Beyond each closed gate
another world wild within
the wire we have stretched.
We’ve been watching a pair of Roadrunners building a nest in a nearby cottonwood, what appear to be last May’s juveniles. Though we knew we had at least two hatches each year, we assumed both were from adult birds.
There is nothing scientific about our observations, no tags or names and we are not inclined to build blinds, put cameras on tripods and wait in 100 plus degrees to prove a point. Fortunately this was not a quick exercise, allowing time to go into the house last evening to get the camera with my 400 mm lens to catch this pair still engaged.
You could hear them
from the squash and cucumbers,
from the tomatoes where the rattler
stretched upon damp dirt to cool his belly,
in that no man’s land of prickly pear
and grape canes claiming shade trees
on the periphery of ripening vegetables—
their incessant tittering within: military
training before their first tour of the garden
scouted at the peak of heat days before,
our lawn of weeds this side of roadrunners
nesting in the cottonwood under
the surveillance of a pair of crows.
The only green for miles of hard
baked clay and blond dry fuzz,
a microcosm of good wet years,
the wild moves in, gathers to include
us—horses, dogs and feral cats—
into a sustainable family.
Tree frogs on the move, hopping
sojourns at dusk and dawn bring
the King snake tracking Garter snakes
that ignore us, stay out from underfoot.
We have no choice but to share
our little space and water in a drought.
We will count the covey into the future,
measure training into evenings, watch
for Bobcats and Coopers Hawks on patrol.
No place for soft hearts, politics,
or too much attention—no one wants
or can afford to run for election.
Last evening, a small lightning strike just before, dark half-mile from the house, as monsoonal moisture sailed up the west side of the Sierras. Easily accessible, we count our blessings.
Neighbor Tony Rivas had the fire pretty-much corralled with his shovel by the time I arrived with the skid steer. Another neighbor, Chuck Fry, had the gates unlocked for the CDF insuring we didn’t have to fix fence when the fire was out. Still flashing in the mountains this morning, 0.09″ rain.
Built for more than the cattle needed,
I reflect upon my one extravagance
now dry and cracked around its edges
like discarded dreams, having shed all guilt
exchanged for emptiness and worry
when every trail leads to Railroad Spring.
Ripe raspberry stain
on a yellow tablet—
one of several waiting
when I got back
from busy somewhere in the heat.
First-year canes producing
delight again and again.
You speak with gestures—
this paper blessed
Happy Birthday, Robbin!!
We are not spirits only
when gravity works
flesh into dirt, pulls
bones into the womb
of all things as roots cling
and search for water.
Like drought-dead oaks
with loosened bark, clumps
of mistletoe hanging black
on the other side of Christmas,
Apollo’s hot breath
on our burnt lips kissed
with summer’s revenge.
It is not the dark rain
that dissipates strength,
weakens wooden handles:
the hands-on tools
for arms and legs
as hoe and shovel twist
and bow, decompose
beneath unrelenting heat.
We are not spirits yet
to defy mortal forces:
the bodies politique
that wear us down to find
our own ascension within
delirium under the sun.
We will walk with gods
soon enough and envy
this state of gravity.
A hundred and ten degrees
in an empty pen
where we watched him
stumble to his feet,
where we forget
twenty years of trying—
that a man was king
with all he needed
to get the job done.
Time swallows memory
like a snake
chokes a meal down
to the present tense—
before we fade
from this landscape.
We can ask too much,
plead for compassion
from invisible gods,
the heroic hearts
we have held
within our fingers,
within our family.
for Red Hot Montana
A man gives up early in the summer,
too warm for wine, too hot for evening
poetry to endure, before darkness closes
the oven doors to bake in the black.
The Kings River calls, trout singing
from the riffles, asking why, when
trails of natives and early settlers rise
into the mountains, spread like webs
into the pine cabins and camps
beside the mantra of running water
through the night. I go early to bed
to get there in my dreams.