Monthly Archives: February 2012

MANTRA OF THE HARVEST

The rise and fall of gods that have danced
among the alabaster pillars of men’s brains,
playing hide and seek upon a marbled floor—

                    an ever-changing Maxfield Parrish scene
                    apart from dark-eyed Greed and Power skulking
                    in the shadows either side of the garden,

begins in delightful innocence. We lowered
our shoulders to the wagon, men and boys,
to get the harvest in, leaned with the grace

of a team of mules in the narrow vine rows.
And we were proud, young bulls to work
as one before the dance of efficiency,

before the purring explosions of machinery,
before production stole that sweet satisfaction
from our common soul. There was no call

for ordinary men, nor need for common
sensibilities—we were unemployed and fed
to the faceless storm of another urgency.

Age may bring heavy burdens, but at worst
measures steps for a slower choreography—
ever-listening for that mantra of the harvest.

Small Family Farms

courtesy: Gary Nabhan

In the past decade or so, the combination of increased U.S. foreign imports, corporate outsourcing of jobs overseas and the rising price of crude petroleum has foreign interests holding huge amounts of U.S. dollars looking for vehicles in which to invest beyond the low yields of U.S. Treasury Notes that are subject to our deflating dollar as a result of several huge injections of cash, and debt, to bail-out the banks and brokerage houses due to aggressive and creative financing until late 2008.

These foreign interests, most armed with graduates from outstanding business schools across this country, invest on Wall Street and other world exchanges, looking for yields and opportunities other than holding-on to U.S. dollars. As capitalism prevails in a global economy that consists of multi-national corporations and shareholders, I wonder what percentage of these corporations are owned and influenced by these diverse foreign shareholders? Whatever the number, it’s more than ever before.

And how does this multi-national ownership influence the media, foods and services in this country? Long an advocate for the culture of small family farming and ranching to prolong our sense of independence, self-reliance and essential common sense, the trend towards corporate agriculture may not be in our national best interests. As neither foreign nor domestic politicians and investors value these intangibles more than money, the future of small agricultural operations is now under unprecedented pressure.

To acquiesce to the corporate control of our food and clothing subjugates us all, defies common sense, and does not bode well for the future. It is time to redraw the fuzzy political lines between Democrats and Republicans, between Socialist and Capitalist philosophies, to address the more important loss of our independence and freedom, and to re-instill a nationalistic sense of self-reliance. Increase your freedom and options by getting to know and supporting your local farmers.

'American Gothic' by Grant Wood courtesy of Wikipedia

From the session in Elko: ‘Agrarian Poetry: Why We Need Its Messages and Beauty Now, More Than Ever Before’

After the Branding

Included above: Keith Pascoe, Mark Pascoe, Brent Pascoe & Vincent Pascoe
(click to enlarge)

Vincent Pascoe

Brent Pascoe & Shelly; Vincent Pascoe

JODY’S BRANDING IN THE RAIN

It is a study for the shrinks and anthropologists,
a someday segment for future scrutiny, corrals
along the road,

                                tight-clad and helmeted
                                bicyclists in the mist, sailing
                                past black cows sorted
                                from bawling calves, breath
                                clouds rising, steaming

in the unforecast wet before we brand, before
the steady rain that did not deter, did not dissuade
the throw-back purpose for the day.

Winter wet hair glistening between cockleburs
gleaned along creek banks overnight
from last year’s rains, tall battalions of dry stalks
waiting for milk-fat calves to carry on, to carry seed
into the future, but for the bare squares sheered
from each right hip, the clippers’ whine that begs
a gas-driven generator to cough and purr from idle,
time and again, to override our quips and conversation.

                                No slices of silence, vibrating
                                in a pickup bed, lashed
                                and wanting to escape—
                                stiff orange cord dodging
                                tangles with legs, steel shod
                                hooves in slick clay.

Kinked and gritty nylon twine wears rawhide
and leather burners slow to slide, or refuse
to build into a loop—my fingers raw and red,
too numb to tell coils from reins—my lariat
eats deeply into a cotton-wrapped horn
when I catch and bring a calf to the fire.
I stare off once again, another branding
in Homer’s Cove, grinning now into the rain.

Working together on the ground, wet hair
plastered to your smile, we grin and look
like children, but for the gray and canyons cut
by time and sun, running rivulets as we bow
to each calf, little river waterfalls off my brim—
a cadenced mantra of needle injections, tag,
earmark and brand—gobbed white fat spilling
from bull calves. Before the last one
slides to the fire, before we need cleats
for traction, before the muddy group photo
that includes the horseback family

                                that connects us to the magic
                                of New York’s ticker-tape parade
                                for the 2012 Super Bowl champs—

                                but especially the placard
                                that loves Bear’s tight end.

                                                                  for the Pascoes

ELKO 2012

Brought home a little cold
lingering in fits of coughing, remembering
the moment pneumonia set in
outside the Star 2009, inhaling
a cigarette and twenty below,
or smoking in the alley between
the Stray Dog and the Pioneer bar:
Mike Beck & the Bohemian Saints
pounding sound, like hammer to anvil—
old kids removed from the flagellating
and flailing crowd, flesh pressed
to howling, rocking blocks around.

Who’s hand, who’s hug, who’s heart
allowed the germ to spring like grass
thick after a warm rain? All the kind souls
come for comforting. All the lost ghosts
of the missing that haunt the Stockman’s,
its timbers now begging for another fire.

Unless you are a young poet,
one doesn’t go to Elko in January
on a whim—the cold middle-of-nowhere
makes its sort of the weak-hearted,
of the cowboy dilettantes and devos,
because everyone leaves
with a little something,
like it or not.

TIME TO GO

When you see dotted hillsides greening,
imagine puddles lining crumbling asphalt
on the road along the creek, bare limbs
rooted in the bank clinging to gray skies—

when you hear their call from the high desert
sea of sage, through pastel grasses
and red willow pools, streams framed white
beneath purple islands dusted snow,

from over the granite Sierra Nevada wall
seven hundred highway miles from home—
a man should know where he belongs
and learn to not overstay his welcome.

GOING ON

There’s a lot going on out there
you can’t video or photograph,
capture in a picture.

I can’t help it now.
Worse than Bukowski
writing every detail

of the ricochets
off the pocked walls
of his skull.

Non-sense. We
have lost our feelings
in the dark, in the light—

grown too comfortable to care
to understand: where and how
to keep it streaming by

like magic snowmelt.
There’s a lot going on out there
and it ain’t by accident.

FAITH

I surprise myself with where my faith lies,
hiding in the underbrush, bugs and smaller
things busy making lives but only slightly

better, bees in a hive, ants undermining
damn-near everything for shelter and storage,
food supplies. I am a believer in small things

to deliver paradoxes wrapped in irony, regularly—
it’s how life works: when the little man, or
woman, if you insist, leans to the starboard

with the rest against the captain, too light to port.
Stafford’s heron, reeds into the mud, exalts
in Spirit, has no shame nor need for explanation.

They do not fear death, cannot conceive of not
living, not adapting—our curse to seek some
everlasting life somewhere better,

someplace free of sin and worry, hate
and jealousy we couldn’t shake in this life.
I have faith in much smaller things.

MUD

                    …feet that go down in the mud where the truth is.
                              – William Stafford (“Spirit of Place: Great Blue Heron”)

If I learned nothing else from energetic Dr. Raymond Alf,
it was ‘pond wootah’, where microscopic cells of life form
from hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and carbon molecules

to attach and reattach in the stagnation, out of the mud
we crawled. He saw God in the bottom of the Grand Canyon
as a single cell, a fossilized drop in a hardened sea of mud.

We will go back to the that place and become unraveled
with the detritus of all our discarded poems, with all the love
that never materialized, mixed with the anger and hate

we may not have overcome, to start over years from now,
and so on. But what about the whole-soul of us
looking for a place to light, a familiar branch to rest and wait

for someone listening? Hawk or bear or bobcat even,
we become this place each time we leave, but always eager
to return, to reconnect with the spirit of this mud.

GOSSIP

The real news comes to us without asking:

                    down the creek, an upstream rain
                    or cap of snow on cabs of cars
                    late to work, or moon dog rings
                    in puddled stars, or sirens come
                    and coyotes howl before
                    Valero’s tow truck—ever busy
                    on the narrow weekend road uphill.

Trailered 4 x 4s and crumpled wrecks
come down mountains of muddy fun
or quick retreats up with their God,
or both:

                    where clean air and pines
                    collide with jobs
                    for the damage to repair.

We know the road and the time it takes,
offer details to one another, write the story
as they limp by to share next morning,
collaborating like we’ve always done

                    along a road
                    of neighbors
                    passing.