The FootHills Poets: W. Jed Berry

FootHills publisher Michael Czarnecki reveres Gary Snyder, our master poet of life in the western mountains lived and observed with simple directness. In Jed Berry, Michael has found a bearded young poet from Montana with a similar temperament. A little less Zen perhaps, a little more ruefulness, but the same winning enthusiasms. From Berry’s first collection, Awake Before Dawn, here’s a classic little tale about Catholic school:

sister dube

before she kicked me out of
old testament class for good
sister dube showed me
god’s great gift.

“god’s greatest gift,
is here, in this shoe box,” she told us.
“god shops at footlocker?” mark gagne asked.
before laughter could erupt
dube broke her wooden pointer
on mark’s desk.

mark left
“for those of you in god’s good grace,
put your wallet, purse, money clip,
here, in this bag.
once everyone has paid
you may witness god’s greatest gift.”

we formed a line
one by one
wallets, purses, money clips
a single, suede, randy travis checkbook
fell into dube’s canvas sack.

“can’t do it dube,” i told her.
“your wallet, wendell.”
she pulled the handles of the canvas bag wide
it looked sad, pathetic.
“god seems flush with cash.
he’s not getting my money.”

before the sack landed
her right thumb and forefinger
pulled my earlobe towards the door.
class looked on indifferently
waiting for the bell.

in the hall, i glanced at mark
he smiled at me
dube let go of my ear
i was glad.

“the two of you are going to hell,” dube hissed
her bulldog jowls jiggled with rage.

“don’t you have to wear a robe or something?” i asked.
“yeah, a habit?” mark added

the pasty dough of dube’s upper-arm wobbled
as her hand slapped mark’s mouth.

the bell rang.
students filed out
“wait” dube yelled
“god’s gift.”
too late
students were diluted, anonymous,
in the hall
with other students.

after school, waiting for a ride
mark approached
with dube’s canvas bag.
the wallets, purses, money clips
even the suede, randy travis checkbook
had disappeared.
“check it out,” mark said
taking the shoebox from the canvas bag.
inside the box,
……………………a mirror.
“fucking dube,” mark said.
“fucking dube,” i agreed.
i had my money,
mark had everyone else’s.
we two
…………..god’s greatest gift.

–W. Jed Berry

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