxiety of influence here.

What did inform the writing was my drive down CO 9, where I had the road pretty much to myself, saw mule deer, elk--still wearing velvet on their antlers--one pronghorn antelope, and a small herd of bison. That last amazed me, about eight of the huge animals silhouetted against a vast snowfield. They were at a distance, so I felt safe in pulling off and staring at them. I could tell from the tracks in the snow, though, that they had inspected the fence line, and the fence was flimsy compared to the bison. A bit later I saw more bison, but in a small, muddy farm yard. Again I pulled over and took the dog out on his leash. He was completely oblivious to the bison, one of which kept its eyes on me with such intensity that, after snapping a couple of poorly framed pictures, I left. There was a fence and a ravine between us, but I doubt that either would have stopped a charge if I angered the herd. There were youngsters there, not small, but still, parental concern is what it is.

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