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Reading “Heart Butte, Montana” by M. L. Smoker



Poetry Lunch S5E4

Reading “Heart Butte, Montana” by M. L. Smoker from New Poets of Native Nations, edited by Heid E. Erdrich and published by Graywolf Press.


This poem helps me breathe easy as it puts me in a windswept place that calls to my mind and body all the outdoor vistas I’ve beheld and been held by, all the places I first learned to call home and feel that home can be safe. Spaces I learned to breathe in, and to belong in.

A lot of these lines feel obvious to me but make me wonder at the same time: “the moment before dangerous,” the sky making the soil congregate, the not-new prayer so faint. I love this long description suddenly called music, and that the moment it’s named as such it is suddenly my not there. That feels true of all the obvious things I think and feel and remember in the mountains, that I know so easily and forget so instantly when I come back down to the lowlands.

It’s beautiful to me how the poem ends with a promise of finding a way, echoing the earlier moment where a way has been almost found. I feel like I’m always hovering there in the almost, between ways. The less I think about it the more I’m in it and the more I think the farther I get from the path I was feeling out.

Time outside never fails to bring me back to feeling, as does so much poetry, and I’m grateful to this poem for marrying the two, building a space on the page that makes me feel the space outside. There’s refuge, there’s connection, and there’s an invitation here I really appreciate.


Link to purchase

Get the book: New Poets of Native Nations.