Winter Sunrise Outside a Café
by Joseph Hutchison
Near Butte, Montana
A crazed sizzle of blazing bees
in the word EAT. Beyond it,
thousands of stars have faded
like deserted flowers in the thin
light washing up in the distance,
flooding the snowy mountains
bluff by bluff. Moments later,
the sign blinks, winks dark,
and a white-aproned cook—
surfacing in the murky sheen
of the window—leans awhile
like a cut lily . . . staring out
into the famished blankness
he knows he must go home to.
Poem copyright ©2012 by Joseph Hutchison, featured in Thread of the Real (Conundrum Press, 2012).
Photo by trekandshoot, used by permission.
NOTE: Butte is the county seat of Silver Bow County, Montana. In 1977, the city and county governments consolidated to form the sole entity of Butte-Silver Bow. The city covers 718 square miles, and, according to the 2010 census, has a population of 33,503. Established in 1864 as a mining camp in the northern Rocky Mountains on the Continental Divide, Butte experienced rapid development in the late-nineteenth century, and was Montana’s first major industrial city. In its heyday between the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, it was one of the largest copper boomtowns in the American West. Employment opportunities in the mines attracted surges of Asian and European immigrants, particularly the Irish; as of 2017, Butte has the largest population of Irish Americans per capita of any city in the United States. Butte’s mining and smelting operations have generated in excess of $48 billion worth of ore, but have also resulted in environmental implications. The upper Clark Fork River, with headwaters at Butte, is the largest Superfund site in the United States. The city’s Uptown Historic District, on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the United States, containing nearly 6,000 contributing properties.
PHOTO: The highlands of Butte, Montana, with the Rocky Mountains in the background and mining equipment in the foreground (center, right). Photo by Casey Keller, used by permission.
MAP: Location of Butte within Montana. Designed by TownMapsUSA.com, used by permission.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joseph Hutchison served as poet laureate of Colorado from 2014 to 2019. He is the author of 19 poetry collections, including The World As Is: New & Selected Poems, 1972-2015; Eyes of the Cuervo/Ojos del Crow (a bilingual edition of his Mexico poems translated by Patricia Herminia), Marked Men, Thread of the Real, Bed of Coals (winner of the Colorado Poetry Award), and the Colorado Governor’s Award volume, Shadow-Light. He has also translated Ephemeral, a collection of flash fictions by Mexican author Miguel Lupián. His poems have appeared in over 100 journals and several anthologies, including New Poets of the American West, and he has co-edited three anthologies: Malala: Poems for Malala Yousafzai (all profits benefit the Malala Fund for girls’ education worldwide), Legions of the Sun: Poems of the Great War, and A Song for Occupations: Poems About the American Way of Work. He directs the Arts & Culture Management and Professional Creative Writing program at the University of Denver’s University College. For more about the author and his work, visit jhwriter.com.
Author photo by Kimberly Anderson