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  • Dear Dick,

    It was your letter to Gale and the one to Libbey that really got me. And your poem about driving Montana. The day is like a woman who loves you. Open. That line has really hung on.

    For those of us who are in the least bit broken, who've been the least bit scrambled by time and its constant companion, defeat, your writing is something reassuringly recognizable, something to settle in to with a big exhalation. The refuge of a friend's sofa, unfashionable and cat-clawed, but damn comfortable and there's no chance a little spill will upset. It's the offer to stay as long as you'd like, no questions asked. And when the warm glow that most of us know as friendship softens our brittle tendons, we can say our goodbyes. No debt. No obligation. Just a handful of harmless promises. And gratitude.

    For a few years, I tried imitating you - even going so far as to imitate some of your mistakes. And not just the stylistic ones that had chrome-hearted critics accusing you of blubbering sentimentality but also the ones you regretted yourself, the ones that had you sweating and running and swearing to the morning that this time you’d change.

    There's a line of broken-heartedness here out west that traces itself even to these coastal suburbs. It's the geographical end of the line to all kinds of murderous and willfully stupid dreams, the remnants of which are being quickly bought up or else left to rust in empty lots with abandoned farm equipment, much to the humiliation of those who needed most to believe in the dreams and to the odd indifference of their children.

    But there are also such masterpieces of color, translucent churches, worn wood marvels of light, their silent rafters raised in prayer; and that’s how I think of your best.

    Loneliness, your friend Roethke said, was the road we take to poems. In the bareness of longings and the weight of self-loathing, in the sore 4 a.m. itch that you started on the wrong road so far back that turning around no longer makes sense; who of us can’t recognize ourselves in these feelings?

    Maybe Roethke was wrong. Maybe there are other roads. But these lines of yours are near perfect in describing a kind of freedom those of us 'porous with travel fever' have come to know and love:

    Tomorrow will open again, the sky wide/
    As the mouth of a wild girl, friable/
    Clouds you lose yourself to. You are lost/
    in miles of land without people, without/
    one fear of being found, in a dash/
    of rabbits, soar of antelope, swirl/
    merge and clatter of streams.

    Someday I'll work up the courage to write you an epistolary, I swear.

    With gratitude,


    [Sprouted from Unsent Letter--David Foster Wallace by Peter D
  • Driving Montana by Richard Hugo

    The day is a woman who loves you. Open.
    Deer drink close to the road and magpies
    spray from your car. Miles from any town
    your radio comes in strong, unlikely
    Mozart from Belgrade rock and roll
    from Butte. Whatever the next number
    you want to hear it. Never has your Buick
    found this forward a gear. Even
    the tuna salad in Reedpoint is good.

    Towns arrive ahead of imagined schedule
    Absorakee at one. Or arrive so late--
    Silesia at nine--you recreate the day.
    Where did you stop along the road
    and have fun? Was there a runaway horse?
    Did you park at that house, the one
    alone in a void of grain, white with green
    trim and red fence, where you know you lived
    once? You remembered the ringing creek,
    the soft brown forms of far off bison.
    You must have stayed hours, then drove on.
    In the motel you know you’d never seen it before.

    Tomorrow will open again, the sky wide
    as the mouth of a wild girl, friable
    clouds you lose yourself to. You are lost
    in miles of land without people, without
    one fear of being found, in the dash
    of rabbits, soar of antelope, swirl
    merge and clatter of streams.
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