Monthly Archives: April 2016





In the cattails, long leaves
like a thatch of swords
after a war, hem the water in—

veil the mud hens putzing
close to shore where bullfrogs
freeze in the sun

waiting for something good
to come along this irrigation pond
trying to go wild. I have come

to love their god-awful birdsong
like rusty hinges on a pipe gate
yodeling in the tight places,

musical cascades turned loose
to lyrics I still don’t understand.
I say I think they’re courting

because its spring, because
you and I have stopped
to watch them sing.






Bright color in the thin shade
of dry casualties: proud skeletons
of fathers and grandfathers,

generations of Blue Oaks standing
stoically against the sky, against
time as the earth comes alive.

Each silent prayer is a short nod
in passing—too many decomposing
monuments for long eulogies

no one will remember—
we dance past death
as the last obstacle to life.






It could be explosions at sea
that cloud our sky, dim the peaks
that guide us home at dawn

as thunder cells return to the scene
of the Rough Fire, thermals billowing,
vortex rising in a fire storm.

The mountains wear the violence
that has shaped them, know the sound
of fury in all its beautiful colors.






Flash of tender bloom
on thorny spines for one day
each year: from hard times.






Not ready long, they reach
for attention, beg to be seen
within the tall dry grass:

pink pulses clinging to the stem
like winged fairies resting might
if you let yourself believe.







We have our homes
and scratching posts
near at hand, grass
beds and running water
when it rains, we have
almost everything
that matters.






Funny how I can’t remember
just how the Lupine looked
like a brand-new town,

the crowded Gilia, white heads
bowed without a photograph
for proof. All the pretty faces

gone, I have a crush on spring—
as my mother, her coffee cup
beside me, would often say

of my impetuousness—I fall hard,
all ill feelings squeezed
from the inside out, swept away.

But etched in my skin, in the walls
of my brain, I can’t forget the dust,
every particle I inhaled of drought.






I dreamed I went upriver
on young legs until the roar
of snowmelt over boulders

shrank into a meadow
stream lined with pines—
going back in time.

Nothing has changed
the blackened rings,
the chiseled peaks beneath

a blue, blue sky—
and I am small again,
but with older eyes.

Where will our children go
when they get old at night?
What will they follow

to find themselves
content to be
engulfed in awe?


Wild Lavender




On our tour of Greasy last Saturday, Robbin and I noticed that the Golden Poppies on Sulphur Ridge had been replaced by a sizeable patch something purple. I emailed a photo to Earl McKee, who grew up, ran cattle and owned the Greasy Creek Ranch before selling it to our family. Legs too old and Sulphur too steep for a look closer than a telephoto lens, I asked to see if he knew what the light purple flowers were.

Looks like the wild lavender has taken over the beautiful poppies, as planned. As Carlyle Homer used to say “I like them pretty l’il purple flowers that come out towards the end of the grass season!”

When ever I see that “Ol Laurel Patch” up there on the side of Sulphur Mountain, it brings back many of my younger days buck huntin’ with my Dad all over the face of Sulphur. It was right in those Laurels that my Dad and I and Joe Chinowith were leading our horses (in about 1946). Joe was following behind a young bronc my Dad was leading, and slipped in the wild oats and fell too close, and that bronc kicked Ol’ Joe and broke his leg!

As I recall, Joe was ridin’ “Ol Lep” who was real gentle, and we carefully loaded Joe on him and led him off of that mountain. I remember Joe’s face being white with pain all the way to the Exeter Hospital.

Thanks John for making my day with familiar scenes from the past.

Players & Places:

Joe Chinowith—Indian cowboy who worked for my grandfather.
Carlyle Homer—Dry Creek cattleman
Sulphur Ridge—elevation over 3,000 feet and 3 hours from Exeter in 1946
Earl McKee—best damned storyteller I’ve ever known.

Naturally, I looked ‘wild lavender’ up on Calflora with no luck, but like so many wildflowers, the botanists forgot to check with the old timers before they gave them latin names. I then tried the family Lamiaceae, and by process of elimination it appears that these wildflowers are known as Horse Mint or Nettle Leaf Giant Hyssop, Agastache urticifolia . It’s such a pleasure learning something new everyday.






Thousands of friendly faces,
family reunions camped
on grassy slopes and swales
waiting in the wild
since the rains came.

The guests of honor pause
in calm disbelief, dismount
and crawl among them
to take a good long look
at spring.