Back 40: Driving the Backroads of Montana

For Martha Scanlan 

Driving the backroads of Montana
Gravel unspools to the horizon 

Fields of wheat and mountains surround me
I’ve got all the good day long left to drive. 

My dog is asleep beside me
There’s a creek up ahead that I know 

Where cottonwoods and trout lounge in the shadows
Good a place as any to lie down. 

But I’ve stopped to lean on a rail fence
A horse walking toward me out of the fog 

It nuzzles my coat pockets for apples
Warm alfalfa breath on my neck 

The ache and loneliness of living made bearable
I pat the horse’s neck and it knows. 

Charles Finn is the former editor of the literary and fine-arts magazine High Desert Journal and author of  Wild Delicate Seconds: 29 Wildlife Encounters and On a Benediction of Wind: Poems and Photographs from the American West, which was the 2022 Montana Book Award winner. He is also co-editor of the textbook/anthology The Art of Revising Poetry: 21 U.S. Poets on Their Drafts, Craft, and Process and the forthcoming poetry anthology We Are All God’s Poems. His second poetry collection, The Folding Chair of Now, will be out from Chatwin Press in 2025. Finn lives in Havre, Montana with his wife, Joyce Mphande-Finn, and their two cats, Tija and Rilke.

Winner of the Montana Book Award for On a Benediction of Wind with collaborator Charles Finn and Best of Photography at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in California for her series Fire On Every Mountain, Barbara Michelman’s work is exhibited both nationally and abroad. She lives in Missoula, Montana;

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