Archives for posts with tag: Montana

mt. hope cemetery
History Talks in a Boneyard
by Ellaraine Lockie

It began as Boot Hill
Separated by the town from Protestant
and Catholic cemeteries
From their public-park-like preservation

Here heathens and the impoverished
lie eternally under wild grasses
weeds, sagebrush and gopher holes
Corralled by a barbed wire fence
whose missing links create a gate

A few cement block headstones
as decomposed as the bodies beneath
whisper identities in broken English
kanji and hiragana
But the list at the library speaks
loud and clear enough to be heard over
three generations of neglect

With names of Chang, Tanisaki
Cloudy Buffalo, Fugimoto, Mutoo
Nakamoto, Flying Man, Jones, O’Neal
Kirschweng, McGrew and Monteath
Labels of Chinaman, Japanese, Indian
Poor House, Breed, Half-breed, White, Negro
French, Irish, German, Scotch and American

Listed causes of death as direct as the crows
that fly above the burial ground
As socially unsheltered as Montana cowboys
Suicide, alcoholism, gunshot wounds
murder, horse and railroad accidents
amputation, scalding, spasms
exhaustion and unknown

The name became Mt. Hope
A plea answered four times a year
when a Hill County worker
mows the gophers’ pasture
The boneyard guarded by an occasional
Chinese zodiac animal gravestone
guillotined by vandals and time

Originally published in Poetry Cemetery.

PHOTO: Sign at Mt. Hope Cemetery, Havre, Montana.

kay young 1979

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I grew up in a tiny wheat farming town in Montana, and my family made trips to the bigger town of Havre for weekly shopping, medical appointments, movies, etc. Even with those consistent trips, I was unaware of the existence of Havre’s two separate cemeteries. It wasn’t until one of my adult annual summer stays in my hometown, which still includes weekly trips to Havre for the same reasons, that I became aware of the ramshackle second cemetery where the non-Christians are buried. I was instantly interested in its history and traced it through the local public library. Of course, the poet in me went right to work.

PHOTO: Gravestones at Mt. Hope Cemetery, Havre, Montana, by Kay Young, 1979 (Library of Congress, Montana Folklife Survey Collection).

zazzle havre
EDITOR’S NOTE: About 50 miles from the Canada border in north central Montana, Havre was founded in the late 1800s to serve as a service center for the Great Northern Railway, due to its location midway between Seattle and Minneapolis-St. Paul.  Originally named “Bullhook Bottoms,” the town held a series of meetings to determine a new name. The original settlers had the final decision, and thanks to a strong French influence, the town was renamed “Havre,” after Le Havre, France. (Source: Wikipedia.)

PHOTO: Saddle Butte, Havre, Montana, postcard designed by KermaB available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ellaraine Lockie’s recent poems have won the 2019 Poetry Super Highway Contest, the Nebraska Writers Guild’s Women of the Fur Trade Poetry Contest, and New Millennium’s Monthly Musepaper Poetry Contest. Her fourteenth chapbook, Sex and Other Slapsticks, has been released from Presa Press. Previous chapbooks have won Poetry Forum’s Chapbook Contest Prize, San Gabriel Valley Poetry Festival Chapbook Competition, Encircle Publications Chapbook Contest, Best Individual Poetry Collection Award from Purple Patch Magazine in England, and the Aurorean’s Chapbook Choice Award. Her poems have found their ways onto broadsides, buses, rented cars, bicycles, cabins, greeting cards, keychains, bookmarks, mugs, coffee sack labels, church bulletins, radio shows, and cable TV. Ellaraine serves as Poetry Editor for the lifestyles magazine, LILIPOH.

Author photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher.

Learning to Ride a Bike
by Connie Wieneke

The Kellers’ kids, theirs and the Indians they’d fostered,
my family invited down from up the road,
a dog or two kicked into shy stillness,
all of us that day a ring around a pen.
As one tribe our hands gripped the fence slats, as if
its rough wood the last promise we expected kept,
and all the while Ruby and Red solemn-faced
slaughtered their hogs.

On that day I learned to ride a bike,
the bike too big—and aren’t they always?—
for my seven-year-old self who knew about always and nothing,
except what the distance between crotch and saddle was:
too far, and then too close, the soles of that child’s shoes
too thin, but when she strained her calves, stretched her legs
long and tough as a boy’s she let the bike wheel
and wobble and snake and coaster bounce across
the gravel road and around the curve to highway blue,
as if it could carry her far enough from the screams
to ease her grip on the rusty handlebars, to forget everyone
hungered for those pigs to die.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My second-grade photo — taken the same year that I learned to ride a bike near Havre, Montana.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I have worked on this poem in various guises since 2009. The pigs and learning to ride a bike have been inextricably connected in my mind and body. I wanted to capture our lives out there on the Highline of northern Montana at that moment.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Connie Wieneke has been working on a collection of poems about her family, from the perspective of herself as a child and then as an adult navigating the deaths of her parents. Her work has appeared in Stand, Cutbank, Owen Wister Review, Clerestory, Northern Lights, and Silver Birch Press.

by Robert Bly

There has been a light snow.
Dark car tracks move in and out of the darkness.
I stare at the train window marked with soft dust.
I have awakened at Missoula, Montana, utterly happy. 

Illustration: Vintage postcard by Curt Teich & Co.

by Susan Mitchell

I ran into the afterlife.
No fluffy white clouds. Not even stars. Only sky
dark as the inside of a movie theater
at three in the afternoon and getting bigger all the time,
expanding at terrific speed
over the car which was disappearing,
flattening out empty
as the fields on either side.

It was impossible to think
under that rain louder than engines.
I turned off the radio to listen, let my head
fill up until every bone
was vibrating—sky.

Twice, trees of lightning
broke out of the asphalt. I could smell
the highway burning. Long after, saw blue smoke twirling
behind the eyeballs, lariats
doing fancy rope tricks, jerking silver
dollars out of the air, along with billiard cues, ninepins.

I was starting to feel I could drive forever
when suddenly one of those trees was right in front of me.
Of course, I hit it—
branches shooting stars down the windshield,
poor car shaking like a dazed cow.
I thought this time for sure I was dead
so whatever was on the other side had to be eternity.

Saw sky enormous as nowhere. Kept on driving.
“Once, Driving West of Billings, Montana” appears in Susan Mitchell’s collection The Water Inside the Water (Wesleyan University Press, 1983).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Susan Mitchell grew up in New York City and now lives in Boca Raton, Florida. She has a B.A. in English literature from Wellesley College, an M.A. from Georgetown University, and was a PhD student at Columbia University. She has taught at Middlebury College and Northeastern Illinois University, and currently holds the Mary Blossom Lee Endowed Chair in Creative Writing at Florida Atlantic University. She has published poems in literary journals and magazines including The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The American Poetry Review, The New Republic, Ploughshares, and The Paris Review. Her poems have also been included in five volumes of The Best American Poetry and two Pushcart Prize volumes. (Source:

PHOTO: “Montana, Big Sky Country” by Sherri Jo, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

by Robert Bly

There has been a light snow.
Dark car tracks move in and out of the darkness.
I stare at the train window marked with soft dust.
I have awakened at Missoula, Montana, utterly happy. 

Illustration: Vintage postcard by Curt Teich & Co.



Poem by Robert Bly

There has been a light snow.

Dark car tracks move in and out of the darkness.

I stare at the train window marked with soft dust.

I have awakened at Missoula, Montana, utterly happy. 

Illustration: Vintage postcard by Curt Teich & Co.