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Badlands Child

Burgess, Philip J.

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ISBN 10: 0966335546 / ISBN 13: 9780966335545
Published by Touch of Light Pub, 2001
Used Condition: Good
From Better World Books: West (Reno, NV, U.S.A.)

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Ships from Reno, NV. Former Library book. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Bookseller Inventory # GRP90285556

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Badlands Child

Publisher: Touch of Light Pub

Publication Date: 2001

Book Condition:Good

About this title


Philip J. Burgess was raised in eastern Montana along the Missouri, "a curved river of flaming elm, willow, and cottonwood [moving] toward the bitter peace of high plains winter." This stark landscape - the mythical Badlands - had a life-long influence on him, as revealed in a new book of 80 poems, Badlands Child, published this month by Touch of Light Publishing, the poetry division of Historic Montana Publishing of Missoula.

About the Author:

In his childhood memories of eastern Montana, "fence posts trudge away toward the divide," and Philip Burgess and his father could pause doing chores and "watch from above as geese circle down into the river bottom for shelter from the coming cold and dark." Burgess remembers the paint of the family's truck turning "poisonous yellows and greens" with age, and his father's proud and profound fight against the failure of the family's farm:

"The plowman in dusty denims marks the hours
by his own shadow's movement across jackrabbit holes
and Canadian thistle. He plows where a snakebitten boy
lies buried beneath splintered glass on a butte
overlooking abandoned homesteads."

Burgess brings us back to a time when ranchers and farmers would go out in the hills where "invisible serpents flash through tall grass" to abandoned townsites and homesteads "where windmill fans and water pipes covered with rust and dust are frozen forever." Thet would disassemble these buildings and "transmigrate [them] into chicken coops, barns, and granaries."

Farm economics and family politics being what they were, Burgess was trained from childhood to go into exile from his land, his family, and the community, just as earlier residents were exiled:

"A lone buffalo drifts sleepily along a butte's
diamond-littered flank, haunted by images
of tumbled communal flight off the edge of the earth."

After high school, Burgess left eastern Montana for college in Minnesota, then went into the Army and did a tour in Vietnam. After returning from his war, he spent most of the next 10 years wandering around North America, Europe and North Africa, before coming back to Montana to stay:

"They write the badlands child
where he smokes his opium
in the backroom of a Latin Quarter whorehouse,
that he's been gone too long
from where a dusty Appaloosa stud
crowds the rusted strands of barbwire
strung around a glass-crowned grave."

Beginning with graduate school at the University of Montana, he spent the next 13 years advocating for and counseling veterans in the Missoula area, often hitting the road to bring therapy to Indian veterans living on reservations, to prisoners in Deer Lodge State Prison, and to other disaffected veterans living in Montana's hinterlands. He reflects on one of his clients living in a dreary trailer, alone with too many weapons and a toddler whose mother has run off. The former soldier makes sense of his tragic life by saying, "They had me killing too young."

In recent years, Burgess retraced his steps to the family ranch as his father succumbed to his final illness. Burgess stoically settled the family estate:

"The house I spent my childhood in stands high over a river,
its three rooms filled with letters home from four wars,
grandpa's broken chair, boxes of old jeans and magazines,
a desk that dad built. I spend two days burning history
and find a pair of gold spectacles and Cheyenne children's
perfect drawings saved from the Ghost Dance."

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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