the old man gets the call,
show her how it feels
to really watch a cow—
to hold on
when he cracks back,
hear him nicker
under his breath
when he’s done well.
No better feeling
with your clothes on.
for Allie and Fairlea Smart Pic
He waits upon the beam
that holds the rafters up,
dry weed in his beak.
He chirps incessantly
as she constructs a nest
with what he brings her.
He seems to have forgotten
the ear-piercing love songs
from her red-breasted suitors
prancing on the railing
now that he has a partner
to get the real work done.
Short-stemmed wildflowers attempt to act normal, draw eyes from bare hillsides.
Swirl of savage sunsets,
Swirl of the dead
Somehow, still living.
– Adrian Louis (“Degrees of Drought”)
Bribed with little water,
we have enticed Redbuds
to brighten our gardens
with cardinal colors
regardless of rainfall
before they leave
green hearts in spring.
Even the bare hills
sigh and grin relieved
for the living, love us
for our generous nature
that keeps the wild alive
and close to our swirling
purple frigates crash
into foothill silhouettes—
some slip behind,
compass heading east
trailing a damp cold front.
up the road, spotlight
to a heavy bass beat
for something to kill,
something to eat.
Another round of Blue Oak
from the limb droughts have cured
to fall with a crash in the yard—
after the calves were marked
and friends were fed and gone,
you and I and a bottle of wine
before the fire we cooked upon
waiting for the pillowed clouds
to collect and turn dark gray—
our forecast rain. Tough filaree
looks like the dirt it’s hanging on,
leaves red and brown and in between—
last chance for feed this spring.
One wonders why we do this
to become the grass we need.
The deer in that beautiful place lay down their bones:
I must wear mine.
– Robinson Jeffers (“The Deer Lay Down Their Bones”)
Secreted within steep brush and granite
to browse the fresh and tender Buckeye leaves,
the fragile innocence of deer seems tame—
safety but a bounding leap away.
Were we so unengaged to see ourselves
as novelties, we might pause more often
to look out upon the urgencies of men
and women inventing new shenanigans
to keep us shackled to our egos
as redundant and unnecessary weight—
were we so rational. How we envy deer
their shrouded bowers where they can feed
themselves. Nearly as free as deer
in the rocky cliffs above, the doe can see
the calves we have been looking for.
When I was young I wished
for longer springs and hillsides
painted with wildflowers,
grass belly-high and every canyon
running water—livestock grazing
pastoral notions, heavenly eternal.
I may have to stand in line
on the trail to mountain pastures
when I shed this human coil,
but hope to hell that the majority
of souls will be waiting
at the Pearly Gates instead.
The mountains 'round here look like a woman
lying naked on a bed
- Dave Alvin (“Out in California”)
Little wonder, the earth is female—
the moon, a golden amulet
rising from her breast, her feet at rest
with the slope of Sulphur peak
as her long dark hair
forever streams into the creek.
Apart from men,
native women gathered here
beneath her supine silhouette
made sacred by the moon
to be a healing place
each time she took a breath.
She shares her dreams:
comfort and lasting peace
beyond the ever-escalating
chaos and confusion
that rattles impatient minds
like a gourd full of seeds.
I know where the grass grows first,
fresh and tender where raindrops linger
above the road and creek below.
I can feel wild spirits talk,
dewless tracks where they walk,
stepping lightly to lay beside me
and my calf. From here we shed
the claustrophobe of fence and gate,
far away from the human race.