JANUARY FIRST

Another new year in the middle
of a week, of a lifetime yawning
awake under cold empty clouds

above the Live Oak crackling
in the branding barrel. Uphill,
lying on a granite rock, a coyote

watches horses being bridled,
cinches snugged, doesn’t know
what day it is, doesn’t hear

the rifle shot. Last year’s seed
is short, easily turned under hooves
sorting cows from calves, perfect

for two young men on sorrel horses
in a small pen, perfect for heel loops
and black calves stretched and rolled

for the iron, the dance, the works—
perfect, you remark, for the garden,
stirred and fluffed with years of cattle.

We talk of guns I’ve never shot,
muzzles in a corner, barrels prolonged
in twenty-year kisses, begun when

I was a young man pressing fences,
when Bill Clinton was our President.
Out here, no one cares what day it is—

religion and politics take a back seat
to the tangible we need to exist—
like horses and cattle, coyotes and hawks.

Twenty years ago I would have fought
for a chance at this life, even died
to protect it. Now, we dare not stop—

squeezing each moment instead of triggers,
one heavy step ahead of the other
packing things we don’t need, anymore.

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