richard hugo on mute

appearantly it’s silent poetry reading day.  this will be my first time participating in anything really… i’ve been in no swaps, no knit-alongs, no masses of bloggers all doing the same thing.  but i love poetry, so here’s a montana poem for you.

Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg

You might come here Sunday on a whim.
Say your life broke down. The last good kiss
you had was years ago. You walk these streets
laid out by the insane, past hotels
that didn’t last, bars that did, the tortured try
of local drivers to accelerate their lives.
Only churches are kept up. The jail
turned 70 this year. The only prisoner
is always in, not knowing what he’s done.

The principal supporting business now
is rage. Hatred of the various grays
the mountain sends, hatred of the mill,
The Silver Bill repeal, the best liked girls
who leave each year for Butte. One good
restaurant and bars can’t wipe the boredom out.
The 1907 boom, eight going silver mines,
a dance floor built on springs—
all memory resolves itself in gaze,
in panoramic green you know the cattle eat
or two stacks high above the town,
two dead kilns, the huge mill in collapse
for fifty years that won’t fall finally down.

Isn’t this your life? That ancient kiss
still burning out your eyes? Isn’t this defeat
so accurate the church bell simply seems
a pure announcement: ring and no one comes?
Don’t empty houses ring? Are magnesium
and scorn sufficient to support a town,
not just Philipsburg, but towns
of towering blondes, good jazz and booze
the world will never let you have
until the town you came from dies inside?

Say no to yourself. The old man, twenty
when the jail was built, still laughs
although his lips collapse. Someday soon,
he says, I’ll go to sleep and not wake up.
You tell him no. You’re talking to yourself.
The car that brought you here still runs.
The money you buy lunch with,
no matter where it’s mined, is silver
and the girl who serves your food
is slender and her red hair lights the wall.

-Richard Hugo

now i must go clean because we are having a viewing of the movie Babette’s Feast here this evening and there is yarn everywhere. have a great friday!

3 thoughts on “richard hugo on mute

  1. I loved the easy flow of this poem about hard things. I wondered if it mattered that I didn’t know which Philipsburg you write of, then thought it didn’t, for the mind’s eye, then thought I’d like to recognise it physically on driving through it some day… I guess you could say the poem grabbed me!

  2. yeah, he’s a great poet. i’m glad it grabbed you :). really, it could be about anywhere that a town was built on mining, and then the mines failed.

    what i like about richard hugo is that he is so grounded in montana. i actually really like the town of philipsburg. small town montana was my favorite road trip destination when i lived there and philipsburg ranked up there. they’ve a good summer playhouse, a great candy shop, some good little restraunts and it’s a nice drive. you should go. heck, i should go.

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