Monthly Archives: April 2011


Looking for strays, it had been years,
the gate replaced, an unknown combination lock
and chain, but light panel wired beside it, I go
decades back to weathered boards that drug
and the rattlesnake dispatched with the elliptical
edge of a Boy Scout canteen – my April birthday
overnight and hike with pals from town –
red dirt canyon shaped the same, filled
with purple Grass Nut spilling over clover
and green rip gut. Mary Pohot’s daughters had
to hear high-pitched bravado ring well-before
we got there to be lectured about killing things.

Cold spring water offered at their house
and the dilapidated barn the Woodlake kids
were taking down to look for tomahawks
and knives before Mary died in 1960, before
they moved to town to live on little chunks
of ground they sold Granddad, until the last
landlocked forty-acres of hilltop steep was bought
by a speculator in L.A., sight unseen, then
swapped for a commission along the way –
at fifty bucks an acre in those days.

House and barn long leveled now, slicked off clean
with the border of white narcissus that lingered
years without attention, the spring flows into pond,
and the rock pile I hid within, same as when
the town kids playing cowboys emptied their .22s
to ricochet around me. I crawled downcanyon low
the long way home when I was twelve. The other
long battle remembered, begun when the unfenced
forty finally sold to a cousin, after a realtor’s widow,
at Dad’s suggestion, came to see what she had to sell,
was stopped at the gate by another rattlesnake –
parlayed into precedent for California Partition Law
that was spitefully spawned at the Pohot Place.

I doubt wild pigeons gather by the hundreds
anymore for acorns in the fall, clouds of wings
circling the bowl of Blue Oaks around this
secluded ground. I shot one once, then couldn’t
waste it – picked, gutted and cooked it on a fire
built from guilt near the cemetery gate
to rows of headstones, mounds under weeds,
the wood and marble crosses broken-off
that bore names and dates – a place to let
the mind go, feel the eyes of generations still.


It is their faces, I remember,
heavy with calf, deep and careful
looks from questioning dark eyes
circled around me as I counted
walking, standing among them,
still – making our twice-a-day
ritual easy, visiting to inspect
loose progress without the hay.

Their tag numbers are familiar
rhymes from clipboard paper,
disconnected dates and notes
that may be useful someday –
but now it is their faces
I remember in this pasture
lazing before us, their first
fat calves soon to be weaned.

Drawn with evening close
to the house, to my loud
conversation tossed at gods
who understand, to you moving
in the garden, changing water,
picking strawberries, we are
comforted like family
brought back together again.

Generations out of poison oak
and fractured granite come
to us now. There are other worlds
with good fortune, other ways
to feel important, but none come
so willingly out of the wild
with such trust, just to say hello
or follow wherever we go.

Have a Happy Easter!

Wood Ducks


Garden Photos

This gallery contains 6 photos.

We have enjoyed a cool but beautiful spring, our feed prolonged and almost ideal weather for the garden, not forgetting our low snow and cold temperatures two weeks ago that shocked both tomatoes and cucumbers. The tomatoes and eggplants are … Continue reading


Ongoing war, the spring campaign
to save the seedlings – more cotyledons
felled atop the soft, damp ridge
of well-worked soil under last night’s moon,
new cucumbers grown pale and limp –
heavy little hands curl helplessly
in gray light. With war chants, you shake
the last of the bird-friendly, thirty-dollar jug
of Sluggo into the yellow Iris spears,
abbreviated epithets slung with another
shell upon the ground    sure underfoot.
Combing rake-like, your fingers drag
through broad green leaves, looking
for the enemy and pink casualties to save –
strawberries hollowed before ripe. Even
the volunteer Sunflowers have been attacked.

The garden,
                our ticket to postponing town,
exhales, exasperates new law –
                I imagine the machete
                clinched between my rounded crowns,
air thick as battle smoke,
as every living thing knows, even
the oriole, brightly singing for a mate
to help weave and sling a sock nest
in the Palo Verde near the cherry tree,
can feel the uneasy certainty of a new régime.

We sharecrop our cultivated world
of few straight rows, snow peas reaching
beyond support to bloom and drip
from a round and rusty water trough,
potatoes in another, as asparagus dares to bolt.
Drawn from leafy cover to pie pans of beer,
we entertain the snails, and ourselves
with red wine glee, lopsided shells too heavy
to slime a straight line to dark safety.

Sulphur Sycamore

Robbin Dofflemyer photo

Grown up where they can,
each reaches for light and water
in the canyon rock and sand,

drinking deeply to lose limbs
they can’t support, trying to tell us
the same thing, over and over again.

We are not the only species flawed
with big ideas – it’s normal, it’s natural
to keep on like we had a brain.


Four miles up the hill, on the other side of
Greasy Creek cut deep and narrow enough
to hang an empty gooseneck up, hide bat
and board shack and poor corrals to sort
and ship two sections of poison oak rising
into granite domes and fractured rocks
the size of pickups stacked and resting
to greet gravity, Leroy Chico and his band
let their horses from the reservation blow
part-way up the steep north slope, leaking
streams, thatched with live oak, manzanita
amid the deadfall, for a final circle, one
last pass through the boulder grooves
and cow trails tunneled by high heads
of Brahma mamas and slick calves, their
native four year-old sires that know the
‘Falling-Off-Place’, where escape is easy –
and that peckerwood posts, broken boards,
rusty panels bowed below, twisted-in and
overgrown among eternal China Berries
beside their light replacements wired
for looks, optimistically to new T-posts, will
forever be the anti-magnetic, wrong direction –
has sold again, educated and out-lasted
half-a-dozen men in forty years with no impact
other than, as I thought back then, a young
man may die broke if he got it for nothing.

Leroy Chico

John & Awbrey Riddle


Chance and fate, we fly through time
on pinball ricochets and peg collisions
with bells and whistles, defying gravity

until our turn is done. Few measure each
extended breath or look to granite peaks
with awe, but early-on someone calls –

a distant whisper or the wild songs
that resonate beyond our knowing –
and they choose, drawn like water

to its groove, the gravity of grounded
things that grow, that root, that leaf
that fruit, that bear and live to bear

again like grass with rain. Your hands
may not show calloused content, nor
eyes absorb a lifelong harvest, but

they are scattered here and there
like grazing cattle, simple people
who feed themselves – who feed us all.


Fat with poetry, forsaken
exercise for words I like
too much for my knees
to bear, anymore –

slowed down to take
another closer look
to see what I missed
with more agility,

this world is full of bugs,
it seems, beyond asphalt,
concrete, and the clean streets
empty in our dreams, but

bugs are busy feeding
themselves and many others,
small details very near
the beginning of things.

From Elko to Washington

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