Our straight lines, but new
obstacles and opportunities
Our straight lines, but new
obstacles and opportunities
All of the young bucks
know their place and wait
for business to pick up—
for the boss to be gone
with work of his own
calling him away, far
enough that he won’t know
what they’re up to.
They spar a little, rattle
thin horns, bide their time
in the thick of November—
like it’s always been.
Once in awhile a fellow blogger will poke a poem out of me. Thanks Evelyne, I feel a little better now:
Herd camped at the gate,
waiting for it to open
to the corral,
to the lead-ups and chutes
before spitting them out
to rush into another
on the TV news as if
Wall Street’s making hay
with everybody shopping
for the holidays—
as if we’ve traded
mashed potatoes, turkey, stuffing
and gravy with cranberries
and family for a bargain
with a credit card—
as if all the cattle
really want in.
I have no reason to wake up hungry,
but how I miss Estrada’s dark-red
enchilada sauce on my tongue,
macaroni, stuffed rellenos, sizzling
tostada compuestas with chile
con caso, beans and rice—
or all you could eat prime rib
at the Red Barn, south of town—
thick slabs sliced from half a cow,
bloody juice pooled and running
right before your appetite—kids
well-fed at two bucks a head
for hard-working families
out on the town. Visalia was
the place to eat well before
it wanted to be like everywhere else—
before the fast-food similes
from the cities it escaped.
Time for a shower,
a quarter, a tenth.
I have the next rain
at my fingertips—
the hunt and peck,
scroll of percentiles
hour by hour
of the good stuff I want—
that naked clay needs
to stay alive.
We all hang on a forecast—
cuss the messenger
who gets paid
when he’s wrong
or claims he’s right.
It is our nature
where a man’s word
To begin with,
I get up early, my writing habit for years. It’s black outside except for one unobtrusive mercury vapor light at the horse barn, not a sound in the canyon. This is my time. No ringing phone, no demands from the outside world. My mind is fresh from whatever dream possessed it while I slept and relaxed. Often a dream lingers inexplicably, sometimes a day or two with vivid images and interactions or just a fog of feeling I can’t explain. But bottomline, my mind is all mine for a couple of hours.
Staring at a blank white sheet is not as intimidating as it used to be, and more often than not I already have a line strumming in my head, perhaps one garnered from my sleep. If not, because this is my discipline to write every morning, I have several collections from poets I admire on my desk that I may open randomly, and many on the shelf if the ones close at hand don’t help my inspiration.
In either event, the first line goes down. It may become the third line, last line, but in the process, that’s unimportant. By the third or fourth line of the first stanza, I’ll probably reorganize the first line anyway, or trash it altogether. I edit while I write, unlike many poets I know. My poetry is somewhat lyrical, and this jousting around in the first stanza or two, I think, is to set the meter or rhythm of the poem. I tend towards internal rhyme, it seems, and lean on it heavily to establish, or reestablish, meter.
I may approach the page with strong purpose, but most of the time I don’t know exactly where I’m going, and that’s the fun part. This grazing livestock culture relies heavily on metaphor, on personification, on anthropomorphic (new word, Suzanne?) explanations, and with that, a unique vernacular I also try to utilize in my poetry, as my own way of thinking.
I depend on details that I visualize to turn a line in a poem, a cause and effect, hands-on approach, and allow myself to feel the action, to become vulnerable and human, hoping to connect with readers beyond my world.
Reclusive by nature, the cattle culture has been under siege for generations. Hollywood has not helped our reputation, nor have a half-dozen well-meaning campaigns originating in town to oust us from the land, often in favor of development or other extractive industries. Our livelihoods are dependent on the renewable resource of grass. In it for the long term, we do everything we can to keep the ground, and our cattle, healthy. Land and cattle, we are one family, and that comes first.
come when time allows, I have several in my head: a chapbook with a working title of The Dry Years (surely to sell like hotcakes) and a perfect-bound, larger collection that will include the chap; also an eBook of photographs and haiku, when I can find a format as kind to the photographs as wordpress has been.
Old black horse, tennis shoes.
I was ten, give or take a year or two,
driving cows and calves up Greasy
well-before they built the dam.
Dad hollering at the bunch splitting,
at me, at God, at everything.
You asked me then when we were done,
if I wanted to be a cowboy?
Tear streaks dried like a second skin,
I cried, “No!” and meant it—
horseback, just below Spoon Rock.
Amid the green, we have become old men,
of all the things we could have been,
going slow, just below Spoon Rock.
No small accomplishment
bringing life to this world—
a job just begun.
A taste of rain tinkling in the downspout
too light to hear upon the metal roof,
yet under this common wet covering
her scent mends everything
for the moment, for another beginning
and we inhale it—lungs full of new life.
And when we pray, it’s to the Goddess—
mother, lover—for our sustenance,
for the bloom and fruit of flesh renewed
as the damp earth exhales, breathes easily
to taste each lingering drop
that settles upon its petaled tongue.