When the light catches it right this valley
comes to life with the dreams of Butte
and it’s static population—34,000
for years—most of their dreams unfulfilled,
but someone every once in a while
slips over the pass and the sirens
from Granite Hill light up the early evening
North over the mines, under the first star
every kid is taught to find, Our Lady of the Rockies
in frightening halogen on copper ridge, continental
divide, the towns streetlamps turn on in the shadow
of the mountains, phosphorous and chemical,
while the clouds dip down in roses to brush
the frameheads, but the pit stays a pallet of dirt
ranged in stripes on Granite Hill, a few people
wander the bars, half their friends buried in groups
down in Mountain View, the air strip running
between the colorless gravestones, the last curse
of the buried who stay right where they are
and the best times anyone can remember echo
from the walls of all the one story houses
that surround uptown. The price of copper
dropped into uselessness for a town to sustain itself.
The roads in Butte run directly North-South
and East-West, the grid lining up with the first star
every kid is taught to find.  The population is static.


The roads soon end.  They run into the mountain
or the toxic pit of the old mine that seeps
fifteen hundred feet deep, or the highway
that runs east to Billings or back west past Philipsburg
and nobody spends much time walking around anymore.
The graveyard is vast and thick with the rawest
gray stones plucked out down the road.  The adults
are worn and kind but the kids in the park
are all little shits, six years old and swearing at their grandma,
painting their names on their neighbors’ sidewalk
as they get to know the world that knows them just by looking.
They come from a mining town.  They have tar on their shoes
and their older brother’s boots wait in the closet.
One of them, every once in a while, doesn’t come home.


One day, you’re a carpenter, and when working something slips.  The knife
stopping short, not of skin, not of blood, but of severance,
the tip of the finger split towards the end but not through it,
and besides the ream of dead skin you kept most of that finger.
The cut healed over and everything reconnected but you wonder daily
if some fault line in the tissue might exist, imperfect, devilish and regurgitating,
digging up deep collapsed places you’ve stowed away, and that’s why
when you touch your face in the mirror late one night
stone ragged and wind bitten, cold as the counter top,
you feel someone other than who you see across from you,
you feel someone who hasn’t come along for this journey
you feel someone returning who you haven’t seen in ages
you feel someone you met waiting on your bed in your best and only
adolescent suit and tie, who you took with you to the funeral,
to school and to church and who slept barely, but knowing
that this mine doesn’t describe Butte or it’s people, someone
who went with you to the brush of the highlands in the bed of a pickup truck
with your first six pack and a shotgun for a Montana Sunset with friends and the names
of girls and streets you’d be happy waking up to, someone who would look in a mirror,
bend his well worked elbow, and still touch the face of the kid who dreamt him up.