SUNDAY BLOG READ is your glimpse into the working minds and hearts of Utah’s literary writers. 15 Bytes regularly offers works-in-progress and / or recently published work by some of the state’s most celebrated and promising writers of fiction, poetry, literary non-fiction and memoir.
Today we present Jan C. Minich, who divides his time between Wellington, Utah and Wisconsin. I first met Jan with his wife poet Nancy Takacs at a collective of local poets reading in Tremonton at the Holmgren Historical Farm. As part of the Utah Humanities Book Festival, the event took place in the farm’s iconic oval barn and afterwards we gathered around a campfire outside to further our conversations under the spangled sky over Bear River Valley.
Today, Jan favors us with three unpublished poems. An avid outdoorsman, and former wilderness guide, Jan’s work resonates with me whether he’s talking about a historical figure from the 1890s, (a female companion to the Wild Bunch) or recalling a lost sister and the water flora “taking time slowly into evening / when the sun scars itself to green banks turning / fallen trees into the rising mist.”
So . . . curl up with your favorite cup of joe and enjoy Jan Minich!
Maggie Coming Home
She has no sister to explain
why the world enters her differently
just when she feels most alone.
She finds that one canyon
that leads to a maze of others,
the one stream still cold
from the mountains she lives by,
an alcove at the turn of the canyon
where she can see both ways
and feel the difference
as once she only saw it,
the trunks of the pinyon and juniper
appearing smaller among the boulders
centuries farther, growing old and dying,
the rocks rearranging themselves
and eddies forming
where once there was a current
but then, looking down-canyon,
she could almost glide
back down into the maze
over and around smooth boulders.
She can’t conceive of a future
or anticipate any other moment.
The canyon opens out into others
and if she leads the horses
far enough into the Henrys,
she’ll find pour-offs
where she’ll stop to swim,
thinking she might stay there forever.
–Maggie Blackburn, from Utah’s Torrey area, a companion to the Wild Bunch, camped with them at Robber’s Roost for several months preceding the 1897 Castle Gate payroll robbery.
There have been rivers
like the Huron and Vermillion
the Green and the Colorado
nightbirds to identify
just off a lake or quiet pond
screen doors with no handles
opened too many times
in a time passing slowly
You suspected too soon
the sleepless dreams
open rafters and breaking waves
a jaw aching from indecision
whether to marry or stop
washing the sheets pretending
their colors grow brighter
like honeysuckle on a hillside
that likes the spray of storms
–for my sister
I push a tree limb from the leafy bottom
of the pond to mark the spot
the raft drifted over,
a carapace of mud reflecting a dark sky,
the afternoon scarcely giving way
to lilies and blue-green duckweed,
taking time slowly into evening
when the sun scars itself to green banks turning
fallen trees into the rising mist.
The turtles slip away,
their dark heads bubbling the surface,
a time-flash of unending youth,
our father’s station wagon drifting
in over the black-topped driveway,
home from the tipple, and you
just walking in from the pony barn,
looking down to the island,
placed that way in a picture,
looking down at me as if we could leave
everything as it is,
walk into the house, over the bridge for supper,
leave the falling in place
and come back the next evening,
then the next, until it’s time to die.
* * *
I walk the land alone now,
past the dragline graveyard
on the hill above the house,
catching only a glimpse of the barn
through the dying sumacs.
We moved away from the war here,
from campuses and protests,
shattered bodies on wet city streets
that washed the blood of a friend
doing time in a hospital in Chicago,
jumping, for parents,
for the girlfriend who wouldn’t say goodbye,
though not for his sister who cried in my arms
sitting on the back porch of their farmhouse.
Out here the land moved quietly under us,
and the moon showed us the way home.
I had forgotten how still the nights are,
the whip-poor-will’s call from an oak
across the strip-cut where Lizzie,
your first Jersey, fell from the high-wall,
her life shortened, you crying, unable
to watch as I floated her there until morning
when I pulled her out with the tractor
and buried her under the sumacs.
Our lives were like that then, but now,
years after you died, I walk this land alone.
The sumacs have given way to older growth,
the shale broken down into rich earth,
a place I’ll let go when I’m old enough
to fall down and spend the night
with those who have died
and have not walked home
but are already there and can’t leave.
In the morning, I’ll get up,
find my way through the field
to the bordering trees and drive away,
leaving home again, this farm, until next year,
through another winter, another year,
moving closer even as I move farther away.
Copyright by Jan C. Minich, 2016
Jan C. Minich lives in Wellington, Utah and Bayfield, Wisconsin. He spends each summer boating another part of Lake Superior. He has a book of poems The Letters of Silver Dollar, and two chapbooks. Former wilderness studies director and literature professor at Utah State University Eastern in Price, Utah, he is now emeritus faculty.
Past featured writers in 15 Bytes’ Sunday Blog Read: Katharine Coles, Michael McLane,Darrell Spencer,Larry Menlove,Christopher Bigelow, Shanan Ballam,Steve Proskauer,April Wilder,Calvin Haul, Lance Larsen,Joel Long,Lynn Kilpatrick,Phyllis Barber, David Hawkins,Nancy Takacs,Mike Dorrell,Susan Elizabeth Howe, Star Coulbrooke, Brad Roghaar,Jerry Vanleperen,Maximilian Werner, Markay Brown, Natalie Young,Michael Sowder, Danielle Beazer Dubrasky, Kevin Holdsworth, Jacqueline Osherow,Stephen Carter, Alex Caldiero, Stephen Tuttle, Raphael Dagold, David Lee, Lisa Bickmore, Kirstin Scott, Jesse Parent, Craig Dworkin, Laura Stott, Jana Richman, Melody Newey Johnson, C. Wade Bentley, Amy Brunvand, Janine Joseph, Paisley Rekdal, Anne Vinsel, Zoe Murdock, Scott Abbott, and Doug Gibson.