Category Archives: Poems 2020

HEIFERS AND HORSES

 

 

No social distancing, evening conversation
centers on introductions as sorrel horses
welcome first-calf heifers coming to water:

no politics, no economic woes, just
domesticated souls touching nose-to-nose
before shadows crawl across the canyon.

We are enveloped for prolonged minutes
within their quiet reverie, forgetting
all the bad news they’ll never know.

 

MELTING TIME

 

 

I study rock landmarks,
look for tracks
to see if they have moved.

The pipe gate swells
in the heat. Now only
swings but one way.

Resident ground squirrels
and immigrant ring-neck doves
share the dogs’ food.

On brutal days
over 110°—
there are no rules.

Like Dali’s clocks,
time is part of the landscape,
like it or not.

 

NATIVE

 

 

You can almost smell them curled
asleep or stretched across smooth rocks,
shining shades of earth, charming

and deadly. They don’t want trouble,
come home each year to make a living,
to together stand above the grasses

wrapped in urgent procreation
as the dry seeds roll in painted gourds—
the dance begins, as they collapse

and rise again. To stay connected,
I’m told that the penis is shaped
like a T —barbs both sides— and

that she can draw upon the sperm
as needed for years. Generations
of brothers and sisters know

their way home. Grandmothers
carry the future and grandfathers watch
and listen, crawl into your mind

to know your secrets, to hear
your confessions to all the ridgeline
men long-gone before you.

 

MICROCOSM

 

 

                  It was impossible to make it through the tragedy
                 Without poetry.

                      – Joy Harjo (“Becoming Seventy”)

This other world of cows and calves,
of motherhood exemplified, and bulls,
like men, trailing wire of down fences

is yet to be expected. A bumper crop
of rodents and snakes surround us,
the full moon coyote count of duets

and trios draws closer around us
in the half-light. The metaphors
and similes come easily to favor

humanity ‘midst the tragic chaos
where the latest issue of the truth
has come to be disbelieved.

 

TOP SHELF

 

 

Sometimes I sell ‘em ten bucks at a time, but mostly
when I give ‘em away to friends, I tell ‘em
like I tole Baxter a few months after he signed
“Croutons on a Cowpie” for me years ago in Elko

where all the cowboy singers and poets meet
in the dead of winter, everbody huggin and shakin hands
like famly, new boots and silver glinting coin piled
in rooms like warm cocoons to listen, safe from the outside

news, just to sing and tell stories with roughshod poetry.
First time I went in ’89 to read my stuff I was skairt
until I run into Ramblin Jack who I hadn’t seen since ’66
at the Ashgrove, plumb skairt ever since Sunday school

stage plays screwed my face up so tight to where
I couldn’t say my lines. But seein Jack made ever thing
all right. Now that Baxter’s older, he understands
that it was a compliment, ‘specially since he’s a vet

and knows how the body sometimes works best
when the brain is busy with something else,
busy and out of the way of regular business.
I wrote to Baxter that I’d took his book off my desk,

pulled it out from under loose stacks of poetry
for my top shelf—so I mean it when I tell ‘em
my poems are mostly short and will work best
if you take and leave ‘em in the bathroom.

               for George Perreault and “Bodark County”

 

 

BODARK COUNTY

 

SURROUNDED BY SQUIRRELS

 

 

Having slain hundreds, another battalion digs in
to undermine the well and water trough, to scout
the garden for an attack on the last tomatoes.

The quail have made a comeback in coveys,
strings of babies trailing on training wheels
making circles, mornings and evenings.

Before our eyes, another lifelong mate
in the making, Roadrunners packing lizards
and snails to their nest in prickly pear cactus.

The heavy-limbed sycamores shade a ribbon
of green along the dry creek bed, sub-irrigated
Bermuda grass a few bulls graze between bellowing.

Black cows shine on a side-hill grade, either side
of the canyon, or silhouettes in shade gossiping
and grinding cud, having shed their babies.

SUVs, RVs, camp trailers and fifth-wheels
escape the confinement of cities to dodge Covid-19
and logging trucks on a narrow mountain road

to the pines, and I don’t blame them—with
a thousand ways to go, why not migrate
where no one seems to worry about dying.

 

IDES OF JULY 2020

 

 

                              There is an easy beauty in the bronze statues
                              dredged up from the ocean, but there is a worth
                              to the unshapely our sweet mind founders on.

                                             – Jack Gilbert (“The Secret”)

Even the old fence posts, split redwood
from the coast eighty years ago,
serve a purpose more than by design,

unexpected dividends through a lifetime
that can’t be spent or bartered—saved only
in our minds. I had stopped to photograph

the White Tailed Kite’s extended hovering,
treading air against gravity while searching
dry, blond grasses for the movement of a mouse—

expending more energy, it seemed, than a rodent
could provide. My feet grow heavy now
as I circumambulate this uneven ground

following seasons of grass with cows and calves,
praying for relief of flood or drought, hoping
to generate enough to do it all over again.

 

AMARYLLIS

 

 

The bulb Carolyn gave you years ago
rose between three boulders
where we lay the headless rattler

               to get young Katy
               to pay attention—
               running, dancing,
               always on her toes.
               Her shriek and cry
               cut to our souls.

Huge, bright-orange petals,
like tongues aflame
among adolescent coals—

               Summer Solstice,
               105 degrees—

saved to the shade
on the cold woodstove
to bloom for days,

to hold my eye
and expose
a slice of memory.

 

SCIENCE FICTION

 

 

The future descends upon us
with new magic for old maladies,
like the greed and lust for power

science can’t dissuade or make
invisible, can’t deport to asteroids
spinning towards black holes in space.

Not even the best Boy Scouts
can be prepared for tomorrow dangling
like a spider from its thin filament

waiting for the wind to move it
towards fuzzy, unknown realms
where human nature remains the same.

 

 

artist: Chesley Bonestell

 

ROADRUNNERS, RATTLESNAKES & SNAILS

 

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Light feet at dawn
inspect Iris and Aloe Vera
to crack shells on the rock
border between gravel and lawn.

She curtsies like a ballerina
in a low, feathered quivering,
teasing, anticipating
the dance in a garden arena.

CHORUS:
               Beyond the reach of Covid-19,
               the divisiveness and hate—
               beyond the crazed confusion
               the fools among us imitate.

Birds multiplying here to a dozen
as watchdogs for the unwanted,
the rattlesnakes and snails,
beyond the reach of poison.

CHORUS:
               Beyond the reach of Covid-19,
               the divisiveness and hate—
               beyond the crazed confusion
               the fools among us imitate.