Fall 2002, Volume 20.1


Dennis Held

Dennis Held teaches at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, where he is faculty advisor to the Talking River Review. His poems have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Seattle Review, and Poetry magazine. His first book of poems, Betting on the Night, was recently published by Lost Horse Press.



If I could stand here
long enough I'd see
them move:
mountains on their way
from Idaho to
hell and gone.
Instead I'm rooted
with a new friend
on a stable hillside
at the very moment
the rock is split
and a leaf
from sixty million years
gone by first
hits the sun again.

Or maybe what's worthy
of note is Bill
who loves these
rocks like Dante
had it for Beatrice
only better, with dirt.
And if I call to him
he will with ardor
say Miocene Epoch!
and Neogene Period! and
tell of inland seas
laid down between
volcanic waves.
A stone is feathered
with pine needles.
He opens his mouth
And the whole wide-
awake dream whirls out
and I'm opened up
inside his world
of luminous fish
and ginko trees, Idaho
hot as any Jamaica,
palm fronds ablossom
all around us,
standing muddied
and incarnate:
Bill, a young father,
bearded and grinning
helping me hear
what the split rock says.



This River's Part

As now, each evening brings a last embarrassment
Of light that shames the setting sun to drop its fan,
A tawdry final display. But as the darkness
Sways its daily way, up from deepest holes within
The earth, the loving men of Myrtle rise to give
Their wives the few remaining sparks that nothing
Else can draw from those who live in shaded valleys
Along the Clearwater River, racketing down a pocket
Of rock, applauding itself through shallow rapids.

And where a muscled swimmer barrels into slower
Pools, old basalt can trick the undercurrent and legs
Are turned to stone. Wraiths that might be geese
Conspire the body down to where the dregs of those
Who doubt the influence of birds lie tangled deep
In shrouds of cottonwood. No matter how or where
It stops, flesh is never far from where it starts.



Life in the Middle World

Between this sky and that ground,
Firmament and fundament

Forty long years
An eyeblink

After the conception, before the execution
After Genesis, before Revelations

While I'm sitting here waiting
For the coffee to kick in

In blinding light and utter darkness
Part agony, part ecstasy

At the gates of heaven
By the writhing lake of fire

Right there on the brink
Of the next important moment


Twixt hither
And yon

Always poised between who
I was and who I will be

I am something
I am nowhere

But always I am near



It seemed like there should have been something we
Could do for those filthy March Wisconsin
Cows when the frozen pastures seethed in
Hock-deep muck, ice encrusted at six a.m.,

Already hooked to machines and milked
Poor girls, now puffing their slow way down, always
Down from the warm barn, lit as from within
By a wayward vernal sun that offers

Not one degree of heat as we slide
Past, day after mystifying day on the swaying
Seats of a school bus carving its way, isolate,
Down Town Line Road, toward every day's

Argument with itself, nothing helpful shown
On the drive through the flame of each icy dawn.


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