The centennial of the 1910 fire that consumed millions of acres across the Inland Northwest took me back to my gritty little starting point — Wallace, Idaho. My Bhutanese goddaughter, Tshering Hartman, kept me company. We attended lectures, took “mine” tours, hiked up to Ed Pulaski’s cave refuge from that holocaust. We walked backstreets where I saw ghosts: myself finishing second in a breaststroke competition from the bleachers by the now closed swimming pool. My father emerging from ASARCO’s office on his way home for dinner. A runaway packhorse trotting by my home one early fall morning.
Those memories and Wallace’s hidden history inundated me for months as I began to write the poems that would make it more comprehensible. The visit led me to read Timothy Egan’s The Big Burn, Elers Koch’s Forty Years a Forester, Gregg Olsen’s The Deep Dark and J. Anthony Lukas’ Big Trouble. My ignorance of Wallace’s history astounded me. That astonishment eventually culminated in a series of poems that incorporate my childhood into the area’s larger story, including memories like this from “Hook Houses”
every 12-year-old charged
with selling something to benefit anything
knew like the Lord’s Prayer
the first steps you climbed led to brothel doors
Copyright 2012 Linda L. Beeman