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  • Writer's pictureColter Murphy

Closer Dreams

This season with Confluence has been a rich one, filled with compelling ideas that leave much to ponder well after our gatherings end. A few weeks ago, I was thinking about the prophetic imagination and its power to speak about things yet to come. With this in mind, I penned a poem weaving together the way things are, the way things were, and the way things might yet be. As one of my poet friends shared with me, reading poems about dreams brings them one step closer to reality.

Bitterroot Flower among rocks

Two Hundred Billion

by Colter Murphy


Yellow locusts

crawl in busy lines

as David Attenborough tells about

The Great Locust Migration. They hop

and devour, hop and devour, until chitin

is shed and they sprout wings. Now the body

is red and all green vegetation is within reach.

Clouds of birds are called a murmuration


but with locusts

there’s far too much clacking for such soft

consonants. What is a migration but exodus,

or waters rolling down like justice?


The west wind

sends maple leaves

sailing across Reserve Street.

Don’t worry, what a tree does (in death)

is not lost on me. Maple is the colonizer’s tree

but through it the land speaks, so I remember

this is where the Salish dug bitterroot, this cobble

river channel. Now there’s a Starbucks,

a windshield repair, and a sign for Fort Missoula.

Masses of herding cars grumble together

for the daily commute back to the Bitterroot.

We migrate over bones and roots.


The fax machine in Jon Tester’s office explodes,

paper becomes a consonant murmuration and suddenly

he yields, there is compassion, we have hopped and devoured

and justice is within reach. At the same time, a single

pink flower blooms at the center of the intersection.

All the violent men in their lifted trucks descend

and kneel, put their hats across their hearts.

One by one they make vows with the land:

no more rolling coal, only justice rolling

down, like waters, like locusts.


Colter Murphy is a poet who lives on the land where the Salish once dug bitterroot to sustain their lives. This poem is a response to, and a reflection of, the Confluence community and Colter himself. Please contact him to request permission to use this poem elsewhere: colter@stpaulmissoula.org

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1 comentario


snicklefritzin43
05 dic 2023

thank you Colter for this sensitive, thought compelling story through time. Your words painted a deep, soul touching picture of how through time this one place has seen so many stories, and now to hold the dreams for the future.

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