Category Archives: Poems 2017




On the other side
of Sunday school
and Old Testament tests,

we survived wilder times
with less rules. Today,
we take turns cutting calves

with meat on the fire.
At home in these board pens,
we can hear the old men

holler from Sulphur Ridge:
Dave, E.J., Earl and Homer,
chides, laughter and profanity

as we look back—
and up ahead we see
we’re somewhere in-between.





How I craved the physical,
the hot rush of blood
within my flesh, the might

of muscles flexed
to my will, the loop’s
quick flash secure

around the boney
feet of calves
in the branding pen—

no two quite the same,
how I welcomed them
as a measure of a man.





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.

Weather-sculpted, laced
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
language recorded
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,
head spinning
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.