Between the ears of a horse I see the building. Inside the building are poets, reading. I plan to step inside. But not now. I hear music from a festival around the corner.
Around the corner and down the street, I buy a pint jar of pickled beets from the Mountain View Colony Hutterrites selling the last of this fall’s produce. It travels with me everywhere I go. Everytime I take a photo, I set the jar down between my feet.
But I don’t take its photo. If my mom knew I was buying pickled beets and not asking for another jar of her own canned pickled beets, I might get cut off from any more jars of her dill pickles or flathead cherries.
This is one of many ways of knowing you are in Montana. Posters on telephone poles are beckoning me to attend the NILE rodeo. I’m torn. I have a jar of pickled beets in my hands, a camera in the other. I imagine walking away from the poetry reading, taking the jar of beets with me to the rodeo. Buying two tickets- one for me and one for the beets. I’m picturing the beets sitting next to me, we are both cheering for the bull rider to hang on for a few more seconds. Only after I walk by the next booth does it register I’ve walked by something more interesting that poetry readings and late September potatoes. Or me and the beets cheering on bronc riders.
I don’t take her photo, but Violet is the name of the young woman who shows me the T-shirts various artists have created. Sale of said T-shirts goes towards micro-financing various areas of poverty: Honduras, Ethiopia, Afghanistan. We treat the source, not the symptom.
I walk away from her tent, thinking it is a worthy cause to click on. And I also walk away, pint jar in hand, thinking about how hard it is to sort the symptom from the source, how hard it is to bring the subtle layers of humanity to the attention of a world caught in commotion.
I return to the corner where the horse is, walk into the bookfest building, stepping into a vast hallway designed to collect hats and coats. Across the hall, down and around another corner is a huge banquet room where fiction writers are signing autographs and posing for photos. This is not the poetry room. I retrace my steps, chose a different hallway, a different corner. There, off to the side is a small room set up for about ten people. Instinct tells me – this is the poetry room. I peek inside and see a white board announcing the scheduled readings. First up: readings from a book vying for the High Plains Poetry Award — I Go To the Ruined Place, an anthology of poems in defense of global human rights, edited by Melissa Kwansy and M. L. Smoker.
I find a vacant chair, put my camera away, situate the pint jar between my feet.