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Another Pause

I picked up my bottle from Terrain 14 in Spokane. It now resides at my home in Spokane Valley on a cluttered shelf next to others





A cork punched tight

into the neck

held back the whiskey

which swirled around

a bottle tucked

carefully

in the back

of a westward wagon

pulled

by a sturdy team,

urged on by a man

with a rough beard

and rough clothes

through unfamiliar scrubland

and mountain passes

coveted and known only by

those first peoples.

The amber bottle

may be stowed

away

in the back, but

it is still at the forefront

of the settler’s mind-

tonight’s reward for

hours in the pounding sun

along dusty trails

where scenes

of future empires rising

from placer mines

and rugged fur trading

outposts

play out

on the hazy screen

of his prophetic

imagination.

The dream begins in

the tiny town

of Spokan Falls

on the edge of the mapped

world

where fur and

minerals and

timber

converge and possibilities sprout

like mountain pines.

The whiskey is

the last

thing he unpacks.

A lick of the lips,

a squeak of the cork,

and it begins to flow.

With the alcohol’s first burn

behind him like

his thoughts

about what might

have been used to

color

the whiskey (perhaps

a twist of tobacco

or a few

drops of molasses

if he was lucky),

the pulls increase

in frequency

until clear skies and

bright stars

confess

an empty bottle.

But it’s still early,

and with one more tip

back and

a gentle toss

the bottle is discarded

into an outhouse

where it settles into

sludge and

God knows what,

until it is later buried,

covered under

feet of earth

as the outhouse is moved

to a newer location.

Perhaps a hundred years later,

as the settler’s dreams

solidify,

materialize,

and a chance probe

of a backhoe

into dank soil

reveal a machine operator’s

surprised look and

discards of an earlier time,

a trove of preserved relics

in an earthen

agglomeration.

I place the bottle

on my shelf;

imperfections dot the glass

and stretch marks mar the neck

of this

heavy hand-blown

bottle.

It is home now

on the shelf

with others like it.

For the second time

it has come

to a rest,

another pause

in its story.

Gruis

02/2024

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