Dear Paul, the sycamores are undressing
long white limbs, a slow strip tease of fiery leaves
along the creek, my chorus line of dancing nymphs
all these years awaiting storms—but hills are green,
cordwood stacked and banked in thick dry rounds
beside the splitter, hay in the barn, meat in the freezer.
We will be warm with family this Christmas,
come hell or high water—grandpa free
to be a gap-toothed troll if need be.
We come of age all-of-a-sudden, spur
or spurn propriety in slow-motion rides,
get our kicks and licks in where and while we can.

The grizzled old natives never left this ground,
never quite made it past the ridgelines
we rode together busting wild cattle
off rock-piled chemise into the open places
we’ll always gather, build a fire and camp
for eternity—for as long as I remember,
become this ground that claims my flesh.
Slow-sipped days, a joyous plodding now
from moment to moment navigating rains
and grass, old neighbors branding calves
one at a time to stay to see a perfect season—
or as close as we can get, it’s how we make it.
Merry Christmas. John

P.S. Thanks for Montana Quarterly—a luxury
to fish during California’s Dust Bowl—a godsend.



  1. Thanks for this. A happy Christmas and New Year to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. John, what a beautiful thing. Thanks for sharing. Sure miss you guys. I don’t know if you and Robbin have heard yet, but I got laid off of my job, just as I was hoping, and I am now a free woman. I think it’s going to take a couple of months for me to calm down, I’m still in that mode where everything seems frantic, and have been running around trying to get 1 million things done since my last day of work (last day was December 1). I really don’t know how I did it, and I’m just so happy to be out of that rat race that was my job. Anyway, when things calm down a little bit we’ll have to start making some plans to come and break in your lovely guest cottage. We will see you in Elko before that, and can’t wait. Neither one of our vehicles feels reliable enough for us to drive down, but that would be my preference. Maybe I can figure out how to get a new vehicle, or new-ish vehicle, before Elko. Anyway, Mucho hugs to you and Robbin, and we’ll talk to you closer to Christmas. The Lovely Unemployed Bum Denise xoxoxox


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my gosh. What a beautiful rhythm! Maybe it’s because I read Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales at this time of year but something about the pace of your poem reminds me of his. This is so full of joy and thankfulness and so completely rooted in where you are. It fills me up. Just gorgeous.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Really beautiful poem John…..


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