Sulphur - December 11, 2014

Sulphur – December 11, 2014


No father or mother left to leave
a Christmas gift under the tree—
even the child in us understands.

An ever-ready substitute, the old
Hereford bull plods along the fence
looking past the asphalt, gutturally

conversing with the neighbor’s
registered Angus mothers
while his younger brethren work

the steep brush and rock,
gather families in the wild
from last year’s seed.

Kept another year, just in case
someone gets hurt, we become
the extras for the gods—

walk the sidelines
lending words to the old songs
‘lest the world forgets

the melodies of Christmas
when it rains, or snows low
leaving only grass under trees.



Red Stem Filaree - April 5, 2011

Red Stem Filaree – April 5, 2011


While we slept, the grass grew
an inch overnight beneath the clouds
and passing showers, working overtime,

as the dry earth spun beneath them—
as the creek edged down through sand
and gravel, seeping over the granite dikes

that lump its bed, towards the river
and settlements downstream. I dreamed
we were the end of the line

living on a lake amid thick timber,
fat fish flashing bellies to the sun
and fresh meat hung in a tree.

No other world beyond but more
of the same, working on its own—
no children slain in schools for effect,

no political charades, no slaves
to bankers banking on superfluous debt—
and the grass grew taller, while we slept.



Wind Under My Skin 2

Collating life on paper,
pages in order
inside cardstock covers,
becomes humbling—

printer malfunctions,
ink running dry
while it rains real poetry
in the dark beyond me.

A chapter of drought
that forever changed
a thirsty landscape
rising into the sky—

an ascension of dust
we ingested and overcame.
We can close the book
never more the same.



December 18, 2010

December 18, 2010


If you want to feel whole again
sit with the creek and its meanderings
through the old sycamores here
before the Europeans landed
from another world
with new constraints and foreign religions
made to fit people and landscapes.

With this vein full in her flesh
flowing beneath green canopies
from shadows into light,
the canyon drinks
from yesterday’s dark clouds
as it reaches for the sky—
yearning for the source.

Lifeblood of the Bird and Animal People,
of the Yokuts and cattlemen,
it flows the same
when and where it wants—
washing the weak downstream,
yet bringing solace and sustenance
to those who can wait.





Coffee and cigarettes in the cold outside,
counting cattle on the hillside, black dots
on green, we wait for the sun to rise—

to break through the fringe skeletons
of oaks atop the ridge with blinding shards
of light. I lean into the shadow of the post

that holds the beam and roof together,
edging north towards the Solstice
most mornings in December, unless

it’s raining blurry streaks of gray
from a dark sky. Half-dressed sycamores
await the creek to run again, flash bare limbs

before the dancing tangle of nymphs
and hobgoblins. In the middle of a miracle,
I am awash with it while staying dry.





We waited through dry and dusty years
and prayed the only way we knew—
like tithing, throwing hard-bought hay

to the gods on the ground everyday.
Our muttered mantra clunked along
like an old machine, inhaling pauses,

exhaling groans until it came to turn
the earth around with a covering
of iridescent green, teasing the dead

and dying oak trees—like us or like
the cows we raised and had to sell—
with rain and one more promise.

New life lands on the open beam
that holds the roof and sings
in the sudden rain—a black and gold

Oriole on the edge of its Southwest
range—a happy song delivered quickly.
A sign in this downpour, an omen

I am to remember when season’s over
and the grass turns blond and brittle—or
just a promise of weather never normal.


Burrowing Owl


One of the guys I ran into on the way up into the Greasy watershed was this Burrowing Owl. I haven’t seen one on the ranch for several years, in part because they keep moving their colonies. I’ve run into this a owl a couple of times at the intersection of Pogue Canyon and the Mankin Flat Fire Road in past months, even hunted him with a camera once with no success. Yesterday, I caught him early in the morning with the point and shoot. Funny, funny little fellows.




I made a quick tour of Greasy yesterday before the current rain to check our cattle and feed conditions and to cut a Kubota-load of Manzanita. The lighting beneath the cloud cover and view of Sawtooth (elevation 12,343′), above Mineral King Valley in Sequoia National Park, from below Sulphur Peak was eerie and intriguing, enhanced by the 30x telephoto of my point and shoot. Only a light dusting of snow remains from our last storm, but the forecast is for three feet on the Great Western Divide.





He was headed up the road smiling,
wearing a short-sleeved 1950s Hawaiian shirt—
a faded, light print on heavy, coarse muslin
with cuffs—happy with heaven or
from wherever he’d come.

He had time, an eternity—
wanted to see the barren heifers
you grain-fed, killed and gutted,
see the color of the fat—stopped-in
to ask me to go with him.

Years mean nothing in a dream.
We can replay, edit as we like,
take time-outs to maneuver the maze
of surprise details and survive
the fears we’ve disguised wide awake.

Some of the close ones arrive to reassure us
that they are well after escaping life—
that all we had hoped for them,
and they for themselves, exists within—
and from wherever they’ve come.





Day breaks into rafts of red,
early weather precursors for sailors
and shepherds in any shade

this side of the Sierras
as the sun bathes Nevada
with long shadows.

How we crave the changing
light on green, yellow willows
set afire as white-limbed sycamores

undress beside the creek—
how we need the miracle
of moisture to hold us altogether

before this ballyhooed
Storm of the Century lands
somewhere north of here.