Green grass gray at first light,
the hills don’t know it’s Sunday,
nor care that I am lost within
mottled shadows under trees
with a bumper crop of acorns
waiting for a rain. Time slows,
each second lingers into the next
like early spring and I am changed—
coffee and cigarette staring up canyon,
peaks afire in morning cold
before this threshold facing north,
open to each breath, all urgency gone.
Trite and hackneyed voices come
close to roost as ravens, as plump
quail puttering from rock piles, as
these squatters, a growing band
of racing pigeons testing wings, flare
and glint in unison: no going back.
There are times to edit, summarize –
close chapters and move towards
some purpose for the words, rise
with the sun and let syllables float
across the colored pool and through
its rain of leaves—all that I wrote
baked behind me, November, alive
like spring. We are winter people
grazing changes as they arrive
from the endless black and blue
sky. We pause to look up, wish
and pray, find gods to tip glasses to—
we are oaks with acorns at our feet,
long-limbed sycamores dancing naked
in the rain—no time to be discrete.
I will usually choose the worn and threadbare
fumbling in the dark to dress, a favorite shirt
wearing yesterday’s fence repair and branding
blood, due respect for its endurance, as if
it had a soul, the comfort ours given purpose
beyond good looks that the old cows recognize
at a distance—a ceremony, almost like a prayer
before I face the anticipated angle of the sun,
season after season. No one cares, out here—
no one judges prosperity or intelligence
by what we wear. For poetry or life in one place,
just the proper fit of word and deed.
When wild oats were over my head,
we would roll like logs downhill
while they made plans to build a home
looking at Sawtooth and the Kaweahs,
Homer’s Nose and Blue Ridge, up
at the sky and down upon the river.
I had hoped it would be red brick
to keep the wolves at bay.
It has to be hard for them now to see
us sell it, empty its contents, wrestle
with memories that slow us down.
From the last ridgeline, one might
imagine they see it all with perspective,
that giving-up the Sixties is necessary
now that we are old, holding close
to the river’s edge and its eddies
as it rises. Never beyond their reach,
I’m sure they recall that I wanted brick
to keep the wolves at bay.
We will always be suspect
no matter how much hay
we intend to feed, pickup
dripping loose alfalfa once
the strings are cut, always one
nervous on the periphery,
from another plane
when our eyes meet.
Was it a forgotten stray
thought she found out
grazing, some unfinished
in the rhyming?
Or did I get close
to speaking her language—
closer than she to ever taste
the first fluffy bites
of joy and satisfaction?
So much like people
who wear their fears
like yellow slickers
always ready for a storm.
is like a drug
or glass of red craved
when the light is right, if
cell phones should be
sewn under the skin
for the brain, or is it
a weapon like a gun,
better than a rock or club
to wave up-close,
or is it how we keep
our space intact, yet
to an insane world?
Are we truly any closer to
understanding one another—
or ourselves, or the dirt
we are nurtured by
and will return to
when the light is right—
where shadows dance
beyond a ring of stones
and man-made magic?
…we do not deserve to witness this courage.
– Jim Harrison (“Rachael’s Bulldozer”)
On the dark side, the dog barks—
identifies intruders by syllables clipped
in tempo and tone, awakened to
making little progress
like a Skunk
without its scent
deep, sure and quick
into the high-notes
quick and distant
like a coyote
without the high-notes
growl and hiss,
the battle’s on!
light and gun