Lilly Carden / Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH

English Teacher: Mr. Jason BreMiller

              I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to spend a month this summer living in Yellowstone National Park as part of the Yellowstone Youth Conservation Corps. I have always loved nature and being outside, but my experiences living in the park deepened my interest in conservation, and have made me think about pursuing environmental work as a potential career. My friends from the program and I talk a lot about how living in Yellowstone “ruined” us for the rest of the world, and I wrote this poem to capture the way I felt after leaving Montana – like everything was too small and enclosed after living in such a huge landscape for so long. The poem also tries to capture the freedom I felt when living in the park, and the experiences that define my memories of my time there. 

The Day the Sky Swallowed Me

Two black bears played on a hill, carefree
As my eager eyes drank them in.
Then the sky took me into its belly and
I woke up to sunlight on tree-spotted ridge,
Where a man once spent thirty-seven days lost,
Wandering alone, starving and freezing.
When they found him, he had almost wasted away, staring up at my sky,
Montana’s sky.
That sky has left nothing of me, either.

But when the sun goes down, the world
Is illuminated by a different light,
Herds of bison, golden-touched at dusk.
I wrap the soft blanket of the Milky Way around my shoulders
And give myself over to
The frozen thrill of clear creek water, running
Around my ankles, my chest, my face.
I stare in wonder at the inside of Montana’s hungry sky,
A world larger than any I’d ever seen before.
I am becoming unaccustomed to smallness,
Of feeling, of place, of person, of life.
It is humbling, knowing that everything you touch
Has lived your short life hundreds of times over.
My eyes are closed, but facing up towards
The infinite expanse of blue,
My captor,
My sky.