Artist of the West: Shirley Cleary

Bringing intuition, color, and light to sporting art


Images of the West: Theodore Roosevelt, from Medora to Gardiner

The making of a hunter-conservationist

Photo by Patrick Chaplin

Back 40

Written by Shann Ray  

Shann Ray

Other Contributions

Home Waters Back 40
October 2016

In all this American
marital wasteland
we could 
have lost everything.
I’m so thankful we didn’t
end up dying
without having found
each other, without striving 
to know one another 

more generously, not unlike 
scaling the face of the Beartooths
where beyond the last grip
of roots and shale
wolverines lip the far ridge
and disappear into no man’s land.
Here we go hand over fist 
until we stand 
and look down on Sylvan Lake 

and her tail stream, 
blue echo of the day
sky, of eye, of storm, 
bones of an eagle 

on the upslant at our feet, wing flare 
of longer and shorter bones
like narrow white stones we hold 
in our hands and set back one at a time 
in their form, carpometacarpus, radius,

and ulna, hand bones
and wing bones,
spine, skull 
and uplift of desire, primary flight 
feathers of predator birds 
over the Great Divide
from the northern channel of Canada
to their home in Montana. 
At dawn

we find ourselves again 
in our tent on the skirt 
of Sylvan, light in the bowl
of the earth, and light 
on the points 
of your shoulders and hips,
elbows, arms and wrists,
the auburn of your eyes, 
jaw and body rise.