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.
Two Hundred Billion
by Colter Murphy
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: firstname.lastname@example.org