The Last Motel Room in North Dakota

In his book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig describes what it feels like to travel from east to west, from the lush summers of the upper Midwest to hard-case Montana. Betty and I experienced that in reverse, from the harsh sagebrush prairie of Montana, Missouri River, Milk River, Marias River, to the soggy, soaked land of the St. Louis River that empties into Lake Superior. From Montana’s river breaks, yellow chalk, yellow grain stubble, to North Dakota’s organized agriculture, every red grain of wheat in place, no rooms in the state except one? A ten-twenty-three PM find in Rugby, the geographical center of North America. Maybe it is fitting for two people so intent on seeing it all to get a taste of north, south, east, west on a different plain. Plain and simple. At this very spot, Rugby, step one pace south and you are south, one north, you are north . . . you get the picture, as they say. Old notions of North versus South, or east coast, left coast, southwest, go AWOL. Is there a need for regional chauvinism? And in the background, the click-clack of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.
Chippewa, Cree, Assiniboine, Gros Ventre, Sioux, Ojibwa—we motor through their lands:  Fort Benton, Fort Belknap, Fort Peck, Fort Totten, all the places we built to herd the originals out of their buffalo cultures and into our churches, our schools.
Coulees, breaks, badlands, avocets, American white pelicans, “Meth, not even once,” a double sun dog at Devil’s Lake—all morning long. Sunflowers both cultivated and feral in North Dakota and Minnesota, blackest of earth, monarch butterflies, a thunder magic at Minot, the lightning flashes gigantic, wild, around and across, jagged like the cracks in old bones. The sun beneath the sullen sky, sneaking in with the taste of lime, a green so pristine like the first light that struck the earth. Caught on the bellies of the telephone poles; the green, green fields of new-mown hay; the rolled up bales like big, three-dimensional periods; the bellies of the yellow grasshoppers, swarms and swarms caught in the vicious wind. A red roadster, eighty miles an hour, a texting driver, a child in the passenger’s seat, a red fox long-steps it out in front and somehow escapes his black wheels, our black wheels. A fox red like neon in the false approach of storm-forced night, a tipped-tale the color of white.
Breakfast with Paul  Zarzyski, the bard of Great Falls, Montana, a bard for every place and time, every genre.  His mate, Liz Dear, their dog, Zeke.  A Great Falls, Montana , Cajun food breakfast. The poetry of politics, philosophy, prosody, the aesthetics of wolves and the maw of the grizzly bear. Books, Montana mountains, bucking horses, rodeo poets.
The names of Minnesota remind me of Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha” (which I always felt was maudlinly sentimental—but the music of the words, the words!):
By the shores of Gitche Gummee

Of the shining Big-Sea-Water

Stood Nakomis, the old woman

Pointing with her finger westward . .

And the real words of Minnesota, not unlike Longfellow’s:  Minnesota, Minnetonka, Winnibigoshish, and Oshkosh.

Pointing eastward, from Boise to Duluth. Lake Superior; a hard, warm wind; rutabaga-filled pasties and the slick, enunciated “OOOOO” of “you,” “too,” “smooth,” “Duluth.”

Ken Rodgers

Ken Rodgers

Posted by Ken on Aug 6, 2010 in Uncategorized

Author, Poet, Teacher
Featuring On-line and On-ground Classes—Creative Writing, Short Stories, and More
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“Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop.  Die knowing something.  You are not here long.”
                                                                
—Walker Evans, Photographer 

Ken Rodgers teaches and writes in Boise, ID.  He has chased sheep across the desert, chased the enemy through the jungles of southeast Asia, run the head gate to capture cattle, pounded the keys of a calculator, pounded the keys of a typewriter, peddled mountain real estate, and tailed off recycled redwood at a finishing mill.

An award-winning author, Ken explores the region where poetry and prose meet. 

His poems, short stories and essays have appeared in Idaho Arts Quarterly, Eagle Magazine, The Farallon Review, 34th Parallel, Ascent Aspirations, Switchback, VerbSap, Absomaly, Tiny Lights, Fiction Attic, Roman Candles, and other publications.  He has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of San Francisco.  Ken was a Pushcart Prize Nominee, and was nominated for Poet Laureate of Sonoma County, California, as well as for inclusion in Best New American Voices.  His first book of poetry, Trench Dining (Running Wolf Press), was published in 2003.  Barstow and Other Poems, was released in 2008.  His latest collection, Passenger Pigeons, is scheduled for release in 2010.  

He has performed his work in libraries, hair salons, coffee shops, book fairs, wineries, movie theaters, colleges, pubs, book stores, and on public radio and television.  He has also juried several writing contests. 

Ken is a founding member of the Idaho Writer’s Guild which is an affiliate of The Cabin literary center in Boise.  He recently served on the board of both Big Tree Arts and True North Creative Learning Center.  Along with his wife, Betty, he was a founding member of the Literary Arts Council of the Sebastopol Center for the Arts in Sebastopol, CA, and together they have hosted many classes, workshops, and readings.  They have a married son and daughter, as well as two granddaughters. 

Ken is available to help you spice up your writing.  Whether you are a committed writer trying to start or finish a book, a budding poet, or a businessperson trying to discover better ways to express yourself, Ken’s instruction and advice are invaluable.  Working with him will bring dramatic changes to your writing.

From Ray Holley’s column, Main Street, of the Healdsburg Tribune:

“Healdsburg novelist Jean Hegland says this about Ken: ‘His commitment to writing spans many years, and I have admired his work for nearly that long.  He has a fine eye and an excellent ear and a huge and courageous heart.  Whatever his subject, his writing is always unflinchingly honest, and I’ve grown to depend on the way that honesty both scathes and celebrates the subjects he writes about.’”

Contact us to learn how to invigorate your creative writing.