Category Archives: Poems 2019




Taking the cows home
a week after weaning
snakes easily over the saddle
and down to the water
of collected dreams.

I remember yellow
Euclid trucks dumping
layers of native pasture
armored with rock
across the river in ’59,

flooding shoreline picnics
and ground squirrels targets
where the Wukchumne camped—
where Loren Fredricks
never learned to swim

afraid of the three-foot carp,
sun-dried, he had to ride upon
in a horse-drawn cart
up Dry Creek to Eshom
before he became a cowboy.

Snow stacked high
on the Kaweahs, we held
the water back when Visalia
was a town, spread the city out
with no water in the ground.

               Blond cowgirl
               on a palomino
               in the wild oats
               above black cows
               and Lake Kaweah—

taking them home
a week after weaning
snakes easily over the saddle
and down to the water
of our collected dreams.





Dark clouds at dawn
beyond the ridgeline,
light rain upon the roof—

one white bullet hole
of light up canyon
looking down

searching for truth
while I drink coffee
craving a cigarette,

wanting to inhale
the damp morning
into my flesh

mixed with smoke
to spin my head
one more time.

Too old to be cool,
I chew
Nicorette instead.





The ridges are crowded with generations
of relatives and old friends
who came with this ground—

               a native ascension
               a pardon from heaven

for those whose roots won’t let loose
of the baked clay and granite
the weather has chiseled

into crumbling headstones. Easier
to hear their voices, feel them near
as I grow older, closer to them.




(click to enlarge)


Privilege and luck
to know and work with fine men
while getting older.

A part of them sticks
to the sides of gaping holes
they have left us with

to load semi-trucks
with ripened grass on the hoof—
cowmen to count on.



Returning home yesterday after a moving celebration of the life of Earl McKee, Robbin went through some her photos trying to determine the age of our old dog, only to run across her photo of Tom Grimmius and Art Tarbell on Dry Creek, two more from the old school that are no longer with us to help get the job done. Reminding me of H.C. “Bud” Jackson’s “The Good ‘Uns” about Cleo Denny and other local and progressive cattlemen, published in 1980.





Wild inspiration
to ignite each arm of grace
with blooms for a room.





Three greenheads beat wings up canyon
into the rosy hue of dawn clinging to the ridgeline—
predecessors leaving me to shape the last
couplet before I find my place among them.

I catch glimpses quaking in the leaves
of a redbud, in the shadow of an oak trunk
and especially reflected in the eyes of cows
awaiting direction as proof of the spirits

that occupy this place, my home—that wish
to appear through cloudy lenses of my own.





The air is clear, clean—ridgelines
sharp with thunderstorms elsewhere,
too late to prolong the dream
of an everlasting spring.

The mottled transition of grasses
against crisp shadows holds,
drawing from ample winter rains
to become a painting, a pinto—

a young, firm-muscled overo
with good withers, soft mouth
and big heart, so seductive
as to lose myself to ride

these slopes for the first time—
like your eyes this evening,
hands reaching to touch softly
without the weight of words.





Awaiting words on the wind,
sharpened pencil and
yellow, short-lined pad—

the first leaf lifts
as I sneak a look
at the next page

searching for poetry
that feels good
in my hand.





As the early-morning Pink Moon
wanes in the blue
west of sunrise after Easter

soothes my Monday mind
with the habits of horses
waiting at their mangers—

alfalfa stems in windrows
at their feet, rolled and picked
clean of leaf before the sweeter

beckoning of short-cropped green
going to seed, I pause
to inhale their earthy smell.





Some ‘last times’ are chiseled
in the maze of our minds:
of the dear departed
or the dreadful lessons,
lest we forget.

But no framed portrait of your face
hanging near my heart, only
half-a-century’s hazy conjuring
of vital growing pains
I still owe you for.

                           for Susie