Montana, 1975 - Rachel R. Baum

Fifteen miles outside of town no neighbors for miles
Rent cheaper than the barracks that were married housing

Shivers of heat would rise from the highway
On market days, Black Angus sauntered down the asphalt

Gravel scattered when they came up the driveway
The pickup slipping into its groove of pebbled ruts

The yard of dry prairie grass and scrubby trees
The screen door with its torn mesh and colony of flies

He promised to pay the electric bill and wash the dishes
Hang curtains sewn from bedsheets by an unhappy wife

Instead, he measured her turmoil her displacement
Her bread baking her pursuit of education her grief

On the short phone calls with relatives, his voice was smooth
Long distance was costly and the loss, after all, only a minor disaster

But she cataloged every year, the day imprinted as a tattoo
Leaving work the shock of pain the curb where she had sat breathless

The dress she wore and later stuffed in the trash bin
The way her body vibrated even now with the presence of absence.

Originally published in the anthology Around the World: Landscapes and Citiscapes

Rachel R. Baum is the editor of Funeral and Memorial Service Readings, Poems and Tributes (McFarland, 1999), awarded Best Non-Fiction by Today’s Librarian (2000). She began writing poetry in 2021, after contracting Covid-19 and never getting better. Since then, over fifty of her poems have appeared in OneArt, Jewish Literary Review, The Phare, Raven’s Perch, Plainsongs, and others. She won the 2021 National Poetry Day Competition (Your Fire Magazine), placed 2nd in the 2022 Shelley Poetry Competition, and took 3rd place in East Ridge Review’s 2022 Three Notch’d Poetry Contest. She was a Finalist for the 2022 Washburn Prize and the 2023 Stephen A. DiBlase Poetry Prize. Dancing Girl Press will publish her poetry chapbook In Dreams Cars Flew (Fall 2023).  Cowboy Jamboree Press will publish How to Rob a Convenience Store (Fall 2024). She lives in upstate New York with her dog Tennyson. For more information, visit