I have the keys to the Kubota, to the skid-steer, to all things mechanical, and hence a hero when my grandson Cutler comes—my second chance to emphasize what I might have missed with my own kids, or a chance to share what has only become richer with time. I have that obligation as a parent, as a grandparent, to expose him to this larger, fairly foreign world of huge and cute creatures in tangled spaces. He’s three.
Robbin and I are essentially babysitting for a few hours while checking the 1st calf heifers, getting a count to see who’s missing, then locating her to see if she’s had her calf or not. The heifers have set-up their nurseries, his mother runs a day care center—these pastures full of maternity.
Knowledge will cure them. But
not all at once. It will take time.
– William Stafford (“Waiting In Line”)
The cows have watched, seen me stumble
feeding hay, blade clenched in my teeth,
held their breath each time I climbed
the moving flat bed, wondering. And yes,
in town we step aside for one another,
open doors, lock eyes and nod for all
we have survived and seen, wondering.
We work the shallows near the bank
and stay from the faceless current, trying
to find an eddy in the coming rush of youth,
before another dam is built, or river loosed
to flood. It will take time to accumulate
credentials, or to have the luck to get lost
in the sun’s goodbye, or slow approach
to the day—and to save enough experience
to endure our last rainy day. No shortcuts,
it will take time to get to where we began,
to fill-in the blanks, take pride in your hands.
In the caves, long shadows of dancing
girls distort and disappear, the echoes
of barkers overlap, every alcove serves
booze and food as we pass one another
staring onward, believing we follow
a thread through the maze. Outside,
on the surface, it sometimes storms—
we watch dismayed and thankful.
There are reasons we bunch together,
build forts and send out patrols
for fears we cannot face or discuss—
always the enemy, we live in caves.
Small for easy calving, these Wagyu-cross calves are a week or less old and come in interesting colors. All of our heifers have Angus breeding, though some may have Hereford sires and show the red. The Wagyu influence is mostly black, but can bring shades of gray, brown and red from of our black white-face and Hereford-looking heifers. I am relieved to see them setting-up nurseries and babysitting, adding some stability to their maternity wards.
That peaceful earth, the one with open
arms, meadows, peaks and streams
to stage our dreams—within a perfect
backdrop tucked away from urgency
compressed, gridlock escapes and dark
alley nightmares—we love and lust
for her, believing she will always be
to receive our desperate wanting, that
she has not changed, that she is not
the same woman who quakes with fury,
spews fire and storms fear wherever
she wants, for whatever reason, whim
or consequence. She is alive, a human
goddess trying to hold it together
under pressures to be reckoned with.
Blond on Black
We have about 20 x-bred Wagyu calves on the ground, most born in the past week. For whatever reasons, the first calf born on the 5th didn’t make it, a bit of a premie perhaps, or a single mom with no maternal group support, or perhaps it succumbed to the coyotes that have been skulking every fresh birthing place. Showing their nervousness, some of the heifers have chosen the canyons and draws away from the bunch to have their calves, and are fairly easy to read when a coyote’s nearby, oftentimes standing over their calf asleep between their legs. For 1st calf heifers, their instincts are admirable and amazing. I just can’t imagine a better mother than a cow.
that plane of possibility
between earth and sky,
a space that speaks
a common language
with the eyes
without words, yet
we try painting
colors, so as not to forget,
into a song
to carry in our heads—
to hang in the hall
like windows, open.
My father plied economics
to everything—cows, feed
and even rain, hoping
his demand for wonder
might supply it. Greenheads
rising from the cattails,
sunrise cut and streaked
into separate beams
by Sawtooth and the Kaweahs,
he looked for God beyond
the numbers, and saw
enough to be disappointed
in mankind. He spared
our living with his being
right in ninety-seven,
spared the politicians
written lectures, and left
to watch the show—
that no tree grows
to the sky.
The war, before me, unfolds
with the flag, chills of inhumanity
roll up my back and bunch
in my shoulders after clearing
my parents’ shelves of mementos,
Japanese and Russian knick-knacks,
hand-painted Imari and little,
black lacquered boxes. I feel myself
become oppressed, cornered
and cowering before this muslin
flag, indoors for more than three
score years—not one frayed thread
unfolded by squares of bright red,
around a clean quarter-circle of white
with one bent, black limb
of Hitler’s swastika. St. Vith?
my son somewhere in Belgium.
Refolded, what does a man do
with such a prize? Give it away,
sell it on ebay, or keep it hidden
with his guns and ammunition?
Blond on black,
a filigree of empty shells on long stems bent
to new life trembling in a breeze, the light
and hollow grace of late spring rains, these
wild oats arched, these sun-bleached skeletons
that remain, concealing the first throbs of heart
driven by instinct apart from the cowherd.
Sometimes we cannot see, cannot find
what she has hidden, despite curious coyote
pups skulking in the shade, ravens in trees.
Sometimes we miss the miracle of cycles,
the circles of rain—think each day the same.
These old hills come alive, inhale in long
shadows of oaks shedding leaves and acorns.
The invitations have been sent, bulk mail
on gusts to everyone, but only the wild respond.
Posted in Poems 2011