Two Days Twelve Thousand Years Ago

Brian Blanchfield

Two days twelve thousand years ago

or more, the giant lobe of ice that had dammed

the Clark Fork and backfilled a glacial lake

in five Montana valleys nine hundred feet

of water high unlocked—some say was floated,

undone where it had sutured to the rock—

or anyway at whatever fatal compromise was

burst, and on that side, Idaho, the gush

was so great that winds ahead of the sixty mile

an hour flood whipped the loess loose

from earth and drove it into dunes south

along the western front to the Snake and pounding

scraped Spokane and Sprague and, west, Washtucna

to bedrock and redrew the gorge through to

the Pacific. I’ve lived on that side of things.

The Trump and Covid epoch inundated

the editorial pages and real estate of

the college town until Ammon actual Bundy

came with a posse to avenge the honor

of anti-maskers singing hymns in Friendship

Square dispersed at first by blares above of

Wet Ass Pussy my own queer students

played at volume and then by police enforcing

the ordinance against gathering in numbers

when the virus was deadliest. The landscape has

changed so, nightly programs on hotel cable

slake a thirst to peer into the Moscow

homicides since, into the cargo van

militia men readied their riot in,

parked at the perimeter of Pride

last summer more or less where the first

of the flood came crashing.

On this side,

the energy was suction. Once the plug was out

everything was hydraulics, last and most

of all the sea that had to pour uphill,

over the notches at Markle and Wills, which

I climbed today to look over into the Camas

basin that slurped so hard the largest ripples

of earth on earth were risen and kettle pools

were plucked by downward spouts. By one, ice yet

at equinox, I photographed some tracks

that must be grizzly, enormous paws at amble

pace away from a spring in snowcake

warm enough the claw marks are dull,

and by another all the fur and none of the bones

of an elk I think, which might have been hauled

by a truck that didn’t hit but found it.

Nearby, the egg-sized bean scat led me,

crawling, under the barb into a meadow where

older kill was carcass white except

for pretty black hooves and fetlock hide.

I held a block of basalt unrounded and lined

by layers of seasons in the Pleistocene

until some sixty years of buildup—like, say,

from Civil Rights to now, beneath which

my whole life has been settled material—

pressured the divide until it gave and bottom current

made ripple trains across the prairie I

came to overlook yesterday and today.

Brian Blanchfield is the author of three books of poetry and prose. For Proxies: Essays Near Knowing, he received a Whiting Award, and his A Several World was the recipient of the Academy of American Poets’ James Laughlin Award and longlisted for the National Book Award. He lives in Missoula and teaches at the University of Montana.
Originally published:
March 4, 2024


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