Monthly Archives: December 2014



If it is Apollo’s steeds chomping at silver bits
I hear behind the ridge, eager to tow the sun,
bring the light like any other day, the future

to this cold, dark canyon—the last of the old load
of days to be dropped off before the New Year—
I’m ready early, hacking my last goodbyes

on paper, screening blessings from the dust
and drought behind me, I trust, having measured-up
to something I can’t see, head bowed, dragging

my feet in yesterday. We must lean into our collars,
move the wheel into new country, scatter virtue
like vigorous seed and hope for a bumper crop.




Exploring with a gun alone, oak trees
spoke to me—Red Tails swooped
to the wounded and buzzards trailed

at a safe distance when I was ten—
half-wild, I thought, circumambulating
the endless draws and canyons that called

for company and conversation—shooting
squirrels and hunting rattlesnakes in rock piles.
They would have jailed my folks today.

The first butterfly I saw batted by a bobcat
played better than Walt Disney, better than
the Space Race, Cold War or Sputnik.




Come December, they are slow
to leave, cleave to the screen door
to warm by the woodstove

before the freeze, waiting with housedogs
for an opening—for an afterthought
pausing between the in and the outside,

the delivery of groceries or a child
as wavering door stop. They are slow
about dying, cling to the window glass

while looking smugly at the frost,
or fly haphazardly to bump into flesh,
rudely investigating every orifice

as their last chance and place
to continue the race—with such purpose
as to enrage a well-awakened Saint.





Blue Oak rounds too big for the woodstove
collect near the splitter in a pile—energy
stored in rings of sun, years of rain—
the severed dead, hard and dry inside.

We look ahead to ceremony, prepare
as we go, set aside the burls and forks,
too twisted to split, for the outside fire
and generations of flickering faces.

I see my mother in my grand-daughter’s
eyes, leave us for a moment for the flames
lapping the remains of a stump—the call
from beyond that burns within us all—

she is drawn away. It is the coming back
to her mother’s lap, her bemused recognition
of going somewhere within white coals
beyond this half-circle of family

that I see my mother in her face
while the meat cooks. We talk, lift glasses
in the smoke that swirls undecidedly
around us, just out of reach of the flames.

Early tracks upon the morning frost,
someone will rise to stir the embers,
to rekindle conversation from cold night
hoping to keep the celebration alive.



WPC(2) — “Warmth”


Christmas Fire




WPC(1) — “Warmth”



She breathes, her flesh
with hair enough to hold cattle
and rain to her breast

should it come hard and fast
to fill the canyons. Gray clouds
linger with nothing left

but to offer color and contrast
to these hills greening yet
in Christmas Day’s last light.

Black from the bottoms,
sunset’s shadow crawls
to an island lit with rosy hues

dotted with the dark silhouettes
of cows and calves grazing
the iridescence of fresh green.

She breathes, her flesh
with hair enough to hold us close
to her soft breast.



My head spins
another yarn
about the old days,
the old ways
we found comfort
with a job done.

The harvest of Emperors,
wobbly wagonloads
of purple grapes
picked and swamped
from field to shed
before the rains came.

The many hands
wearing a day’s work
beneath September’s sun
well into dark
for a dollar an hour—
each rich
with a small part
of another accomplishment
that dared God’s
impending forces
to escape with the crop.

Another currency
we all shared
with profanity
meant for the moment—
damning Him
and ourselves
when we failed.


Merry Christmas


We are blessed this Christmas with the gift of grass after thirty-plus months of historic drought in California, with extraordinary conditions beginning with a 1.76” warm, slow rain at the first of November followed by a thick germination of feed and warm growing weather, and just enough rain to keep it alive until the 2.5” storm two weeks ago. We have good feed now and the calves are growing quickly—from one extreme to the other, a magnificent start to our grass season. Still getting comfortable with the color green, with wet weather, we are grateful and relieved. These hills are miraculously resilient!

And we truly appreciate you and the 400+ others who have followed this blog and endured the drought with us—the recent dusty poems and photographs that are recorded here—and took the time to leave encouraging and sympathetic comments. Thank you all.

Robbin and I wish you a Merry Christmas as the year unwinds, hoping for peace and understanding among all men as we begin 2015, another opportunity to find that common strand within each of us to share. From our family to yours: MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR ☺





We start with trails
that haven’t changed
near the top of the world—

                    switchbacks stacked
                    in scree
                    to gaps between
                    bare peaks like teeth
                    above the timberline
                    chewing at the blue,
                    blue sky

and the solitude

                    waiting in ambush
                    to welcome you home
                    to rainbow trout
                    now spawning,

                    green backs packed
                    in the leak
                    of a snowmelt lake
                    where white clouds
                    float upon water.

                    Alone in the smear
                    of starlight falling
                    upon solid rock,
                    it glows
                    like a lantern.

We start with trails
we know
how to get there.

                                        for Lee and Earl





                                        Old violence is not too old to beget new values.
                                                            – Robinson Jeffers (“The Bloody Sire”)

With ease, we have evolved to softer versions
of ourselves—no longer lean, Dust Bowl men
in coveralls waiting for work and a weather change,

sinew no longer strained to stretch the harvest
of endless furrows. Within earshot of lamenting
old men leaning on fences, I was part of a future

doomed with easy-living, and so I have been
by comparison, yet with little time for visiting
face-to-face, eye-to-eye. We have become immune

to the violence next door, alive in cyberspace, and
deaf to war—the clash of sword-on-shield or bigger
better guns barking how to cull the herd—with ease,

we have evolved to envy dumb animals and birds
in touch with the sky, yearning for ignorance
and bliss. And all the old values now lost to youth.