So many places near at hand where lovers slipped
into the afternoon shade, dark upon the green,
lichened rocks burning beside small oak trees
beckoning, begging a pause for conversation.
The grandfather oak, arms wider than he was tall,
a Red Tail’s roost, swooped to clutch a wounded
squirrel when I was a boy, both talked to me—
we made a deal. Leaking from the gossip rocks
worn smooth by women’s feet, a chattering
melody claims the air, of centuries layered
and bared, freckled granite gray to the sky.
Always horseback in these steep hills,
the old cowboys before me were drunk
with what spoke to them, would rather ride
the unpredictable wild and tell the tale
than slap backs among the civilized. This
was their place in time—all the sharp eyes
I remember and recognize by the cut
of their descriptions, all the stories saved
by their fathers’ fathers, secreted away
and still waiting to be told, near at hand.