Category Archives: Poems 2021

A NEIGHBOR’S HAND

It’s not easy to get glimpses of myself

among the young men in the branding pen,

awkward young bulls bellowing

as they wrestle fat calves to the ground.

 

Yesterday, I carried the nut-bucket

and dope instead of riding with a rope,

instead of sliding a wide loop

beneath two feet. I can feel it, see it

 

in my mind, the smooth dance and dally

round a cotton-wrapped horn, rolling

calves and slipping slack when needed—

but my metronome has slowed.

 

I don’t wish to be among the old chiefs

who stayed too long to become obstacles

in space and time just to be aboard,

just to lend a neighbor’s hand, like always.

CHRISTMAS GIFTS

Long dark shadows in the canyons,

cattle hard to see.  They don’t need us now,

heads down somewhere on the mountain,

 

ground too wet to help them anyway—

all the excuses I need to write poetry.

We fed hay all last year, filled the barn

 

three times waiting for a rain. These Christmas

storms: miracles to rejuvenate the earth

for man and beast, birds and insects,

 

steep hillsides begging to explode in leafy

salad greens—iridescent gifts in the sunlight,

like the old days, for years in a row that

 

have since gone dry and farther in between.

Nothing stays the same, just ask the skeletons

of old oaks where the natives ground acorns.

INVESTMENT

 

            The honey of peace in old poems.

                        – Robinson Jeffers (“To the Stone-Cutters”)

 

A man wants to stay out of the red

investing too much in the wrong things

that dull your senses, erode the granite’s edge

into homogeneous uniformity like gravel.

 

We wear down with the friction of time

and interest, but passion’s advantage

rests with satisfaction beyond currency

building a history one rock at a time.

THE HUNT

 

The coveys that patrol the yard

and feed the hawks and bobcats,

multiply, divide and die mysteriously

 

to be reborn again as families of quail—

watchful pop in front of a string babies,

mom riding drag and tittering ahead.

 

Great entertainment over the years,

we should shoot a few to split them up

to improve inbred genetics, but

 

who wants to, like dispatching pets?

When I was a boy, I’d hike miles

with my four-ten single-shot,

 

trail a few to November rockpiles,

smooth granite dressed in green

velvet moss, while the majority

 

slipped off.  Atop the rocks, I’d stomp

‘til they flew in a whir and blur

 in all directions. One at a time,

 

stuffed with slices of apple and onion

baked and seasoned to a burnished brown,

I told my stories of the hunt.

SUNRISE

                                    The philosopher said, “The miracle

                                    is that the world exists.” We bathe

                                    in the beauty at dawn.

                                                – Jim Harrison (“Ghosts”)

 

She parts her black robe slowly,

unevenly until the long thin line

of her supine thigh grows

before a golden ribbon of light

along the Animas Mountains

as the snoring bunkhouse roars

asleep on the Gray Ranch.

 

I am a stranger to New Mexico,

but not Drum’s borderland songs

or the swallows glinting at first light

before me.  A man can lose himself

within the darting ricochets of birds

that distract him from his fears.

 

Here too, she sleeps in silence

as the moon rises from her breast

in the shadow of the Sierras,

but when day breaks over the peaks,

an explosion of blinding light

can cleanse me instantly.

FANTASY

Last night’s rain left a glistening

on the leaves of limbs at dawn,

 

beads upon the redwood silver

twinkling like a Christmas tree.

 

White icing shines upcanyon,

dark chocolate in the creek flow,

 

first light ignites the sycamores

and cottonwoods to flames,

 

aged sorrel geldings buck and slide

in mud like fresh colts finding legs.

 

Last night’s rain left me dreaming

beyond this canyon—all a fantasy.

THE GIFT OF RAIN

Heaven sent

to stir the earth

back to life—

 

may a thirst for love

be reborn again

this Christmas Day.

Joan Didion RIP

She gave me eyes

to see between the lines,

 

the river’s current

intensions,

 

surface politicized,

scandalized—

 

melody of words

for the truth in my mind.

RESILIENT MOON

We make rules

to keep ourselves in line,

orderly before

whatever captain

steers our ship between

calm and storm.

 

Out here

unpredictable weather

calls the tune

we must dance to—

navigate this landscape

come hell or highwater.

 

The rules change

before our eyes—

nothing stays the same

no matter what—

but we were never taught

to quit the game.

RAINBOW

A promise from forgotten days of rain,

bold whites and blues and greens

flush the flesh clean as a hawk’s cry

 

in spring.  When we were children

here, we walked within our dreams

of endless rivers crashing and cascading

 

from the Sierra snowpack into the Valley

ditches and furrows, row upon row

to fill the cornucopia of the world.

 

But we have pumped the ground dry.

Is this a harbinger of better times, or

have the gods returned to say goodbye?