Category Archives: Poems 2022

GONE FISHING

                                       

 

                                       Poetry is its own prayer,

                                      The closest words come to will.

                                                 –  Amanda Gorman (“CORDAGE, or ATONEMENT”)

 

To untangle a knot of fishing line

you must begin with the hook—

work reason gently backwards.

 

Don’t pull tight but take a breath,

give time away and listen

to the words that swim by.

 

Free the mind to find itself

not coifed in sheep’s clothing

but wild as a wolf in the woods.

 

Watch the water riffle and eddy.

See rocks and cobbles talking

from an ever-changing streambed.

 

This is fishing.

This is poetry.

This is solace.

 

SERIOUS BUSINESS

 

Occasionally, I feel guilty.

I’ve killed so many

that I may allow

one to escape

my will to kill

 

before becoming numb

as machinery,

before squeezing

 

               the pellet gun

               the .22,

               the .223

               or the 17 HMR—

 

…like now as I write:

one breaking from

the dogs’ empty pens

with cheeks full

of puppy chow.

 

Little bastards,

I’ve fed tens of thousands

to our local wake of buzzards

waiting for the first report

of war in the canyon.

 

Falling off hillsides in hordes,

battalions of vermin

to strip tomatoes

green from the vine—

 

every sweet and juicy issue

from my darling Elberta,

our plump grapefruit

and leather-hided pomegranates

that will never spread

as jelly on toasted bread.

 

Serious business in a drought

to become an oasis

for the flea-infested

and their underpopulated

predators, but I’d like a day off.

 

NATIVES

 

I look to the ridges for clarity,

for a sign of an approaching storm

gathering somewhere north—

 

trace silhouetted skeletons

of drought-killed oaks, branched

like Challenge Butter bucks.

 

As my eyes escape the first waft

of chaos and claustrophobe,

I leave my flesh to rest among

 

all the old cowmen with nothing to do

but watch the learning process

over and over again.

 

The Natives retreated to the hills,

but at the top of mountain peaks,

there’s no place left to go.

 

OUTDATED CULTURAL DEPICITONS

 

The B-Westerns’ barroom brawls

have spawned a herd of wannabes

with renewed gossip among the locals—

 

and every year someone dies

with too many horses powered

by alcohol.  And all the young wranglers

 

stay sensible, until they forget

the promises they made to themselves,

their wives and families.

 

A century and a half ago,

a horse knew his slow way home,

and if his rider fell off

 

it usually didn’t kill him.

 

COYOTE TREE

 

Along the road the CCCs

chiseled in the 30s, men and mules,

wheelbarrows and Fresno scrapers,

miles of sidehill on perfect grade

while the old oak watched

from the saddle

before the place got a name.

 

Coyotes trapped or shot

were tied with baling wire and hung

from a long, horizontal limb

through summer heat and rain

before becoming skeletons.

How many bones beneath it now

howl from its hollow limbs?

 

 

BUMBLEBEES

                                   

 

                                    Judges in California’s Third District Court of Appeal

                                    ruled in late May that the bumblebee can legally fall

                                    within the definition of a fish when it comes to the

                                    definition of endangered species. “Although the term

                                    fish is colloquially and commonly understood to refer

                                    to aquatic species, the term of art employed by the

                                    Legislature in the definition of fish in section 45 is not

                                    so limited,” the trio of judges wrote.

                                                – Western Livestock Journal, June 13, 2022

 

After work they like their G & Ts,

drawn to tonic and Tangueray,

slice of lime in an iced-down glass—

but some drink too much!

 

 

 

BENEATH THE EAVES




We’re talking cattle

with a rising moon in June,

making plans for cows and calves—

 

the gather and sort to town,

where old friends shuffle

across the sale barn’s catwalk,

 

boot soles sliding, glad

to be moving among the living

when so many are not.

 

No one cares about our conversations,

the moon eavesdrops when it wants

just to measure our progress.

 

 

LAST LOAD TO IDAHO

Photo by Terri Blanke

 

Say good-bye to your mothers

for the long ride

all you children—

the truck is clean

shavings on the floor.

Driver said it snowed

before he left,

needed chains on Donner

rolling empty here in May.

 

We shake our heads

about the weather,

damn little rain,

the creek’s gone dry.

With a week of winds

the oaks have come alive,

tree limbs dancing

like separate tongues

trying to lick the sky.

 

 

We shipped our last load of Wagyu X calves to Snake River Farms on Tuesday as we continue to gather and wean our Angus calves.  Both cows and calves have done well despite the extremely dry spring, in part because of our heavy culling that cut our cow herd by a third after only six inches of rain the year before. With drought across the Western US, cow numbers are down everywhere resulting in a stronger market than we’ve seen in years. With unpredictable weather, higher costs for grain and inflation, we may be raising beef we can’t afford to eat.

AFTER TAO TE CHING

                        What calamity is greater than no contentment,

                        And what flaw greater than the passion for gain?

                                    Tao Te Ching (“46”) Book of Songs)  

 

Following ten years drought,

gusty evenings under gray clouds

add depth to blond hillsides—

contrasting tomorrow’s summer feed

 

that begs embracing,

that begs old flesh to awaken,

 

but begs no mention but to look

with an empty mind.

 

 

BECKONING

 

Yesteryear calls out of the blue

in these piebald canyons turning brown

yawning across a shrinking creek

 

to leave a confidential message—

not in words, but deeds.  Faces,

always faces.  Big George Hubble

 

in grade school who loaned me a dime

for a lemon bar popsicle

I never paid back. Some call

 

from out of the ground

that I never knew had gone on

to find their relief.

 

Some faces leave no names,

or none I can remember,

to console me as I did them

 

during the paisley days of a jungle war

I missed for a football knee

trying to be a hero.