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.

2 responses to “POHOT PLACE

  1. Hi John, my husband, Frankie WIlliams, thought he might be the only one left in his family who remembers the Pohot place, I am working on something about his maternal grandmother, Cecile Pohot Silva. Do you have any recollections to share? Please feel free to email or call if so – I;ll buy lunch or coffee! Tara Williams 559-300-7548


  2. This is a beautiful poem.


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