Northern Cross


All these long days since you’ve called have been as the early winter, a knife through a frost-bitten town. Lonely men give confessions over long-distance lines, drive the night road to cafe lights.They come for coffee, ballads and water-color postcards, stay until it’s time to sweep up and lock up. And then they flee this place when the Dog Star burns the southern sky. It’s snow across the lamplight, lonely rooms across the bridge. A cold turn of metal at 29 below. A floorboard’s groan. They’re bound for the great cross of Cygnus or the Great Beyond, but they can’t outrun her eyes.

Photo by Buddy Smith

Photo taken near Lolo Pass, on the Montana-Idaho line.

Copyright © 2020 Buddy Smith

Every mile

I learned a lonely song
sung down in a fire canyon
of Moon Pass
ending at nightfall
down the end of an empty street
of possibility
lights burned in the windows of that old mountain town
a village in love with her pretty smile
old men drank in taverns
while I worked in dirt under endless sun
my arms grew hard and brave
with every mile

Copyright © 2021 Buddy Smith

Photo by Buddy Smith (Big Hole River, Montana, 2018)

Feral snowman

Day four of Christmas staycation: I found a feral snowman on my river walk. As you can see, he was missing a few river stones, but overall that’s positive body language. I’d go as far as to say a bit triumphant, thrusting those stick-arms like that, right into the wild blue, whence his components came. As if to say, “I wasn’t here before, but now I am.” For a time. Or some such existential snowman thoughts. Oh, ye lovers of Kierkegaard in the cold.

Oddest thing was a scrappy dog (belonged to some other hiker) with energy unleashed came up the trail, regarded the snowman and began to bark incessantly in his direction. This was awkward for the three of us. But I guess the dog found it strange that snow might be shaped that way. Perhaps it wondered: Might it be alive and nature made? But it’s hard enough to read a human. Maybe sometimes a thing like art–a song, a novel or a snowman, say–is shaped by human paws, and then set free or left to escape.

Well, not much else needs saying here … Actually, none of this needed saying. .

Photos by Buddy Smith

… after the storm, a sky clean and blue

Wall shadows

You taste her goodbye kiss
when the night scent is snow &
wall shadows
play a black-and-white movie.
When the sweet tug of dreams
& soft embrace of sheets
leave you lonely, all of you
at the edges
of her heart
that shadowland of question marks.
through a vapory window
it’s all mule deer and moonlight
by the polished lake, smooth as jade
on this cold, northern night.
none of this will let you sleep
& so
you comb your hair
dress your city best
sit & watch the town lights blinking
hear a sad dog barking
from somewhere up the road
There’s a ring of ice around the moon tonight

Copyright © 2021 Buddy Smith

Photo by Buddy Smith

Mood music: “Waiting,” by Chris Isaak


You roll the window down
the map is void of towns
just wrinkled lines
across the plain
you look a thousand miles & it never ends
out here the wind has always known us,
the first woman & man

Copyright © 2021 Buddy Smith

Photo by Buddy Smith

Taken on a blue-hour hike, on a winter day near Missoula, Montana

Ancient fence posts

Wind on the barbed wire gives voices to her pretty, far-off sighs. Even here, miles from anywhere … What makes you believe that coyotes sing love songs? All the beautiful breaks your mind.

Half-good lyrics scribbled by the roadside as passing trucks rock you in their windy wake. Little love spells left for her on crumpled cafe receipts & the address label of a Smithsonian magazine. They’re all that’s left to say in the sprawling stretch between ranches and downhearted towns. Ancient fence posts patrol empty places haunted by a coyote stuck in his ways.

Copyright © 2021 Buddy Smith

Photo by Buddy Smith (Big Hole Valley, Montana)

Valley rain

She plays the violin while rain drums the world beyond our open window,
softly presses her morning cheek to woodgrain,
sweeps a silvering strand across her face, a declaration in muted light
She closes her hazel eyes of rarity
sings my beautiful sins with rosined bow & strings
as I turn from the rain in our room to her Ireland eyes

Copyright © 2021 Buddy Smith

Photo (washed out) by Buddy Smith

In her vintage dress

No man is above the law
But your French kisses are so ooh la la, they ought to be illegal
Your shape is a Breton accent, flowing blue taffeta
down the rose-pink granite coast to Golfe of Saint-Malo
Send me to Sing Sing, sweet whisper on my skin
Color me incorrigible
Or let me live on the lam in the vast distance of your chestnut hair,
and I’ll answer a very old question for you, the one behind your Holly Golightly eyes.

Copyright © 2021 Buddy Smith