© Victor J. Blue for The New York Times
Son, they all must be crazy out there.
– Michael Burton (“Night Rider’s Lament”)
We get the news as black or white,
reckless words that conceal the truth
reduced to red and blue enamel.
No sage advice from Washington,
no common sense to right the Ship
of State, and no one at the tiller
to face the tempest’s hate—too busy
painting enemies to blame
while adding anger to the storm.
We get your craziness in colors
with the rising smoke and flames
on a planet waging war
in the cloud of a pandemic
neither understood nor cured—
a collage of clashing colors
without a brushstroke for compassion,
discipline or pride lucrative enough
for the media to cover
with an appetite for anarchy
where only self-righteous ride.
“Night Rider’s Lament”
Pink Echinopsis twice in May
after a peak of 110 degrees
like an afterthought—like a sign.
Thin dark clouds float upcanyon
like submarines at dawn,
gun-metal gray—oaks black
on blond hillsides like burnt spots
in the draws. Dark green sycamores
bring the creek flow to a stop.
Morning chill upon the breeze
brushes my bare chest, invigorates
the flesh one more time.
After gathering and processing our Wagyu X calves with a second round of vaccinations, we shipped our first load off to Snake River Farms in Melba, Idaho yesterday. Though grateful we have work to do apart from the growing death toll of the pandemic, it’s been difficult to mentally adjust to this down market as a result of all the Covid-19 related problems in the beef distribution pipeline. Even with the generous premium offered by SRF, payment for the calves is well short of what they brought in 2018.
For the most part, Covid-19 has not changed our activities very much. With another load of Wagyu X calves to ship plus gathering, weaning and hauling our Angus calves to the auction yard yet ahead of us, we have plenty on our plate to keep our minds and bodies occupied as we face tough times in the market. Selling our calves is normally a joyous time, but it’s been hard to get excited this year.
Since mid-March, the impact of Covid-19 on everyone has evolved. We go to town less often, carry what’s left of our hand sanitizer since Elko, practice social distancing with outsiders and adjust to the shortages of basic consumer goods, the reality of which hangs like a dark cloud over everyone’s mental state in these uncertain times. Under these circumstances, it’s been difficult for me, and I suspect others, to maintain a healthy attitude.
Normally a daily exercise, I haven’t completed a poem for three weeks, even though I’ve started plenty. The words seem hackneyed, far from insightful or uplifting. But Robbin brings her guitar out to the deck in the evening and we sing covers of songs we like into the canyon as we try to capture the feelings of Merle Haggard, Gillian Welch, John Prine or Guy Clark to lift our spirits. For us, it’s time to sing.