FIVE HUNDRED SOULS

I am here to gather cattle, ride the ridges,
see – light step on the morning, rising
higher before the sun shatters atop Broke-Up
to search out darkness in the draws.

Soft dirt under hoof, cowtrails cut in grass
on grade travel easy to the same places,
speak no tracks yet today. The Coyote Tree
is dying, lost the limbs they hung them on

in the old days, my young days when
this was the way – old road the CCCs
with wheelbarrows, pick and shovel,
mule-drawn Fresno scraper in the hands

of many men carved upwards out of Greasy
where it met the Kaweah before the lake,
the dam, before the lowland changed.
Wide sand beach with tules, cattail-hemmed

Wukchumne camp, five hundred souls
before me. I was afraid, dark within
Chiishe’s den in Belle Point’s flank.
Hear my father say, ‘Keep your eyes peeled!’

I am here to gather cattle, ride the day
down – cows, calves and a century and a half
spread before me – the buck and run of years
that haven’t changed, still shaping me.

                                                            for Hank

4 responses to “FIVE HUNDRED SOULS

  1. Five Hundred Souls

    is a wonder. So much,
    worlds and worlds
    tender in every heart beat.

    Like

  2. a masterful job on drawing the line through time, through the violence and bloodshed, through the conquest and development, with the ever-present beaten path of the cow trail.

    Like

  3. well, got the link from the nyt
    your lifestyle and poetry i envy…keep up the good work..not sure why i’m saying this..preserve the open spaces…the american people need you..maybe you don’t know it or not..you are heroes
    p

    Like

  4. Being cooped up on the east coast, let me just say that I am very jealous of what you have out west.
    But additionally, I would just like to say your poetry helps capture some of what I feel whenever I am fortunate enough to travel out there. The open expanses, the absolute cultural parity, and the natural beauty.
    Thanks!

    Like

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