Monthly Archives: April 2011

THIS SIDE OF SKY

Light comes round, shapes hills with shadow,
gilds the faces of tilted peaks, pyramids upcanyon
where gods must live to stay clear of the clatter –

ridge after ridge afire upon the green this side of sky
like a loose deck at dawn, glimpses of kings, queens
and knaves in the deal. O’ how my father cringed

with my selected verse, one-sided, loose leaves
bound under a clear plastic cover in limited editions
published by Xerox in the 60s – that first trip

and stumble into small press, Everyman’s magic
for a dime-a-copy. I liked the look, but his reviews,
couched and pillowed between long breaths,

did not detour nor inspire me, though troubled him
as perhaps it should have in those days of Republicans
and young men in a long jungle war. Say good-bye

to the Draft, once the sword, become the disambiguation
of governments, we have evolved to mercenaries
and drones, there are no kids to mow our lawns –

clean-cut, grown-ups now, running for offices.
He would be happy with my pastoral imagery,
lift an eye, grin a little at the pantheistic,

yet remembering when he drug me out of bed,
by the toe, to show me the Kaweah steaming
among cottonwoods, a colored mist rising.

                                                                for David Wilke

AT THE HEART OF THINGS

                                A rattlesnake coils among cold stones,
                                full of mice, waits for evening
                                when he will hunt again.

                                               – Linda M. Hasselstrom (“Morning News
                                                                    on Windbreak Road”)

No feast on Dry Creek, no dance among the trees –
no amount of words rhymed with earth will change
the arrogance of men primping in the light.

We do not breathe by their generosity, nor believe
they may, someday, be gods – saviors of a nation
always at war with what it can’t comprehend.

We have forgotten, perhaps we never heard
the silent mantra of the harvest strum in our heads –
hands busy, bodies bent, genuflecting in the dirt.

Or been of a tribe of men, women and communities
that still rise to raise a glass to that great expanse
that feeds us all we need, sparingly. Riding out

alone, do you remember conversations with living
and dead? Did you mark the granite outcrop,
hang words in an oak tree, or just let them loose

on a hawk’s wing? If only Jeffers’ perch-mates,
power and desire – not greed – might roost in
Washington, we’d dedicate his fountain to humanity.

*               *               *               *               *               *               *               *

As the dust settles, I am reminded of Andy Warhol’s famous ’15 minutes of fame’ quote in 1968 after the hullabaloo of the recent NY Times’ piece,
‘For Cowboy Poets, Unwelcome Spotlight in Battle Over Spending’
Dry Crik Journal received nearly 4,000 visits and 14 assorted comments in the 3 days following. Not unwelcome because that’s what we’ve been about here, sharing, trying to offer glimpses of a grounded way of life that we think consists of a bit more than what’s assumed by the majority. The referenced Robinson Jeffer’s poem: ‘THE EXCESSES OF GOD’ is worth a read, wonderfully applicable. Linda Hasselstrom’s poem is forthcoming from Dry Crik Review.

Bird’s Eye Gilia

Bird's Eye Gilia, (Spreading Phlox) Dry Creek, 4.12.11

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

April 2011

               You recognize me,
               you entice me tenderly.

                        – Hermann Hesse (“Spring”)

…and I fall within
a new skin of limbs,
tender leaves and bloom –

while fog enshrouds
the naked dance
of sycamores in the creek

and late snow clings
to green grass
on Sulphur Peak.

You are a strong woman
and I am weak within
this tapestry, this fine weave –

each thread alive, binding
cinching and relieved
to have me rest upon it.

                        for Chip Martin

April Snow

Redbud in bloom, snow below 3,000 feet, .60 inches rain and 36° at daylight.

WILDFLOWERS

I say their names before squeezing the trigger,
focus and shoot – looking for someone I don’t know,
never noticed showing lost among the grass stems,

weeds. The old horse has slowed, given-up
that blurred, brush-busting high-lope in the spring,
to note their coming: early or late, dirt they like,

who are their friends and enemies. Someday, they
will tell more, show sign – centuries of blooming
hues, leaving seed – each has something to say.

SOME DAYS WE HAVE TO GO

Black cows fall out of Buckeye shade
with fat calves looking to play – like
visiting the relatives, screen door slamming
after umpteen kids as mama tries
to reinforce discipline, establish
who will investigate us first.

The steep hills leak and pool between
outcrops of granite, cracked and crumbling
speckled bones dressed with lichen
upon the worn and weathered – hidden
snow melt bogs of clay beneath
spring grass contemplating deep tracks.

Slow to show upon the green,
Pretty Faces and scant splotches
of poppies, scattered Blue Dicks,
Fiddleneck and sparse Snowdrops.
Spring has yet to buzz and bloom,
to hum the first hymns of heaven.

There is no yearning, no crying,
no needs among delighted souls,
except for salt, like waiting for
fifty-pound blocks of hard candy
to sculpt with tongues in weeks to come –
there is no distress among the natives.

CHEROKEE LADY

Programmed now to check email before daylight,
I had forgotten how young we used to look
as I open a Kris and Rita birthday wish duet
on Facebook – from a friend I’ve never met,
having just survived my one more night.

Wet spring, forty-two years to the day, I walked
with camera along the creek beside thick trunks
of sycamores and the trapped, high-water pools
reflecting naked limbs, clouds and Canada,
making swaps in my mind.

Those trees, born before Sir Francis Drake
found Nova Albion are gone, clear cut for gravel,
like all the lives since Viet Nam for wars
that couldn’t defeat, contain or destroy ideas.

At 63, I am programmed to write, find binary solace
in lettered synapses chasing chips through cyberspace
for open minds – my quixotic quest into
the friction of science I won’t survive.

Joe Bruce calling from Colorado remembers,
oxygen bottles by his side as he re-rides ‘Old Blue’
on the phone – his new, 17-hand palomino gelding
going back to ‘Man o’ War’ 14 times. He can still
walk out, turn around and get his cows in by himself.

Kris and Rita, you can tell we were all in love
with something within – one another then – long looks,
making music, riding voices high into the wind.

                                                        for Richard Blaustein

IN SELF-DEFENSE

Easy to get emotional on the Senate floor, misspeak
extemporaneously to take the snipers’ potshots while
trying to save the arts for humanity like a little girl lost

in the crossfire, or before investing more on war.
Katrina came and left New Orleans underwater
slick with oil. New England fracks for natural gas

and Fukushima leaks real radioactivity to California’s
happy cows. Still hungry for energy, it’s difficult
to live in the moment, as we wear ever-changing fear

and panic like uncomfortable underclothes, like
sackcloth. On the surface, we exchange living green
for speed and comfort, swap our aching knees and

yesterday’s horses for more horsepower mid-stream,
planting houses in the San Joaquin that used to feed
a more patient population. The sun will dawn despite

our hopeless battle with the clock, despite the weight
of addictions we can’t escape – I write in self-defense
as if there were only moments left to live, one at a time.

                                                                       for Harry Reid