Category Archives: Poems 2019




Evening conversation dwells
on a thin cow, vaccine
protocol and the dog’s limp

without a hint of politics
beyond the barbed wire—
beyond this ground and grass.

We don’t want to know
what makes the news—
what makes the outside world

tick with greed and power.
Evening conversation dwells
on more important things.





It could be heaven
if the girls across the canyon
cared, if they worried

about the time of day
or year when green
turns straw-blond dry.

They are spared
the human condition—
graze until they die.





                                                                                What will you do? She asks. I will
                               continue north, carry the past in my arms, flying into winter.

                                                  – Jack Gilbert (“BRING IN THE GODS”)

Might we say

we leave the past on the page,
chapbooks bundled in our arms
heading north into the storm—

                    time-faded faces,
                    moments tagged
                    into poems.

We know their names
and cherish visions
with vibrant clarity

like a bell chiming
on a wind gusting
across the canyon

of time behind us.
Three score and ten
more, I am reluctant

                    to let go
                    of this life
                    in exchange

for something more
like fulfillment





The tourists came
from Germany,
parked outside the pen

along the road,
brought cameras
and watched us

head and heel,
stretch and throw,
cut and vaccinate,

burn a brand
in a swirl of smoke.
We held our breath,

exchanged languages,
said goodbye
in pleasant tones

we understood
as universal
between bunches.





The Elko undercurrents
often missed by journalists,
the thoughtful streams
of love and long respect
retained for old friends—
those profound associations
not secreted away,
but obvious.

My right hand offered
held in his both
as he contemplates
my eyes, and I his.
We breathe deeply.

Two gray old men
standing silent,
face to face
stretching time
within a loud crowd,
we block the aisle
beside a tableful of friends,
warm food and wine.

We know we are rare
birds in these fast times,
reading, writing poetry—
reaching for what we know
exists: like the language
of horses, cattle and people
who live on the land
it takes a lifetime to learn
and understand.

                                  for Joel Nelson





When Zinfandel heavens part between rains,
we lift a glass of Cabernet at dusk
towards their fleeting magnificence

before the storm, beyond our reach
or responsibility, helpless but to bask
in the fading light of certain truth.





                                        nothing left but a river flowing on the borders of heaven.
                                              – Li Po (“On Yellow-Crane Tower, Farewell to                                                            Meng Hao-jan Who’s Leaving for Yang-chou”)

Branding big calves an hour from the asphalt,
snow-laden Sierras dressed in diaphanous clouds
a stone’s throw across the North Fork canyon

from these corrals too short for modern cows,
we talk about the pressure-treated posts you set
six foot down back when I can’t remember.

Away from the world for years, you are both here
and beyond the Great Western Divide,
a fuzzy white river flowing south to somewhere.

                                                                  for Gary Davis





The stage is set with
few days between rains
in years between droughts—

green hills hang fire,
begin to breathe
before they flower.

Knee-deep white egrets
comb blades of grass,
step lightly slowly

as tree frogs gather
to rehearse
an all-night chorus.





Purple clouds up canyon,
an armada approaching
white skies at dawn…

battleships burning pink,
fleet afire and fading
into a bluer sea.





                                                                                                           The gods
                                               abhor halters and stirrups, even a horse
                                               blanket to protect our asses is forbidden.

                                                                   – Jim Harrison (“Poet No. 7”)

Handful of mane, wrap
of hair gripped and entwined,
I plowed the pine duff on the Kern
with my chin loping back to the picket line,
bell mare clenched between my legs
when she shied.

                    A pigeon-toed bay,
                    my legs and heart
                    grew into.

A plucky kid
leading mules and people

                    over granite scree
                    to snowmelt meadows
                    framing heaven’s
                    blue-cloud reflection

I could have died
half-dozen times
were I not so close
to the hands of gods
and goddesses

that may have placed
a rattler in the corner of her eye
for entertainment.

                                                  for Bill DeCarteret

“Mountains, Mules and Memories”