Never enough roofs to shed the sun in the San Joaquin,
I’m leveling a pad for a barn with the skid steer
that’s become a hydraulic extension of my hands
between two huge Valley Oaks, four-foot across—
a roost for two Bald Eagles, long-dead witnesses
to father and son not learning to work cattle together.
In the ash pile of fallen limbs, a Killdeer sets and defends
her nest as I surround her with windrows of clay clods
to crumble and fill once the chicks are hatched.
Feathers fanned to fight for hours, her eyes bleed red
as her mate drags a wing nearby. Perhaps respect
lets four speckled eggs stop progress along the creek.