Category Archives: Deck Poems

SEPTEMBER 29th

 

 

Summer falters, stumbles
into October with rumors
of rain, weak weathermen

wishes for a change,
not enough to start the green
nor mildew the old feed—

just a welcome change
for cattle and coyotes,
ground squirrels and us.

Manes and tails float
in a sky blue sea,
acorns and oak leaves

litter the landscape,
long shadows reach across
the canyon like ground

burnt by fire, cordwood
waiting under every skeleton
the drought has left behind.

 

Green

 

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With nearly 20″ of rain here on Dry Creek, and more at the higher elevations of the ranch, we have green grass and even a few early wildflowers. Click to enlarge to see the cattle we have yet to gather and brand at the end of the ridge, slick slopes in every direction.

The ground is so saturated that the septic system for our guest house is working in reverse.

BADLY BIGLY

We believe that the cream
rises to the top,
but when it really rains
so does the shit.

(one of our deck poems)

All eyes will be on the Oroville Dam as seven days of Pineapple Expresses are forecast for the Feather River watershed, 70 miles north of Sacramento.

 

AT ONCE

 

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Canyon gray,
light warm rain,
glass of wine at dusk,

and we enjoy the sound
of small drops
on a metal roof,

tinkling ricochets
in stereo downspouts
that insulate

our momentary sighs,
escaped breath rising
on words overheard

only by the gods
and fickle goddesses
somewhere overhead.

Not the storm predicted,
not the flood
to erase the drought

that won’t release its grip
for years, if ever,
talons sunk in our flesh—

this crease of earth and rock
that’s heard it all before
from generations of oaks

and sycamores, cattle
people and natives,
all sighing at once.

 

APPLE ORCHARD BRANDING 2016

 

Like the old days, hillsides
slick and wet, we brand
between rains, hurried loops

neighbor-to-neighbor, each
bunch a hard-won victory
for work-worn bones.

Morning Advil or Aleve
for squeaky hinges
lubricated with a plastic cup

of Crown, hot meal grinning
with good company.
For a moment we are young again,

but with muted bravado—understand
Tony’s deadpan disappointment:
tonight’s storm retreating north.

Not quite the coup to drink whiskey to,
we want more sore evenings
by the fire, just to hear it pour.

 

WORK FOR YOU

 

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Whoever you are,
we work for you,
for the future of the wild,

for cows planting and harvesting
grass, for the easy burger
drive-thru, your leather shoes

and the steak on your plate.
You pay us once a year
when the calves are fat,

before the feedlot
and the killer plant,
we work for you

everyday of the week—
whoever you are,
we work for you.

 

TEN LITTLE INDIANS

 

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You could hear them

from the squash and cucumbers,
from the tomatoes where the rattler
stretched upon damp dirt to cool his belly,
in that no man’s land of prickly pear
and grape canes claiming shade trees
on the periphery of ripening vegetables—

their incessant tittering within: military
training before their first tour of the garden
scouted at the peak of heat days before,
our lawn of weeds this side of roadrunners
nesting in the cottonwood under
the surveillance of a pair of crows.

The only green for miles of hard
baked clay and blond dry fuzz,
a microcosm of good wet years,
the wild moves in, gathers to include
us—horses, dogs and feral cats—
into a sustainable family.

Tree frogs on the move, hopping
sojourns at dusk and dawn bring
the King snake tracking Garter snakes
that ignore us, stay out from underfoot.
We have no choice but to share
our little space and water in a drought.

We will count the covey into the future,
measure training into evenings, watch
for Bobcats and Coopers Hawks on patrol.
No place for soft hearts, politics,
or too much attention—no one wants
or can afford to run for election.

 

THIS PAPER BLESSED

 

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Ripe raspberry stain
on a yellow tablet—
one of several waiting
when I got back
from busy somewhere in the heat.

First-year canes producing
delight again and again.
You speak with gestures—
this paper blessed
with remembering.

 

 

Happy Birthday, Robbin!!

 

EMPTY PEN

 

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A hundred and ten degrees
in an empty pen
where we watched him
stumble to his feet,

where we forget
twenty years of trying—
that a man was king
with all he needed

to get the job done.
Time swallows memory
like a snake
chokes a meal down

to the present tense—
outliving horses
before we fade
from this landscape.

We can ask too much,
plead for compassion
from invisible gods,
compensation for

the heroic hearts
we have held
within our fingers,
within our family.

                                        for Red Hot Montana

 

YOU AND YOUR GREEN MACHINE

 

We hold our breath
just before
Memorial Day weekend

winds up, hear
the gears whine,
feel the speed

at ninety-plus,
barbed wire either side—
listening for the abrupt,

the certain screech
as you fade up the canyon.
We pray for your mother.

 

 

This post begins the new category of ‘DECK POEMS’: John & Robbin’s evening collaborations.