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Micah Ling

November 2010

Chey Davis

I am convinced this will end well,
That it will not be too late,
That it will take place without witnesses.

I am convinced this will end well,
That it will not be too late,
That it will take place without witnesses.

—Wislawa Szymborska

I have never been to Montana, but I want to go, courtesy of Micah Ling’s exquisite collection, Sweetgrass.

No one I know would consider me a farmer or anything very like it, but Micah Ling’s prose poetry evokes a deep desire to be outside and in the grass. The language is vibrant and suggestive. Ling spends a great deal of energy minding the traditions and sensations of the upper Midwest. Each description of cattle and farm border on lyrical while remaining true to the sense of work and livelihood. It seems obvious to me that Ling, while many stories and experiences were shared with her by the locals in Montana, functioned as a kind of embedded observer. Her language about the land is offset by quotes from Bill, a cattle rancher, and other locals in town whose investment in rain, land and fire is played in stark contrast to Ling’s understanding of the more ethereal beauty of place.

Morning fog will pull you from warm bedding with the call of the sandhill crane, all ochre and blushing, sharp and sweet.

Each poem exerts a pull. With the use and juxtaposition of the simple and commonplace next to truly elevated descriptions of land and people, Ling draws us in. We are coaxed into this love relationship.

This is mecca, this is home; why would there be more?

At no time does the writing become pedantic. Ling arranges the poems in a compelling storytelling epic that follows the movement and seasons of the land that she is becoming a part of. She punctuates these vignettes with gentle commentary on the human experience within this particular universe of living.

And then the fire comes. And then the fire doesn’t stop.

And sometimes, we are led to weep, with her and for her. For the people that we have met, for the land that has opened before us, for the sky that has sheltered us and rained on us in this journey. We are transported to be near her, with her and within her.

Have you grabbed a stranger’s hand just to feel the rough skin of someone sadder than yourself?

And when we return to ourselves, to observing the land, to hearing a cow lowing in the distance, to walking mindfully for the sake of the bears, we meet more characters that we’ve known all our lives, but never knew their names.

Shield your eyes from this wreck; the man who snuck in tonight is formally known as the moon, but was fired for being angry and shining too much light.

Here, Ling = poetry. 

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