Monthly Archives: January 2011


                        Under the bank a muskrat was trembling
                        with meaning my hand would wear forever.

                                      – William Stafford (“Ceremony”)

We were those days we envy now
with time to cut and paste around
the scenes that needed editing,

our thin thread stretched into a thick
lariat wrapped in purpose – yet,
we were much more consumed

in the loose meanderings of our
sweet naïveté, the unresolved knots
and tangles without ends – like

David Lee’s colloquial roll
in Barbed Wire, before ‘them pliers’ –
like Stafford’s Ceremony under the bank

in that river, our blood flows red
among the roots of things still living
along the oxbows towards our beginning.


Robbin and I are both relieved and pleased to have another bunch branded, thanks to our friends and neighbors. The cows and calves that we held in the Gathering Field in Greasy since last Thursday were branded on Monday, allowing us time to make sure we cleaned the pasture, plus help Tony Rabb brand his calves last Sunday. But too much time for the bulls, we arrived to fix fence before we started. The minor mix-ups and overcast day did not impair an efficient slow dance of only two ropers in the pen, bloomy calves stretched one at a time. Apart from the world down the hill, the low fog seemed to enhance this intimate and private spot at Earl McKee’s corrals.

Bob, Robbin, and I thank Clarence and Frances, Tony, Kenny and Virginia, Jody and young Sam, and especially the willingness of welcome youth – Spencer, Zach and Douglas – to go at our speed. It was a special day!


Greasy Branding II

This gallery contains 11 photos.


We are, of course, quite common people,
wrinkled and scarred – not yet immune
to dreaming, to the private illusions

we wear like subdued tattoos that tell
more around the eyes and hands. We move
with habit calling to be fed, searching

horizons at first light, filling mangers
from barns built to keep us busy
circling in the same place. Always

other lives off-stage in the wings,
like ladies-in-waiting to the queen
who rules the barnyard, we protect

near borders from wild encroachment
pressing, always pressing-in – we adapt
by adopting a most common sense.


A post, a fence – little evidence
of generations grazing steep
chemise and fractured granite,

snow flats and sage, in that other
realm of wild rules – the raven rests
to compose his next poem, his next

creative exercise to badger and pester
the nature of whatever happens by.
Perhaps, feed himself at the same time.

No saintly aspirations, nothing
memorized – he’ll stalk a newborn
calf by dancing to nursery rhymes,

looking to pluck out an eye. Quick
study, he reads motion and mind
and mimics us all, chortling in flight.

Tree Frogs

It’s early morning dark, 48 degrees, the stars eclipsed by a tenacious, high fog as the tree frogs sing in a rivulet beside the house, from the hillside leaking last month’s rain. We branded calves yesterday at Tony Rabb’s and head up the hill this morning to mark a little bunch of our own. Our community of foothill ranches is branding madly, two or three, it seems, everyday, as good help gets thin.

Though the company of the little frogs croaking is pleasant, almost exhilarating, it sounds a bit too early for spring. All the more reason to get to work, when and where we can.


I’ve rode by this rock all my life, in all seasons, each time wondering when and how it found its balance.

January Deer

Because our count and fences are always suspect, Bob and I went back to the Top yesterday in the Kubota to make sure we got everything gathered Thursday, planning to brand on Monday. All we found were deer.


We know how it goes
after a storm, sometimes
wet fog clings for days,

weighs on the mind
when we can’t see out –
can’t feel the sun move

within us. The first light
white will blind us,
before the colors come

reaching for blue, blue
sky and cumulus sailing
into shapes we recognize.

And so it goes from dark
tempests and torrents,
before the lupine leafs

from bare sticks, before
its purple plumes wave
into the buzzing, warm

pulse that will fade
again with the sun – yet
no season, the same.


So much depends
on soil –

tire, wheel and

the position
of stars

and that distance
of time

between gravity
and grace.