Author Archives: John

DULL ROAR

Dark rain in waves, 
an oscillation of applause upon the roof
that soothes and insulates the senses
 
from the distant discord of mankind,
the lucid transparency of public figures
that saddens the soul—
 
this narrow canyon lit across in gold,
blind flashes of humility,
the roll of thunder close.
 
The short-cropped green hangs on 
to naked clay hoping for heaven’s basket 
of spilt miracles to soften hillsides 
 
for roots—and cloven hooves
reaching for the ridgetops ripe 
for more level grazing.
 
Dark rain in waves
punctuated by the light—
relief for what we know.

IF TREES COULD TALK

Some believe that even skeletons
communicate with one another 
through entangled fiber optic roots,
 
the drought’s dead-standing oaks
shedding dry limbs and bark
in random piles at their feet.
 
Sometimes I hear them screaming
in the evening of day and night
as gravity pulls at sagging arms
 
of decomposing silhouettes 
frozen with fright—a slow agony
I am too old to ignore.
 

DOLLARS AND SENSE

1.
We feed on numbers,
irrigate and harvest plans
with shaved efficiencies,
 
measure our well-being
by more or less
with what’s on paper
 
so easily burned
or suddenly erased—
we forget who we are.
 
 
2.
We share amounts of rain,
compare numbers
with the neighbors,
 
too often disappointed
with what we need most:
just enough moisture
 
to revive this ground—
this flesh and our more
common senses.


 

GENTLE MIRACLES

This old ground is on the move
and we have changed it
with our dreams of improvement
that humanity demands
 
to level mountains, harness rivers, 
pump valleys to collapse
with efficiency and startling success—
then we foul our surgeries. 
 
Beyond the road and fences,
these bare hillsides have begun to breathe 
since she spent the night, whispering 
upon dry leaves clinging to the last of life.
 
I am awakened, as if she never left,
wrapped in the soft applause of her arrival
bringing the gentle miracle of moisture
as this old ground comes back to life.

 

RED SKIES AT DAWN

Thin starts lay limp 
as green fades to gray
amid the brittle stalks 
of short-cropped dry
the cows have missed
 
as I open the gate
ahead of several storms
to search for Live Oak—
stove wood heat 
with little ash
 
prostrate since 
the 4-year drought
branded in my mind—
decomposing now
before my eyes.
 
Limbs ache with years
bent to this ground
chasing seasons of grass,
but red skies at dawn
reawakens the flesh.

RABB BRANDING TALK, 2021

Terri Blanke Photo
Before the surplus oilfield pipe
replaced the split redwood posts 
and creosoted oak railroad ties,
 
we remember the old board pens,
acorns tucked twixt crack and plank,
fiery lichen on the backside
of weather-worn 2 x 8s:
 
            distant brandings—
            deceased men—
            voices imitated—
            old saws saved 
            that we exchange, 

each triggering the next 
underhanded head loop loosed 
to hang for an instant, 
 
we snare memories 
like calves to brand—lifetimes 
stretched from hand to hand. 


 

Portraits of the Gathering

https://portraitsofthegathering.org/

Book: https://www.westernfolklife.org/shop/portraits-of-the-gathering-by-kevin-martini-fuller

Thinking About Elko

Coming Home–February 1, 2016

Branding Greasy 2021

(Click to enlarge two feet)

The high clouds had given way to sunshine by the time we finished branding a little bunch of calves in Greasy yesterday.  Well off the road, it’s a luxury to be among good friends and neighbors who are exceptional help, folks who know how to make the work fun.

Though dusty, there’s a little more green showing at this elevation (2,200’) where we have received 1.72” of rain thus far this season, much like the beginning of the 2013-14 drought year where we had less than 1.5” of rain in Greasy through the month of January.  Our 10-day forecast is dry. 

SMART SURVIVORS

Leaving the feed grounds
for the ridge tops
with their first calves,
 
native cows know
where the green comes first
after a little rain
 
softens the clay
for cloven hooves
and the climb up.
 
These are not dumb
welfare cows
that we have raised
 
and fed for months—
but smart survivors
to make us proud.