I’ve heard stories I don’t remember
embellished into local myths
no longer true, no longer claimed
as I age, as memory fades
as it should from the far context
of most outdoor youths.
Oh, how we howled like a pack
of coyotes in these canyons—
louder yet in towns avoided now.
But a man learns not to dwell
on guilt, what can’t be helped
to please the righteous—
evolutions of imperfection
honed into an existence
we’ll soon live without.
find a breeze
with a distant grin
the daylight left
until you’re done.
When I got a little older, I changed.
Maria Lisa Eastman (“War Bridle”)
Summer winds breathe fire
with a bouquet of hollow wild oats
bent on chance and luck—
but we cannot look away
or ever dream relaxed.
One would think with age
and long experience, a man
would become emboldened
firebreaks and phoschex
that always help, but time
has proven reason often
beyond the comprehension
of some of us who wait
for the smell of smoke.
The creek still runs dry,
spends itself as it shrinks upstream
on oaks and sycamores
despite the goosenecks,
despite the cowboys
hauling calves to town—
despite the busloads,
despite the caravans
of weekend Christians
looking for God in the pines.
The County had to move the road
after the Flood of ’55
and rebuilt bridges in ‘69
where the canyon narrows
and the creek runs dry.
Still talk of a dam
every election year
as if it could make water.
Neither cowman nor a threat
to his counterfeit Brahma cows,
he shuffled afoot at eighty-five
with a flake of grassy alfalfa
tucked under his arm, led them
out of the brush into his splintered
board pens mumbling under
his breath—dried spittle of snooce
upon his gray unshaven chin.
Like loading deer to help him
haul his calves to town, kept
his cash in the freezer of the fridge
before they robbed and tied
to a chair for two days and nights—
before his girlfriend missed him
with his POA in her hand—
before she sold him downriver
to move to Monterey sand.
* * * *
POA: Power of Attorney
Families of milkweed make stands
in a mountain pasture of long-blond feed
where last year’s pods burst with seed
spun within the floss of silky filaments,
scattered outposts of native settlements
I have avoided except for nods of respect.
Host to bugs and beetles, wild bees
and butterflies, they get-along
together well, without and despite us.
I would have flown had I known where
the rainbow ended, slogging knee-deep
down a vineyard row before kindergarten—
I believed everything my father said.
Pulling sound and intension from empty
pages, painting pleasure, an additive curse:
over granite scree to the Kern River canyon,
the roar beyond the beaver ponds reflecting
white clouds on blue islands between sugar
pines quivering from the nose of a rainbow trout
spreads across my flesh, opens a lifetime up
to great escapes that conserved my sanity.
Before the heat, Cooper’s Hawks own
the dawning, three flaps and glide
between sycamores and oaks
for squirrel or quail. Two coyote pups
have become the easy road kill
they were hunting before the snakes
and cottontails had to be peeled
from the chip seal. This old road
flows as a river of meals,
an overnight history
of the wild life at night
I missed while I was dreaming.
Keeping track on scraps of paper,
poet friends and cattle
in far-flung pastures
I’ve yet to see, yet to gather—
yet I can smell them near,
inhale their cud-breath
from letters pressed
in chapbooks: songs
of purpose and suggestion.
Numbers don’t matter
this close to the corrals
and its dust-cloud sort:
‘in and bye’
for one more season
or gooseneck trip to town.
© Terri Blanke
We hate it, but we do it well
before the steel gets too hot
to touch, man or beast—
down the lead-up from the tub
to the hydraulic squeeze,
Enforce 3 and Cylence
for the respiratory bugs and flies,
foxtail relief from flaming eyes,
or whatever else might help
before their gooseneck ride to town,
looking blankly out at cars
and houses, we wish them well.