After a good rain, the cows have left
the feed grounds greening, grabbed their calves
and headed for the ridgetops where raindrops
slowly settled to weave fast growing
blades between the matted hollow stems
to make a mouthful, a musty bit of old
with the fresher taste of a new beginning.
We feel the same searching hillsides
for black dots of grazing pairs, oblivious
to the feed truck’s throaty idle,
way down in the flats, close to the hay barn,
now wearing a dark empty hole.
I am still not well, but contemplating the chill wind
and my energy-level knowing that if I cut another Kubota-load
of drought-killed oak, limb wood with loosened bark
likely to shed chunks on the carpet on the way to the stove,
I’d feel better—that luxury of choosing what old men want
to do. How I’ve yearned for this status, newly claimed without
a feather-weight of guilt. Calcium clod stuck in my gut
surging with pain and infection, I think about giving-in,
giving-up until the morphine lifts me to unreality, but
before the Norco illuminates dreams of a partial silhouette
chiseled in stone in the paddock behind my hospital bed
while it grows a second head upon a dark Ongole idol,
ears and nose appearing where the tail once was.
I am scared awake to withdraw from this primal energy,
imagery lying deep within my fragile, disconnected
psyche—not knowing, not caring what any of it means.
A little snow up the draw
beyond our foothill ridges
stuck on Redwood Mountain
and I imagine quail
puffed-up in the bare spots,
on fractured rounded rocks
with dull moss, motionless,
plump little generals
braced against the cold.
It is so easy now to escape
the pain of hopeless human
matters, of tyrants, despots
and the deranged waiting
to fill the next breach
in time. Perhaps a precursor
to senility, I practice slipping
out of formation
to draw upon a different truth.
End and beginning
punctuated by a puddled rain
and a fiery flash of leaves—
by the green along the road
and beneath the old blond feed
done for another season.
The cows and calves have left
the feed grounds for the ridges,
mud soft between their toes—
they have told us everything
we need to know. The bulls
at work, the ranch so close
to perfect, so predictable
for the next three weeks,
we want no where else to go.
Within the gray cloak
of out-of-focus crystal pellets,
rain visits thirsty hills
teasing with a tinge of green.
My homage paid to the wild
design that keeps this earth alive,
miracle above all miracles
verging on Divine.
No fad or fashion worthy
worship more than
a good long drink
from an all night slow rain—
dark murmur on the metal roof
like a thousand distant snare drums
blurred by a billion years
keeps us alive and the earth
hydrated, air clear to breathe
with dreams of green
leaves gently waving
from a mountainside.
No worn path home,
we make circles
following the seasons
in the shadow of the moon—
to the coyote’s yip
and canyon conflagration
finding perfect pitch
to make a chorus.
Our dreams are wild
enough to need
no fuel, no accolades
to draw a crowd
any closer. We pick
our way, break no stems
on the eternal scent
of heading home.
Separated from the bunch,
good to see a cow in clouds
wanting to make rain—
and she glad to see us,
relieved with proof of life
right before her eyes.
We are not so different
when sentenced to isolation
without our cell phones.
Azure ridge after ridge unfold
into a swirl of storm clouds leaving,
as if heaven sent, wrapping hidden
peaks of scree with snow, thirty miles away
from this conflagration of cottonwoods,
willows and sycamores below. I look
up the throat of the Kaweah for a sign—
hoping, praying, as we begin again,
for grass-fat calves through spring.
Three hundred rings along the creek,
five months dry—another chance
to live, another chance to die
marked with autumn’s fleeting
splendor. Soon naked and lithe,
these old sycamores will cavort
the winter long, memorize and
improvise each lunge and pirouette
until the dance is crystalized
within my mind. Blessed be
the seasons as examples of
yet another chance to get it right.