Category Archives: Poems 2020




Alone in the dark
that shrouds anemic green
and short-stemmed fiddleneck
thinking February seed,

               the joyful gurgle
               of a shrinking creek
               gulps over cobbles

               to sit beside me
               on a cold and moist
               down-canyon breeze.

               Painted black,
               all sounds normal
               as if a sign.

Alone in the dark
I color hillsides leaking
beneath gray skies.





A single pod of seeds, the bare
redbud volunteer, come spring,
will obscure my view of the road;

the world beyond this black morning—
beyond the owl in the oaks above me;
the cobbled mumbles of the creek.

With the hillside chorus of coyotes
and canyon’s replies, the ridgeline
holds-up heaven’s brilliance

in a sky of stars—unabashed
and unafraid of any circumstance
that may engulf us all.





Another cold dry front
rests upon the tops of hills,
shapeless clouds, a haze
upon steep south slopes,
red clay like brick—
green pales to gray

               as we brand calves
               one by one
               we may sell early
               with their mothers.

I brace against the familiar
drama, growing numb

               as my stiff new rope
               slides through the palm
               of time’s softened hand,
               warming as it searches
               for my frayed
               wrapped-cotton horn.

               I quote my elders
               dead and gone
               as they visit
               the branding pen.

Don’t worry, Dofflemyer,
               E. J.’d say.
It’s gonna rain.

It takes years to get here
with cows we like—
unwritten contracts
they understand

               as we discuss
               our options
               of who goes first
               and who gets what’s left
               of hay.

Of the two of us,
I am the dreamer
and believer—

a luxury
you have allowed me
               facing facts
as I grow gray.

                              for Robbin





She was there
always for her kids
and theirs and theirs

with open wings—
quick to feed
and defend them.

Scrappy daughter
of the Dust Bowl,
rest in peace.

                    for Ila Jean Fry
    January 17, 1926 — January 17, 2020







                                                            every valve
                                                            leaks a little
                                                            there is no

                                                            stopping the flow.
                                                            – Gary Snyder (“Fixing the System”)

I worried once
about wasting water,

                              steady drip

at the trough,
at the hose bib,
at the gate valve

                              green year-round

gathering tree frogs,
snakes and cottontails.


Raining crystal drops
rising with Greenheads
from the tailwater
of the irrigated pasture

               on a Sabbath
               with my father
               instead of church:

he spoke into the clouds.


               With the gravity
               that holds us close
               to this earth,

                              always a little
                              leaks by
                              to remind us.






                     The old granite stones, those are my people;
                     Hard heads and stiff wits but faithful, not fools, not chatterers;
                     And the place where they stand today they will stand also                            tomorrow.

                                 – Robinson Jeffers (“The Old Stonemason”)

Some like headstones thrust into the earth,
or weather-carved phallic outposts
natives knew by name, those are my people,
my landmarks nodding now as I pass.

They have grown cold and taken shape
from the fires of molten violence—
cracked and fractured piles, wisdom
scattered in the grip of gravity at rest

to hum as homes for rodents and reptiles,
a tunneled settling of colonies to feed
a wilder world. Some pulse with life,
dress with thick green moss, after rain.

But those tattooed with colored lichen
first draw the eye to unravel art,
question what they seem to say—
all good listeners, patient to a fault.





I once dreamed I might have been
a mountain man in another life,
trapped cats and coyotes

instead of beaver—
learned to view the world
through untamed eyes

assessing sign as I became
the prize and placed my twigs
and scents accordingly.

               I sifted dirt
               to hide the jaws
               while writing poetry:

bird-wing fluttering
from a fishing filament
still fascinates me.





                              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”)

A Chinese boat-float
like a leaf among starlit mists
would sell like hotcakes
for those with time and self-respect
an ascension yet from the page,
                    from discord and dissension,
and damn-near free.





There is a hidden pack of cigarettes
                    after the patches, gum
                    and incessant vaping,

                    the midnight bellyache
                    and rattly ambulance ride
                    to a chair in Emergency

                    visited by young, head-scratching
                    teams practicing medicine
                    by consensus

                                        find nothing wrong
                                        and send me home—

                    and the second ride
                    two days later
                    across the parking lot
                    from the Doctor’s office.

There is a hidden pack of cigarettes
                    after Sepsis
                    and the gut-wrenching antibiotics
                    and mind-bending pain

                    I build loops in my sleep
                    and shoot bighorn sheep
                    from my hospital bed.

There is a hidden pack of cigarettes
                    six months later
                    after the surgeon tells me
                    what I cannot eat

                    or drink—after we agree
                    to wait a little longer.