David Romtvedt

Deep West

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In this sampler of contemporary writing from the Deep West, Annie Proulax says that "for more than a decade, Wyoming has been my writing place and sometimes my subject... I have an intense interest in rough country and the people it makes, and that interest is satisfied here." In the original essays commissioned by the Wyoming Center for the Book, nineteen writers with roots in the state tell how that "rough country" has influenced their work. Some, such as Wyoming Poet Laureate Robert Roripaugh, agree with Proulx: "A sense of place is essential to both the writing process and the work itself." Others, such as poet Dainis Hazners, tell us that "this place, though it matters to me... is in some ways clearly incidental to my concerns / efforts as a writer and human being." Tom Rea writes half jokingly that there will never be a true Wyoming literature until it includes stories about homeless drug-addicted unwed teen mothers in Casper, referring to one of two urban places in this rural state. These writers, in their essays and accompanying excerts from their poetry and fiction, bring new understanding to the American West.

Selections from Deep West

Where the Deer Have Slept

I love stumbling upon the places
where the deer have slept
the night before, the room-sized
circle of flattened grass.
And when I get off, the horse
noses there but does not eat.
I lie down on my back.
My eyes close and I tuck
my arms tightly to my sides
then roll until within that cirlce
I come to the edge.

Something Inside

Dear Belem:
Daily we have to wash the bitter taste
from our mouths, and no matter
the soap that taste comes back.
For several letters I haven't been able
to tell you this story- our mare Marthe,
the four-year-old, kept going into Cyprien's pasture.
I think she was in love with his old bay Tom.
Cyprien would lead Marthe back and all leather
voiced say, "You keep that mare outta my field.
You don't, I'm gonna do something." I didn't
know. What would Cyprien do? He threatens
everyone. And Marthe wanted to go over there.

One day Cyprien comes walking up leading Marthe.
Her eyelids are shut kind of crumpled
and there's blood on her face. Cyprien
walks straight up to the house and he throws
two eyeballs down in front of me - Marthe's eyes.

You can't believe, Belem, how big
a horse's eyes are. Cyprien shows me
his knife and how he took the pointed end
of the blade, slipped it gently into the corner
of both sockets and popped her eyes out.
Like that. And he walks away. "She never
gonna find her way into my field again,"
Cyprien says over his shoulder.

How can there be such a wicked balance,
Belem? I could not make out which way
to turn, Marthe just standing there,
her big bones beautiful as ever, quiet
and still. I bent over and threw up,
couldn't shoot her, went to the vet
and he killed her with an injection.

Maybe a cat or a dog you can put to sleep
when it's old but a horse does not go to sleep,
a horse dies. And I tell you, Belem,
I think I might kill Cyprien myself
and not care if it's clean or right.
The nights are dark enough
to make us all blind and the stars
are bullet holes on the windshield
of my old truck.