Monthly Archives: December 2012


After wet holidays,
cattle high on hillsides
slick and leaking,

stray snow flakes dance
like tiny leaves
over the fence between

neighbors making plans
to brand and celebrate
another New Year’s Eve

well-before midnight.
Silence mid-sentence
punctuates the cold

and red scarf wrapped
beneath your eyes
like a terrorist

off the mountain
when you would rather be
reading a book

by the fire
with nothing else to do
on the Sabbath.

                                   for Steve


Despite advice, nobody tells us
where or how the journey ends—
how deep the dark holes
or demons living therein.

Cut to the hollow words
of war drums to follow
bright blood trails back
to the stench of burning flesh

on diesel smoke released
to every shade of jungle green—
home of all the unknown
souls that there remain.

Or winter phone call
from your trailer banked
behind bales of straw,
pistol on the shelf—

we decided to wait
until morning.
Become brothers
twenty years ago,

I would come for you.
There is nothing left
to save today, but
tomorrow’s memories

floating above it all—
your separate stream
of chuckling wit
still laughing at the sun.

                                        for Rod


Feeding horses winter mornings,
I turn the key to hear the click,
watch the fuel gauge needle flinch

as glow plugs heat for injected diesel
before the Kubota fires to make my rounds
and save old legs for another day.

Backing into a swirl of first exhaust,
I pause to inhale the unmistakable
past that reappears in freezing air:

taste and smell the smudge pots
along every road and dirt avenue
between Exeter’s citrus trees,

battalions of flaming sentries purring
beneath the roar of wind machines
and ever-twinkling frosty stars.

I become where I’ve come from
and roll towards the barn cats’ bowl,
faces of horses waiting patiently.

2012 New Year’s Wish

Between Christmas and New Year’s Day, it’s difficult to get much accomplished, especially if one’s blessed with good rains, when it’s too wet for agriculturists to get off the asphalt. The same is the case, it seems, among professionals, the doctors, lawyers and accountants in town, in County offices, all prolonging their Christmas holidays as long as possible, but most apparent in Washington where Congress and the President are playing chicken with all the rest of us on board, on the edge of a ‘fiscal cliff’.

Fat, dumb and happy to be taken for a ride, we really don’t know how bad the wreck is going to be. But how much influence does the government really have over our lives, one wonders, especially when having to resort to fear and terror for the past few years to regain control of the herd. Have they cried ‘wolf’ one too many times? Or is this our due reward, as a nation, for charging almost everything we consume to the future.

Hard times are apparent all over the world in the media, nations afflicted with the same financial maladies, individual vignettes of unemployment and despair in the U.S., yet here on the ranch it’s business as usual. Most mom and pop cattle operations are fairly self-sufficient, trying get the work done and pay the bills, deal with emergencies and changes in the weather. We don’t see much of the unemployed, no one knocks on the door looking for work anymore, and nowadays, with all the bookkeeping and costs of a payroll required for hiring someone, plus the potential liability, we are much too small to afford employees.

Apart from the media trying to sell ads, Wall Street seems the most attentive to budget negotiations in Washington—the same outfit, I’m sorry to say, that brought us the housing bubble and bank collapses that have resulted in our latest recession. Wall Street is generally the harbinger for the economy, where the so-called astute bet which way it’s headed. But most of the rest of us are so tired of the hype, so disgusted with our political representatives, so helpless in this postured spin of blame and misinformation, we have no other choice but to wait and see.

My wish for the New Year is that we make our representatives accountable, expose their benefits and pensions, and require by vote that they abide by the same rules and regulations as the rest of us—get lean. It’s been a back-slapping shindig for far too long in Washington, sponsored and paid for by taxpayers and lobbyists. For so long, I fear, that they may have forgotten how to get their work done.


has begun so many blank sheets,
overlooked details that could, and do,
make all the difference in a life—

or our perception of it. Even the great
magnificences of nature are attended by insects
and disease. Only one of the Seven Wonders

left to see. The oceans dine at shorelines,
valleys rise and mountains crumble
as the earth breathes. No moment is permanent,

even in poetry, and especially in dreams
when sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference
as we progress into a perfect world of change.

We have become the little people of the planet
hanging-on to whatever busyness sustains us,
entertained by dramatic storylines designed

to sell more of the same—and we buy it,
invest in it, hoping someday to escape
our choices, which we will in due time.

Overnight between rains, the creek has returned
to clear its bed, pushing rafts of sycamore leaves
before it. We are, once more, rich for the moment.


Maerten van Heemskerck (1498-1574) - Panorama with the Abduction of Helen Amidst the Wonders of the Ancient World - Walters 37656.jpg

Maerten van Heemskerck (1498-1574) – Panorama with the Abduction of Helen Amidst the Wonders of the Ancient World – Walters 37656.jpg


                                    A science which does not bring us
                                    nearer to God is worthless.

                                                – Simone Weil (“Waiting for God”)

I follow the raindrops up—
a tricky ascension from wet ground
to a cold, leaky cloud held
in place by the Sierras,
yet gravity keeps my feet in the mud.

I send my mind instead,
pummeled by pellets
until it rests well above my flesh
in a swirl of cooling gases
to float upon fresh water

risen and distilled from the Pacific,
from around an impure world.
Our breath and flesh is washed with it,
leaves and landscape, yesterday’s
tracks erased when the sun shines,

the earth renewed once more.
I step off on Sulphur Peak
and slide through poison oak
into the East Fork, then follow the creek
to the smoke from our woodstove.


If cows know rising from their knees
in new feed, it doesn’t show—faces
of calves matted with milk grinning
with greed, speak opulence, satisfied
with rain, everyday a holiday it seems.

Horses wait at mangers, nip, kick and claim
their places early for the same leafy flakes,
from the same alfalfa field as yesterday,
as if unruly children jostling for ice cream
and homemade chocolate frosting—

like any other day. No one has told
the hawks on gliding surveys of the dawn,
nor the Rock Wren gleaning the window screen,
nor the gray wave of quail on patrol, spilling
from rockpiles, that it’s Christmas morning.

They have no sins, no savior, no gods
other than the ever-changing feel of things
that move them from moment to moment
to make the best of today—they have
no need to celebrate any other.

                           Season’s Greetings




                                                                                                                        from Dry Creek


To the hollows between the flats and mountain peaks
they have retreated, made homes of nothing and revere
their privacy, neither shy nor powerless, prefer

the wild and all the undefined sensibilities
to glide with Red Tails investigating each new intruder.
You might not ever see them, yet you feel

their presence in the crowns of trees, around rockpiles
and upon the ridges resting, watching—another ethic
here among them, for the living, for all flesh they envy,

yet neither slowed nor burdened by. A flutter in a bush,
a glint of sun on the wing, a glimpse of more beyond
a moment’s pause with endless time on their hands.


A political poem wants equal time,
begs for space, but by the second stanza,
I cut it short of hopeless—you see

what’s happened, we turned it over
for someone else to run, like the garbage
and sewer, keeping our hands and noses

clean while chasing rainbows: all the new
ads for comfort and joy that we believe
we deserve. I’m guilty, turned my back

on the dramas and the bad actors
who have forgotten their lines, forgotten
who they’re working for or why.