Northern Cross


All these long days since you’ve called have been as the early winter, a knife through a frost-bitten town where lonely men give confessions over long-distance lines and drive the night road to cafe lights across the bridge for coffee, ballads and water-color postcards.

But they only find snow across the lamplight, a cold turn of metal; at 29 below, a floorboard’s groan, sounding hard into winter, like three trumpeter swans leaving this place.

Photo by Buddy Smith

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

Copyright © 2020 Buddy Smith

Gary Cooper at the grocery store

You say there’s no waiting & so here I am with coffee, cooking oil & bread
& I don’t know what to do with my hands as I watch your slender fingers caress these things of mine
Just thinking of anything, wanting to say anything
But “yup” as the register rings (along with every thunderous clock in this one-horse town) to a drumming in my chest I fear you can hear,
a wounded Dimitri Tiomkin score
And now an exchange of change, pleasant things & Saturday smiles
Then it’s dust at my boots and all the worn-out tiles
Off I go, like that, with a bag in my yearning arms, dimes in my pocket as thin as tin stars

Copyright © 2021 Buddy Smith

A daydream

Maybe the sky has always loved the shape of this place, as has the ancient sweep of the wind. The wind is your lullaby; your bed the horizon. The meadowlark sighs softly.

Should you close your eyes, you might fall away into the grasses of this spinning earth, crazy with a sudden awareness of tumbling through the cosmos, and that electric hum through your body as you drift into a daydream.

In that dreamscape, you could be an ancient hunter-gatherer pushing farther onto the steppe than any human had ever dared. Or a pair of eager eyes watching for the prairie schooner that brings your English bride from the East.

But you are not an ancient traveler or a lonely settler in your Sunday best. You haven’t time for daydreams. And yet you are here, content to remain a while longer in this beautifully empty space. To listen to the wind and think of nothing but these things.

Photo by Buddy Smith

Copyright © 2021 Buddy Smith

High above the bison range

In our wildflower place,
the one we borrowed from butterflies and bison,
I saw how lovely she could be:
the way she laid her hand on her heart
and sighed at pretty things.

Photo by Buddy Smith
Photo by Buddy Smith, National Bison Range, Moise, Montana

… photos taken in June or July, a few years back

Copyright © 2021 Buddy Smith


It’s 1:04 a.m. on my clock radio. “Sweet Jane” drifts in and out.

As I stagger out the sliding door, I see a waning half-moon above the maple—outrunning Orion and the Dog Star.

Out on the highway, a trucker’s Jake brake rattles like a goodbye breath. Someone is always leaving town.

Photo by Buddy Smith

Copyright © 2021 Buddy Smith

The day goes lightly (a poem for Audrey)

At last the light sails away for Idaho and the sea,
leaving a lullaby sky all huckleberry pink.

Around the bend, something stirs,
by footfalls and moonglow, awakened from a daydream.

Almost home, dripping rainbow trout splash and leap
over moonbeams
catching mayflies,
on a river barely seen.

Soon, from over the moon, to the trout, the owl and me
comes a vision of Audrey Hepburn
strumming a guitar, softly
on a windowsill,
to attend to my sleep

— Photo by Buddy Smith

Photo by Buddy Smith

Note: I hadn’t noticed the elk in the moonglow when I took this photo several weeks ago from my back deck, with a long lens. They were a nice surprise I discovered only yesterday.

Copyright © 2020 Buddy Smith

Love letters on Highway 43

On the broken edge of Wisdom
since crossing the Great Divide
the sky fills with endless
as I count coyotes
listen through AM static
to faraway ballads, steel guitars in waltz time,
and try to remember
the last you said to me
in letters postmarked nowhere
some 20 years down the line

Photo by Buddy Smith

Note: The words are lovelorn, but the actual mood when I took this photo was jubilee. It was late summer, a rare Monday off from work, and in another 20 minutes I’d be knee deep in one of my favorite trout streams … the road leads to magical places.

Copyright © 2020 Buddy Smith

Black-and-white movie

A TV plays in another room. To Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer says something sweet,
as you brush your long, wet hair, at the edge of the bed, with an open Rand McNally and your un-toweled back to me.

Noir shadows caress your shoulders, and your curves are 1953.

A rare beauty? A wild heart? A femme fatale? A saner man would want to know such things.

Copyright © 2020 Buddy Smith