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
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.
Occasionally, I feel guilty.
I’ve killed so many
that I may allow
one to escape
my will to kill
before becoming numb
the pellet gun
or the 17 HMR—
…like now as I write:
one breaking from
the dogs’ empty pens
with cheeks full
of puppy chow.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
Posted in Photographs, Poems 2022, Ranch Journal
Tagged cattle, cows, Drought, Dry Creek, photography, poetry, rain, Snake River Farms, Wagyu X Calves, weather
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.
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.