methow grist 2011-2014 archive


First Kiss

We sat by the fire until everyone went to their tents
and when she kissed me I didn’t
know where to put my shaking hands.
The fire sizzled and the wind
clacked the limbs together.
She laughed and kissed me again
then stood up to lie down in her tent
while I crept off to sleep on the saddle pads
near the sweat-soaked tack
to keep the salt-crazed deer away.

In the morning the brown gelding I had kept in
stomped the hard ground
snuffling for the bits of grain near the overturned pan.
The bells from the mares I had turned loose
chimed in the hollow along the edge of the burn
and I put on my pants in a hurry.

I went to her tent
and kissed her again,
and this time she took my cold
hands, aching from the summer of
bucking her father’s hay
and slipped them under
her flannel nightshirt.

Off the edge of the ridge
a black bear shambled into the clearing
sending the startled mares up the hill
their bells clanging,
legs pounding the frozen ground
with their great hearts racing

straight into the morning.



John Straley first came to the Methow in 1963 for a family pack trip with Jack Wilson
and three years later went to work for him. When Wilson sold out to Claude Miller,
John was thrown into the deal and he packed for Claude through 1975. After a summer
working for the Courtney family in Stehekin, he then moved to Sitka, Alaska where his
horse career ended and his writing career began.

John has seven published novels along with the book of poetry this poem
came from, titled ‘The Rising and the Rain’ from the University of Alaska Press.


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