Category Archives: Photographs

April Fool’s Day 2020

 

 

Yesterday, Robbin and I began our 26th year together by making a loop through Greasy to look at the cows and calves, assess our feed conditions and put out salt and mineral. The cattle look great! We got an early start to the grass with November and December rains, but with a dry January and February, we lost our feed at our lower elevations on the south and west slopes. To date, we’ve only received three inches since the first of the year, but the grass at the higher elevations has just begun to grow.

A Border Collie at five months, it was Tessa’s first extended ride in the Kubota away from the house. Channeling her energy has been a challenge, but she’s smart and willing to please. It was good for her to be completely lost away from home and dependent on us for over four hours. Tired before she went to bed last night, she was sitting in the Kubota waiting for another ride.

Not much has changed for us, despite the Coronavirus pandemic. Normally, we do our best to stay out of town anyway. Before we have to get our Wagyu calves in for a second round of vaccinations, we’ve been preparing and planting our garden for the past couple of weeks—it’s what we do this time of year—that in turn will help us stay out of town later this spring.

However, we are not immune to the news as we try to imagine millions of people shut in their living quarters in a big city environment. Our hearts go out to them as we realize how fortunate we are to be free to move around the ranch to get our work done. Having something to do during this crisis is indeed a luxury.

 

ISOLATION BLUES

 

 

                                       To ease the pain of living.
                                       Everything else, drunken dumbshow.

                                            – Allen Ginsberg (“Memory Gardens”)

Chill in the dark,
the day before forever—
before eternity slips
into twinkling space.

Alone with ourselves,
we have no secrets left
to bury, only seeds to sow
for summer fruit.

Two owls are talking
across the yard:
emphatic hoots,
promises of spring.

Dogs bark at the scent
of coyotes near—
neither know, neither care
about tomorrow.

It is our moment
to find diversions
in search of awe,
the small and the majestic—

to do the work
to ease the pain of living.
All the rest
drunken dumbshow.

 

IN THE MIRROR

 

 

                              Not with a bang but a whimper.
                                   – T. S. Eliot (“The Hollow Men”)

A belly I may shed
before I leave this end—
my father wizened,
spending his before he died.

                              I yield to time,
                              to the absence
                              of reason.

I feel ambition
and all its diversions
wane in the soft dirt
of familiar trails:

habits I cling to
so as not to get lost
in the grandstands

to watch the war
and any hope for peace
expire until I leave

                              the poetry to others—
                              the exultant songs
                              of living things

we may finally become
with a little luck
to be among them.

 

FORTRESS AGAINST THE COLD

 

 

There is a knack to stacking wood
and wrapping packages in brown paper
you learn with time.

A metal pail for White King D
saved for picking blackberries
beyond the clothes line.

A drawer-full of safety pins,
balls of string with rubber bands
and paper clips held us together

in emergencies. She survived
the Spanish Flu of 1918
birthing my father, youngest daughter

of an Edinburgh schoolmaster,
arrived in Fresno to teach the Indians
English—and me the poetry of Keats.

 

THE SOUNDS OF NORMAL

 

 

                                   Gasoline makes game scarce.
                                                   – William Stafford (“From the Move to California”)

A honk in the dark under clouds,
a lost goose circles the canyon’s walls
as it listens for an answer,

               as I listen to the creek
               rush instead of gurgle
               since the rain.

Turkeys gobble over the rise
I cannot see, pausing like tree frogs
to join the chorus.

Not a car on the road
with headlights dancing
between posts and barbed wire—

there are no bounds to the black,
no interruption to the sounds
approaching normal

as if we and our machines
have abandoned this canyon
to its own devices.

 

TWO SIDES TO LUCK

 

 

Mid-afternoon, after-rain beneath cottony cumulus
with sails set north trailing the long-awaited storm,

a lone coyote’s husky bark, cows and calves
across the creek frozen alertly upon the green—

I must assume the feral pigs now have had their fill
of the young bull I had to kill two weeks ago

with broken leg sunk deep into a squirrel hole
while sparring with his mates passing idle time

with unemployed testosterone awaiting the long,
hog-truck trip home to a feedlot in Idaho.

Stiff hide and disconnected bones don’t care
having filled the bellies of our sanitary engineers.

 

IDES OF MARCH 2020

 

 

Reading this, you
have survived the wars
by wit or luck
to suffer more.
It is our nature
to endure

when nothing,
               that eternal dark emptiness,
remains the same—

when nothing
               escapes change.

Inside my rabbit hole:

               last spring’s late rains
               brought pneumonia
               killing quail chicks
               while turkeys thrived
               and multiplied.

               This spring dry
               beneath mostly
               empty clouds,
               a carpet of golden
               fiddleneck
               beneath hard hills
               turned brown.

Beyond my hide-away:

               a scuffling of men
               (and women, too)
               changing places in line—

               some running for election,
               some running for cover,
               some running in fear
               to empty shelves
               to stay alive.

It is our nature to endure.

 

REPRIEVE

 

 

She didn’t stay long
or leave much in the way
of puddles,

her fine gray mist
to brighten green,
settle dust

and relieve the pain
of waiting
for a well-begged rain—

a sniff and taste
to lure us closer
toward our reward

like this cold dawn’s
chimney smoke,
flat to the ground,

drawn up-canyon
following her
discarded clouds.

 

     February 23, 2020
     0.15″

OUT OF DARKNESS

 

 

Alone in the dark
that shrouds anemic green
and short-stemmed fiddleneck
thinking February seed,

               the joyful gurgle
               of a shrinking creek
               gulps over cobbles

               to sit beside me
               on a cold and moist
               down-canyon breeze.

               Painted black,
               all sounds normal
               as if a sign.

Alone in the dark
I color hillsides leaking
beneath gray skies.

 

THE FAR CRY

 

 

A single pod of seeds, the bare
redbud volunteer, come spring,
will obscure my view of the road;

the world beyond this black morning—
beyond the owl in the oaks above me;
the cobbled mumbles of the creek.

With the hillside chorus of coyotes
and canyon’s replies, the ridgeline
holds-up heaven’s brilliance

in a sky of stars—unabashed
and unafraid of any circumstance
that may engulf us all.