A short leap before
we look back, freeze and believe
we are invisible.
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.
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
with babies in their bellies
claim the oak trees,
gossip and commiserate
about the unknown
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.
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)