Monthly Archives: April 2019




The air is clear, clean—ridgelines
sharp with thunderstorms elsewhere,
too late to prolong the dream
of an everlasting spring.

The mottled transition of grasses
against crisp shadows holds,
drawing from ample winter rains
to become a painting, a pinto—

a young, firm-muscled overo
with good withers, soft mouth
and big heart, so seductive
as to lose myself to ride

these slopes for the first time—
like your eyes this evening,
hands reaching to touch softly
without the weight of words.





Awaiting words on the wind,
sharpened pencil and
yellow, short-lined pad—

the first leaf lifts
as I sneak a look
at the next page

searching for poetry
that feels good
in my hand.





As the early-morning Pink Moon
wanes in the blue
west of sunrise after Easter

soothes my Monday mind
with the habits of horses
waiting at their mangers—

alfalfa stems in windrows
at their feet, rolled and picked
clean of leaf before the sweeter

beckoning of short-cropped green
going to seed, I pause
to inhale their earthy smell.





Some ‘last times’ are chiseled
in the maze of our minds:
of the dear departed
or the dreadful lessons,
lest we forget.

But no framed portrait of your face
hanging near my heart, only
half-a-century’s hazy conjuring
of vital growing pains
I still owe you for.

                           for Susie





Killdeer have their hands full
with children born on the run
teaching intonations of language

while training safe habits—
four bird brains headed
in different directions

after an intense defense
of speckled granite clutches
for four long weeks

from nest-robbing crows
and snakes fresh from hibernation
with wants of their own.

In the crushed gravel drive
their feigned broken wings
flash grit and passion.





New leaves, new shade
as flowers fade to seed
               the future

                              shiny-hided heifers
                              with babies in their bellies
                              claim the oak trees,
                              gossip and commiserate
                              about the unknown

               after sex
with bulls, bugs and bees.





The landmark peak connecting
watersheds and neighbors here
and gone blazes with a rainbow

at sunset illuminating faces and stories
gathered to replay in places
to leave no track but in my thoughts—

my short history on this ground,
the tragic and the magic banked
at the center of my small universe.





Wild colors fade, the grass turns
in the sand and shallow ground
on south slopes as Killdeer defend

their gravel nests and Blackbirds
scout the sky like fighter pilots
patrolling air space—an urgency

to plant seed and protect babies
before spring’s dreaded deadline—
before it gets too late to rain.


Earl McKee RIP


Trudy Johnson Photography



Robert Frost never built a fence
between a neighbor as fine as mine,
who shared more than his cow sense
on both sides of the line.

He helped a shaggy-headed kid
whose ignorance could fill a book
and kept his impatience mostly hid
‘less I took a second look—

and then he knew, I knew the pain
and like a son, he worked with me
and tell a joke to keep me sane,
so frustrated I couldn’t see.

In time, I’d be working the gate,
he damn-sure had me looking sharp,
working ’round my each mistake—
the cattle easy to part.

Whenever I call, he’ll be there,
saving most of his work for last.
He helped me ship ’em on Easter,
a drought year gone past.

A slick calf could cause discussion,
he’d always argue it was mine.
I debate for his possession,
losing most of the time.

And when he’d weigh out justice,
you’d find his thumb upon the scale,
but on your side of the balance,
your logic to no avail.

So before you go building fences
and stretching brand-new barbed wire,
there’s one gone beyond common senses
and made Bobby Frost a liar.

If you ever find a pattern cut
that’d be suitable for me,
reckon you’d be hard-pressed put
using other than Earl Mckee.

            – John Dofflemyer (Dry Creek Rhymes, 1989)





Knee-deep in filaree,
fiddleneck,and foxtails
with wild oats coming

on a precipice
where there is no trail
to the bottom

of Lake Kaweah—
posing for a drone,
for a documentary

as a cowman, as a poet.
I’ve poured concrete,
plumbed galvanized pipe

and electrified a pump
this week, and still
have work to do.