Category Archives: Poems 2020

THE OLD FARMER’S ALMANAC

The real old boys who found their weather in the stars,
within explosive storms on the sun, years in advance—
would be dismayed with how we farm today.
 
My father’s shadow, I followed disc and tractor straining
to turn the earth, blackbirds diving like swarming sea gulls
behind us, as we broke clods in lace-up boots to test the soil.
 
Trading energy, no one cultivates today to turn green weeds 
and stinging nitrogen back into the ground—no one marks-out
furrows in sandy loam, no one irrigates with a hoe.
 
We spray chemicals (‘herbicides’ sounds nice and friendly)
in the naked space between the trunks of vines and trees.
We run trillions of miles of black plastic for a sip in drips
 
to save water for more crops we can seldom sell at a profit.
Still the perpetual motion of new money: each depreciation
offsetting taxes for urban investors on the next farm 
 
they sell to one another like summer homes and yachts.
Why bother to predict tomorrow’s weather when farms
change hands in a swirl of smoke and yellow steel? 

NEW DAY

Hope rises from dark despair,
the jagged edge of acrimony
hurriedly honed in fear—
 
a pause to lay swords down,
for the blood to crust
and contemplate alternatives.
 
Are we conscripted warriors
for opposing forces,
or free to reclaim our sanity,
 
to nurture and heal
with the real work
the sun awaits?
 
 
            Well, while I’m, here I’ll do the work—
            And what’s the work?
            To ease the pain of living.
            Everything else, drunken dumbshow.
                        - Allen Ginsberg (“Memory Gardens”)

DECK POEM 11.17.20

Who needed drugs and alcohol
when you were a kid
shaping thunderheads
 
into dragons and the like—
who needed any more
than what the sky provided?

NOVEMBER 2020

One more cigarette
for the young dog
to piss and poop,
 
to explore the garden,
check-out the squirrel holes
before I load her up.
 
One more cigarette
to let the split oak set
before I stack it.
 
One more cigarette
and a cup of old coffee
to inhale November.
 

HALLOWEEN

Dark morning chill stirs the flesh
to welcome winter waiting
for flaming tongues 
to lick between
dry Manzanita branches
igniting Blue oak 
in the woodstove’s glow.
 
I recall storms, the floods
and endless downpours,
creek too high to cross
for thirty days and pray
for anything wet enough
to start the grass
for cows and calves—
 
for my sanity, something
akin to normal
in these crazy days
of politics and pandemic—
something to trust 
as right as rain—
something to believe in.

OCTOBER

Nap-time nurseries
beneath the sycamores,
babysitting cows
relieve one another
to eat and drink.

Those without calves
recline with bellies bulging,
thrust painfully skyward
like over-inflated
black beach balls—

            all await the green
            soft-stemmed alfalfa—
            await new life,
            await a rain

to settle dust underfoot
as they graze short-cropped
dry feed into the dirt

            awaiting new life—
            seed awaiting rain.

The long range forecast
confirms our superstitions,
but like a no-hitter
we dare not mention yet—

until the dark hole
in the barn grows larger,
until the canyon fills
with echoing complaints,
the agonizing song
of cows begging,
calf solos in the distance.

NOIR

The mysteries, puzzled
pieces scattered, most missing
and decomposed by the moment

linger, shelved in the back room
for future reference
awaiting adhesive connections

that seldom take shape.
The ranch and its inhabitants,
the wild and tame, the unknowing

hands of man and the malicious,
the well-meaning touch
that turns terribly tragic--all

scattered, stacked one upon the other,
clues that only true detectives
note in the dusty swirl of ambiguity

left to settle with experience--
an illusive sense beyond the tangible
that this old ground evokes.

*       *       *       *
   
Inspired by an article in the latest issue of Will Hearst's 
Alta Magazine: 

https://altaonline.com/private-investigators-san-francisco-phil-bronstein/

HARVEST MOON 2020

A perfect moon
for chaos,
I become the face

of an observer,
a skirmish
still raining ash,

but a tick in time—
I yearn for yesterday:
butterflies and squeaky gates

that turn cows
with unnerving ricochets
of change, a trap

to escape as I become
the face
of a smoking moon.

REPARATION

 

 

Shaking hands with my former self
in these chaotic times
may not be progress. The clock

ticks backwards to dust clouds
and loud hurrahs, to whoops of youth
and muscles flexed to hold

the heroic buck and run
of someone else’s dreams—
a reckless swagger into smaller light.

I could have died several times
and learned nothing—my grip
to meet myself eye-to-eye.

 

HELPLESS

 

 

On the other side,
all the current dangers rage
unseen that words cannot

assuage. Isolated here,
hands busy with simple
tasks, we cannot breathe.

On the other side,
an unknown future waits
to reshape us to survive.

Fifty years ago,
I was afraid
I would become proficient—

integrate guilt and hate
into my young soul
to become the best

at squeezing death
before a soldier’s
impromptu grave.

On the other side,
we pray for clarity—
for humble purpose.