Category Archives: Poems 2015





Summer breezes comb
late spring rains of golden hair,
fine-stemmed wild oats ripened

in the rocks with a trace of lichen
rouge for looks—our sexy
centerfold to hang and frame

in the back of our minds,
our cluttered caves of thought,
to remember her by.


APRIL 4, 1969




It may be possible
upon reflection
after a wet spring,

mottled sun beneath
the canopy of sycamores
standing, frozen still

upon black water.
The sloshing sound
of my wet feet

not ready to walk
to Canada,
leave the creek

and family behind,
become outlaw
in their mind.

It may be possible
to fill those channels
again, rain until

the road flows by.
And when the earth
is full, excess standing,

I may look down
upon heaven’s clouds
with no direction.



After the odyssey in Charles Frazier’s “Cold Mountain” and Leonard Durso’s poem “a thousand years ago on some coastline in the fall.”






                                   Perhaps man has a hundred senses, and when he dies
                                   only the five senses that we know perish with him,
                                   and the other ninety-five remain alive.

                                             – Anton Chekhov (“The Cherry Orchard”)

The past walks here, all the dead
horses and livestock men grazing
a hundred and fifty springs—

all the promises and passion spilled
upon this wild mat of grass and flowers,
naked lovers idly pinching petals

along the creek for centuries
within the mottled shade
these same trees have cast, yet see

to keep alive. We have had
our moments here, left ourselves
so wholly that we rise and rest

among them, add our song
to the canyon, our cries to the sky
to forever make our home.


I’ve ordered the paper for a new chapbook I hope to put together on rainy days before Elko, instead of the larger collection with a working title of BEST OF THE DRY YEARS, that I just wasn’t happy enough with to complete, needing yet the more normal perspective of some rain.

This poem and photo have appeared here previously, but not on the same page. HOMEMAKING is the title, this photo on the cover (as of this morning). I truly love formatting these chapbooks, rereading and editing some good poems in this one for the past two days.




Photo: Neal Lett

Photo: Neal Lett


We live too low, too far down
the mountain to hear
the Canyon Wren sing

for the joy of it, cascade
of octaves, grin in the cedars,
thunder of the river dim.

Our love affair with music
is our own, separate
secrets searching for a song

somewhere on the mountain—
that half-ascension
finding harmony among the pines.




In the road with last night’s
road-kill raccoon, he videos
an eagle light from pole

to fence post, the coyote
hesitate in the pasture
before ambling off

and he asks who would win
if he wasn’t parked
with his parents watching.

When do we lose our eye,
not recognize the shy retreat
from our presence, our history?

Two thousand moons ago
the natives left
rabbits upon our doorstep

to keep us and our guns
inside. What gods
would blind us so?


Too Much Fun



Four straight nights of family making music. Grandpa’s done!


(Photos: Neal Lett, brother Todd’s daughter Katy’s husband, OMG!)



A light caress reminder
after a long time gone,
slow wet promises of more—

of fidelity we believe
as if she never left,
our flesh blooms green.

Christmas fell in 2015
to fill four nights rejoicing,
strings and voices rising

to greet the gentle rain—
four dry years forgotten.
We’ll never be the same.






On the weather map
watching the storm slide
slowly down the Sierras,

a green right arm wraps
around San Jose,

headed toward this warm
midsection, and I wonder:
with an upper cut of cold?

—wet inch down already,
as if the gods are on a mission
to treat us squarely—

as if there is a plan
to anything,
or just random rolls

we learn to adjust to
moment after moment
never seen before!






Dear Paul, the sycamores are undressing
long white limbs, a slow strip tease of fiery leaves
along the creek, my chorus line of dancing nymphs
all these years awaiting storms—but hills are green,
cordwood stacked and banked in thick dry rounds
beside the splitter, hay in the barn, meat in the freezer.
We will be warm with family this Christmas,
come hell or high water—grandpa free
to be a gap-toothed troll if need be.
We come of age all-of-a-sudden, spur
or spurn propriety in slow-motion rides,
get our kicks and licks in where and while we can.

The grizzled old natives never left this ground,
never quite made it past the ridgelines
we rode together busting wild cattle
off rock-piled chemise into the open places
we’ll always gather, build a fire and camp
for eternity—for as long as I remember,
become this ground that claims my flesh.
Slow-sipped days, a joyous plodding now
from moment to moment navigating rains
and grass, old neighbors branding calves
one at a time to stay to see a perfect season—
or as close as we can get, it’s how we make it.
Merry Christmas. John

P.S. Thanks for Montana Quarterly—a luxury
to fish during California’s Dust Bowl—a godsend.






On the weather map,
a week of storms
four days out

turned down
to a heavy mist
to quell the flames

before the downpour,
wind and rain—
a tame disrobing

before a shower
of leaves that leave
the road between

barbed wire fences
full to the hubcaps
with bedclothes.






Show starts at two
across the road
with wind and rain—

girls shedding
enflamed leaves
in a slow strip tease

of fire exposing
long white limbs
in a chorus line

of dancing nymphs
along the creek
all ready to go

come hell
or high water.