Author Archives: John

RETURN OF THE SHY GODDESS

 

 

Damp and cold, her breath

slips through the door cracked

to push the smell of smoke

 

through the house while it rains

lightly.  I steal deep breaths,

pretend I’m young again

 

before I light another.

Though I miss the real storms,

the overbearing trepidation

 

that escapes its banks to flood

with heroic tales and wonder

when its over, I am now lifted

 

out of time on her breath,

this gentle rain, hillsides

running green—reborn again.

 

 

 

SHY GODDESS

 

 

It’s quiet now, she’s come and gone

without a sound, spent the night

without a word as we slept

 

deeply by the fire.  She kept it dark

without the stars, hid the pregnant moon

that shed the rain lightly through the clouds.

 

We don’t know her name, shy goddess—

but we will leave the light on

with pomegranate jelly at the door.

 

        –          –          –          –         –

0.63″ plus bugs

 

IDLE SPECULATION

 

 

An ever-play movie,

road in the distance

following the creek

            wet or dry

            up or down

 

a stream of SUVs

at 60 spaced militarily

from So Cal

to Christian camps

above Eshom

 

                      remembering Loren

                      on an ox cart load

                      of carp to dry

                      for the summer

 

CalFire trucks

twice a day

 

cattle neighbors,

goosenecks,

loads of hay

 

Badger locals

on shoulders parked

for first or last

cell phone service

 

sprinkled with tentative tourists

and strings of Harleys

roaring for or from

a burger at the Mountain House.

 

We believe we can read

everybody’s business

long distance.

 

 

 

SIDE BY SIDE

Lesley Fry Photo

Spectacular weather yesterday on the Paregien ranch. Above 2,000 feet in elevation and twenty 4 x 4 minutes from the asphalt, it is a magic place rich with native and anecdotal history.  Currently, the feed is short but still greening since the 1.45” we got on the 6th, 7th and 8th of this month. The cattle have left the flats for the slopes and ridges where the new grass is growing faster, protected from frost by the remnants of old feed. Early last week the prognosticators canceled today’s rain, but have now forecast a significant amount for Thursday into the weekend.  (We’ll see.)

 

While pumping water, looking for the neighbor’s errant bull and measuring the corrals for a much-needed makeover, Robbin and I spent the morning with the Fry/Fox family cutting Manzanita and Live Oak deadfall for our woodstove because of my tendonitis. With our many hands, what fun we had!

 

It’s been several months since I carelessly cut a tree in the road that knocked me down, damaging the rotator cuff of my right shoulder. And about a month since compensating for it to pop a tendon, sounding like a gun shot, in my left forearm.  Enlisted now in medical protocol and procedures, it’s taken a couple of weeks to confirm the damage with an MRI.  Apparently surgery and long recovery is my best option. I see the Dr. again in 4 weeks, meanwhile I’m supposed to do nothing.

 

I am amused that only children and seniors measure their age in half-years, kids because they want to be older, and seniors, I suppose, eager to numerically reassure themselves of their existence. I’m 74 ½ and need to act my age.  My life, our life, on this ranch has always been physical and it’s been too easy for me to forget I’m no longer fifty or sixty building fence or bucking hay.  But to have our good friends and neighbors volunteer to help us get some firewood in was truly a wonderful gift on a beautiful day.  Thank you Chuck and Lesley Fry, Katy and Cody Hanson, and Allie and Shawn Fox.  You guys are the best!

 

THANKSGIVING

 

A pause like prayer,

a nod to the gods holding

the wild together.

 

 

 

 

CREEKS

 

I crave the quiet intimacy of creeks

that feed the bigger rivers

roaring in the granite gorges

 

or widespread in redundant riffles

with nothing to say.  I rather fish

dark cutbanks and water skeeter

 

eddies frothed below white dogwoods

arching over High Sierra leaks, eclipsing

all but mottled light as I move upstream—

 

each small pool a unique realm

for browns and rainbows

grazing transparent skirts.

 

Now that I know I won’t go back,

it is not an appetite for trout

that consumes sweet memories.

 

CHEER

 

 

Nothing near, the long-term forecast

changes on the hour as we look out

over Christmas color, out of storage early,

 

at independent calves at water,

and our persistent green still breathing

with each dawn’s dew. Almost everything

 

we need is near-at-hand before Thanksgiving

with a welcome splash of cheer

as we wait for rain, like always.

 

 

HEARTWOOD

 

 

 

Chain saw heavier, I cut arms

off skeletons littering pastures

and canyons after years of drought,

 

a battleground where old oaks lost

touch with water—most barkless now

tipped-over or in tangled piles

 

beneath authoritative trunks

begging purpose, begging cremation

or stacked close to the woodstove.

 

Old habits and rituals finally slow

as the limbs grow heavier despite

the pleading of the heartwood.

 

 

 

2-S DEFERMENT

 

 

It might have been a miracle

to have survived the 60s

and all its first-time diversions

 

beckoning, daring the unknown—

full-grown children loosed

to explore the candy store

 

with the ambush of War

stealing the black and poor first,

green jungle hungry for more.

 

Abstract at best, the future

failed to kindle dreams

beyond the minefields.

 

 

 

WINTER FIRES

 

 

Color comes with cold and wet

within the canyon, even before

the creek flows or sycamores burn

 

leather brown to shed their clothes—

white bodies tangled in a pagan dance

to gods unknown.  Orioles return

 

as sparks in the brush, levity

in the pink overcast of dawn.

We glean the fallen skeletons

 

of oak and brittle manzanita

to fill the woodstove. Curious cattle

come to wonder what we’re about.