Category Archives: Poems 2018

First-Calf Heifers



For regular followers accustomed to a short philosophical poem, I’ve been on a sabbatical from the blog for well-over a week, a vacation without one ounce of guilt for not writing or posting daily. All good. We’ve been busy on the ranch nevertheless, as we’ve begun to supplement our younger cows with hay and all our cows with protein licks as our first calves will be arriving in a couple of weeks.

We hauled the girls above to the pasture around our house yesterday, two-year old first-calf heifers due to calve in the middle of September. In years past, we would have driven them the two miles here through three different occupied pastures and across the road. We hauled 53 head instead, rather than risk any mix-ups with our neighbor’s steers. For whatever reason, the heifers were plumb silly, making yesterday one of my hardest loading experiences in fifty years.

Though we had hay laid out to the water trough to welcome them to their new digs, Robbin and I went out this morning to feed them again and to help them acclimate to the dry feed after having spent all summer on the irrigated pasture. Right now they’re lost, but have calmed down substantially since yesterday’s debacle.

I’m working on a longer poem for a documentary produced by the American Angus Association, having to change my style to fit what I perceive the film to be. Tough sledding as I keep adding notions and ideas to the piece. Meanwhile, I’ve been somewhat satisfied with shorter pieces scratched out in the evenings like:



                                             From kid
                                                  to boy
                                                  to son
                                                  to man
                                                  to pard
                                                  to dude
                                                  to bud
                                                  to boss
                                                  to SOB,
                                             I know my name.





Names and faces visit in foggy times
pausing on the edge of placid dreams
where the Muses come to bathe

in the half-light—long lost characters
who’ve grown old or shed the weight of flesh
to move more freely now towards clarity,

ephemeral moments without words,
but with quiet wonderment instead
reflected in our eyes. There may be

another plane, another row of seats
above to watch the show with easy
exits when the drama gets too thick,

when hateful hearts want war. I hope so.
It would be hell to have to witness
the slow disambiguation of the future.





As Apollo heads to the barn
to feed his steeds, to hang
silver-studded harnesses

on their pegs to retire,
the black comes back
and darkness begs our dreams

to dance in another light
as mind and flesh run free.
The light within illuminates

what we crave and fear—
storylines for stage plays
directed in our sleep.

Some shake us awake
to write them down—and
some remain on our minds.





Low blacks in sweats, a kid
finds the bench I watch people from
while smoking a cigarette away

from the ocean-view rooms—
sidles-up like an innocuous snake
or a squirrel from under the boardwalk

to share conversation with a man
three times his age. He wants to know
if I think the world is flat—

waves crashing, tide retreating,
blaze compressed in the haze—
he’s got obnoxious down pat.

Clutching a lighter in his tight fist,
I leave him a smoke on the bench
to watch it roll off the edge.



Moonstone Beach,
Sea Chest:
oysters on the half shell,

calamari, Eberle 
cab and crab legs
awaken to fog

two and a half hours
and forty degrees
from home.




Fat calves in the pipeline
to your plate, cows
vacationing on hollow dry

bronze feed, the scent of cuds
early to the shade
of sycamore and oak trees,

quiet gossiping telepathically—
it’s taken days to unwind,
coast to a more pensive pace.





Somewhere amid the vegetables,
a bloom, a flower begging notice,
suggesting we might see beyond

ourselves, our guilt and fears,
and all the calamities teetering
on this planet, for a moment.

A beacon for the eyes, a course
to follow on choppy seas,
a remnant burst of energy

blazing bravely at the sun’s
112 degrees. Bless the gardeners
planting seed we cannot eat!





Enough to give away like poetry,
the garden keeps us near
humble dirt anticipating

the quick fix of accomplishment
flourishing overnight, a short walk
from the kitchen table—a crop

to share with good neighbors—and
the ground squirrels and cottontails,
the bugs, birds and worms

that arrive before the harvest.
It’s never been about the money
saved instead of labor,

nor about feeding nature—but
more about living with
the gift of earth and flesh.





Thirty days into summer, the heat
owns us now and we yield, change
our ways to work into the shade

of anything between us and the sun.
Out of habit, a neighbor’s cow stands
beneath the skeleton of an old oak,

a ridge-bound casualty of the drought—
a silhouette mid-morning as I head home
branded in my brain like a wrought iron

logo for outdoor living hanging
from an arched concrete entrance—
beyond which I am blinded

by the white light of my delirium.
I close my eyes to see clearly again,
turn away and pray I may be wrong.





A plodding grace with each footfall
of cloven hooves upon soft centers
of winding trails engineered to grade,

cows claim this ground, claim us as well,
tracking seasons of the sun ever-circling.
Behind fences grazing shade to shade,

they worry not about the days ahead.
How we envy and emulate their easiness—
hang totems to draw the cow gods closer.