Certain places, certain
as the ridge’s blinding light
at dawn, embrace us—
draw the pain away,
the poison that the brain
has let fester behind our eyes.
They need not speak, yet
the breeze rhymes
in the limbs of trees,
where the business of birds
changes with the seasons, yet
will not change the ways
of the world. Certain places
find their peace in the mundane
details, the stamen’s sure
perfume pollinators share
upon the petals’ opening
their doors to seed. Certain.
When I was new to these hills,
great rocks rose to find my way
along a native track—coyote,
deer and that of cattle—
dirt worn soft by pad and hoof.
I gave each a name
to place me on this ground
when I was lost, or turned
around on gray fog days.
with lichen color, some
take the shape of humans
that haven’t changed, frozen
in time before men came
to live among them—
mark the stories of the hunt
and gather of the untamed.
These rocks remember
without words, a warm
for the species that survive us.
Not quite full, we cheer its rising
on a ridgeline of oaks, naked
silhouettes posing before a fire—
its steady ascension between and beyond
heaven’s contrails—as the busyness
of this planet becomes small.
We never quite give-in to the ground,
though it shapes faces and scars our flesh—
mountains and canyons worn apart
from the crowd, our trained brains taught
to see the smaller things while looking out
over purple ranges to snow white teeth
sunk sharply into the blue, blue sky
after a cold rain clears the air, erases
tracks, cleans all but the near at hand
climbing higher for the tallest green
hidden in the old, gray grass, mildewing—
cows and calves full atop the ridge,
friends and family lying in leafless shade
looking out beyond the perfect dreams
of our calculations ever coming out.
Oak smoke from the woodstove
curls beneath the eave, gray snake
sliding from post to beam
to filter dawn’s first blinding light
after rain. Bare ground green
with cotyledons, damp with dew
overnight, sequins glistening
on blond dry stems—on the cusp
of something beginning with
the miracle of seed swelling
into new shoots, leaves of grass
over and over and over again
despite our ignorance and greed, our
ownership of more than the moment
as we prepare for another adventure:
oak and Manzanita stacked
against the dry and cold stretches
between the welcome rains.
The scent of dampened dust
settling with the first fine drops
envelops us in wind gusts,
all the loose atoms of death
over eons of friction bonding,
fusing into new shapes of life
as we inhale and taste it, sip
like musty red wine begging
release—lungs and capillaries
surge to rejuvenate the flesh
with the promises of fresh
beginnings, another chance
to chase seasons of grass
with a new crop of calves
who’ve never seen rain,
never smelled the green.
Swept up grinning, we raise
a glass into the endless gray.
Heavens begin to churn
with the first disturbance
of a new beginning,
fresh celestial friction
of an unknown season,
a fiery harbinger stirring
flesh and feather, coveys
bobbing home to bed
in brush piles, cows
collecting calves for cover
from wind gusts
in the ever-changing light—
these old bones giddy,
from ridge to ridge
consuming purple skies
before the storm,
before the welcome war.
We wait with weathered totems
in the garden, the always happy
ceramic caricatures, for rain.
We search for sign on ridgelines
drawn nearer, the sky for wisps
of manes and tails as cows beg
at the fenceline, a cacophonous
crescendo, a chorus of hoarse chords
intensifies the canyon’s imperative
between feed days as if we were gods
for a moment—healers, soothers, pleasers,
or just hired hands late for work.
A few hang on, leather leaves on a single limb
reaching for rain, grasping sky for life
in this battlefield of arms and legs in piles
around upright trunks with loosened bark—
gray shields to relinquish at their feet.
A four-year war without water on uneven
slopes, ridges strewn with old timers down,
disheveled skeletons beginning to disintegrate,
assimilate deep into the space they leave
to time—a blank sheet, native stories gone.
What we understand of place is ‘nothing
stays the same’, no permanent circumstance
to protect and feed us except hard ground
cloaked by layers of law within the diaphanous
clouds of cyberspace it will endure forever more.
Not quite cold enough for bright colors yet,
for frost and flies’ retreat, for the drift
of chimney smoke and horses’ breath
on the slow drawl of dawn. The grumbling
bulls begin to bellow, announce their prowess,
trumpet their intentions thirty days away
from being family men, their primal duties
rippling beneath their dusty hides. Not quite
old enough to forget, it’s almost Halloween.