In Butte

Clouds hang low

As Wobbly agitators

Suspended like saucers,

Whole plates of mashed potatoes,

Or maybe platters, paint palettes

Your mother might have dreamed up

To mix the dark oil she splayed

Across nightmarish canvas . . .


Like the cigar smoking mule

That suffocated you while

He rhymed in the caved-in

Stopes of your mind,

The repeated promise of

Eternal harps and gowns, blind

Hopes spun by heavenly clowns

Who claimed they saved Evel

From burning. Joe Hill


Still waits at the pearly gates,

St. Peter is a company man . . .

Frank Little’s playing poker

With Clarence Darrow out front,

Sees you trying to sneak by

With your prayer shawl on.

Recognizing your long ears

And Bowler hat, Joe Hill coughs up

The blood of Christ, refuses to go


To Hell. No cigar, Frankie smokes

Like a presto-log, pulls two jokers

From his sleeve, so Darrow raises

Hell—tells Pete to kiss his ass.

He knows who holds the kings

Of copper hostage, but the fools will trade

Their teeth for rosaries, booze,

Or dentures that don’t fit. The lowest level

Keeps changing like clouds—now bowls


Of oatmeal topped with Sweet and Low.

Today everything smacks of you,

Ed, in this blue sky above me. Like Daedalus

Or Marianne Moore, toads croaking

In their imaginary gardens, this blue

“Bird” is winging it, singing it

Because he can, because he’s flying high

Once again over the labyrinth he sees below.

Unfortunately . . . he cannot land.


            In memory of Ed Lahey

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