The Scientists: A Family Romance
by Marco Roth
I first stumbled across the poetry of James Galvin in an odd morass of a book, The Wide Open: Prose, Poetry, and Photographs of the Prairie (2008). I used to love poetry; for the past five years or so I’ve hardly read any. But after going through half of Galvin’s own collection, Resurrection Update, I found myself telling everyone who’d listen about him. “He’s the first poet I’ve loved since Keats!” I’d say, trying to keep a straight face. But it’s true. Living in New York one finds it easy to take it for granted that everything you see has already been described by someone. If there’s still one frontier in the American West, it is that of literature, and Galvin, who was born and raised on a ranch in Wyoming, lays as strong a claim to the landscape as anyone:
It’s not as if we had no angels:
A handful remained when the rest moved on.
Now they work for a living,
As windmills on the open range.
They spin and stare like catatonics,
Nod toward the bedridden peaks.
They’ve learned their own angelic disbelief.
The mountains still breathe, I suppose,
The prairie still swells under a few small churches.
They are like rowboats after the ship’s gone down.
Everyone knows whom the saved envy.